It’s Okay to Feel Unnerved.

It’s Okay to Feel Unnerved.

My counselor and I have been working on me being more honest.

It’s not like I’m a pathological liar. Not really. It’s not like I’m scheming up lies to tell people all the time. But to myself… I’m hardly ever honest. I live behind masks and goals and distractions because I have a hard time telling myself the truth.

Conversations in my head 90% of the time:

Me: “Hey how you feelin’ Maddie?’

Me: “good.”

Me: “How are you handling work?”

Me: “well.”

Me: “Aren’t you mad about that conversation?”

Me: “nah.”

Me: “How you feelin’ about dropping $200 on that windshield replacement?”

Me: “fine.”

Me: “You cool that you only have $42 in your bank account?”

Me: “yah.”

 

And, lately…

Me: “How you taking in this whole corona thing?”

Me: “eh not too worried. good.”

 

I mean, sometimes I am good, but let’s be real: sometimes I’m really not.

I went on a walk today, risking the outside world, because it’s just too sunny not to. I have a secret pathway behind my closed-in apartment complex that I’m convinced only I know about (and plan on keeping it that way). I’m probably the only person to walk there because it’s not paved and forces me to walk across a busy intersection and down into an un-mowed and hole-filled walkway, but that’s beside the point.

So as I braved Maddie’s Secret Overgrown Forest Path, I played a game of mine I like to call “Honesty Hour”. It’s when I take my masks off and I ask myself, in the comfort of my own company, what’s really happening in my brain.

It’s liberating and completely terrifying. I kinda hate it.

And yet I do it because I lose myself under all the lies. I lose the real, authentic, bleeding, laughing girl under all of the “fines” and “goods”. Life isn’t always find and good. Life is raw and emotional and high and low and brutal and pleasurable.

And right now, life is way crazy. Isn’t it?

 

I know there are a million blog posts these days about this little thing called a worldwide pandemic, but maybe this is the only one that reached you. All I want to say is: it’s okay to be effected by it. It’s so unknown, and that can be so unnerving.

It doesn’t do me any good to pretend I’m a robot, and I don’t believe it will help you either.

I believe one of the most beautiful parts of being a Christian is that we don’t have to shy away from the harsh realities of life. On my Secret Pathway today, God reminded me of a verse in John where Jesus straight up says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) God is so not surprised by this virus, just as He is not surprised by anything that happens.

Does this truth keep me from being scared? Usually, no, because fear is just a reaction to the things that happen in our lives. It’s normal to feel scared when every public place is being shut down and we’re all being told to stay in our houses. But knowing that God is in control can always keep us from being a slave to anxiety.

I encourage you to be honest to God through this process. I really am trying my best.

Honestly, God? I am unnerved about the corona virus. I am concerned that the fear and panic won’t subside from our country. I am afraid that myself or my loved ones will become sick. I am anxious about the financial and social effect this will have on America. I am restless because I don’t know what my role needs to be in all of this. I feel guilty for thinking so selfishly in this time. I don’t know what my job is supposed to be, and I don’t want to fall into fear. 

But. 

“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I will say rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet… for you have not come to what may be touched. Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” (Hebrews 12:12, 18, 28)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter: 5:6-7)

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit set their minds on things of the spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

 

Friends, no illness or virus could ever touch our souls, and so we have absolutely nothing to fear. Trust in God, set your minds on the spirit, and LIFE and PEACE will be yours. Sounds nice, yeah?

It’s okay to feel unnerved, but we do not need to be shaken. 

The Lord Is Near To The Brokenhearted

The Lord Is Near To The Brokenhearted

I really wanted to have my life together by now.

Like, really really.

I had all these dreams and expectations about graduating college and taking on my next season by storm, because I really like taking things by storm. I mean, it’s way more fun that way.

But guys, I need to be candid with you right now, because we’re all humans and we all feel pain and I really want to give you some words that might help heal the broken pieces inside of you. Because there are broken pieces inside of me.

I’ve been a mess since graduation. I wasn’t expecting to nurse a broken heart this summer, but we never choose for our heart to hurt. I thought I may have avoided heartbreak in college due to my lack of dating, but in the middle of all my singleness I fell in love. I fell in love with the girls in my hallway, with my place at that school, with who I was there. With the sandwich line in the cafeteria, and the uncomfortable futon in my dorm room.

I started to realize my heart was breaking as I said goodbye to my friends, my mentors, my classrooms. I couldn’t stop crying. I knew I was going to miss it more than I’ve ever missed anything in my life.

And yet, even then, I wasn’t ready for how painful it was going to be, how my heart actually physically hurts. How loss does that to us as people – as sheep, as the Bible calls us. I had no idea how to tend to an aching heart.

And so I didn’t, for a solid month or more.

I’m an athlete, so I’m no stranger to pain, but nursing sore legs is not the same as nursing a sore soul. Your legs need physical water, but your soul needs Living Water, and if you deprive it of the Lord and the Word of God, it will continue to bleed.

I’ve had a few setbacks this summer, and at times it almost seems cruel, and the only reason I know it isn’t cruel is because I know that God isn’t. The loss of an internship possibility, the trip of a lifetime to the mountainsides of Italy, only to be ripped from that, too. Attending two weddings of people I love dearly, and sitting alone, achingly aware that the happiness they feel isn’t mine right now.

And here I stand, 2 1/2 months after graduation, no solid plans, no obvious doors, realizing that I know very little about being a Christian after all.

 

This post isn’t ultimately about my problems, though. I just wanted you to know about them because there’s hardly anything worse than reading some inspirational post about hardship from somebody who pretends they don’t face it.

This post is about trusting God. And if I’m honest, I’m writing this for myself just as much as I’m writing it for you. Or, possibly, selfishly, a little bit more.

Because my heart hurts tonight, and I need these words.

I thought I knew how to trust God. I thought I had trust in God. But I am learning that trusting in God to smooth out the bumpy edges of your plan is nothing like trusting God to build your life again from square one. To give you Living Water in an emotional desert.

To heal the broken pieces inside of you.

And I’m not talking about the slightly dented pieces. I’m talking about the bleeding, gut-wrenching, all-encompassing brokenness that you think you will never shake. When the devil shouts accusations at you, and you realize that your soul is at war, as the Bible reminds us that it will be. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

Satan tells me that the world is not good. He feeds on my idol of Comfort, and he aims to kill my soul, as he killed Eve’s. He wants to fill me with fear and shame so that I don’t approach God or anyone else because my dirtiness is unforgivable. The battle starts in my chest, and then my throat, and it finishes in cold sweat as I forget every goodness the Lord has brought to me.

And I don’t trust God to fight that battle. I don’t trust Him to soothe my soul. I don’t trust Him to defeat the Deceiver. I forget that the world is good, and I crumble in tears and doubt.

And today, Jesus gently scolded me, “Trust me! Do you not believe that I will heal every broken corner of your heart as I said I would?” And I knelt on the ground, and I realized that true trust is only built when we reach an obstacle we absolutely cannot defeat on our own. I will never on my own defeat the way satan tracks me down, meets me in the grocery store or coffee shop and fills me with despair. That is a God-sized battle.

And I knelt beside my bed, and realized that I didn’t know if I trusted God to fight that battle. And my hands started to sweat. When we are not faced with deep hurt and trial, we are not faced with that question, and we go on, relying on our own strength.

But we must all answer that question. Eventually.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers,” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

Don’t skim through that. Paul faced a trial so big that his only comfort was that God raises the dead. Think of the pain, the agony, he must have felt. If he was sitting in front of you right now, listening to your story, he would have full permission to say, “I get it.”

And he learned that God is trustworthy. Isn’t that what he says, the conclusion of his journey?  “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.” 

But we have to trust that those words are true.

When we are faced with God-sized battles, we must jump on His back and say, “Ok. Here we go.” It’s not easy! But I’m sick of calling myself a believer and not believing.

 

Psalm 34 says that the “LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit”. What a comfort to me, a brokenhearted girl. Jesus is never nearer than when that ache begins again. And I can trust Him to fight the battles I can’t. It’s terrifying, but the Lord is bigger than the schemes of the devil. I know it to be true, and I will see it to be true. Maybe not today, but I will.

On Him I have set my hope that He will deliver me again.

 

 

 

Peace Without Understanding

Peace Without Understanding

If you are going to be used by God,

He will take you through a multitude of experiences

that are not meant for you at all,

they are meant to make you useful in His hands.

Oswald Chambers

I’m not a good runner, never have been.

In middle school, I joined the cross country team for a season. I can’t to this day tell you why other than the fact that I seemed to have a self-inflicted desire to try every sport I was terrible at that year, basketball and track included. (I made the B-team in basketball, but only because the amount of 8th grade girls interested made up two teams.)

I was just about the slowest runner on our team. Slow, but committed. We would show up to practice after school, be told to run 2 1/2 miles around the town, given the route, and set off. I would watch all of the skinny legged girls, keeping in shape during the off season of soccer, fly away, and I can truly tell you that no fiber in my body believed I could do what they did.

I told you: I’m not a good runner.

But, even in my small, 14 year old mind, I knew that there was value in finishing, slow and well. In keeping pace and not stopping, no matter how slow that pace was. And so I did: I would choose a ridiculously slow tempo and begin my jog, and I would finish without stopping, dead last.

I distinctly remember one time my coach, during our post-practice huddle (80% of the kids already dried off and cooled down), pointing my sweaty self out and using me as an example of determination and strength, in how I never stopped running, now matter how slow I went.

In other words, she was saying, “She’s terrible, but hey, at least she’s committed.”

Which, in reality, summed it up pretty well.

Over the years, running has meant different things to me. In high school, I would make my way around the neighborhood to stay sprightly during dry weeks of cheerleading. (Never exceeding a mile and a half, of course. Distance running, to my body, was like asking a toy poodle to push a shopping cart.) I’ll admit there were many times I laced up just to shed a few calories, fit into the size-2 standards of our age. It worked pretty well until my body realized that it was going to bear children one day and size 2 quickly became size 8: a body not meant to be thin but strong.

But I truly believe, more than anything else, what has kept me on the streets, pumping music through my ears and pavement under my feet, is what happens after the run is over. When I take the headphones out and feel the sweat sticking to me in places it really never should. That has always been the greatest time for me to think.

I’m a thinker (and an over-thinker). I crave to understand why and when and how. I’m that person you see walking down the street talking, out loud, to no one. And over the years I have discovered that when the endorphins kick in, my brain does its best work. I begin to be able to see my life in a new light, fitting pieces together and putting them where they belong, tetris-style in their designated boxes.

And by the time I got home, everything was where it belonged and I found rest in my understanding of it all.

 

My theory worked great until my life began to be invaded by things that didn’t fit.

I believe our minds have boxes. (And this may be my inner psychology-major coming to the surface.) We have certain ideas of the way things are supposed to go and the boxes they are supposed to fit in. And when we are small, or untouched by trauma, things fit pretty well into our small amount of bins.

Family.

Friends.

School.

Check. Check. Check.

Things fit. Things make sense.

Then you grow up. New boxes: Romance. College. Marriage. Kids. Health.

If things fit, then we have peace. Things are the way they are “supposed to be”. (In our human minds, at least.)

 

Yet what happens when something touches our lives that doesn’t fit? Cancer. Depression. Death of a loved one. Chronic pain. A break up. What then happens to the peace when things begin swirling around in our heads and hearts, finding no place to rest in our pre-made boxes?

Is there no hope for peace?

Last month this was brought to mind during (haha) a run on the treadmill. I couldn’t find peace, hadn’t been able to for months and months because I couldn’t fit things into their boxes. Being 22 and all of the craziness that comes with it, the scars that developed during my time at college, the hurts that don’t make sense.

But God spoke to my fast-beating heart:

Making it fit is not the answer. The answer is accepting that it doesn’t.

I realized that we won’t always understand why things happen to us, and that’s ok. That is one thing that makes us so different from God: He knows. We don’t.

And that’s ok.

I can find peace in His promises, not in my circumstances. Joy in His certainties, not in my emotions. He asks us to trust Him. Why? Because He knows that we won’t always get it.

So I have a new fight, one of trust. A new resignation: that I may not know why until I stand before Him.

And a new song, one of peace without understanding. Praise you, God.

Don’t Miss The Gift

Don’t Miss The Gift

I’m learning to live by two rules.

And in their fundamentalism, I believe that they hold the key to solving most, if not all, of my problems and sins and heart-breaks. And perhaps yours, too.

You see, God and I have this thing going lately, and up front I really hated the arrangement. I despise when I find myself alone in the middle of the day, finishing up lunch and wandering campus to find motivation to do anything that will occupy my time in an intelligent manner. Often I just wander, weighing the pros and cons of where to go and what to do, and I’ll make it across half the campus and realize that I didn’t look up from my shoes and thoughts the entire time.

You know when you’re driving home from work or from work to you’re favorite coffee shop, and when you get there you realize that you don’t remember a single moment of the entire drive? That you must have used your turn signal and stopped at red lights and turned on your windshield wipers, but you truly cannot recall a single one of those instances? Because, to you, it didn’t matter how you got there or what happened along the way, as long as eventually you arrived where you were planning to go.

That’s me, most every day for the past two years, as I have walked through life. All I find myself thinking about is where I’m going, and all is lost about where I am. I’m sure there were newborn babies in mother’s arms at the table next to mine, and bees eating pollen out of flowers and perfect, crisp breezes blowing fiery red leaves across my path, but did I ever stop to allow life to be all it is to me?

No. Not nearly enough, at least. Which is ironic, since surely, whenever I get to wherever I’m going, I will only be thinking about what is to come.

And where does that put life? Forever in my rearview mirror.

Missed.

Unappreciated.

Never enough.

I’ve blamed this behavior on a list of things. What can justify such a blatant lack of gratitude for the greatest gift given to man? My favorite excuse is my past. Is just too hard, too dark, too dirty. How can I move on? I’ve measured this world, and I’ve decided. It’s not good. How can it be? 

How can what has hurt me so bad be “good”? I don’t feel grateful.

And so I’m not.

And that leaves me the kind of person that can’t find the goodness of the world when it’s staring me right in the face. Because it is, always, staring me right in the face. But I miss it, far too much, for I’m too busy complaining to God about all of the terrible things that have happened to me.

 

But it’s in these moments, when I wander campus alone, that the LORD leads me to quiet corners and empty classrooms. And it’s there, in the midst of my screaming discontentment, He speaks. I’ve learned to recognize these moments as growing pains, the ache of Christianity in which God makes me holy, as He is holy. And sometimes, it hurts. Bad.

And today, I need some Heavenly-Ibuprofen.

But it’s in these moments that the LORD has taught me these two rules, showed me that my mind runs far too fast for the simplicity of His grace in my life. That the reason I find myself so anxious and overwhelmed so much of the time is because I’m taking on far too many burdens I was never meant to carry.

For God’s handbook, written to me, I am realizing can be paraphrases in 11 words.

  1. This life is the greatest gift.
  2. Life like you believe it.

You see, my stumbling block has been that I thought it was my job to measure whether or not this world was good, whether or not my life was good. And when I tried to make this daunting decision, I was always overwhelmed by all of the incredibly difficult blows this world makes. And day after day, I would come to the decision that it wasn’t. It wasn’t good.

And my heart would break and I would walk down perfectly good streets and find every single crack in the asphalt.

But God whispers to me. Take that burden off of yourself. It’s not your decision whether or not this world is good. It is good. I have declared it so. 

Do you believe that? 

I am not God, and the brunt of my anxiety stems from when I try to play Him. My problems are not in the difficulties of this life, but from the fiery, rampant discontentment growing in my heart. The rotting moss of my fearful heart grows from a life lived without gratitude for the gift of life that has been given to me.

How dare I walk through life with such an entitled mind? Like this world is mine to define, like my life is mine to control? How dare I walk through my days wishing I was anywhere else, doing anything else, when Jesus came to this Earth and died to give me this life? This very moment, this breathing in and out?

This life is not my own, for I was bought with a price.

Therefore I must glorify God with my body.

For when I don’t, I am telling God that it is not good. When I don’t, I am relying on my own fallen mind to determine the state of the world and my life.

When I don’t I am looking straight at my Savior dying on the cross and telling Him not to bother. I won’t appreciate the gift anyway.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

This gift. Abundant life.

Bought with a price.

And this life is found not in pages of a planner and dreams of days to come. But it is found now, in this moment, as I wander the streets of campus on a Thursday afternoon.

And it is a gift.

Thank you, Lord. May I live like it.

Life On An Anti-Depressant: The Lies We Cannot Believe

Life On An Anti-Depressant: The Lies We Cannot Believe

Negative thoughts and beliefs are just that: thoughts and beliefs. They are not facts, and they do not need to be true.

Tricia Lott Williford

As humans, we do this thing. When someone tells us something about ourselves, we tend to believe them. We take their opinions upon ourselves and stamp labels on our chests.

We’re undesirable. Stupid. Ignorant. Unstable. Incapable. Unworthy. Sick. Lost. Why? Because somebody, at some point, in some way…

said we were.

Those thoughts have power. Power like I never could have imagined. Power you may understand way too well.

For me, those lies have come in the form of doctor’s prescriptions and sticky paper-plastered beds.

I never knew the power a doctor with a bottle of pills could have until I sat on the rumpled up paper of a doctor room bed and was handed a little orange bottle. Reading the label: Escitalopram. Lexipro. Antidepressants.

And in that moment, I wasn’t just Maddie, someone who has been sad lately. I was Maddie: doomed.

Maddie: unstable.

Maddie: incapable.

Maddie: sick. Forever sick.

Was I any of these things? No. Did I feel like I was? Yes, I really did.

It was like the depression I had been feeling was not only an imbalance of chemicals in my body, but it was an impenetrable diagnosis, one that consumed all of me and made me feel ashamed and humiliated.

And let me make one thing clear: depression is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it a sin. It is a real thing – me of all people should know that. But it is also not an identity – never make it your identity.

You are not depressed. You may have dealt with what we call “depression”, but it is not who you are.

Because mental health does that to us, doesn’t it? It makes us hide. It uses shame in uncanny ways to make us think that we’re less than who God made us to be. It is the fertile soil for lies to grow into sprawling trees in our minds.

And we hold it in our secret places. We give it all the power to scrape us hollow from the inside out.

And so came the crushing blow as I did nothing to stop those lies from sinking deep into my pores, not knowing the earth-shaking power they had. It had nothing to do with what was happening in my body – I’m sure the pills actually helped – but it had everything to do with the way I began viewing myself. From that moment, those lies planted seeds deep into my mind and heart. I didn’t know how desperately I needed to uproot them.

I didn’t know what to do with them at all.

As I drove away from that doctor’s office, I let another’s opinion of me consume me. And when I say consume, I mean drop me to the ground, curl me into a ball, shatter all that I believed about my self consume me. Should I have felt unbearable shame at the thought of being on antidepressants? No. Did I? Oh dear, yes. I felt stamped, categorized, labeled, doomed.

Unstable. For the first time in my life, truly unstable.

I have learned a lot about negative thinking in the past 20 months of my life. It’s powerful. And when I say negative thinking, I am not referring to the sit-cross-legged-on-the-floor, think of birds and trees and clear your mind from all “negative thinking”.

No, I mean the kind of negative thinking that steers you on the track of ignoring or denying every Truth that has been spoken of you. I mean negative thinking that alters the way you live, implants lies deep into your mind, makes you believe you are far, far less than the capable, beautiful, upheld Child of God that you are.

Because you are, my friend, capable, beautiful, and upheld by the hand of the Lord. You are.

It’s a fact.

No questions asked.

No jury necessary.

I lived in fear for a long time. I thought I had to. I thought that as long as I took my daily “I’m-Weak-And-Doomed pill” (which I still do, by the way), that fear was a simple side effect. Because… doesn’t that mean I’m that girl now… the one who is depressed. “Oh, be careful with Maddie! She struggles with depression.”

So what? I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. Isn’t it time we accepted that fact?

Why should we be ashamed of being the “sick” that Jesus came to save?

It took me a long time to realize that I was the only one who had decided that my life had dissolved into a million pieces. Shame kept me locked up inside my own head for too long, but once I finally spoke, finally uttered those “horrific” lies I had come to believe, I realized that I was the only one that believed I was anything but brave.

“Why are you giving so much power to that doctor, Maddie?” My mom. “Take it back. It’s not his to have. You know who you are, now start living like it.”

You know who you are, now start living like it.

Start living like it. 

There comes moments in our lives that we have to choose who we’re going to believe. The first thing my dad said to me last year when I was at my worst: “I think it’s an identity problem.”

Identity problem? Come on dad, it’s a depression problem. It’s an anxiety problem. I can’t help the way I am. I’m sick. I’m trapped. I’m the victim. 

And God just shakes His head.

“Why do you live like you are less, daughter?”

Why do you live like you are less?

 

Life on an anti-depressant is just that: Life. You are not your medication. You are not your diagnosis. Those things are beautiful parts of your story, for the Lord redeems and uses all to build up our character and increase our hope.

But they are not our identities. They never will be.

Take the power back.

 

 

The Moments We Would Change

The Moments We Would Change

Things happen to us in our lives here on Earth.

Things that don’t make sense, things that hurt us in the deepest and most real ways. Things that unravel us and scream at us, telling us we’re something that we’re not. And we find ourselves one day, partaking in a conversation about life and fate with blue haired ladies at church or in the burrito line in our college cafeteria and the question is pondered,

What would you change?

“Nothing,” you hear someone say, “nothing at all.” And in some way, somewhere deep down, you admire their apparent acceptance of this turbulent life, but in another, very real way, your stomach drops

deep

down

into your gut as you think, in full assurance,

“I know exactly what I would change.”

I know the very moment.

And you see it. That moment. Those words. That accident or accusation or mistake. And the hurt poisons you as you stand in that line in the very same way it saturated your veins all of those days or months or years ago.

Yes. That is exactly what I would change.

Because these things happen, don’t they? We may not believe it, the power a moment can have, until it becomes a part of our story. I never knew until I found myself in a hospital room, identified as broken by the doctor with the fancy pen, back chilled by the unfortunate architecture of those gowns they make you wear. “Self-harm” thrown around like it was something that actually pertained to me. And yet I was there. I can still smell it.

Ask me, and I’ll say nothing makes you feel more broken than a hospital room. Nothing makes you feel more misunderstood than a diagnosis, especially a false one. And. Well, nothing makes you more vulnerable than allowing those moments to redefine who you are.

Forget the buckets of resiliency I possessed for the first 20 years of my life. When I left that day, I was weak. I was broken. Forever broken, if you asked me.

I gave the power to someone who didn’t deserve it, to someone who didn’t know me at all. To someone who called the ambulance in the blink of an eye, led me to it, and believed he was saving me from myself.

And I forgot, I completely forgot, who I was. I began to walk in fear, forsaking opportunities for adventure. I slept in on Saturdays so I didn’t have to get out of bed and face whatever terrifying thing existed in the world. I would walk by the array of fall colors on the trees and find some way to deny who they were.

Because after all, who was I?

I was broken, remember? I was weak.

Because he said I was weak. He said I was a quitter. And above his head, that fancy certificate proving that

he was right.

Right?

 

I’m done giving the power to liars – to The Liar. There are things that happen to us, friends, and they give us a choice.

Will we believe them?

My fingers shake as I write, fighting the good fight. Choosing to not believe them.

There are innumerable voices in this world. I used to think I was immune to the heart-stopping, life-altering affect they have in the lives of people. But we all are formed and altered by the voices we choose to believe.

I chose to believe that I was broken, doomed to that hospital bed, ruled by the woman that lay there. I believed that that was who I was, and that changed everything about every moment of my day since. I put fear on the throne of my mind and he took charge and I became exponentially less than who I am in every way.

I came back to school, convinced the people around me that I was “fine”. But the hardest person to convince was myself. Those people weren’t there, after all. They didn’t feel the utter panic of that moment, the one that painted my past with darkness. They didn’t stare blankly at the white hospital room walls. They didn’t wear the one-size-fits-all socks.

But it’s not them I have to convince. It’s me. I’m the one who decided that everything from that moment on was downhill. I’m the one that, for the past 10 months, has made residency in the false-claim of that day.

 

Because the truth?

The truth is that that day has made me more of who I am than I have ever been before. Forget flimsy pats on backs. I know what it is like to be wheeled in a gurney, treated not for a wound in my body, but for what they saw as a wound in my mind.

Was I hurting? Yes.

Should I have been there that day, marked as “unstable”, greeted by the friendly neighborhood crisis worker, and handed the red envelope on the way out?

Does it matter?

The truth is that it happened, and for better or for worse it is a part of my story. I can choose to dwell forever on who I was marked to be, or I can remember who I am. I can allow the trauma to swallow me whole (as it tempts to do), or I can remember that I have been given eyes I never believed I would possess.

This isn’t the time to go into the mental health system in our country. That may be for another post, at another time.

But I have learned, and choose to live, that no little orange bottle, no opinion of another, no doctor’s diagnosis, no trauma.

No thoughts.

Not even actions.

Nothing in this life can steal my identity away from me. I am a child of the King, a Christian, one who has chosen to follow the Lord of my Heart, the Savior who came and died so that I may have life abundant.

I am brave for He makes me brave.

I am strong for He makes me strong.

I am who He says I am, full of purpose and abounding in joy.

 

So what would I change?

Nothing. For I am more today than I ever imagined I would be.

 

The Light We Choose Not To See

The Light We Choose Not To See

This summer, I find myself always writing from the same place. I sit on my queen sized, 4 poster bed, blinds up on my oversized window, beams of fresh light across my grey bedspread. My toes are a tad cold, as usual, make-up worn out from the day, and (if I’m lucky), my 11 year old Shih-Tzu naps near my feet. And I sip french vanilla iced coffee because somewhere along the road it became my favorite thing in the world, and I ain’t mad.

A year ago this would have terrified me, and my minds runs back to those days often, whenever a moment is so good and the coffee is so sweet. I think of the days I was afraid of goodness – afraid of quiet and newness and my own shadow if it towered high enough.

And something tells me that I’m not alone. That’s why I write today – any day.

If you read my blog, you know that I’ve had a rough going these past 12 months. Anxiety and depression became extra coats I kept in my closet, thrown on when the tiniest shiver ran through my body. I began to wear distrust like the holes in my jeans and the socks on my feet and I fell, fell, fell into a place I never thought I would be.

Because that’s what happens when you stop trusting God. Suddenly that cross He asked you to bear becomes a menace. For God calls greatly, and demands great trust from us.

I will never forget the moments – innumerable moments – where I felt as if I was trapped. My mind repeatedly ran down roads that should not be taken – roads of hopelessness, panic, disbelief – and every time rationed its way through them.

I was in my last counseling session of the school year a few weeks ago. Essential oils, billowing out of a machine in the corner, coated my nostrils as I took a seat in one of the two plush chairs along the wall. I had grabbed a mini Snickers out of a bowl at the front desk, as usual, and felt the chocolate melt on my tongue as I settled down onto the cushion, pulling the throw pillow tight around my midsection and crossing my legs.

I had gone in every Thursday for the semester, and by the end I began to look back on my time in that office as sections of railroad track – week by week the weight of my mind and life bore down, adding pressure, heat, but week by week they got me farther towards where I wanted to go. They held up. I needed something to hold up.

By this point, we had little to talk about. Four months prior I had walked into that very office eyes hot and mind weary, but as I began to walk the journey of healing, ticking weeks by, I felt that I could stand just a little bit straighter every time. Sometimes I cried. Sometimes I just sat. But that’s counseling, somewhere you can be whoever you need to be.

And this week, this final week, I began to look on the past months as a memory. I had wondered so long how I could fall so hard, how my distrust in God could happen so quickly and so completely. It was a puzzle that was missing a piece, causing me to look under the table and in the couch cushions and with every crick in my neck and scrape on my arm I grew more and more irritated. With every glance at the un-finished puzzle on the metaphorical coffee table, I cried out for some kind of explanation. “How? How? How?

And I sat in that room and it hit me. Finally. That final Thursday it hit me. And moment after moment since it has hit me. And as I sit here today, rain gently cascading the roof, cars drifting by outside, it hits me. And I smile.

Every day I make a choice.

Scratch that. Every moment I make a choice.

Now I know that there is beauty interwoven into the ice in my toes and the scratch on my contact and the ticks in my dog’s back. There is a miracle in every breath and an opportunity after every blink of an eye. But for months I chose to believe otherwise.

Now I know that I choose what glasses I wear, choose what I see and how I see it. Choose to know that “it is good”. What is good? All of it! No, it’s not all easy or enjoyable or smooth, glassy, or soft. But it is good. Because God created it and because He called it good.

For so long I put on darkness like a cloak. I would say it sounds crazy, but something tells me there are hearts reading this that understand. It’s a choice we all make once or twice or a hundred times. We choose to doubt God, choose to give the devil a foothold, choose to see flowers as fading and rain as wet and Tuesdays as stressful.

And for me it took 3 panic attacks, a bottle of Xanax, 4 months of anti-depressants, and half a year of counseling to understand even a sliver of what God has been trying to tell me.

Choose beauty. Choose to see it. I know it’s not easy but choose it anyways. 

Joy. Joy. Joy. 

There is a light, a beauty, that can only be seen through a broken lens. When beauty is handed you, perhaps as a child, you take it for granted and brush it aside, closing your eyes to it because you expect it to be there when you open them again.

But when you lose that light, that beauty, for a time, it becomes the treasure you will traverse miles to find and never let go.

That’s how I feel today. My dog still naps at my side and birds fly by the window and I can smell and feel and hear the lawn mowers outside which means it’s summer and wow if only I could have more senses to feel more and breathe more. Because light after darkness is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

And I choose to see.

It’s not easy. This world is dark, we know that. Loved ones die and minds fall astray and friends choose to leave and countries make bombs and it’s easy to find the darkness. It will not resist you. Instead, it will beckon, enticing you towards itself. Don’t go. Run, fast, and choose the other way.

You have a choice, friends.

It takes courage to find the light. We all have reason not to, reasons to forget our value and pray less and swallow the sun with clouds of worry.

But God calls higher, past the clouds and into His glorious light. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8)

And He will never lose the fight. So many of us will simply never choose to see the victory.

 

 

I Have Known Many Dead Waiting To Die

I Have Known Many Dead Waiting To Die

My bedroom walls are light blue, the color of the sky as I see it through my window.

I sit this morning on my bed, window open, oversized coffee cup in hand. Bibles and journals strewed around me, half filled, pen stained. Mornings are for wisdom-seeking, God-chasing. Trying to be quiet.

I painted my walls the sky for that reason. Four days ago, pumping music loud, paintbrush in hand, I stayed up late so that they would be just the right color when the sun came up. I wanted to wake up each morning to light, to sun, to sky. So I walked up to the paint man in the paint store and told him I wanted the sky on my walls.

I’ve been searching hard these days. I want to find it more than buried treasure, more than my dreams, wealth, grades. I want it the moment I wake up and as I do laundry and write papers and laugh with friends.

Joy.

Unquenchable, ever present, with me. Joy.

As a child, I celebrated joy in the light. I knew nothing but my mother’s love and freshly mowed grass and TV after school and so I thought nothing of it but somehow regarded it as mine in someway. I was happy so I had joy. I went to church so I had joy. I was regarded highly so I had joy.

But life is not always in the light.

My greatest love for my God is how He views my brokenness. My dirt. Mud. Life in shards, as it sometimes is. Those moments that you look back on your last few days, months, years, and see yourself slowly falling into nothing, forgetting any sense of who you are.

And you lie there one day, blinking into reality, and realize that you are a pile of broken pieces, scared. At a loss.

“I have known many dead waiting to die”, Ann Voskamp says. And I know, it is only for Jesus that I am not one of them. I have known death – not physical, but real. Death inside of me, the kind that forgets hope, feeling the darkness shroud me from anything that once beat blood into my heart. Burn out, real and present, sucking the life from me.

But I was struck, hard, as I sat in Truth for a moment. Jesus. That is why He came, isn’t it? I have known many dead waiting to die. “But I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full”.

Life.

Five months ago I sat in a mid-sized doctor’s room and was handed my first bottle of anti-depressants. How did I get here? Mouth clenched, living in a bubble of anxiety, trapped. And so I took that bottle like it was my Living Water, prayed for strength as I awaited the three weeks for the meds to kick in.

I think back to a year before, dark theatre and panic coursing through me. Unknown to me at the time, that was only the first wave in a year of storms. Thrashing, trying to toss water overboard, I clutched the theatre seat and saw only waves, vaguely having the mind to remember another’s description of a panic attack. “Jesus!”, closing my eyes I cried upward, “do you not care that I am perishing??”

Thinking He was miles away, forgetting that He was simply below the boat napping. Ever with me, all knowing.

And yet I fought, for a year, as if an army was chasing me. Panic. Anxiety coursing through my veins, becoming my blood. Every day, waking to a dimmer world. Afraid. Any concept of trust in my Lord vanquished, gone. I was led by my fear, driven by shadows. I ate of distrust. I was alone with the darkness I prescribed to me.

I have known many dead waiting to die. My mind was dead waiting to die.

“… but Jesus…”

But Jesus.

I am in love with His eyes. Tear stricken, as I sat in this Truth yesterday. Any pride I once had gone, I know my real place. I know my zombie-identity, my inability to find light, save myself. I was in the ship, going down. Scooping frantically to throw water overboard, feeling the fatigue set in.

The diagnoses came. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Depression.

How did I get here?

 

The greatest paradox of all time. Aside from salvation, the more you fall into darkness the more you are lost.

But with Jesus, Sweet Jesus, the farther and farther you fall, the more and more He can use you. The more broken, more humiliated. When you are at the end of yourself. That, my friends, is when you are exactly where He wants you to be.

Incredible.

Four months ago, I lay on my couch, head in mom’s lap. Tears. Depression clouded my vision, panic pulsated through my heart down to my toes. I cried and tried to apologize because I didn’t understand, didn’t know how I got there.

Forehead stroked by mom, nose running, I knew. I needed one thing and only one thing. To get back to school, to find rest for my mind, to see past the dark cloud, for independence from the pills. This is a fight, and I needed only one thing.

Hope.

For I have known many dead waiting to die, and I wasn’t going to be one of them.

I am not one of them.

Because Jesus saw me then, and day by day I began to hear His whisper.

You are still in My plan. In fact, now, in your brokenness, you are closer to it than you have ever been before. Trust. Daughter. Trust.

 

And so I painted my walls sky blue because I can. Today I am saved, from lies, from mind-death. I want a blue sky on a rainy day because I have learned to seek beauty.

Freedom. Mind clear, pills simply a formality. I have found healing that can only come from the Messiah.

But I am humbled, because I know. Without my God, my Light, my Life, I don’t know where I would be. I feel I would still be in my mother’s lap, crying into the darkness.

And somehow, I know that is the point. I am nothing without my Jesus, empty without His Water, dark without His Light.

I have known many dead waiting to die.

 

 

Lend Me Your Hope

Lend Me Your Hope

I ran across a poem the other day that stopped me in my tracks.

Lend me your hope for a while,
I seem to have mislaid mine.
Lost and hopeless feelings accompany me daily,
pain and confusion are my companions.

I know not where to turn.
Looking ahead to future times
does not bring forth images of renewed hope.
I see troubled times,
pain-filled days,
and more tragedy.

Lend me your hope for a while,
I seem to have mislaid mine.
Hold my hand and hug me;
listen to all my ramblings,
recovery seems so far distant.
The road to healing
seems like a long and lonely one.

Lend me your hope for a while,
I seem to have mislaid mine.
Stand by me,
offer me your presence,
your heart and your love.
Acknowledge my pain,
it is so real and ever present.
I am overwhelmed
with sad and conflicting thoughts.

Lend me your hope for a while.
A time will come when I will heal,
and I will share my renewal,
hope and love with others.

Do those words resonate in your soul? They do mine.

We live in a broken world, one full of depression and death and blinding suffering. One of the greatest issues I have known and observed that accompanies times of suffering is the question, “Where do I go from here?” In the throws of the storm it seems impossible to function at any level of normalcy, and conversations with those hurting often land somewhere around the tearful wondering:

How?

How can I keep up with the life I once knew?

How do I even pretend to function like I once did?

How do I get out of bed?

How do I go to work, or school, or even church?

How do I live surrounded by people that appear to have it all together when my life is literally falling apart at the seams?

 

And those conversations usually end with a tear-stained face and puffy eyes, emotions overwhelming the sufferer to the point of collapse. Oh, how the wars Satan wages can rock us off of our feet! Whether it was a gradual collapse or an overnight crumbling, many of us at some point in our lives find ourselves weeping and running to the bottom of the rocking ship to wake Jesus and scream “Where have you been? Can’t you see I’m drowning??”

Many of us have, at some point, had a deficit of hope in our hearts. Maybe we know in our minds that light and hope has come into the world, but in the pits of the despair we are currently sinking into we cannot see anything but darkness.

This post is not really about the healing that comes through Jesus Christ, though I need to say that healing exists and is very, very real in His hands. Instead, however, this post is for those of us that need to know how to function today. Suffering is real, and many of us right now are waking up and staring at our bedroom ceiling thinking, “How am I going to get through today?”

The poem starts with “lend me your hope for a while, for I seem to have mislaid mine”. Oh, what an accurate description of what it feels like to be in the throws of a trial! Many of us wake up one day and realize that our hope somehow left without our permission, leaving us desperate for its return. This poem is a cry to those around us, the people in our lives that have perhaps been asking what they can do to help us through this difficult time. In my sufferings, I have grown accustomed to saying:

“Just lend me your hope.”

I don’t know about you, but there are mornings where I rely on the hope of those around me to get me moving. The concept of borrowing hope is, quite honestly, a hopeful one.

But that wasn’t even the line that stopped me in my tracks when I first this poem.

This past month, as I rode out a painful trial, my parents longed to know how to best help me, and my answer surprised me. I’m not an incredibly touchy person, but I realized that what I needed most in the days to come is somebody to hug me and hold my hand and be with me through what was undeniably going to be a torturous season of life.

Hold my hand and hug me;
listen to all my ramblings,
recovery seems so far distant.
The road to healing
seems like a long and lonely one.

Hold my hand and hug me. Listen to all of my ramblings. Lend me your hope in the form of your presence, for the road out of suffering can be long and lonely and I need to know that I am not alone.

If you are reading this as someone striving to help a loved one through a trial, remember that what sufferers need most is companionship. They need to know that they are not alone. They don’t need you to solve their problems, they simply need you to hold their hand and let them cry for as many days as it takes. They need you to listen to their ramblings and love them through it all. Tell them that you love them and tell them that you are going to be by their side until the storm has passed.

And if you, dear friend, are the one in the midst of the storm, please please please remember that Jesus is not absent. In fact, he allows storms to happen so that we are able to see Him calm the waves that rock us. If you are suffering, remember that you are in the exact right place for your faith to be transformed. 1 Peter reminds us that “Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.”

Genuine faith. That’s your prize after all of this is said and done. Don’t lose heart!

If you are blinded by darkness, know without a shadow of a doubt that the True Light has come into the world and, if you have allowed Him, into even your heart.

For one day, perhaps not too far down the road, you will be able to lend your hope to someone else. “Lend me your hope for a while. A time will come when I will heal,
and I will share my renewal, hope and love with others.” What a day that will be!

But today, friend, give yourself grace. Pray. Cry. Sleep. Find beauty. Go for a walk. Cry again. Read and paint and run. Do what fills your heart and balms your soul. And remember: Jesus is the Great Physician and He begins healing you the moment you ask Him to.

But in the meantime, borrow hope. Borrow it from friends, family, and from the Hope of the world Himself. For there is unquenchable Hope in this world, and it is yours for the taking.

 

What Would You Do If I Told You Somebody Died For You?

What Would You Do If I Told You Somebody Died For You?

I’ve celebrated Christmas 21 times in my life.

21 mornings of cranberry bread and red-wrapped packages and the Steven Curtis Chapman Christmas album. 21 times I have run down the stairs with my 5 siblings to see what Santa left for us while we were sleeping. (Yes, Santa still brings the Bowsers presents. Yes, 75% of us are adults.)

And we eat monkey bread and tear into presents (one by one, of course) and we laugh and gawk over what was waiting for us under the tree. And by the time we’re all on our 3rd cup of coffee, we pop a Christmas movie in and settle down in our new Christmas pj’s and we cuddle with our dog under the lights of the decorated tree.

And that’s Christmas. At least, on the outside, that’s Christmas.

But if I’m honest with myself, friends, for so many years my inside has looked pretty much the same. Sure, as I grew older, I would pay a little more attention to the story in Luke about the brave teenage mother and the long journey she took to give birth in a cave. Yeah, I knew that her son was Jesus, and I knew that Jesus was good because He came to save the world from its darkness. And of course, I knew that Christmas was the day we celebrated that.

And so as I unwrapped presents and drank orange juice and laughed with my family I would think about that sometimes.

But Christmas, if I’m honest, has often been all about me.

 

This morning is different. This morning, all I can think about is a garden from 2,000 years ago.

It was late, and a man was there, and he was hunched over, in agony. With his hands pressed up against his eyes, sweat like blood dripped down over his wrists and he cried out,

“Father… if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me…”

He paused, glanced at the trees and wiped the sweat from his forehead, his face scrunched and his vision blurry. Rubbing his hands on his knees, he buried his face in the spotty grass and moaned,

“….nevertheless…” looking up to the sky, tasting his own blood, “not my will, but your will be done…”

And within minutes, soldiers came into the very garden, and he rose to meet them, wiping dirt from his knees and tears from his eyes. And this very man, who minutes before had begged to be pardoned, willingly gave himself into the hands of the soldiers.

He didn’t even fight it.

And the next day they beat him, and tore his clothes, and they killed him. They took nails and they dug them into his wrists, and they hung him by those nails, on a tree. And he suffocated as his body weight dragged him down, his bloodied wrists the only force attempting to pull him up.

And so he died, slowly, in front of a mass of people who spat at him and cheered as he breathed his last.

This Christmas morning, that’s what comes to mind.

 

You see, that really happened.

2,000 years ago, if you had gone to a place called the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, you would have found a man with blood on his face. You would have seen him crying, heard him praying, begging for something. You would have seen him walk up to guards and give himself to them, no longer saying a word. You would have seen him being dragged to the officials, sentenced to death, and killed.

And you would have noticed that he never said a word, never put up a fight.

That’s what I think about this Christmas morning.

 

How would you feel if I told you that the reason we have a holiday called Christmas is because somebody died for you?

You were alone on a crowed highway, a semi-truck heading full force your way.

Standing on thin ice, watching it crack beneath your feet.

In your bedroom alone, trying to think of a reason, any reason, to live.

You were done, fresh out of hope, fresh out of reason. You couldn’t explain why, but you knew that unless somehow somebody did something, you were done.

Maybe that’s you this morning. Maybe you’ve run out of strength, scraped dry your reserves.

 

What if I told you that the reason Christmas exists is because Jesus came to this world in order to die for you? He came to be born as a baby, humbly. He came to die, painfully, on a cross. He came so that you and I today can have hope. 

Hope. Hope that this world isn’t it. Hope that despite everything, we have been saved from the darkness around us.

 

2,000 years ago Jesus lay in a garden and sweated blood as he took on himself our burdens. He voluntarily came into this world, this dark world, to be its light. He is God, but he became human. The Bible says that he came to serve, not to be served, and to give his life in order to save ours.

He gave his life in order that our darkness would be pardoned.

 

This Christmas morning, I cannot help but think about that. I cannot help but sit in awe of the God who takes away my darkness. I cannot help but give him my life because he has given me his. Without Jesus, without the man in the garden, I am hopeless.

But because Jesus was born in a little town 2,000 years ago, I can have life. Because he was born, because he made the choice to die for me, I can have hope. 

 

That’s Christmas. This December 25th, I really hope you know that.

You are loved- loved so much that God Himself, Jesus, jumped in front of that train for you. In the midst of packages and popcorn and playlists, I beg you to remember.

You have been handed hope. What are you going to do about it?