depression…I refuse to be afraid of you anymore…you will take no more from me…

eddad1877461ad126eaabb9335c11752The thing about mental health is no one talks about it. I’m not sure how shame etched itself so deep into the throws of internal turmoil, but it did. People are depressed. Anxious. Hurting. Yet it’s rarely until the circle of pain grows from a small bubble inside of us to a gigantic man eating bubble we cannot pop or escape until we get help. Why is that?

If it wasn’t for my own battle I don’t think I would understand. But I have been depressed. I have experienced trauma. I know PTSD personally. They aren’t my favorite friends. And although they went on what seemed a vacation, looking back, I can see how they quietly wreaked havoc while I wasn’t looking. Now that they are peaking their ugly heads out of the bushes, I can see them again.

So what will the difference be this time? What will keep them from eating me alive once more and robbing years of my life? What’s the difference?

It’s fairly simple. I’m not afraid anymore. I know what the enemy looks like. I know the tools he uses. I know how he starves my body of seratonin and mercy. I’ve seen how he operates. And this time I will act early.

This morning I stood ashamed at the the thought or returning to an anti anxiety medication. I stood afraid of what this chemical imbalance could mean. Not only for me, but now for my daughter who also appears to be fighting her own battles.

This afternoon. I’m victorious. Might I struggle with episodes of anxiety and depression throughout my life? Yes. Might my daughter also? Yes.

Is that ok? Yes.

But I don’t have to bow down to it. I’m more than a conqueror in Christ. He beat depression, anxiety, and every other dang mental illness on the cross. He’s our living hope. Our living healer. Shame has no power here. I’m moving forward. And if you share my struggles – in the power of Christ you can too. Satan doesn’t get to win. Not this time. God is on our side. We will not fail. We are more than conquerors in Christ. It’s time to get up and leave this cold dark place for the warmth and power of redemption and healing.

 

 

 

we became His…

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Something unpleasant stirs inside. I can’t shake it. A shift in the balance is rapidly occurring. And I’m not quite certain what to do with it. It’s these waves I stand on the balcony of love guarding against. Waves of the unknown and unseen thrashing with power upon the fort I’ve built of I’m not sure what.

Self protection and preservation pushes hard against my will. It threatens to quickly close the doors of my heart on top of myself. But this is not where I want to go. Imploding into my own self pity is never the start of something amazing. Faced with adversity I’m also faced with a choice. To go down deeper or begin the ascension before the fullness of the descent picks up speed.

“He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” James 1:18

As I read these words straight from the pages of the one place truth never ceases to exist the mystery deepens further. Birthed as a new creation through the love of Christ I can feel my self dying a bit more and I wonder if the parts of me stirring inside aren’t bits of pride starving and soon to fall away. If this deeper stirring in my spirit and my soul is not the revival I have been praying for.

My God…His way up is often down…and down is often up. My mind cannot comprehend and my heart cannot fully envelop the swaying swing of my emotions but I can grab ahold of this.

That He chose us.

To give His Word to.  To give His son for. To give up His life for…so that we might live. And even when our spirit wants to go scuba diving in the land of self pity, grasping a tiny shard of His truth is enough to pull us far beyond even the most overwhelming pain.

Whatever has your feet tied to the bottomless pit you feel stuck in, He sent His son and offers His Word…specific to you…to set you free. Embrace it. Swallow it whole if you can.

Lord thank you that even in all of this…we are yours.

blended realities…

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It looks picturesque. Perfect family. Perfect setting. We are that family who went on a fabulous beach vacation over spring break. But before you get jealous let me show you another side of our reality.

The last thing I want is to come across as ungrateful because I am bent and doubled over in thankfulness for this priceless time with my family enjoying God’s creation. It was amazing…thus I debate to share. But some days we just need to be real.

So here’s reality #2. The day before spring break we got a call from the principal. He told us about some alarming behaviors exhibited by our intellectually disabled son. With Ryan, behavior issues are not uncommon. But this was different. Severe.

As it all unfolded we learned he had been the recipient of another child’s sexually inappropriate behaviors at school. And that’s all I’ll say.  I feel it’s all I should say to respect his privacy.

However, as a survivor of sexual assault myself this news threw me into a tailspin.

Then comes the double stack…

My daughter is having ongoing battles with anxiety and sensory overload. They often leave her frustrated and in tears. She struggles at school and she no longer wants to go to dance class. Lately, if she goes at all,  I have to drag her. And it breaks me.

All of it breaks me.

And then there’s reality #3. My kids are amazing. They have challenges. But I wouldn’t trade walking them through these challenges for a million dollars. I just wish I could remove their pain. That is all.

I have an amazing husband by my side. We are healthy. We have a beautiful home and 2 great jobs. When you stand back and survey it all…comparing it to other realities…we are overwhelmingly blessed. And even if this all was snatched away tomorrow – we would still be blessed. Why? Because of Jesus. He is and has to be our everything.

There are perfect pictures that express reality for a few seconds in time. There are realities that break our hearts. And then there is the reality of God’s truth and His blessings. The reality that sets us free.

All reality. All true. Some good.  Some painful. But they are our realities to live. And shouldn’t we stand thankful we aren’t alone in bearing our burdens – regardless of what they may be.

You, I, we…are not alone. God is with us. He sees. He hears. He heals. We trust.

 

Flakes…

We walk around with our share of flakes. Things sprinkled on us that have seasoned who we are. Smaller pieces of a greater whole. They cover us and create our own unique individual emotional and social wardrobe. A diverse combination of experiences, influences, and circumstances that will leave us forever changed – for the better or for the worse.

I wish I could say all my flakes are good. Truth is some of them are bad. Some flakes I try to brush off over and over again but they just won’t go away.

Other flakes are amazing. Pieces of wisdom I glean from God’s Word. Inescapable truth from the Holy Spirit. Flakes He placed inside of me that change the very fabric of who I am.

Some flakes are people. Some that are still present and some that’s presence remains despite their absence.

Regardless of each individual flake it is the combination of them all that gives me the passion I have. It is the fabric God has woven together that gives me purpose and a reason for my existence. The flakes are what get me out of bed in the morning and leave me wanting and longing to do more – to be more – to know more – to discover deeper.

At times they give me trouble. I shame myself over the unattractive ones. Part of me wants to hide them. But maybe it’s these that need to be seen most. They offer hope – tomorrow can be better. Flakes covered in a pearly like glaze that is the love of Jesus. Made beautiful by grace. Still visible, but redeemed.

Whatever your flakes are. God has put them there for a reason. They are unique to you. Even the ugly pieces of a much more painful whole have purpose.

Lord have your way in us…in our flakes…in the small pieces you have allowed. Make us who you want us to be. Give us peace where we feel shame and grace to show the shiny flakes with humility. Blend us into the deeper beauty only you can create. And above all Lord, fall fresh on us in every way possible. We want more of you. Be ever present in ever fiber of every flake.

The comparison trap…

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For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6 NIV

Comparison can’t happen without something to compare. That’s the divine thing about grace. It negates works and earnings making comparison impossible. We are all equal under grace. No one is more or less deserving of it. We all receive the full measure of grace regardless of our actions.

Comparison exists on a human plane of ability and assessment. We compare the gifts God has given us saying she has more or less, but regardless of our assessments, His grace remains the same. He has given each of us the full measure of what we need.

So if none of us have more or less, if we are all the same under grace, why is comparison so difficult to let go of?

Because our humanity gets in the way. While God sees us completely covered by the love of Jesus, we struggle to forgive. The principle of fair vs unfair runs loose in our minds leading us to investigate who received more than they deserved. We wonder why we can’t be so fortunate as to have what he or she has.

If it really doesn’t matter who does what or who exceeds who is it really worth wasting our time and energy trying to figure it out?

What if we took all that energy and instead chose to love?

To love fully and deeply, we must stop comparing and start seeing those around us as covered by the full measure of grace. Then we are free to love without borders or quantification. We love like Jesus loves.

It’s difficult to stop comparing. But replacing the desire to weigh and measure with the choice to love more and deeper can help us circumvent the comparison trap and focus on what really matters.

Will you join me in 24 hours of prayer for persecuted Christians?

pray persecuted churchTonight Kevin and I will lead a marriage group in our home. It seems so normal. Such an everyday thing to do. It makes my heart shudder that if we lived in another country, this might not be possible.

The news of Christians being beheaded, pulled out of their homes, and having other atrocities committed against them breaks my heart. I watch the news and I can hardly believe what I am hearing.

I racked my brain for things I could do to help. I suppose if we really wanted to, Kevin and I could go over there and fight. But that is not realistic, and I feel certain I would last all of 1 minute in a battle and certainly wouldn’t be helpful. So I had to sit down and think about what is realistic.

How can we help?

Living life in a way that honors Christ is one way of helping. But what else can we do?

What about 24 hours of prayer?

I minimized this idea at first. What could 24 hours of prayer on a measly platform such as I have accomplish?

But when I really thought about it, it is 24 additional hours of devoted prayer that would not happen should I choose to stand by and do nothing.

Now, it is not feasible for me at this time to pray for 24 hours solid, but what if I asked some friends? What if I used the small platform God has given me to grab at least 23 other people to join me. That is do-able.

I am committing to pray one hour between now and this coming Sunday for persecuted Christians around the world.

Would you commit for an hour too?

If 24 of us commit to at least an hour in between now and this Sunday I wonder what God could do with that? It may not seem like much, but I have seen God work, and He does a lot with a little. We may not see any impact this side of heaven, and that’s okay.  But if even one of our brothers or sisters across the world experienced God’s peace because we are praying for them – wouldn’t that be worth it?

If you are willing to pray for an hour in between now and Sunday, please comment below. Don’t know how or what to pray? Click here for ideas of verses and things to pray for.

Let’s see how many hours we can rack up!

 

the center of who you are…

instaquote-06-02-2015-19-43-42I have a weird job. There are days I’m squishing play dough with a sad 1st grader…days I’m addressing homicidal and suicidal thoughts with teenagers…and other days I do some of both and everything in between. I see the sheer innocence of childhood and the raw shrapnel of trauma.  Sometimes I get kids. Other times they shock me. Every new day brings adventure and a new shade of grey I haven’t seen before.

I know not everyone sees life the way I do. Not all mental health providers believe in God. Or maybe they do but they don’t pursue Him with fervent gusto. But me…when I see mental illness…I see Jesus.

Sounds weird right?

What I mean is…I see why Jesus came to die. I see the fragile balance of humanity. How quickly it can be taken and the delicate nature of sanity.

I know without a doubt that God’s design is perfect. But I see the invasion of evil that began thousands of years ago with a serpent and an apple.

And it breaks me.

My heart breaks over brothers and sisters suffering from anxiety, depression, personality disorders, schizophrenia, and so many other things. It seems so unfair. So uncertain. So beyond the human grasp that we try to understand but sometimes we just can’t.

And I believe that He breaks. He breaks over us…over and over again. Breaks to save us and pull us beyond the tight grasp of evil.

Mental illness stirs my heart and mind with questions. I know God could make it stop and heal the broken in a heartbeat. And with some He does…but others He doesn’t. It’s not mine to understand why or choose how. His ways are far beyond mine. But the lines get blurry. And all I can do is choose to remember that my job is to love.

Not superficially, but from the core of who I am. And that core is Jesus, who died for the sinner – broken, lost, and hurting – the least of these.

He ran from evil…but ran too people. Seeing past what was broken and into the healing.

I like working in mental health, in a weird it exhausts me sort of way, because it’s here I see the flux. The battle of spirit, mind, and soul.

I get to love no matter what, offering unconditional positive regard, for those who might not see Jesus any other way.

And what about you? You don’t have to work in mental health to love the broken. We all know somebody who struggles. Let’s decide to love them. Set boundaries. But love them.

From the center of who you are.

the place where real hope is found…

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The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace. Psalm 29:11

I know what they might say. That you don’t need Jesus to have hope. And maybe you don’t. But my belief system begs to differ.

The number one indicator  that a person might actually follow through with a suicide attempt is this…hopelessness. Not a past history of sexual or physical abuse, not a previous diagnosis of bipolar  disorder or depression, not the experience  of a recent loss or death – although all of these things can certainly contribute – but the big surrounding encompassing factor is hopelessness.

Hopelessness is an indicator of the state of our heart and mind. A place utterly devoid of pleasure  and filled to the brim with pain. Writhing pain that refuses to stop. It can’t wait. It must be ended. And so countless individuals take their own life.

How can we combat this? How can we be givers of hope and life? How can we give sight to the blind? Light to those living in stark barren fearful darkness. The one true, the one lasting,  the one faithful always answer is Jesus.

 

Am I saying you can’t have hope without Jesus? No. People claim that they do.

What I am saying is that hope without Jesus places a tremendous  responsibility on the part of the hop-er. A responsibility I don’t believe we were ever meant to bear.

If it is our decision and even our damnation  to provide ourselves with hope we are certainly destined for failure. There are good things in this world but other than Jesus Christ these things will let you down. There are good people but people eventually pass away. And if the burden of keeping ourselves hopeful is ours to bear alone, well that certainly brings hopelessness and fear of failure to a level beyond my comprehension.

The answer is clear to me. The anchor for my soul has to and can only be Jesus. He is my hope. When countless things and people have failed me time and time again Jesus holds me to ground floor of His love. When I mess up over and over again Jesus holds me to ground floor of His grace. I exist surrounded by an ocean of His unending love and mercy. That is where my hope comes from. Only through and in the Lord.

Psalm 29:11 calls this hope a blessing. Something the Lord has given to His people to be a basement, a rooting, for growth. Hope is the beginning, the birthing ground, of our faith. The knowledge  that someone far greater than ourselves charts the course of our destiny. This is our God. This is our hope. This is the absolute  truth we bank our lives upon.

So for me when it all comes crashing down – I can be as barren as Job crying out to God is desperation – but no one can ever take the hope God has given to me. Depression may knock on my door…but hopelessness stays away because of Jesus.  I operate as a child of God under His blessing of hope. The anchor for my soul. Whom and what shall I fear when my indestructible God is the foundation of my life?

 

Dear friend if you have stumbled across this place and are feeling hopeless I can’t help but ask if you have Jesus? Because lasting hope comes only in this: the blessing of God through Christ Jesus. Accept Him into your heart and your life and you may still feel as if your life sucks. But one thing will change. Your hope will rest in Jesus. You will have renewed power and strength. And together He will help you rebuild the ruins and unhinge the shackles of bondage. In Him you will have new life. Life abundantly.

Stop trying to rescue hope from the pits and dry wells of the world. This is not a place where hope can be found. True and lasting hope is found and held only in Him.

Everlasting God…

instaquote-23-01-2015-20-37-28There’s a holy thing about writing. The fact that scripture is written…not video taped..or drawn…not an audio file or download…but written. The scriptures were written.

I realize there weren’t news crews and cameras in every pocket when Jesus walked the earth or Abraham gazed at the stars, but had God wanted them there…there could have been. The original scriptures could have been documented hundreds of thousands of different ways. Ways our minds can’t even fathom.But God chose the written word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Jesus is even described as The Word. The Word that was with God. The Word that was God. God’s Word. The Scriptures. The Gospel of Christ.

I find the written word so sacred…so Holy…so remarkable. The ability to express the thoughts, the waves tunneling around in our brains into a compounded conglomeration of squigly lines that actually have meaning and make sense. It’s mind blowing when you think about it. 

So why then do we treat The Word so recklessly? God’s Word. The Word. We toss it about too and fro as if nothing more than a meandering collection of thoughts.

Of our own writings this might be true. Our sin stained hands have not in thousands of years scrawled the Words of God. The Bible. But at one time they did. So why not now. Why not new scriptures with new meaning.

Why does the Word of God never change? Why doesn’t it get an annual update or a revised edition?

Because the Word of God unlike the flesh of man is everlasting.

Everlasting upon everlasting.

His Word refuses to change with the wind or the swinging of political tides. It does not change with trends or legalization or seemingly new and fresh ideas…nor does it need to.

I the Lord do not change… Malachi 3:6

His Word, The Word, is written by Him. True and Holy. Everlasting. Never changing….This is our God.

I do not apologize for the state of my God or the truth of His Word. The fact that He shows anger, jealousy, mercy, grace, and love all in the perfect measure at the perfect time. With perfect and mighty purpose.

My hands and my words are bound by humanity. I am certain to get things wrong. But I know for sure when I post His Word I at very least get one thing right. And that right thing is what keeps me writing, sharing, and hopefully inspiring you to dig a bit deeper. To look a bit closer into His infallible written Word.

Because THAT my friends, The Everlasting - Never ChangingWord of God, is where every good and perfect measure of heaven and earth exists…for always.

 

Grace lessons learned from my husband’s laundry pile…

b4f99f6e1b5fdf9679fe1afc47e5fa49As I was doing my husband’s laundry today I was fascinated by a feature of his work shirts. They have mesh vents in the armpits. It’s so awesome. I found myself wishing my shirts had vents in the armpits. There are certainly days that I would find this feature useful. Days when my anxiety  takes flight like a bad dragon destined for the island of gloom and doom. Days when I wonder if I can do anything right and my fear of failure leaves me paralyzed.

Anxious paralysis is such an interesting state. It’s having the desire to move but lacking the ability to make it happen. We scare ourselves into a cease fire that ultimately results in the enemy overwhelming us and suddenly we are trapped without the necessary resources  to escape. Robbed of productivity we resign ourselves to the fact that we never should have thought ourselves capable in the first place and then sets in  the dark side…depression and self hate.

Yep these are the thoughts that bombard me when I see something as simple as armpit sweat panels. Either I’ve spent too long studying anxiety, depression,  and mental health,  or God just wired me this way. I lean towards believing the latter. Either way, I’m glad my husband’s laundry gave me something to think and write about.

And since I don’t think they are going to start making the trendy tops  I enjoy wearing with armpit sweat vents I suppose maybe it’s time to think of other things I can do to decrease my anxious thoughts. One thing that has worked lately is making the choice  to rely heavily, and I mean heavily, on the grace of God.

Why does this change things? Because when I choose to rely on His grace I free myself from the responsibility of action on my own. I know full well that I can’t do things up to God’s standards on my own and He knows it too. That’s why grace is an option. If He expected perfection, grace wouldn’t have been given to me. But it has. And because I operate under grace I operate under freedom.

If I make a mistake I don’t have to hide it. I acknowledge it, move on, learn what I can, and try to do better next time.

I don’t have to let anxiety paralyze me because with grace no matter how bad I mess up, there’s enough grace for that. Enough grace for every single mistake I will ever make. God has made a plan and a way to cover it. To free me from it. A way even when it’s dark to dismantle all the shadows.

So anxious sweats or not, it’s good to know I am free. Free to live minus anxiety. Not to say it doesn’t creep up, because it does. But I don’t have to invite it in for coffee and let it hang around. Grace will escort it right to the exit point and maybe even  keep it from coming around again. His grace is so much cooler than armpit sweat panels. So…instead of sending a request to my favorite  store to redesign their shirts, I think I’ll stick with grace.