one handful of peace…

real-not-perfect

Art by Valerie Wieners Art: www.valeriewienersart.com

I find it tremendously valuable to work harder. To be the best. To be the one that others envy due to my consistent willingness to sacrifice. In fact, my mom’s favorite phrase that sticks with me to this day is, “Stephanie has been in a hurry all of her life.” And it’s true. I want to do more or be better. Never have I been able to be settle. To realize my enough was enough or that it’s okay to be right where I am. I need somewhere to go. And quickly.

I supposed that’s been the greatest lesson of learning that I have ADHD. Understanding why I have been in a hurry all of my life. Because if I’m honest, I rush about, but rarely get much done without chasing my tail in a thousand different directions.

My family and friends try to keep up as my hair catches on fire with ideas about a new project, but then move on just as quickly to something else. I am a doer by design. And I embrace it! But treating this lack of dopamine in my brain has helped me to slow down and make sense of some things.

The other day I looked closely at what I want out of life. One word came to mind. Balance. I want balance. I don’t know that I’ve ever had it. So I began looking at what I would need to get it. Worthy and Capable. To slow down enough to achieve balance, I need to trust that God has made me worthy and capable.

I started looking up Bible verses about balance and came across this:

Then I saw that all hard work and skillful effort come from rivalry. Even this is pointless. It’s like trying to catch the wind. A fool folds his hands and wastes away. One handful of peace and quiet is better than two handfuls of hard work and of trying to catch the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4-6

Chasing the wind. All hard work and skillful effort come from rivalry. Rivalry with others – maybe – I do like to be the best. But mostly it’s a fierce blood bath that occurs right inside the darkest corners of myself. Impulsive decisions, lack of being able to organize even when I try, forgetting things that led to someone I care about getting hurt, or abandoning an idea too quickly and leaving others behind has left me feeling so unworthy and inadequate that I wondered if God just made me a faulty human. I tried to do better, but it was like spitting into a hurricane force gust. I kept messing up.

Enter profound depression and anxiety dominating my thoughts: You are a mistake. It doesn’t matter how hard you try. You will never be good enough. You were an accident. There is no reason for you to be alive. You should just give up before you end up hurting someone else. You are too needy. Stop trying to get better. You never will. You are a failure.

Like a bad rollercoaster…I would feel awful about myself, try to do something amazing, sometimes fail, sometimes succeed…but it was never enough. My mind would continue to turn itself like a washing machine stuck on the spin cycle with a combination of worries, ideas, and thoughts that never stop. And who wants to be still when your brain is stuck on the spin cycle? It makes you dizzy. So dizzy that you just can’t stand it. Never finding peace because even when you try to be still, your brain makes it exhausting.

One handful of peace and quiet is better than two handfuls of hard work and of trying to catch the wind.

One handful of peace. That is what treating ADHD has given me. One tremendous overflowing amazingly profound handful of peace. It’s the sloppy wet sloshing in between my fingers that I have been looking to find my whole life. It’s my worthy. And my capable. For the first time I can look back on things and think…wow…that was pretty cool what God allowed me do to there. I can tie up the details of a project or organize my closet without getting overwhelmed and giving up. And then I can sit down and be still. I can experience peace.

So it may sound strange to some that finding out and treating ADHD has been an answer to prayer. No one really wants a diagnosis. But when you have suffered for 35 years and finally find the answer it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s the gift of being able to sit down and enjoy the cool brisk movement of the wind as it touches my skin rather than getting up immediately trying to chase it. For the first time, I am content.

believe her for more…


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Most of us want to be believed in. To be trusted with much. We like others to make an investment. When they do we feel worthy. Less shame. These investors likely come and go…but the impact God allows them to make on our life remains.

And when it gets dark outside and insides tremble with pain…we seem to need our investors all the more…

Nothing stretches out a nagging sense of unworthiness like difficult circumstances…and at the pinnacle of unworthiness lies shame.

Shame kicks us when we’re down. Shame works it’s way into our souls and leaves us holding tight onto our value. Will the tough time snatch it away? It can’t. But sometimes we just know that it might.

Maybe you, like me, have a difficult time believing in yourself. Maybe patterns that have been misunderstood all your life leave you weary and carrying a backpack full of rocks that say you are broken-too far gone-unhelpable.

If we truly want to move forward, we lean heavy into our investors, but only for a period of time. The ultimate goal of making an investment is that there will be a return. A gain. The investors job is not to give endlessly into our pool of broken ways – it’s to provide ample resources for success. They believe us for more until we can believe in ourselves.

Then there’s Jesus. Resource rich and impeccably generous. He sees our faulty ways of being and loves us the same. The wisest investor, not out of necessity, but because of grace. The only one who believed us for more even before we spoke the language of His ways.

Because of Him we don’t have to be afraid of what will happen if an investor runs out of resources, drops the rope, or simply moves on.  The sustaining love of Christ is and always has been the totality of our enough. Circumstances may in fact decrease our value for a time being, but God always provides a double portion return. With him, your ways of being never disqualify you. They make you capable.

So maybe we can all thank God for our investors. Those who walk with us until we swallow worth and redemption. Those who never ran away from our mess or pain. And maybe when the time is right we will return the favor in new and sparkly ways as a small part of someone else’s really awesome Jesus thing.

 

perfect peace…

perfect-peace

I’ve always had trouble with peace and gone about creating it different ways. Maybe I can organize peace. Or perfect circumstances and they will become peace. Maybe if I feel good enough I will find peace. Finding peace has become my endless quest for more. Until I slowed down….

I was challenged by a book I read, Present over Perfect, to slow my roll. Because peace is rarely about more – and often about less. Peace is enjoying what is in front of you to its fullness rather than going out and trying to find it elsewhere. It’s a gift inside of you. You don’t have to hunt for it or perfect the endless files in your briain until you finally  find it. No…peace is what God said it is…it surpasses understanding.

Peace is about centering your heart and mind on God’s Word and willingness to accept the present. Peace is always available. We have to allow our brains space to let it in. Peace is about giving our hearts and mind over to God. It’s sinking deep into the moment of life and soaking it in. It’s letting life be what it is.

The past is gone and the future is fleeting. All we have is the present to make peace the most active and understated greatness we can ever experience. Peace is both simplistic and incredibly complex. It’s enjoying what God has for you without rushing off to assume he doesn’t have complete control over what is coming next.

When the big UPS truck pulls up to deliver Monday with all of it’s problems and worries, you can deal with it then. Take the package when it arrives and stop trying to track the delivery. Instead make space to allow the moment to be what it is. That’s the key to letting God’s perfect peace rule over your heart and mind.

Set the files aside. Strength is not always found in understanding. Be still. God is in fact Holy. And He will assume the roll of your understanding when the time comes. Allow your heart some space to rest. Enjoy your perfect peace.

because it’s okay not to be okay…

grace

It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s NOT okay to stay that way.

I remember hearing this phrase in middle school. I don’t know if it was a Baptist thing or what…but it was clearly a part of my church upbringing. To most people this meant grace. It meant redemption. It meant forgiveness, second chances, and opportunities for improvement. But I had on a thick pair of distorted glasses. And filtering through my lens this statement meant it’s okay that you sucked at life in the past but you better get it together NOW. Don’t ever make a mistake. And if you do hide your baggage and bury the ashes. No one should EVER know!

And so I did. I was excellent at stifling the dirty within. Preaching the Jesus message but suffering under a weight that felt like forgiveness was just a lie. Maybe it was good enough for other people, but not for me. I was the one who had stayed that way. The one who knew right from wrong and wasn’t strong enough to defeat the flesh. The failure.

It didn’t stop after middle school, or even high school, or college, or even now that I have a successful practice. The worn out message and the dysfunctional way I processed stuck. It looks different. I might call it fear of making a mistake, or perfectionism, or approval addiction – but it’s the same thing. The nagging feeling that everyone else moved forward into awesomeness and I stayed that way. 

Turns out other people feel that way too…

Like everyone else has their stuff together and somehow we missed the bus. That something went terribly wrong. That we must work unbelievably hard to cover up the ugly.

And when it interferes with our lives we call it depression, or anxiety, or PTSD, or OCD. And there is a VERY biological component to all of these. But there are also generational ways of being that aren’t easily disregarded. Our parents needed things orderly, their parents needs things pretty, their parents parents truly believed it wasn’t okay not to be okay – and so on and so forth and all of us just did what we had to do to survive.

Here I am listening to It is Well with My Soul wondering how it took me this long to realize this is true. That the first part of the message is just as important as the last. That it is okay not to be okay. And maybe it’s not okay to stay that way is less about never making a mistake and more about resting in knowing that even when I do make mistakes, Jesus doesn’t let it define me. That he sees me as perfectly okay. More than perfectly okay. Perfectly loved. Perfectly blessed. Perfectly equipped. Perfectly flawed in all the weak weak ways that push me to call on His strength and power. Power made perfect in weakness. That Jesus is good with me just the way I am. That He died for you just the way you are. That it can be well with all of our souls because it is indeed okay to not be okay because Jesus doesn’t let us stay that way.

And so looking through the dysfunctional lenses of our past, entangled among fears about the present, maybe we can all just decide that life doesn’t have to be pretty. That the cross was never a pretty thing in the first place. Maybe we can just all agree to accept each others ugly because life was never perfect anyways. And that’s more than okay.

 

Because it gets pretty loud in here…

quietOne thing we often fail to associate with anxiety is how dang loud it is. Different than the loudness of the washing machine as it rumbles in the middle of the night when you forget to wash your kids field trip shirt. Or the barking of the dogs that wakes you up out of a profound deep sleep. (Although these are two of the most annoying noises I can think of). I’m talking about the endless chatter that takes place inside those of us who worry. Who over think. Who crowd everything that belongs in present out with endless troublesome chatter about the past and future. Those of us with anxiety.

As I read Zephaniah today, pondering this internal banter and looking for answers about how to turn down the volume, I came across this verse…

He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.   Zephaniah 3:17

It’s a verse I am familiar with. One that makes me smile often. But I thought of it differently today…in particular the part where it says he will quiet you with his love.

Because when I look at my own anxiety – it often takes different forms and I experience it in different ways – but at the center of it all swirls a few nagging questions – Am I loved? Am I good enough? Will people see my vulnerabilities/failures/mistakes and decide they don’t want or need me?

So I look for reassurance. Or more of something. One more person to tell me I did a great job. One more accomplishment. One more great session. One more like on Facebook. One more spin on the achievement merry go round. Maybe this last turn won’t leave me dizzy and instead will allow me to finally hand down the verdict that I am indeed “okay”. But it never happens. The cup may temporarily fill, but it quickly drains and begs for more.

But Jesus…He wants to do this quiet thing. He wants to still me with His love.

Why? Maybe He knows I’m not perfect…even when I drown myself in internal expectations that say I have to be. Maybe He wants me to rest in being known rather than running after something I have to earn. Maybe that’s why salvation and unconditional love are a free gift? He meant them to be enjoyed in the still and quiet moments rather than constantly sought after by fallible souls surrounded with flesh.

And so this Sunday rolls over me like Sunday’s often do. Getting ready for the week where I will spend much of my time tending to an internal back and forth. Did you do enough today? Did you make too many mistakes? Will people love you? What will they think? Judging action after action and phrase after phrase. Trying to surmise if I will prove myself worthy of love or affection. But this Sunday I am more cognizant of the fact that I have a choice. The remote control is inside of me and if I choose to attend to God’s voice who says I am already enough, I might be a little less exhausted. I might find peace. And so might you.

 

Depression can wear really dang cute awesome shoes…

shoesSometimes we’re afraid to pray for healing because it would hurt too bad if we prayed for it and it didn’t happen. It would solidify the abandonment wounds of our past. Not that Christ has ever abandoned us, but when humans have, it makes it feel like God will too.

I suppose that’s where I have been. Depression and anxiety have been long term battles for me. Yes I am a therapist. Yes I am aware of what I need to do to lift myself out of a funk. Yes I do the work necessary. Yes I practice good self-care. But at times it rises up and tries to get the best of me. And I want to pray for healing, but what would happen if God said no…

I made a graphic a while back that mentioned something along the lines of “depression can still wear cute shoes.” I suppose what I was trying to say is that some of the most depressed humans on the planet can be extremely functional. We can do a good job raising our families. We can be incredibly successful at work. We can have amazing friendships and solid active quiet times with Jesus. We can listen to nothing but worship music, go for runs in the afternoon, and even make sure we are getting pedicures and pampering ourselves by all means appropriate and necessary. We can be functional by every definition in the book. And still be dying inside. Depression does not discriminate and it doesn’t always look like the dirty reclusive woman who hides out in her house and is incapacitated by her feelings of sadness. Long story short, depression can wear really dang cute awesome shoes.

And so here I find myself, on what I feel is the tail end of yet another round in the ring with my ruthless enemy. It fights hard. It’s relentless and it doesn’t give up easily. Being a therapist doesn’t make me immune to the woundedness I often find myself treating. Because depression and anxiety don’t always bow down to strategies and therapeutic means. Sometimes it’s biological and hormonal and we have to get the body going in the right direction before the mind has the capacity to follow.

And sometimes it masks our ability to want to pray for good things. Because that’s the opposite of what depression will tell you to do. It will tell you that you certainly aren’t worthy of anything good – nor would anyone (including God) want to help you – so why even try? But I just want to say that sometimes we need to start praying for big things. Even if we are terrified that the big thing is so reclusive it must be impossible.

God’s intervention may look like a referral to the clinic to get your body going in the right direction, it might look like help through counseling, it might look like starting to exercise, it might look like a thousand different things. But when you are at the end of your rope God knows it. And He won’t and hasn’t abandoned you. He sees you. He hasn’t stopped caring or given up. But sometimes we have to risk the prayer of hope and decide that healing might be possible and worth pursing. That Jesus can do far beyond what we have capacity to understand. That yes depression can wear really awesome shoes, but so can healing. And it’s time to get up and pray like we mean it, fight like a warrior (even when we are exhausted), and give it yet another day.

this is how I rise…

rise

People rise in different ways.

Some adapt and overcome, easily swimming the seas of adversity.

Rapidly scaling walls and hurling themselves over.

They rise quickly and rapidly. Rarely leaving behind witnesses to their pain.

But this is not how I rise…I rise much differently.

The currents always seem to take me under.

Sucking me into their locked sacred catacombs for a bit before deciding I don’t belong there and spitting me out.

I don’t climb walls rapidly.

Rather I sit for a while and ponder why they exist.

I like to stay for a bit in seasons of adversity.

It’s here I learn to sit and linger amongst those who have yet to figure out why the dirty exists.

I rise differently.

And it’s not a bad thing.

It’s just who I am and how God made me.

To struggle amidst the dark abyss of suffering.

To lay down in it’s silence – because to me – it means something.

It’s crucial. Painful. It’s process.

So I may rise and I may fall.

I may get sucked under and I may simply exist.

But there is a deep inexplicable value in that existence.

I’m okay with learning to sit.

if you really knew me…

insecurity

How long have you carried around the lie that says…if they knew me…they wouldn’t love me? 

Or maybe it doesn’t go exactly like that.

Maybe it’s more like…if they knew my past, they would think differently of me. Or if they saw my laundry pile…or if they heard me yell at my kids…or if they knew that I was sexually abused…or if they knew I had a past history of addicition…or if they knew I struggled with depression…

In short…if they really knew me…they would reject me.

I fear most of us have been carrying this weight a very long time. And you know what? Maybe they would? Maybe they would think less of you. Maybe they would think more. Maybe they would wonder how you were able to get to the place you did. Maybe they would condemn you and cast words of judgement and shame. Maybe they would offer you compassion. It’s really a crapshoot because human behavior is often unpredictable.

And so if we can’t control the reactions of others to our truth…what do we do then? Continue to walk around trying to decide which pieces of ourselves others will deem appropriate and act accordingly? Are we doomed into being shape shifters so we never risk rejection?

Maybe…but at what cost? Because the truth is, those of us who constantly bend to the expectations of others and hide what’s really going on inside become the loneliest human beings on the planet.

While we may be skilled at staving off the rejection of others, we are constantly rejecting ourselves.

So what if we kept the same old adage…if you really knew me…and shifted it around…

If you really knew me, you would know unconditional love.

If you really knew me, you would understand that you are always accepted.

If you really knew me, you would know that I am not afraid of your pain.

If you really knew me, you would understand that your past is not to shameful and that redemption already happened on the cross.

If you really knew me, it wouldn’t matter what others say so much because you would look to me for your value.

If you really knew me, you would begin to swallow that all that stuff satan tells you are lies and that you do not have to accept them.

Reality is God made only one of you. Don’t rob people of the all of the amazingness of who you are. Even the ugly broken places. You may never share them directly, and that’s okay, but give all of you space to breath inside your heart. If they really knew you, they would get to see something beautiful.

 

because you need flour to make cake…

search know

 

Experiencing success can do weird things to us. We should be happy, but instead we feel this weird sense of imposter syndrome. Like we are playing a game everyone else thinks we are good at, but inside we feel like a fake – a failure – a fraud. We feel guilty for having good things and find ourselves experiencing depression even in the midst of fantastic gain.

It seems those of us who were victimized are particularly vulnerable to these types of feelings. Who told us we deserved success? Certainly not our abuser…and certainly not ourselves. We believed we were dirty, wasted, broken, and should be filled with unending buckets of shame. We should keep our heads down and look at no one – because if anyone looks deep enough into our eyes – they will find out the truth. That we are a dirty fake.

So as God would have it, my child has had this new desire to bake. And it got me thinking about cake. You are probably thinking what in the world does cake have to do with this…but actually it has a lot to do with it. Because here’s the thing…

I have spent most of my life trying to avoid the flour. It’s messy and cumbersome and every time I get it out of the pantry I feel like everything I own, including myself, is covered in a white dusty film.

Can’t you just make the cake without flour?

Yes you can. I have had an excellent flourless chocolate cake. But flourless cake is not the same. Whether you substitute with something else or leave it out all together – you still have something worth eating – but it won’t be the same kind of cake.

And so, thanks to God, my husband and I have built a pretty good lives. We work hard, we help people, and we get things done. I have experienced a great deal of success in many ways. But no matter how hard I try, I haven’t been able to make the damn chocolate cake.

I think it might be because the flour has been sitting in the dark pantry. I get it out and look at it every now and then. But I’ve never once added it to the cake. In fact, adding it has terrified me. As if putting it in will somehow alter the chemistry in such a way that things will never be the same. And guess what? It’s true. The flour WILL change things.

But the flour does not define the cake. We do not put flour in a cake and call it flour. We call it cake because flour is just an ingredient. An essential ingredient…but just an ingredient…that’s all.

What happened to you does not define you. It is not who you are. But if you leave it locked away and never let the shame air out, something will always taste like it’s missing. You may be incredibly successful, but it’s still a flourless cake. Dumping in the flour will make a mess. It may show. You could get your hands dirty and it will probably be uncomfortable. But with time and the right amount of other ingredients – you will have cake. And who doesn’t love cake.

 

thoughts on magic erasers and proverbial spanx…

love without conditions

I went to see a friend today. The kind of friend you go see when you feel like you are coming undone at the seems and don’t want too much of your ugly to leak out. The kind of friend that you hope can tuck your unlovelies back in…kind of like spanx. I wanted her to be my spanx. Or maybe my magic eraser? That would be even better. If she could make my past dissapear – that would be awesome. But she didn’t do it…she didn’t even offer…

Why? Because unlike the way I see myself – she sees my imperfections and the baggage of my past as an essential piece to who I am and who I will continue to become…say what????

As a woman who tries to hide her gigantic perfectionism monster in a closet but can’t seem to keep the door closed, I wanted to smack her…hard.

She spoke truth to my hurting soul but my mind kept shutting her down with thoughts like…don’t let her give you that shit about being perfect just the way you are…or that imperfection is why we need Jesus…or this is part of how you are made and why you are good at what you do. 

The internal battle that rose up inside of me kind of took me by surprise. Every cell in my body screamed louder and louder don’t listen…your past is ugly…it ruined you…you are disgusting and nasty…you will never be good at your job or anything else you try to do…

But something happened…

I decided to chance the fact that she might be right. I didn’t say she was right, but I just needed to wrap my brain around the fact that she might be. Just a tiny bit…so the door could crack…

And it seems walking around the proverbial Wal-Mart of our life endlessly searching for the magic eraser and/or the perfect pair of Spanx is really kind of pointless. Maybe it exists, but I haven’t found it. And the deeper question – if found would I really want to use it?

This morning, I would have said yes. This afternoon, I’m not so sure.

Maybe it’s less about running away from, masking, and hiding and more about radical acceptance and moving into.

Because this body…these circumstances…this life that God has put in front of us is not an accident. Sure some bad things happened and sin played a part in all of that, but if we truly believe God’s Word (that He is making all things new and working all things for good) then bad things are the least of our worries. Icky ugliness is just a chance for God to shine even brighter. Broken pieces are just a step in the overall plan. And all that shit you have spent year after year trying to get rid of and cover up – maybe it’s not as ugly as you once thought. Just maybe…

And that’s all God really needs to work…just a tiny crack in the door…and a shaky hesitant maybe…