To the weary mother in the waiting room,

 

I see you.

Staring at the wall.

Aching for the other moms across the room to make eye contact. Yet afraid of being noticed. Or drawing any attention to yourself.

Holding in each breath, waiting for someone to whisper,

 you are not alone.

I see you struggling to keep fear inside as it wears itself as anger across your face.

Sweet one, we both know why we are here.

I know that what brought you into this room is hard. It is not a quick twenty minute visit. It is not a prescription that needs to be refilled once.  This is something that a Band-Aid cannot fix.

I know the reasons you are here, and you cannot utter them out loud. No one is making a t-shirt or tying a ribbon for what you are living with. You wish you could speak of why you are here. You wish that you could tell those in your life the truth of what is going on behind closes doors.

But the thing is.

You can’t.

This truth is too much.

You can’t talk about why you are here. Or who is here. It is not your story to tell. It is just your story to carry on our shoulders every moment of the day.

I know you are exhausted.

I know you just want this to be over and it crushes your spirit that it is only beginning.

This is what grief does. It tires your bones. It wraps itself around you and pushes hope away.

I see you sitting there and for a moment when you are finally alone,

you close your eyes.

You need these moments to just be.

To not be in charge. To not make decisions.

You need this moment to search for a place of rest. To make sense of all of these thoughts and fears taking control of your mind.

To search for the lost part of your soul. The part where you knew what to do. You knew what answers to give.

I see you with papers laid before you.

Saying yes to questions you never thought you’d have to answer.

Filling in lines of history that shame tells you, you carried here.

Sweet one. I see you.

I see how tired and worn you are.

You long for just one night of peaceful sleep.

You ache for just one hour to feel “normal” again.

Breathing in that this is your new normal.

Hold close sweet one,

and exhale mercy painting a picture of grace.

I know today was hard. It was heart wrenching,

even many tomorrows this may not be restored.

But here in this room. In this room filled with magazines of lives we will never have, this is a safe place.

It is a silent space, where your pain is heard.

It is a place where no advice is given. No looks of pity or judgement.

We will not tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.

We will not lay shame on your shoulders only grace.

We have all carried in years of pain and we are laying it here.

We are leaving it all here.

We are laying all late nights

All the answers that we have and those we are afraid to hear.

You are not the only one sweet one. I know you feel like you are.

I know you feel like this is the loneliest room you will ever be in.

But sweet one look around. You are not alone.

I am you. And you are me.

Gerbils and Golden Grahams – When we realize what we are slaves to.

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I opened up Pandora’s box last night and now I am regretting I ever did it. I am sitting here and my stomach is turning.

I should eat something.

I should eat cereal. Boxes of it. Cause boxes of cereal will make everything ok.

I asked a few of my people to give me some feedback. I asked them to help me with a writing project I thought I was working on. And so I put it out there.

And then….crickets.

Crickets. And so I will eat a box of cereal and make it all better.

I will stuff my anxiety with golden goodness of Golden Grahams.

Because somehow me consuming thousands of calories will show them.

I did not expect this.

I did not expect my anxiety to reel its ugly head over this. I walk back and forth to the computer checking it like 745 times just to make sure that it is still working. I turn my phone on and off to see if I still have a connection. And then I think oh crap they are all talking behind my back and wondering how to break it to me that I am just a mess. Wait? They are talking behind my back? I hate that. I hate being talked about and not to. I hate that more than anything. Like way more than I hate cats. SO if they are talking about me and deciding that I am a mess then when are they going to confront me? Are they going to do it in person or gang up on me?

Do you see how logical I am being?

But I did this. I opened the box. I asked for feedback. I asked for help. And now I feel like a gerbil on a spinning wheel. And I really don’t like gerbils either. ( I mean really? A tiny squirrel in your house?)

And then it hits me. I am a slave. I wake up every morning and carefully put the chains back on my wrists. I make sure that I have locked them around my ankles and try to walk through the day. I am a slave every day to what controls me. And today. Today I choose to let approval control me. I decided that I needed the approval of my people to continue my day.

Yesterday I woke up and decided that I would be ruled by jealousy. It reeled its ugly head when a friend got amazing news and all of a sudden instead of rejoicing with her I decided that it wasn’t fair. That I work so hard. That I don’t have all the benefits that she does. That somehow the “kingdom of I” was not being served and my self -righteous attitude was justified.

Some days I decide to be a slave to multiple things. Anger, fear, anxiety, food, my past, and the list could go on and on.

And I put myself on the gerbil wheel again. But I knowingly placed myself there. It has nothing to do with my friends and how quickly they get back to me. It has nothing even with the words that they will say. It has to do with where my eyes are focused. My eyes are focused on me.

And when my eyes are focused on me I forget whose Kingdom I am living in.

Because my kingdom is exhausting. It’s exhausting to carry around the chains every day and expect others to know and unlock those them.

In my kingdom I just sit with my chains and eat Golden Grahams. And Golden Grahams are not going to break anything.

When I lift my eyes and focus on the Creator all else goes away. The chains are broken. HE does not put them on me. HE breaks them. It is me who decides to solder them back together.

And with patience He reminds me I am free. Free from the slavery of sin. Free from the slavery of acceptance. Free from jealousy. Free from anger. Free from anxiety.

I am free.

SO today.

Right now.

I choose. I choose to get off the gerbil wheel. I choose to accept what comes to me.

I choose to walk away from the Golden Grahams and be free.

the clock said 2am- My Messy Beautiful

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2am.

The clock said 2 am.

Sitting up in bed

watching the minutes go by.

Begging the clock to go faster. If just for this night I needed it go faster.

My hands clutching onto the side of my hair.

In the dark

systematically pulling each side of my head

tears flooding my cheeks

pleading with the voices to stop. Penetrating my mind with-“you are a horrible mom” , “ she needs to go away”, “ it’s better here with me” “ you are going insane you will never be the same,”” just be done, they will be better off”.
I still close my eyes and taste the sweat from my brow. I can still touch the panic that is embedded in my skin. Years later and the darkness still scares me.

I knew that postpartum depression was a risk factor with this pregnancy. I had wrestled with it after my second child was born. But not to this extent. This was six months later .It had been six months since I had pushed this screaming child into the world. Why was I feeling like the world was suppressing in around me? Clutching to hold on to reality. To not let the night consume me.

That was seven years ago. Through the powerful hand of God, amazing doctors and friends who were not afraid to go to the darkest place with me I am in a healthy place. Depression and psychosis is real. And it is scary. I could not just pray it away. Don’t get me wrong. I do pray. I did pray. I prayed that God would take it all away. I pleaded for my life. At his feet I cried that I would not harm myself or my children. But I also prayed for wisdom. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.(james 1:5) Yes I do believe that Christ alone has the power to heal. I also believe that He gives us the wisdom to seek and ask for help when we cannot function. I had three other children at home young, gorgeous children who were defenseless. Defenseless against this evil that had assaulted my mind. Taken over and made me into someone, something that they did not recognize. God has the power to heal. And He also has the power and strength to carry you through the darkness, holding you up until you can walk again.


This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!
http://momastery.com/carry-on-warrior

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Like tar around my bones.

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I remember thinking
this is it.

These are my last sane moments.

The darkness wrapped like tar around my bones.

I couldn’t breathe much less complete a sane thought.

I would check my phone seeing if anyone had called me.
Coming to save me from the darkness that loomed.

That somehow believing that if someone knew
they would save me.

I was imagining that the next month my children would have to visit me somewhere.
Some where they were keeping me safe.

Lock and key was how they would have to find me.
Sedated.

Visiting hours would determine our relationship.

Or I could just run.
Run where no one needed anything.
Where I didn’t have to be someone.

I didn’t run.
I stayed.
I screamed.
I wrestled.
I fought.

And when I couldn’t lift my head to fight anymore.
I begged God to fight for me. I begged him to come to me.

That morning.
The sun trying to push its way through the closed winter shades.
The price of my soul was up for grabs and I was sure that I had lost the battle.
I begged God to struggle for me.
To tell me I was worth the fight.

Over 16 months ago.
This is the verse that was shown to me that day.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

In the darkest

In the loneliest

In the emptiest

In the silence

In the madness

In the hopelessness

He gently whispers
I. am. healing.

Just hold on.
the Lord your God will be with you…..Joshua 1:9b

Sweet one, I know. I know today is hard. I know yesterday and tomorrow will be hard too. But I need you to close your eyes with me now and picture this. Your God, your strong powerful warrior God is surrounded by the battle that wages for your soul. He stands there larger than the darkness. He stands and armies fall with one word. They drop to the ground by the thousands, crying out for mercy.

And you sweet one. You have not been touched. The battle leaves not a mark on you. Because your God. Your powerful warrior God is fighting. Has fought. Will continue to fight for you.

Do not be afraid sweet one; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Just hold on.

#shereadstruth
#shesharestruth

Charcoal stained lips.

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Second floor of the dorm, they had just completed it that spring.

I  lay on the bathroom floor.

Cold tile against my ribs. Hair matted, crusted with last night’s red pasta sauce. Head propped on the toilet.

Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. Psalm 38:3

 Not sure if my roommate could hear me crying.

This time. This time I had taken too many. Too many little blue pills that promised to make me feel better and look thinner. She had tried to hide them in her room behind her Biology book.

 I lay there and could taste the tears, salty, wondering who would find me first.

Maybe she hears me.

Maybe she hears my emptiness.

I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. Psalm 38;8

 I can’t move.

 My heart is going too fast.

Help.

Someone see me.

My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light is gone from my eyes. Psalm 38:10

The ambulance came that night. As morning pushed her way in.

 My brother knelt over me crying. I could hear them say someone had found me like this.

This way. The way where the price of being thin had now caught the attention of the entire campus. The sirens rang my addiction for the seminary students to judge.

 Tubes shoved down.

Raw throat, black charcoal spewed over the grey tattered t-shirt of the boy who broke my heart that winter.

Friends that would never come. Never come to see the girl with the charcoal lips. They had given up watching me pile bowls of cereal on my cafeteria tray. Cereal they knew they would hear coming back up within the hour.

They stopped asking me to go out to dinner with them. Wasting money on food . Wasted on a girl who cared more about the size of her jeans, than the relationships she left walking through the bathroom door.

My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds, my neighbors stay far away. Psalm 38:11

They had tried to save me. Tried to send me nutritional printouts through campus mail. Tried to distract me with activities and conversations.

I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. Psalm 38:14

But where the mind wants to go, there the addiction stays.

Trapped in the image of emaciation is where control was found. Where no one would see the pain that I forced out multiple times a day. Toilets, trash cans, napkins, pillow cases, showers, ditches. When grief would surface, the quicker it could be driven out, the more I could breathe. The more I could have control again.

Yet this morning.

When night was leaving me there on the tiled floor.

When the secret was made public.

Here is where He found me.

Here is where I began to see the emptiness. Emptiness  in the sin that had bled me of actual feelings. Another addiction that clouded any connection others tried to grasp from me.

Oh Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior. Psalm 38:21-22

Here on the tiled floor is where He met me. That is where He is meeting you.

#shereadstruth

prego at summer camp….and what my mother taught me.

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you are worth the fight.

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Let’s be honest. Sometimes January is hard. Some call it the “after Christmas blues”. I call it ” I want to have sand between my toes blues”. I am done with schedules and making lunches that don’t involve swimming somewhere in the day.  Don’t get me wrong I love the snow. I am a Michigan girl threw and threw and I love big sweaters, cute boots, gingerbread lattes, homemade bread, stews and building snowmen with my kids.

But January also brings with it a grayness of that blankets me. There are days when it feels just too heavy to breathe.

Last January, was the lowest that I have ever been. From December to March I daily battled fear and anxiety that left me feeling like I was screaming underwater and no one heard me crying for help. I tried to paint a picture to those that were not in my daily life that we were all holding it together. Because that is what we do. When we feel like our world may come crashing in on us. We hold it up. We need others to believe that things are going great. Because if we actually took the pictures of reality we would have to face it. And facing it seems just too raw. Either way I was held captive inside my own mind by one who only brought darkness and lies. I couldn’t bear for that truth to be known.

So I did what I needed to do. I went to counseling. Every week I sat on a couch and poured my fears out into those walls. I sat there as my therapist reassured me what was true and what were the lies that kept beating into my very being. Because at that point I could not discern the difference.

I let people in. And by let people in I mean that I was very selective. Very. Only a handful of those I love know the truth of what the battle looked like in my soul.

But the in between. The in between moments were just for me and Jesus. I learned how much I needed my Savior. His word was the only thing I could read. I came to understand the depth of His love for me. I was such a mess and I needed Him to be gentle with me.I clung with everything in me to Exodus 14:14.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. He does. He needed to. I would lay in bed closing my eyes picturing him building a wall of protection around me fighting the battle that was determined to take my soul. And he fought. He guarded. He won. He won long before I was thought of but the spirit inside of me needed to believe.

This year. This year I know and am aware of what my triggers are. The things that draw me under quickly.

Lack of sleep– this girl needs it. Like at least eight hours a night. I have a friend who goes on like four or five. Yeah, not over here. Lack of sleep gets my thoughts all jumbled up and my judgment less than par.

Food– I feel better when I eat better. So if I am all about the junk food then I am not caring about myself well. Even though I do crave the most delicious Pistachio ice cream from Grahams something fierce.

Exercise– I actually have just realized this more in the last year than before. I love exercise. I love feeling stronger and more in control of my body. It also raises my serotonin level and self-esteem.

Connection– When I am feeling depressed I become an introvert. Not like a Zen introvert. More like a “you just piss me off” introvert. Not saying that a day or two of regrouping is a sign that I am in trouble. It saying that if I am ignoring phone calls and texts for days you might want to show up on my doorstep. I might be angry but I need to know I’m not in this alone.

Jesus– most of all I need him. I need to soak in his grace. I need to know I am still being fought for.

So sweet one, if this is you. If this is where you are at or where you have been you are not alone. Keep fighting. Keep choosing love, as my sweet friend begs me. Choose to believe that you are more than the lies that tear you apart. You are worth fighting for.

the best me.

Image I secretly love watching people post all of the amazing things that they are going to do each year. I do the same thing. I start out determined that no carb will ever touch my lips again. That this will be the year that I will run a marathon. That this will be my best year. I place these outrageous expectations and goals on myself without seriously thinking how long it took me to get this far. I forget how many times I needed to fall flat on my face before I realized that I was worth the fight. The fight of being a better version of myself.

And if I were being honest.  I believed that the better version was always thinner with great skin. I believed that the better me would never have to deal with anxiety and depression again. The better me would do crafts with her kids. The better me would be published and accomplished by now. The better me would have enough money to not have to worry month to month. The better me would not lose her temper and want to run away. The better me is strong and can hold it all together. The better me would have the energy and the capacity to homeschool her children. The better me would be comfortable in her own skin. The better me would be able to balance life with a perfect looking home. The better me would be an amazing wife full of patience and encouragement.

The better version of me though is the forgiven me. The forgiven me doesn’t care what size jeans I wear or what you wear. The forgiven me knows that anxiety is crippling but is where I feel the most protected by my Savior. The forgiven me knows that I will constantly struggle with sticking my finger down my throat and that this reality is ugly. The forgiven me knows that there is a better way to health and is fighting daily for it. The forgiven me craves scripture but at times forgets to even say hello to God some days. The forgiven me knows what it is like to confess my sins to a friend and they just be held closer. The forgiven me knows that to admit that every day I wake up scared that I won’t be a good person much less a good mom is humiliating. In reality I know the forgiven me is flat on my face broken at the feet of Jesus. The forgiven me feels loneliest in a room full of people but understands that it is just  another issue that is just being kneaded out of me. The forgiven me knows that being a wife is something that I wrestle with every day. The forgiven me knows that I wrestle because of the choices that I made in my past. And the shame I carry haunts me.

And the forgiven me. The best me, knows that this is all being worked out. Worked out not for my best. But for His best. So whatever I need to wrestle with, or fight for, or cry myself to sleep for is sufficient. It’s for the best. He will make all things new this year.

this year, this year let’s tell the truth.

cropped-train.jpgSweet girl , I see you. Roaming aimlessly through the grocery store, legs heavy, wondering if anyone else can see. I can see that it took every fragment of energy you could assemble just to get dressed today. Trying not to make eye contact with the cart coming towards you. Inside screaming “please don’t talk to me, please just don’t”. I see you. I see you in the store wandering through aisles touching random clothing. Touching something that won’t drink anymore energy out of you. I see you. I see you driving through the Starbucks waiting for a stranger to smile at you with no expectations. A short conversation about the weather is all your soul needs to know it is still sane. I see you. I see you picking up your kids from school ringing your hands together, trying to suppress the anxiety that the other moms give you. I see you. Measuring yourself against them without ever exchanging a word. I see you sitting at dinner shoving food down your throat praying that it will all come back up. I see you in church. Sitting, pleading that the darkness that you feel is pursuing you isn’t evident to all. I see you feeling more alone in church than by yourself. I see you. I see you crying when your child asks what is for dinner and you don’t have the strength to think past cereal. I see you when someone asks you to make a decision and you claim that you just can’t. I see you when you the night seems to engulf you and you beg God for the sun to rise earlier that day. I see you when you hear your husband walk out the door to work and everything in you wants him to recognize that you should not be alone. I see you.

You are not alone sweet one. You feel alone. I know you do. You seem to think you are the only one.  Except that there are others out there who want to scream “Me too!”. They want to come alongside you. Hold your hand. And whisper so gently, I see you.

 

After suffering from post-partum depression after each of my children.  I have decided that I no longer want to let the darkness control my life. I will be a voice for those that depression and anxiety hold captive.

I wanted you to know that this is a safe place to say….me too.

when Christmas sucked.

When all I could do was breathe. And breathing even hurt.

Last Christmas sucked. Just sucked. From the outside I am sure I gave the impression that everything was amazing. I had just returned home from Uganda with our newest son and we were one happy, send out Christmas cards to pretend we were, happy family. We lied. I lied. It was me. I lied to save myself. To save myself from all of you knowing that we were falling apart. And by we, I mean me. I was falling apart. I couldn’t breathe. It hurt too much. I cancelled Christmas. I literally cancelled going home for the holiday. I could not imagine being in a room full of people that wanted to love me. When I could not even stand the thought of a person hugging me much less wanting to talk to me. I could barely get dressed. I felt like if I brushed my hair and my teeth it was a productive day. People wanted to visit. It was torture. Torture to pretend that life inside our house wasn’t falling apart. Torture to pretend that I wasn’t broken. A broken mess of a mom not even trying to be a wife. I could not tolerate who I was or who I was pretending to be. It felt like my skin was crawling and I wanted to run away. But I was too afraid to even leave my own home. I became obsessed that something horrible was going to happen to me and my kids. And I thought that if I just removed myself from the equation that everyone would be better.

That is just the tip of the Christmas package of pain last year. Under many more months and layers of therapy we uncovered deep fears and anxiety that suffocated who I was for months.

So sweet one….I get it. I get that Christmas may be excruciating for you. That you just want to wake up and it all be gone. The expectations that others place on you or worse yet, those that you put on yourself will never be met. And it’s ok. It’s ok to be in pain. It’s ok to be lonely. It’s ok to say out loud that it sucks. That is hurts. That you can’t find the joy. That it hurts to breathe.

Just know that you are not alone. I get it. And I am sure if we were all more honest and didn’t send out “everything is sunshine and my life looks like Pinterest” Christmas cards, we could all start to breathe. We could all start to heal. And give each other grace that where you are this Christmas is enough.