What if your depression was a gift?

I married a teacher. I mean he wasn’t my teacher when I married him. That would be weird and illegal and make him old. I mean I happen to be married to a man who became a teacher. My brother is also a teacher, as well as my sister in law. Many of my most favorite people in the world are teachers. I myself, could never be one. I don’t like organizing things or sitting in tiny chairs with tiny scissors cutting out shapes. I never have and I never will.

 

BUT teachers shaped who I am. They were the first to affirm that standing in your truth was enough. It wasn’t only enough, it was necessary. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I started to believe that living in your truth was the bravest thing you could do. For yourself and for those around you.

My high school AP English professor helped  unlock that my truth wasn’t anything to hide, it was everything to write. “Write what you KNOW…..” “Show ,don’t tell me your life….” All of these things have been so cathartic to remember that it has been in me all along. The storyteller. The dreamer. The feeler of all the feels. It has been in me from the very beginning.

 

So it shouldn’t have been such an overwhelming truth to hold when I discovered that some of my children have the same “issues” as their mother. As my ten year old likes to tell her siblings or anyone else that will listen “God made me with all the feelings, and that is a beautiful thing!” As she is in the middle of a sensory overload three hour meltdown. She is a truth teller and just needs space to tell it. We haven’t really worked out the details of filters or when it is appropriate to share those yet. Baby steps.

 

But there is another side of me to being a writer. A dreamer, A storyteller. A feeler of all the feels.

Depression.

The big ugly D word. Which for me pairs nicely with the A word. Put them together and you have a hot mess of sadness with all the fears. It is not pleasant. In fact I hate it. And from what I can remember, I have always dealt with it. Times in my life it has been magnified more than others. And then at times it lays dormant. But I know in the back of my head it is always there. Waiting for me to let it back in.

I remember when I was fourteen I was taken to “lunch” to meet someone. It happened to be a psychiatrist that my parents knew who by the time I finished my fries had prescribed the first taste of Prozac for my lips. At the time all I knew is that I had just endured a horrific trauma and I hated everyone and everything. I was a very pleasant teenager. What I didn’t know is that what I was feeling was more than appropriate and would become a part of my story.

 

And don’t ask me about God, he and I were not talking during this time. I had been Romans 8:28ed more times than I could count and that was just making me more confused than cared for.

 

The depression would continue throughout my life. Although mask itself into an eating disorder that almost took my life, relationships that tried to fill the void of worth, and addictions that engulfed who I was. Running from life like I was a wild child, while all along it was a illness that just needed to be named, cared for and accepted.

 

It has been a journey of many failed attempts.

First I tried my way. Alcohol. Men. Spend. Binge. Purge.Pot. Pills.

Something. Anything to numb the pain.

Hiding who I am. Masking the reality of the struggle.

It wasn’t until I found myself with charcoal being shoved down my throat at age 22 that I realized I needed to get my shit together. This wasn’t fun anymore. This wasn’t who I wanted to be.

 

And yet still. I didn’t wake up the next day and everything was rainbows and butterflies. It was more like “oh my God what do I do now?”

So I tried a different way.

Medications. Doctors. Herbalists. Chiropractors. Yogies. Therapists. Hospitals. Cleansing shakes. Believe me if they said it would help, I tried it.

 

But in reality, what needed to change is for me to live my truth sometimes out loud. And sometimes in the quiet. To not only admit that I deal with depression and anxiety but to learn what it means to heal in it. Not from it.  In it.

 

That in itself is just so freaking hard. Because if I am honest I get angry when I feel the depression start to show its ugly face. Or completely humiliated when I am in the middle of Trader Joe’s and I can feel the irrational fears take over my mind and I am frozen with panic next to the dried fruit. Or when I am at again another therapist’s office not just for myself but now for my children who of course inherited not just my hair but my genes.

And when you fill out the insurance papers and you have to admit that yes you tried to take your own life, but that was over twenty years ago, and why the heck does that matter now? It doesn’t. Don’t let other people tell you that your past tells us who you are now. No, your past tells us that the person standing in front of us today is a badass because she overcame and chose healing every single day. That’s what it tells us.

 

I have things in place now, in the healing. In the living in it and with it. I have a list of things that help me heal.

Water.

Nature.

Scripture.

Calm.

Quiet.

Naps. ( Jesus did it )

My therapist.

Worship.

Exercise.

Write.

My safe circle.( not EVERYONE on FB is safe, just saying)

Medication.

Whole Foods.

Reading.

Sunshine.

My husband.

Sleep.

 

When I feel overwhelmed and off balance I go back to this list. It is right next to my bed. Reminding me what it takes to be healthy, for me. Notice that media and Facebook are not on the list. They can actually be a huge trigger for me, also busyness. So being around people who are more task orientated rather than authentically connecting is very anxiety producing. I know. It may be strange. But my therapist says that I am very self aware of what I need and don’t need. So I will take it as a gift given by default of this illness.

 

Just the other day my person and I were talking about aching for Sabbath. We talk about alot of other things too, but this happened to be a God conversation. That we were both feeling life changing very quickly for us and wanting to not lose what actually feeds us, heals us. The Sabbath. It dawned on me as we were talking that perhaps all of these years I have had it all wrong. I have been seeing my debilitating depression as a burden. A burden that I didn’t want to carry. That I felt was given to me not out of chemicals but circumstances. A burden that felt too heavy to carry and times and made me throw many temper tantrums that it just wasn’t fair.

 

In that moment it caught my breath,perhap my depression was never meant to be a BURDEN but a BECKONING.

 

A beckoning to Sabbath. A beckoning for wholeness. For healing.

 

For Jesus. 

 

So maybe today sweet one you are just exhausted. Exhausted from carrying it all. All the pain. All the sorrow. All the grief. All the regrets. All the anger. All the injustice. All the sadness. And he is just beckoning you just to be near.

 

Come close….and heal. It is the bravest truth you can live. 

To live a life barefoot.

When I was a little girl my mom would cover our feet with bread bags before we put them into our  moon boots. It was not unusual to see little legs with bread bags on them during the cold Michigan winter months. Being the oldest of five and living on one salary we were not privy to new boots every season. We got the hand me downs, now they are called “vintage” and our mom did whatever she could to make sure our little toes stayed dry and warm. To not feel the frigid winters on our feet.

We have 100 year old hardwood floors in the house I live in now. When people come in they automatically want to take off their shoes. We are very quick to tell them to keep them on. The floors are cold and with five children you never know what you may step on.

A few weeks ago at my second home, I mean my therapist’s office, he sat back and sighed deeply into his chair. He said,” I am not sure how much more you can carry. I don’t know many in my life that have endured so much suffering. And yet…. Still.”

And then last week as I was on my way to the woods to breathe the deep whisper of fall coming, and to have a couple days to soak in the goodness of other writers.

I read this passage.

“….when we are stuck or hurting and our gut instinct is to run out of there as fast as we can, we are probably close to holy ground. It is in the very midst of our pain, the places we hate and the seasons of life we dread, that God’s voice is most clear.” – Christina Gibson, Soul Barre

I feel like some of us, including my family, have been barefoot for a long time.

We want to grab those bread bags mom would keep in the bottom drawer of the kitchen and wrap our feet. Wrap the feet of our children and put our moon boots back on.

And yet.

And still.

We ache for our savior every day.

We want him.

Are we willing then to live a barefoot life?

To see the pain and suffering as an invitation to enter holy ground.

The last thing from my mind this year has been the idea that what we are going through is holy.
I have had many other words for it. Holy has never been one of them.

And yet.

And still.

I have seen God clearly pushing through the darkness. I have seen him in the kindred’s that sit late into the night on the porch until the fear goes away. I have seen him in the meals that have been placed on our door. I have seen him in the letters that speak nothing of knowing and everything of being. I have seen him in the song sent from states away that sings of justice. I have seen him in the goldfinches that continue to dance if I am quiet enough to watch. I have seen him in the prayers that have kept oxygen in our lungs. I have seen him in the plane tickets bought to teach us to walk again. I have seen him in countless and hundreds of ways.

And yet.

And still.

I want to put the shoes back on.

I want to run.

And yet.

And still.

He beckons me closer.

Into the pain.

To hear him say…..”take off your shoes, this, my beloved, is holy ground.”

 

Patches of Joy and Stretches of Sorrow

 

A few weeks ago I bought a new couch.

We had been needing another place to sit in our living room as it became apparent that asking your guests to sit on the floor was no longer cool when you are in your forties or not living in a yoga studio.

I had texted my husband and asked if he could find a truck to borrow because I had found the perfect one.

I had been looking for weeks. And then that Monday morning it was as if the thrift store gods were smiling upon me and the heavens opened up.

There she was. All seventy five dollars of her. Just sitting there waiting for someone to get butterflies in their stomach when they saw her.

When my husband and his friend went to pick up the couch they perhaps were not as excited about it as I was. They asked if I had seriously chosen this one, did I understand what color the couch was and asked what in the world was this going to match.

Nothing. It matches nothing. But it makes me smile. It bring me joy.

couch

I believe that God gives us glimpses of joy everyday if we are quiet enough to see them.

But I also believe that sometimes you need to actively bring joy into your life.

As soon as the couch was in the living room I texted my girlfriends and told them it was supposed to rain every day the following week so we needed to have an emergency coffee date on my new yellow couch to bring sunshine to our lives.

We needed a patch of joy.

What we didn’t plan for was what would happen between those days.

That Monday morning our world was pulled out from under us. Someone we love was in crisis and suddenly nothing was the same.

It was as if someone knocked the air out of my lungs. Out of all of our lungs.

A therapist not too long ago told me that when you are in crisis you need to imagine that you are in a figurative ICU. You are being isolated and all the rules have changed.

So what can you do for another or for yourself if you are in crisis or a figurative ICU?

-Quiet your world. Unplug and connect to only life giving music or words. House of Cards is not healing. Worship music is.

-Make your circle very small. You need to make a decision who you are going to trust with your tender heart. You may have a lot of “friends” on social media. That does not mean that they need to know that you are in ICU or why you are in it. Creating boundaries is one of the safest and most healing things you can do for yourself and those you are protecting.

-You can take people off the visiting list. This was one of the most freeing lessons I have learned lately. You can change your mind and decide that unless those around you are only listening, being present and offering healing words, they do not get your energy. Your time needs to be spent being affirmed and supported. You have no room in your heart to carry another person’s story or advice. While this may seem harsh you would never walk into a hospital room and ask the patient to also take the wound or disease you had as well.

-Say no. I have been saying this a lot. Even to really good things. Yes, I want to read to my son’s class every week. But right now I can barely muster going to the grocery store. Your new normal is enough and no one needs to understand why, except that unless they want to see you have a complete meltdown in the middle of story time, no is a complete sentence.

-You need a break. Yesterday I sat in my therapist’s office as he told my husband and I that the most healing thing we could do for our family was to go to a hockey game. Now maybe you are not a Midwestern girl with a huge crush on the hockey players. But whatever you need to do to take care of your marriage and yourself do it. As hard as it is to walk out of the ICU it cannot consume you. ( I am still working on that)

-Accept help. I know this seems to go against everything I just said about boundaries. But there is boundaries and there is chicken noodle soup. Some moments you are going to feel like you have it all together and you can make a freaking meal. And then the next moment you can barely breathe because fear has paralyzed you in the middle of Trader Joes. So when your precious friend walks in the door quietly and sets down a tray of homemade bread, chicken noodle soup and granola for the morning, you hug her tightly and tell her she is healing a part of you.

-Pray. I know. You don’t know what to say. It’s ok. You don’t have to say anything. Ask those you trust to pray for you. I called on my tribe to utter the prayers I didn’t know how to pray. Every day I get a message or a card in the mail reminding me that we take care of each other. There will be a time soon when someone else will need you. But right now. You need your people. You need prayer warriors storming the gates. You need those you trust to hold up your arms again.

-Grace. People are going to mess up. You will too. I mess it up every day. I say the wrong thing. I don’t say anything at all. I forget to say thank you. I say thank you for the wrong thing. I am learning to see every person and every situation as this. We are all doing the best we can in this moment. We are all stumbling through this with grief on our backs and we will fall. It is mercy that meets us and grace that brings us to our feet again.

-Find the patch of joy. When we are suffocated with pain and grief we have a hard time seeing anything much less joy. Sometimes we bring it to others and sometimes we have to create it. This afternoon I went to the grocery store to get fruit. I came home with flowers and jelly beans. They made me smile. When you have been in the ICU for an extended period of time or realize that you don’t know when you will be out you,  you need to pull joy in.

Sometimes joy will come in prayer.

Sometimes joy will come in homemade soup.

Sometimes joy will come in a nap.

Sometimes joy will come in prozac.

Sometimes joy will come in a long walk.

Sometimes joy will come in letting other in.

Sometimes joy will come in flowers.

And sometimes  joy comes in a yellow couch.

 

 

This song has been on repeat in my car I thought you might need it too.

Enough by Sara Groves.

In these patches of joy

In these stretches of sorrow

There’s enough for today

There will be enough for tomorrow

Upstairs a child is sleeping

What a light in our strain and stress

We pray without speaking

Lord help us wait in kindness

Christmas did not come on a stage.

I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday. Tragedy is like that, it weaves itself around you like a tangled mess of fear. Body covered with a paper gown that could hide nothing but the clean underwear my mother always told me to wear. I wasn’t in an accident. My mind was leaving me. I was becoming who I feared I always would be. The girl who walked towards the darkness. One exhausted from running anymore so she let it swallow her. Here I was naked in powder blue room with my dignity being written down on the clipboard the nurse held.

That Christmas we had Doritos on the table for dinner. It explained where we were. Where life held us.

When sadness comes and presses down its weighted blanket over you, Christmas expectations leave you paralyzed.

Yet when we realize that we are expectant of misconstrued things,

we realize our souls ache for the stable and not the stage,

it is there we hear the babies cry.

On days like today.

Weeks like we’ve had.

We pray to feel the straw on our knees. To be waiting for the King to arrive.

On nights where the pillow holds our prayers from the wrestling of his sovereignty all we can do is

wake and whisper honest truths to the one whose breath we breathe.

That Christmas from years ago still haunts me and draws me closer.

Closer to the stable. Closer to the cry in the night. Closer to the waiting. Closer to the peace that came. Closer to the pain that needed to come first.

Dear one, if you are in the pain. If you are crawling with the agony that pushes you forward and pulls you back in. If you feel like you are the only one looking for a place to rest. If you can’t catch your footing on the cobbled road.

Walk forward. Keep expecting the inn.

The stable is there.

Look around dear one.  You are not alone. The others are waiting there quietly crying with you. Bended. With knees bloodied from the pain that brought them there. Pushing through the straw to see that Peace has come.

Hold yourself there.

Quiet your mind and hear the voice this year you’ve been aching to hear.

Your KING has come dear one. He has come.

Draw closer to the stable not to the stage.

With stages all around us. The productions. The crowds. The money. The more. He is not there.

 

Christmas came through the pain and suffering of a mother.

With miles traveled in fear.

Christmas came through a doubtful father.

Dirt on their faces.

Christmas came with doors closed and strangers gathered closer.

Christmas came seeking a foreign place of safety when the world was sleeping.

 

Christmas came in the anguished screams on a silent night.

 

So sweet one. If you find yourself searching and alone. If you find yourself with doors closed and being turned away. If you find yourself foreign in a land that does not welcome you in. If you find yourself traveling thinking this is your forever. If you find yourself crying in anguish or doubtful that things will never change.

You have found Christmas.

Hold close. The angels will be singing soon.

RAW- guest post by Elisabeth Klein

 


excerpt from Elisabeth Klein’s Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotionals to Help You Heal

 

I know of a woman whose beloved dog died the day after her wedding. Life is funny like that. Every day, we gratefully hold in one hand joys and blessings that are immeasurable, and in the other hand, we begrudgingly hold life’s deep hurts and blinding disappointments.

 

Life does not wait for good timing to bring something our way.

 

And Christmas is no exception.  You may have just entered into a season of pain as the holidays started up. And the newness of the situation has left you not just unsettled and unmoored but raw.

 

You are raw in that you do not know how to process what has swept into your life.  Or you might be raw in that this thing – whatever your thing is – has rubbed you down to your core. It’s like wearing new shoes for a long day of walking and you can feel with every step that skin is being removed.

 

Or, like me, you find yourself raw because an old issue that you thought was either worked through or healed or at the very least buried down deep enough to be a non-issue has resurfaced, and it hurts, and it’s uncomfortable and you do not know what to do with it.

 

We cannot fix ourselves. We cannot heal ourselves.  We want to, because we don’t like to feel unpleasant things, and because we like to think we’re in control.  But we cannot.

 

I think of Mary in those very first moments after the angel left her, before she told anyone of the news of her pregnancy.  She must have felt stripped bare.  She must have been beyond confused. She must have been in awe.  She must have been raw.

 

And yet, bless her heart, her kneejerk reaction was to submit in obedience.

 

Let it be to me according to your word, she said.

 

In her rawness, she obeyed. In her rawness, she laid down her dreams for her life.  In her rawness, she turned her heart to God.

 

…Let the bones you have crushed rejoice. –Psalm 51:8

 

God, I am without a way to heal myself today. I cannot take away my own pain. I am bare before you, I am weak, I am raw. I need you. Please cover me and heal me.  Amen.

beth

 

Elisabeth Klein is grateful new wife to Richard, and mom and now stepmom to five. She writes regularly at www.elisabethklein.com/blog and desires to help hurting women by bringing them hope. You may order your copy of Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotions to Help You Heal here.

You can follow her at

Facebook

Elisabeth Klein, writer

Twitter

@_elisabethklein

Ham, peas and organic family

We called a realtor.

We made the decision to call her after another shooting happened within blocks of our house a few months ago. And I say another because people make bad choices and sometimes the media chooses to only show the choices made in certain areas. And before you get on your privileged soap box and pretend that it doesn’t happen around you. take a step down. Suffering and pain happen all the time. Money doesn’t take away emptiness. Horrible things  happen all the time and patterns of expressing it happen too. It sometimes just looks more politically correct but just as devastating. We just happen to live in the second largest city in Illinois and we live in the most populated part. With that said, we also live in the most beautiful part of the city. The part where no one looks the same. Where many different languages are spoken. Where many different countries are represented. Where there is a celebration happening on any given night till any given time. This city is filled with voices that are all trying to be heard. And if we are open enough to receive it then we are blessed enough to hear it.

But we called a realtor. And if I am honest my fear called her. Gratefully she is friend and so she overflowing with grace. Because this is a hard decision. We had a list a list of reasons why we should move schools, 4 bedrooms, a garage that closes, maybe a bigger kitchen, safety. None of these reasons make sense. They feel very superficial to me as I type them. Very first world problems. Very princess like. So we make the list and let it sit in our hearts. Months have gone by and we looked at other homes. We dreamed of a place where the kids could ride their bikes around the block and I wouldn’t have to follow them or say a Hail Mary every time they played out front.

And so we looked. We joined Zillow and got daily updates about homes that we were drooling over in a neighborhood not too far from where we were at. We talked and imagined what it would be like to have five children in their own rooms. Or a kitchen that more than two people could be in at the same time.

We also applied for jobs in Michigan. Again. Because if you know me at all you know that I am a mitten state girl who has been misplaced for the last 17 years. My feet feel planted when they are in the sand and I really want my kiddos to grow up with their cousins. My cousins are some of the most beautiful people in the world and I want my kids to feel the same way when they are forty. I also want them to have matching monogramed wool sweaters but that is a whole other story. So the husband applied for jobs that replies never came back from. And it is the middle of July and we are still here.

There is no for sale sign in our front yard. There are no signs of DE hoarding. Although I am pretending I am on an HGTV show and getting rid of everything….don’t tell the kids.

When we got married my husband was let’s say “ a bit overwhelmed” with the time my family spent together. And by family I mean grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. As husband likes to say if someone sneezed and we had a party. We did a lot together. Of course they came to all the sporting events. Every recital. Every emergency room visit. Every Sunday after church we were together.

Grandma would make a ham, frozen peas, peach jell-o salad, candied yams, and mash potatoes. Oh, and don’t forget the rolls. The rolls sopped up all the gravy. And then grandpa would be called into the kitchen away from watching golf and start up his electric knife. I would sit on the stool next the phone by the junk drawer and just below the police scanner and watch each week as he carved the ham with pineapples and maraschino cherries on top.

Every Sunday we knew where we belonged.

As we got older I am sure we complained. We complained about having to eat ham every week or playing with our cousins or only watching golf on the television.

I miss that now. Being hundreds of miles away from family I miss those Sunday afternoons. I miss pretending I was sleeping on the davenport while grandma gently scratched the back of my neck and into my hair. She would tell the same story. How when I was a baby this is how she put me to sleep. I miss that.

After moving to Illinois seventeen years ago I would cry every time my family in Michigan got together. Which was all the time. Or when I would call and happen to catch them having an impromptu pizza night. I ached to be home. To be around those that new me and the familiarity of comfort. The peace in the known.

This past Sunday I was laying in our backyard in a hammock we bought for me husband for Father’s Day. I was exhausted. It had been a physically and emotionally draining few weeks. I was texting husband that there was another job posting in Michigan that had just come up. I asked him to look into it and send his resume right away. Because that is what you are supposed to do right? Make a rash decision because that has to be from God. Why wouldn’t he want us to move back after seventeen years, it’s what I have always wanted.

And then husband said he would apply but…how can we move from this.

View More: http://snohling.pass.us/massie-vow-renewal.

This is what we have. We have a tribe. A village. A community.

A family.

Yes I adore my mitten state family. I miss them every day. I call them almost every day. I still ache to be there at every birthday and every baby being born and every softball game or even just someone sneezing.

But then this happens. Your family people become something so organic that you cannot imagine living anywhere else. So this is where we are.

View More: http://snohling.pass.us/massie-vow-renewal

We squeeze in a little tighter. We pray a little harder. We work through the hard emotions and opinions of why we live where we do. But where we are placed is beautiful. No it is not gated and not everyone believes the same things. We don’t all look the same and celebrate the same. We don’t all have the same education or the same bank accounts. But we do have this.

We have each other.

 

( all photos by Sabrina Nohling )

Come to the table- an honest confession about my homosexual sister

A few days ago I sat across from the table with one of my most enduring friends. We have only been friends for a few years but the way we communicate you would have thought it’s been forever. She is the type of person your soul is drawn to expose itself to. A safe place where grace covers the door. Our two youngest are the best of friends. So while they were busy building a fortress for the ants they had found outside and disturbing anyone there to get any work done at the outdoor coffee shop, we sat across from each other and let the conversation take us to hearing/

We talked about the upcoming summer schedule and what that brought for both of us. We talked about Jesus and church and how we both understand they are not the same. We sat and we laughed and we talked and we heard each other. I crave these moments. Both being introverts we both felt like this time we had was sacred and protected. I began to talk to her about my frustrations with the church. How I am feeling the organic part of it never was and never will be. That I am programed to believe that we worship follows a program. That raising my hands can only be ok if everyone else in the room doesn’t feel uncomfortable. How I feel that if others could see behind my eyes and what I am raising my arms to they may see King Jesus on the throne with angels all around. That they could see the King of Glory with my face at his feet. That they could see my raising my hands has nothing to do with them and everything to do with how their own insecurities beckon them to believe that it does. I then opened my mouth and began to cry about how I have been feeling so lonely in a room of so many. Many who have walked our adoption journey. Our marriage roller coaster. And without a doubt these are my people. But how I don’t know how I fit into anymore. I don’t know how I got to the place where I am questioning things. Things that I had never thought about before when I was a new Christian and just eager to be around others who I thought had the same passions as I did. As I grew and learned and listened and asked questions I began to hear. Hear the same unsettled questions in those that were pulling away. And here we sat the two of us with coffee getting colder hearing what I needed to be heard.

I then started talking about my sister and I . A subject I don’t, I haven’t talked about with many.

My sister and I grew up in a home where eight years apart creates memories the other never got to experience. As we grew older though she and I were two peas in a pod. I adored my sister. She was brave and beautiful and said things that I was never brave enough to utter. She stood in the gap for the underdog and was more interested in becoming who she was then like I ,who was running from who I  didn’t want to be. In high school she “came out” and I fully supported her. I rallied around her and was her biggest cheerleader. I was still a baby myself having just left college with a new baby and no degree. I had no idea what I believed or didn’t believe. I just knew that I loved my sister more than anything and wanted her to be set free. As the years went by and I grew in my faith and then became engrossed in the church I started to develop a sense of pride about my faith and thus grew an ignorance wall. A wall around myself where nothing could shake what I believed. Not even love. So my self-righteousness was more important than maintaining my relationship with my sister. Painful years ensued. Things said and not said. Words thrown to keep the walls secure without noticing who they were tearing down.

I sat across from my friend with tears running down my face. I hadn’t realized how raw this memory still was. I asked her if we could still be friends. If I had ruined our relationship because I had just shown her a really ugly part of my heart.

She then said,

“No, you came to the table. You came to the table and brought who you are.”

That is what this is going to take. For all of us. To come to the table with truth. To admit what we believe and don’t believe. And to listen. Not to sit on our self-righteousness and call out the sin of others without looking in the mirror at ourselves. I am admitting that my anger and pride are sins that festered and grew into years of words unsaid. I wasn’t willing to come to the table. I wasn’t willing to hear only to be heard. That is such a lonely place to be. I needed to come to the table.

At the table there is love.

At the table there is grace.

At the table there is listening.

At the table there is peace.

At the table there is healing.

At the table there is forgiveness.

At the table, there I am.

I am at the table with my sister now. I am trying to hear her. I am asking forgiveness for years I should have drawn closer. I am at the table with a heart that is broken with shame. I am wading through the process of truth and hope. I am soaking in the laughter and memories in the moments we are given.

My sister. She is leaving next week. Moving thousands of miles away with her wife. My heart is so sad and tender about the goodbyes to people I love. I keep thinking if I wish it away the moving truck will never show up.

Yet again I know. She and I. We are still at the table. We are figuring it all out. How to rebuild what we fearfully tore apart.

The table is just needs to stretch to Colorado now.

Grieving the high chair.

untitled (5)

I bought the high chair at a rummage sale. It was wooden with chipped, white paint flaking the sides. I had known from the moment I saw it that I wanted it to be mine. It reminded me of high chairs I would see in vintage black and white photos. It had no safety precautions, yet I am sure it had stories it could tell. Stories of the families and children it had served.

At the time that I purchased it for ten dollars,  I was not even pregnant. We had just started the process of filling out the paperwork for our adoption. And as we all know that high chair did not get used for a very long time. What we expected to take months took years. Years of waiting. Years of praying. Years of hoping. Years of anxiety, anger, frustration, signatures, home studies, finger prints, and did I mention paper work?

Yet after three years we were sitting across from our sweet little boy.

That high chair became the place where my little one ate his first meal as a family of seven.

It became the place where he clearly showed us that broccoli was never going to be one of his foods.

It became the place where he fell asleep when days were just too long for him and he couldn’t make it through dinner.

It became the place where he discovered pasta for the first time and decided the walls needed it too.

It became the place where his personality began to emerge and he entertained us all.

What I didn’t expect is that it would become a symbol of grief for me.

After little one clearly could not fit in the high chair any longer I scrubbed it all down and left it in the corner of the room for months. I would walk by it and think about what was next for our family. I would dream of my belly expanding and getting to wear cute maternity jeans. I would rationalize that I was keeping it for my grandchildren some day. Knowing full well that any mother would not let their infant sit in a chair with zero safety features.

And breathing in that I knew why I was really keeping it.

I was keeping it because I wasn’t ready to face my truth.

My truth, that I would never carry another child in my belly again.

Seven years before I lay on a hospital bed, sobbing as I signed on the dotted line. I wanted someone to save me. To save me from the choice. I needed someone else to make the decision for me.

I knew that the level of depression that I had suffered after each of the four children I birthed, had only gotten worse. I knew that I needed to make a permanent decision that I later would come to grieve. I knew at the time that I was scared of who I was after each child. And although I firmly believe in medication and that God created Prozac on the eighth day,  I could not function as a human.I knew that depression would swallow me if I chose to continue to grow our family through childbirth.

I remember the day I sold that white high chair in the corner. It went to a woman who loved to refurbish furniture. To make things new.

My truth, is that I grieve every moment when a friend or loved one is struggling with infertility or a miscarriage. The truth is, that I feel like I was so selfish to take that choice away from my family.

But I know this.

I know God uses everything. He opened my eyes to adoption, to safe families, to foster care and to taking in those around me. He shows me daily how I am that high chair. Chipped, tired, and covered with messes. But in His grace and mercy He is making me new. He is filling me with joy and wonderment. He is letting me heal and rest in in Him.

Where ever you are sweet one. Worn. Tired. Lonely. Grieving. Searching. Empty. Anxious. Fearful.

He is there.

He is binding Himself to you.

Making you new.

 

“Let us then approach God’s Throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

 

My Unsexy Missional Life- a reflection and review of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

interrupted_banner_728x90
I wish I could say I had something profound to say. Something to say that would make you want to change your life. But today, at this moment, all I want to do is lay flat on my face before Jesus. I want to cling to his feet and beg Him to tell me that none of this is true. That the unthinkable suffering and death that we have seen in these last weeks is not true. I want to scream at God and tell Him to take it all away. To make Himself known on this earth. I want Him to stand before me and tell me that we will wake up from this hellish nightmare that continues to flash before us on every media avenue. I know it sounds arrogant and demanding. But there are some days I just need my Father God to hold me and take all the anxiety away.
But I know He is. He is here. He is in you. He is in me. He is the prayer that we plead. He is in the tears that wet our pillows at night.
I have been feeling helpless. II imagine that I am not alone in this feeling. Helpless in the struggle. I can read. I can watch videos or TV. (I didn’t, I can’t. Call me a coward, but I call it guarding my mind. I don’t need to see Satan to know he exists.)

But what can I do?
But what can we do?
We can do the next right thing. I know it seems obsolete. Like it will make no difference at all. But it does. I am not saying that to change the world, to take away its evil you need to join the Peace Corps or move to Africa ( my hippie self wanted to do both, and I still do) . But in the small and large decisions that we make every day we can be a part of the healing.
This summer I have been privileged enough to be asked to read and review a book that literally wrecked me. I have been ready for a change and especially these past few weeks I have been aching for it.

 

If you are plagued with tension or discontent or a nagging sense that there must be more- that there has to be a faith somewhere that rings true and hopeful and gracious, a faith other that this mean, ugly, partisan, judgmental, self- indulgent version of Christianity, which has to be total bunk-then get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars. God has blessed you with this inner conflict. He isn’t leaving you in complacency and boredom to check boxes and do church. He has enlisted you in the cause of your generation and is calling you forward. You lucky think. You will not be left and lost, wondering what all the fuss is about. Wishing things would never change. – Jen Hatmaker, Interrupted.

 

Jen Hatmaker’s newest book Interrupted, revised & expanded, she suggests that to be the church, a world changer, a mission minded person you just have to do the next right thing. And sometimes the next right thing isn’t what you are thinking it is.
What does it look like?
This is it. We can follow our Jesus to every dark, scary, broken place He just insists on going, determined to heal and restore people, because He is a good Savior and we can trust Him. (Interrupted,xx1)
It doesn’t mean the next right thing that feels good. It doesn’t mean the next right thing that will make you more popular. It doesn’t mean the next right thing that will make those around you pleased.
It means quieting your soul and asking your creator what it is that HE wants you to do in that moment.
For years after I first visited Liberia, Africa with Samaritans Purse I assumed the next right thing to do was to move there. I came home and immediately started pestering praying that my husband would take a job with Samaritans Purse as a teacher. We would move our entire family overseas and I could raise my kids with red dirt on their feet. I knew that God would agree with my plan, He had to, it was His kind of work. But the next right thing, was my right thing. and God was nowhere in my motives, or at least my timing of it all. The next right thing was to wait.
We waited and I ended up traveling back to Africa two more times for two different reasons. Both were amazing trips and I felt like that is where I was supposed to be at that time.

And here we are, years later and a huge shift has occurred in my life and thinking. God has clearly revealed to me that my mission, my next right thing, is the seven people under my roof I claim to love. ( yes, I included myself, because self care is vital to healing).

 

There is no t- shirt for my mission that I have been called to at this time. It’s not sexy to say that I am in the trenches with a sick child we cannot find the diagnosis for, a child who self- harms, and a marriage that needs to be more than two roommates existing. No one is going to organize a fundraiser or create an Etsy page to pay all the medical and therapy bills. There is no “home from the therapists” gathering as we come home. It’s hard. It’s ugly. It’s lonely. And usually that is just my heart.
Me getting on a plane to Africa and serving in a third world country was easy for me. Leaving my family to fly across the world was safe for me at that time. It was safer for me to serve, than it was to face what was about to happen at home.
I needed to really look  and be honest with what was going on around me. To stop working with the big and sexy missions at this point in my life. The missions that get the attention, the blogs, and the t-shirts and start serving the ones under my roof. To pay attention to the disconnect. To acknowledge the silence in between commercials. To admit that I would rather be with my friends than try and connect with my husband.
The moment I realized that I only have two summers with my oldest home and that doesn’t sound like enough ice creams in my heart, I knew that this is where I am called to serve. It isn’t glamorous. It isn’t going to get any media attention. But that is the thing. To be the church. To be the church that is missional and different we need to just do the next right thing. And the next right thing for me is to love the people under my roof well.
What is your next right thing? How can you be a part of a missional church?
I am giving away two copies of this life changing book! In order to be entered into the drawing leave a comment below telling me what your next right thing or tell me that you have shared this post. I am telling you if you read no other book this fall this one has to be it!

 

interrupted_page-130

I’ve looked suicide in the face. And other secrets of the good church girl.

.

This post was originally posted September 2013.

I have been asked recently to tell part of my story again If for the only reason for one person to know they are not alone. You see when we start live in truth others don’t feel so isolated. When we live in truth we stop placing people on pedestals and expect them to remain there. It’s exhausting to live there. To know within your soul that you will never be the image other need you to be. When we live in truth we get messy and real. Let’s be messy women. Truth telling women.

*I understand that this topic and subject are very sensitive. Everyone’s story is different with many different outcomes. I completely respect differing opinions and value your story. I just ask that you respect my story for what it is as well.-sheli

Today is Suicide Prevention Day. Which if you think about it may seem a bit bent. Why would we want to have a day that recognizes suicide? Others might argue that we should not draw more attention to it. I actually feel the complete opposite. I believe that we should draw attention to it. I believe that we need to quit saying that people we love died of “unknown causes” because we ourselves cannot look in the mirror and say the word suicide. I believe we do need to talk about it. We need to quit being silent about it, looking the other way, keeping it in the whispers. Because do you know what that does? It gives it more power. It gives the darkness more control over our lives. Over their lives. Over all of us.

I wish I could say I have no experience with suicide. That no one I loved and adored took their own life. But this is just not true. I remember at a very young age watching as my parents grieved the death of close friends. And the aftermath that ensued for years. I have lost those I have worked with, worshipped with, been in school with and even called family.

But the hard reality of it is that suicide itself has looked me in the face.

I have battled depression since I was a teenager. Using any chemical I could get into my body to make it go away. The demons have at times seem to have a tighter grip on me than not. When I became a mother I was sure that it would all go away. Yet as I soon discovered that postpartum depression and even psychosis is an ugliness that invaded my soul and mind. There were many times that I dreamt of running away. Far away and starting over. I begged God to take me in the middle of the night because I could no longer take the darkness that had assaulted my mind. I was hopeless. I wish I could say that when I became a Christian I never had to deal with this. Yet it was even more when I became a Christian. I knew that the spiritual battle for my soul was real. I feel like it still is. It is and always will be a battle. This is not a war we are fighting here on earth; it is in the spiritual realms.

This is what I know from my situation. Talk to each other. Be real with each other. Get in each other’s business .If you know of a friend or even an acquaintance that is withdrawing. Go to them. Now. Don’t worry about invading their space or being politically correct. Go now. Be the voice for them. So many times we don’t know what to say. We don’t want to ask for help. We don’t know how to ask for help. We think that no one will understand. We think that we will be called a freak. We don’t want to bring shame to our family. We think that no one will ever forgive us. We think that this will make it easier on everyone else. So this is my plea to you. Be invasive. Open the door and walk in. Get them help. We will many times deny it. We think it’s not that bad. We are scared. We don’t want to get locked up. We think it will ruin us for life. We are embarrassed. We think no one will believe that we are really sick. Do it anyways. I beg of you. Open the door.

I have been on the journey of healing for years. Months at times I can carry the darkness and no one can see it. I learn to hide well. I have learned to ask for help. I have learned that I am nothing without clinging to Jesus’ feet every day. I have learned that medication and therapy are a must-have for my well-being. I have learned that exercise and calm need to be a part of my every day. I have learned that my family and friends will get me help, hold my hand, and give me grace. I know that they and we have all messed up. It is messy and painful but they are not giving up on me.

I know the pain of loss and I know the pain of darkness. I pray that wherever you are on the journey, that you know you are not alone.