All Things

I was not myself. My mind was. not. right. I was a shell of a person who was doing an ok job at pretending that everything was normal. Everything was ok. It was just a mild case of the baby blues.

But it wasn’t. Because I had begun to question everything about myself. I was heartbroken that the one thing I was supposed be good at (motherhood) I was failing miserably at. I was terrified all the time. I was experiencing panic attacks. The thought of being left alone, especially at night, was nerve wracking. I did just enough around the house to keep up appearances. I kept the television on all the time—silence was deafening and caused me to get panicky. Everything was not ok.

I laughed at all the jokes, smiled when I was supposed to, and engaged in conversation all the while thinking thoughts that terrified me.

Anxiety and depression run in my family. My mother suffered with clinical depression for years. I don’t know how she did it. She suffered for years before finding a glimmer of hope for treatment (to put that in perspective, I felt like I was hanging on by a thread after 8 weeks). She heard an ad on the radio for a clinical trial on clinical desperation, she picked up the phone and asked to be a part of it. That was the beginning of treatment for her. I thank God for that ad on the radio. I thank God that he caused my mom to have the courage to pick up the phone and make that call.

Back then (in the early 90s) depression had a much bigger and much more negative stigma hanging around its neck. For years my mother was afraid to tell anyone what she was thinking and feeling for fear that they would institutionalize her. Once she sought treatment she was still hounded by those well meaning (albeit ignorant) folks who told her she could pray through it or be healed from it without the help of western medicine. Over the years my mom has shown great courage and vulnerability in speaking so openly and honestly about her struggle with depression and how she sought treatment.

As I have struggled through depression since having my daughter I have become more and more convinced that those who struggle with various mental health issues should not and cannot do so in silence. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying you should write about it on the internet)

I remember sitting in bed while nursing my baby girl and thinking, “I guess this is what life is now. I don’t know how I’m going to continue living this way, but I guess this is what life is after having a baby.”. I thought about death CONSTANTLY. I thought about all the bad things that could happen to my sweet baby girl. I thought about losing everyone close to me. I thought about eternity and was absolutely crippled with fear. All. of. the. time. I thought about heaven and how my husband wouldn’t be my husband there. And I wept. For weeks I wept. My mind was a hamster wheel of nightmarish thoughts and my heart was a hurricane of emotions. I was afraid to share what was going on in my mind because I didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s life if they were living in blissful ignorance.

I didn’t know how someone like me, who claimed to be a Christian, could be so afraid. I was becoming more and more convinced that I’d tricked myself into believing that I was a Christian. I’d convinced myself that my whole life I’d been living a lie. I begged and begged God for forgiveness and I begged and begged Him to save me, yet I still had no assurance of my salvation. I would call my husband while he was at work and sob—hoping he could share some magical thoughts that would comfort me, if only for a moment.

I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. I read God’s word. I listened to sermons. I couldn’t find a way out of the fog.

It took awhile for my husband to realize that I wasn’t ok, that this wasn’t just the baby blues. That this wasn’t something we could pray our way through. We sat at the dinner table one evening as I tried to explain to him what had been happening in my head and heart. He encouraged me to call my mom, I told him maybe.

Later that evening, through tears and out of sheer desperation, I shared just a snippet of what I had been experiencing with my mom—she immediately said it sounded incredibly similar to her depression and that I should call my doctor.

And so it began. Treatment. Hope. Beginning to feel like myself again.

Now I’m loving being a mom to the most precious, most joyful, on the move, and sweet baby girl. I can engage in conversation and be fully present. I can be at home by myself without leaving the tv on. I can laugh sincerely. I can claim Christ’s promises to His people as my own with confidence.

I’m still on my medication. I still meet regularly with my doctor. We’re still waiting to find out if my depression is defined as postpartum depression or if it extends beyond postpartum. 

Now, you may be wondering why I would share some of the nitty gritty details of my experience online?

Because there was a moment. A moment when I was standing at my kitchen sink washing the dishes when I understood. I understood how people could reach the point of ending their own lives. I understood how people could think that what they were doing was not selfish, but a service. I felt like I’d become a life suck to those I love and care about the most. I felt like I was a second rate mother to my daughter. I felt like I was dragging my husband down with me.

Because the suicide rate is rising at a startling and heartbreaking pace.

Because Satan attacks us when we are most vulnerable.

Because my mom shared her experience with me and that made all the difference in my story. 

Because God condescends to use people like me. People who are broken. People who are scared. People who are clinically depressed. People who struggle with anxiety. Far from perfect people who are riddled with the effects of the fall.

Because I spent hours upon hours scouring the internet in search of someone that could tell me I wasn’t a lost cause. I wasn’t without hope. I wasn’t wrong. I was just sick. And there was help to be had.

Because through it all I saw God’s faithfulness to me. I saw it through my husband who spoke truth to me when I could not speak it to myself and showed me tenderness, love, patience, and support. I saw it in my mom who knows the struggle all too well and who I didn’t have to explain anything to—she was my “me too” and “it will get better”. I saw it in my doctor who was proactive in his treatment of me and tender in his interactions with me. I saw it in God’s drawing me closer to Himself.

Depression feels like a curse—at the very least it is part of the curse. But God uses ALL THINGS for the good of His children and for His glory.

Romans 8:18-30
“18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

I read the above passage with a fresh understanding of what it is to join with all of creation in groaning as we await being set free from the bondages of sin, death, and yes, depression. I read it with a renewed thankfulness, a renewed hope, and a renewed zeal to share what our great God has done in my life. Even and especially through the pain of depression.

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Dear Annabelle

My Dearest Annabelle,

I’m sitting here in the family room of our home watching you play with one of your favorite toys—a stuffed elephant that sings and flaps its ears when you press its foot. You are 6 months and 1 week old. Your daddy and I are kind of obsessed with you. We love watching you grow and learn and look at the world with fresh eyes. Everyone keeps telling us to take it all in and enjoy these fleeting days while we can. These days when we can still hold you and snuggle you at will. These days when you hyperventilate with joy when we walk into a room and giggle when we sing to you or toss you in the air. We are already feeling how fleeting these days truly are—in the midst of middle of the night feedings and middle of the day teething madness we feel tinges of sadness because we know. We know that before we know it we’ll be dropping you off for your first day of kindergarten and then high school and then college and then planning your wedding. I don’t know how parents do it, I don’t know how they let go of these tiny people that so encapsulate our hearts.

You were born in the wee hours of the morning on February 22. I will never forget the moment that I first laid eyes on you, the doctor held you up for me to see and in the midst of my awe and wonder the first words out of my mouth were, “Is she going to pink up?”. The doctor assured me that you would, in fact, pink up (and you did, in no time). I then looked at your daddy and then at your Umi and I felt the weight of it all and began to sob—you, my dear child, are my dream come true.

For years I prayed that God would give me the opportunity to be a wife and mother and here you were. You and your dad. Everything I ever wanted in this life and God gave you both to me. Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

I pray that you get to experience the joys and struggles of being a wife and a mother, if those things are the desires of your heart. They are good, God given desires. But, I also pray that you learn what it took me 30 years to learn—that these earthly blessings, these unbelievable gifts are but shadows of what’s to come. They are reflections of our heavenly Father’s love for us—His unfathomable, unshakable, all consuming love for His children.

Too often I forget that. Too often I get scared of losing these beautiful gifts. Too often I fool myself into believing that this life is about me and my present happiness.

My dear, sweet, joyful Annabelle, my constant prayer for you is to know the deep love of Jesus. Every night when daddy and I put you to bed we pray that you already know the presence of the Holy Spirit. We pray that you would always know that we love you more than words can say, but that Jesus loves you best.

Sometimes I get scared because life is hard and it hurts me to think about you hurting. The thing is, you ARE going to get hurt. You ARE going to make mistakes. As much as I wish I could keep you from heartaches and mistakes, I know that so often those are the things that God uses to draw us closer to Himself. There is nothing more I want for you than for you to know Jesus and that knowing Him would shape how you live, how you love, and how you view this broken world and the life to come.

God has used you, my precious baby girl, to teach me more about His love, more about the life to come, more about looking forward to that life instead of worrying about everything that could go wrong in this one. It’s been painful to learn these things. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves and dying is wrought with pain and suffering.

I pray that you have a beautiful life that is shaped by Jesus and His unfailing love, grace, and mercy to you. Cling to Jesus, baby girl, even now, cling to Jesus.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”

Love,
Momma

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us.” –Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

I’ve wanted to be a wife and a mom since before I can remember. I was (and often still am) your typical girly girl. My childhood was marked by babie dolls, barbies, play kitchens, and in general a nonstop daydreaming about my fictitious husband and kids. When a husband didn’t show up when I thought he should I became distraught. When I found myself in my mid to late twenties as the only single one among my female friends I reached the depths of despair (at least that’s what it felt like). I thought that investing my time and efforts into a career would help (it didn’t) and found myself working at an adoption agency where I was the only single woman. I believed with every fiber of my being that becoming a wife and mom was what God had for me and I could not, for the life of me, understand why He wouldn’t just give it to me. It was a hard season, one in which I felt as though I was repeatedly being shattered and then pieced back together.

Obviously, my life has been a charmed one since my hardest struggle in life up until this point has been grappling with my singleness. But, guys, laying down your dreams, releasing that white knuckled grip you have on your deepest desires, whatever they may be, is (to put it mildly) really hard and painful. Every step of the way I saw His faithfulness. Through every tear that fell, every loved one that spoke truth, every mountaintop and every valley–God was causing me to look to Him, the author and perfecter of my faith. Through that season I learned of the depth of joy that can be experienced when you’re in the midst of the depths of despair. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, I learned to kiss the waves that slammed me into the Rock of ages. He is good. Abundantly good. Even and especially when we can’t see or understand what He is doing.

And then I met James. Truth be told, we’ve had our share of bumps in the road. I can, in all sincerity, say that those bumps have only made us more thankful for each other and for God’s sovereign hand in our lives. Ours is truly a story marked by restoration and forgiveness.

So, now my dream is coming true. In three months, God willing, I’ll be marrying the man who has become my best friend and the love of my life. I can tell you that, while we’re not yet married, I’ve already tasted of the painful yet wonderful reflection of the gospel that marriage is supposed to be. James loves me the way God calls him to and when someone loves you in such a way it places a magnifying glass on your sinfulness. James accepts me, forgives me, and continuously points me towards our Savior. There are moments when I sincerely do not understand why James loves me because, to be totally honest, I can be the worst. And yet, Jesus loves me more. James’ love for me is a mere reflection of our Savior’s and I pray that as James continues, by God’s grace, to love and pursue me in all of my messiness that I will only see more clearly the awesomeness of Christ’s love as He pursues His church in all of our sinfulness and messiness.

When I was single God showed His love and faithfulness to me through my loneliness and unfulfilled desire. Now that I’m about to enter into marriage with James, God continues to show His love and faithfulness to me through being in relationship with James.

I didn’t understand how beautiful and hard and messy and joy-filled being in relationship could be until God brought me James–and  we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. I pray that we have many years together to grow together in Him, to be a picture of the gospel through His grace and strength.

 

 

Wonder

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” –Micah 5:2

The above was the verse for my Advent devotional this morning. As the author of my devotional and the prophet Micah pointed out, before Jesus’ birth Bethlehem was insignificant and small. As I reflected on the verse I began to think about all the ways that God, throughout my life and throughout history, has chosen what is small and insignificant to manifest his power and glory. Why on earth would He choose a terminal screw up, like myself, to be a part of His grand design?

It honestly started to seem too good to be true for a few moments. This can’t be real. What if none of this is real?

I get so comfortable in my faith, so sinfully bored in the knowledge of my salvation, and I start to lose the wonder and grandeur of what God has done and continues to do through normal people going through their seemingly average and insignificant lives. So, I’m thankful that Micah reminds us that God does big things in and through little and insignificant places and that He acts in the hearts of ordinary and sinful people.

I’m glad I questioned, if only for a few moments, the realness of God’s greatness–the wonder of it all.

The creator of the universe, the Savior of the World, the King of kings and Lord of lords chose me to be a part of His family.  He washed me clean through His shed blood. He gave me His righteousness when I had none. He did this knowing that I would fail Him over and over and over again. He did this knowing that I would need an unlimited supply of His grace and mercy. His love is the big, unfailing, everlasting, unchanging, unlosable kind of love.

So, this Christmas season I’ll fight (through His grace and strength) to reclaim the joy and wonder that is so easily lost in the mundane, day to day struggle of life. I’ll pray with the psalmist, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12) And I’ll give thanks for the God-man born in a dirty stable in a small town; the One born to be slaughtered for you and for me and I’ll wonder.

The Battle is His

This last month was a rough one. There’s been some heart break. I’ve had a lot of questions and I’ve fed a lot of fears. That’s one thing I’ve realized that I’m insanely good at–feeding my fears. And the enemy loves it, he preys upon that sinful talent of mine until I’m inconsolable.

Have you ever had one of those days when you have tried, tried so unbelievably hard to speak truth to your heart, to remind yourself of the deep truths of scripture only to have your heart say, “It’s not good enough. Today, Jesus is not enough. I want more. I want THAT.”? Maybe you haven’t. But I have. Oh, friends, my heart is so desperately wicked, so prone to wander.

Sometimes it’s hard, next to impossible to see what God is doing in your life. There are moments that it feels like He has come in with a wrecking ball, wreaking havoc for the sake of wreaking havoc.

But that’s not how He operates. Chaos is outside of God’s character. As my own life has felt uncertain and a bit chaotic recently, I’ve been reminded that God brings us to the point of famine only to nourish us; He brings in the wrecking ball to tear down our idols, to break down our reliance on self, to draw us closer to Himself, to mold us into the likeness of Christ.

Over the last month I’ve read the following passage approximately 87 times:

“10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’ 13 And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.'” –Exodus 14:10-14

Why had God brought them this far to let them die? Why did He give them hope and then snatch it away? I can’t imagine what their cries sounded like, I can’t imagine what their fears felt like. The Israelites had every reason to believe that they were facing certain death–except that they didn’t, because their faithful God was once again working for their good and His glory, they needed only to trust Him.

When the present feels too much like the past, when the future is so uncertain, in that moment when it feels like your world is caving in, when the pain is too much to bear, when you have absolutely nothing to give, when hope seems out of your reach, remember this: God is not confined by what your current circumstances look like. And His ways are greater, so much greater than our feeble minds could possibly comprehend. Just stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord.

And it’s hard, oh friends, it is so very hard to stand firm, to wage war, to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I get so tired of the fight. I’m tired of waging war against my own flesh and against the powers of this world. I’m just so tired. And yet, in those moments I’m called to fight harder. Not in my strength, but in His. The fight, the struggle against my flesh is to let go and let God. The struggle is to understand that the battle is His–He will fight for me, I need only to be still. But that’s not what the world tells me. No, the world tells me that I’ve been cheated. The world tells me that I should have what I want and I should be able to have it now, damn the consequences. Satan tells me that my mistakes have been too great and continues to throw them in my face. But He is greater. He is greater than this momentary affliction. He is greater than my sinful, aching heart. He whispers truth into my heart through His word. He shows me that in the midst of embarrassing failures He is still working in me to sanctify me through and through. He is. He goes before me. He is loving and gracious. Compassionate and merciful. He is mighty to save.

So as you wade thru the uncertainties, stand firm. Stand firm in His steadfast love. Stand firm in His forgiveness and grace. Stand firm and take comfort in His sovereignty.

He goes before us. The battle is His and it’s already been won.



Grounded In Love

It’s the dreaded of all days for singles around the world. Social media will be inundated with photos of flowers and chocolates and jewelry and teddy bears with captions like “Best hubby ever!” or “He knows the way to my heart!”. And those posts are, in all sincerity, completely harmless. I choose in my heart to make them something that they are not—hurtful reminders of my singleness, flagrant bragging. The enemy loves for me to play the victim, Satan loves nothing more than when I begrudge this season of life rather than rejoice in it as I am called to do in all situations. Too often I’m so busy seeking validation for my own pain (which is real and valid) that I overlook all the joy and beauty that my Father in heaven has surrounded me with.

So today, I choose (by His grace and strength) to share in the joy of the many godly couples that God has surrounded me with. I choose to see the good (and there is plenty of it) in this season of my life. I choose not to feed the fear of the “what if” questions that seek to steal my joy. Because regardless of whether or not I ever get to be included in the beautiful gift of marriage I have been included in Christ. The Lord is my husband and if His is the only marriage that I ever get to experience then I can be truly glad.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in you hearts through faith—that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” —Ephesians 3:14-21

Happy Valentine’s dear ones. I pray that regardless of what station of life we find ourselves in, we would live in the power of His Spirit and dwell in His love as we seek to love one another to the glory of His great name.

How Much Longer

November was National Adoption month, I know this because I work for a Christian ministry that serves as an adoption agency. The organization I work for held our annual fundraiser/celebration dinner last month, during the dinner an adult adoptee shared some of His story. He was born in an Eastern European country that was highly superstitious. He was born without arms and was viewed as cursed in his culture. A world away in the United States his parents were convicted that they needed to do something out of their comfort zone for the Kingdom. They decided that they wanted to adopt a child that no one else wanted. So they went to Eastern Europe and adopted the 10 pound, severely malnourished 18 month old with no arms. They adopted the child that no one else wanted, the child that was sure to die, the child nobody else was willing to take on and they called him son.

I was struck by that story and what an incredibly beautiful picture of the Gospel it is. We are the children that no one else wanted. We are ex-orphans. We are the ones that God sought out as we wallowed in our own sin nature. We were dead and He gave us life. He adopted us as sons.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” –Galatians 4:4-7

Adopted as sons. I’ve seen a lot of translations and heard a lot of people insert “and daughters”. As one who didn’t know what the literal translation is, I never thought about this much. I just assumed that Paul was doing what many people were taught to do in English class; that is to use the masculine pronoun in situations where the gender of their subject(s) is unclear or variable, or when a group to which they are referring contains members of both sexes. But to assume that does not give the God of the Universe much credit.

It was pointed out to me recently that in Roman society, during the time Paul was writing to the Galatians, daughters didn’t have full rights. Sons were given preference to inherit the family estate and in general it was males who were adopted by wealthy families to carry on the family name. So, when Paul says that God has adopted us into His family as sons, it’s not because of longstanding grammatical rules/traditions and it’s not because Paul is misogynistic; it’s because of the Father’s great love for us. It’s because of God’s absolute and unfailing attention to detail. It’s because there is absolutely nothing that our Heavenly Father did not think of in eternity past or eternity future. He has sent His Spirit into our hearts crying, “Abba! Father!” so that we can cry out as sons, “Abba! Father!” to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

When I was a little girl one of the best parts of each day was anticipating my dad’s arrival home from work. I would pester my mom asking her “How much longer?!”. I loved it when my dad would burst through the front door, as he said my nick name in a sing song voice which delighted me to no end. Dad was home. Our family was together and whole. All seemed right.

At this special time of year we reflect on and wonder at the great love of our Heavenly Father who sent His son into this world as a precious babe; the God-man born in a lowly manger. The Prince of Peace came to our broken world, bore our sins, poured out His blood, and clothes us in His righteousness. Our Father would stop at nothing to adopt us as sons. As we rejoice in and look back on our Savior’s birth, we should also look forward as we cry out with joy, pain, and hope, “How much longer?!”. How much longer until our family is together and whole? How much longer until all is made right? How much longer until we see His face and praise His name as He sings over us with love? How much longer, indeed.

Merry Christmas, dear ones.

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart. Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King, Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. By Thine own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.”