I often forget. I need a heavy piece of furniture moved, or have a question about a new rattle in my car. And then I remember. I can’t ask him. He is no longer with us. My father passed four years ago today after a long, hard battle with lung cancer. Fresh tears flow as I begin this blog. It is not the entry that I thought would be next, but when I got up early and grabbed the coffee cup with the nature scene with of a deer etched on the outside that was once his, I knew it was time to write about it. It perplexes me how four years can go by and yet his presence seems just a phone call away, except, I can’t.
I would probably label myself a daddy’s girl. I grew up with him toting me across fields and pitching me across the creeks as he took me along on his hunting trip. We never caught much on those trips. Mainly because I was too noisy and had too many questions. We would often be in the forrest early. The sun would rise over the Harpeth river and bring in an early morning fog as the sun’s rays hit the water.
We shared a love of fishing and he taught me how to watch the swirl of the water for where the best chances of catching something were. He taught me how to look at the dirt for signs of worms. My job as a child was to break open the big clods of dirt and find the worms as he would chunk up big clods with one swing from a grubbing hoe.
For a birthday one year, he bought me a .22 rifle. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was still playing with “My Little Ponies” so I must have been around 11 or so. He taught me to aim, hold my breath and pull the trigger. I practiced on a thick cedar fence post until the post fell over. At that point, he thought I was ready to hunt. I am probably only one of a handful of women who can field-dress and butcher a deer. I don’t, but I know how if I had to.
When Gillian and Katherine were little he ingrained in them a respect for the circle of life by accidentally having ducks at the same time he was hatching out salamander eggs. Those were some well fed ducks.
Although I weep for time with him I no longer have, I am grateful for the love of nature I am now hopefully passing on to my own children.
A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting in couples’ therapy when I confessed how hard it is for me to ask for help. ”Why is it that you can’t ask for help? What do you think would happen?” our therapist inquired of me.
She was hitting a deeply sensitive spot and my face twisted up. I felt my face getting hot as I fought back the response, “Because if I have to ask for help, then I am failing,” the response tumbled out.
The truth is I hate asking for help. I am a mom of four with a pile of Mt. Saint Laundry that actually has its own altitude and climate changes. I often feel like I suffer from the “Little Red Hen” syndrome, except, unlike the little red hen, I never ask. I just brood over the fact that everything seems to get placed on my plate to take care of. Dishes are in the sink and I am angry that no one has taken the initiative to load them into the dishwasher, there is actually dust in the grooves of the kitchen cabinets that no one seems to see except me and let’s not talk about the pile of crumbs under the table that my preschooler leaves behind. But if I can’t ask, then I really don’t have justification for being upset over something no one knew would even bother me in the first place. I have to learn to ask. I have to give myself permission to ask with the understanding that it does not mean I am failing because I can’t handle everything.
I have thought frequently over the last couple of weeks regarding the conversation with the therapist. And I have thought about my prayer life and my relationship to God. The truth is, I don’t lean on God the way I should. Like everything else, I feel as if everything is my responsibility and I only ask for Him to intercede after I am beyond desperate. In fact, I may just harbor a bit of secret pride in the fact that my prayer life does not read like a Christmas wish list of wants and desires. (Something else I need to work on).
Matt. 7:7 (NLT) says, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.”
My daughters have taught me this concept more than anyone else in my life. It is watching and hearing the tiniest of prayers–praying for the bees, for safety in the storm and thanking God for “my pink blankey.” They know they are not self-reliant, so they have no problem asking for their needs to be met. It is only through the wounds of humanity that we stop asking. I forget that God is not like the rest of humanity. It is the nature of being human that we eventually emotionally hurt someone. God, however, will not let me down. He is constant and He is omni-everything. Only He can fulfill my deepest desires that I am unable to even whisper. But I need to ask.
My last post was on “Becoming” the vision of yourself you want to be. And then I took a step back. And looked. And reevaluated. I did not intend for it to be that way. It started with my children being home from school for summer. I know some people do it, some moms even work from home while they homeschool their four kids. How, I do not know. Because once my children were out for summer, our schedule became a hectic, hot, mess.
Then summer turned into fall. It just kinda happened really. But it gave me a time to reevaluate what my goals are and why. To put it into writing, “I want women, both those who grew up within the church and on the outside, to know they are radically loved by the Father who created them.” I had become caught up in the how to get it done craziness and lost sight of the main reason I am pursuing writing and authorship.
It is good to take a step back every now and again. Now that I am refocused, hopefully the rest, like regular blogging, will fall into place.
Before a painter put brush to canvas, he sees his picture mentally … If you think of .: in terms of a painting, what do you see? Is the picture you think worth painting? … You create yourself in the image you hold in your mind. – Thomas Dreier.
We all have goals in life. Some goals are material, others are spiritual. Honestly, I concentrate more on my physical world than my spiritual ones. I am in the middle of raising my family, I would like a bigger house, I need to bring in a regular income to our family. There are so many other things that my mind obsesses about. But when I boil down who I really want to be, it all comes down to being Godly. My goals consist of writing a book for women based on my own spiritual experiences, I want to minister to those who believe that they are not “good enough.” I believe this is the calling God has placed upon me. I know things will happen all in His time. Honestly though, I am not doing a whole lot to make that happen.
I believe the scripture in Phil. 1 that states, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” I know God will finish what He began in me. But I am not doing a whole lot to help that along. In my defense, it is hard to find 3 hours of solitude a day when raising four daughters, two of whom are still at home. And now summer is here and all four of them are with me. And did I mention my little ones wake up as soon as the first bird sings and the first light breaks? (Case in point: It is not even six and I hear small footsteps coming down the hallway).
It seems my life is going so fast that I barely have time to breathe. I give of myself until I crash with exhaustion. But I believe that God has began a good work within me. In my time with Him, I get a little vision of what that person should look like. She would be an author and speaker giving testimony without fear and with fire. She has much more energy than I currently do.
Many times I get so wrapped up in pursing my goals, I forget who I supposed to become. I get wrapped up in: Must blog, must go to conferences, must build my following, must write the rest of my book, –that I loose track of who I want to become.
So I took so time the other day a doodled about goals, who I am, who I am to become. I took a step back and instead of being in the middle of the race, I looked at what type of person the racer is, what they need in order to be nourished, and what they would look like on the inside and out. I took a mental look at what my final painting would look like. I took a look at all the stages in between. I discovered I am too wrapped up in the “got to” of life. When I boil it down to who I want to be and what that will look like, I want to pursue holiness and live in a way that radiates that. It is that simple.
It is so easy to write that check to the church and feel like I have done my part. It is easy to allow the ministry staff at the church to use that money to fund their ministries and feel satisfied. They are the experts, they will know what to do and how to handle things. But we are called to more than that. We are called to give of ourselves.
I hold back. Why? I am afraid. I am afraid of what others will think. I am afraid I am not equipped. I think, “who am I?” I am afraid of someone thinking negatively of me because I did not perform well. I can easily say that these statements flow from a place of low self esteem and insecurities. But when I read them, they all start with, “I”. The thing I need to remember is it is not about me. I am just the vessel. The fear of giving of ourselves becomes about our own ego. I am guilty. Nevertheless, I am racked with fear.
For the past week or so I have been really struggling with if I can make a difference. Does this blog matter? On one hand I feel like I have a calling, and on the other, I feel like I am underqualified and someone else can fill those shoes much better than me. Many of these thoughts probably come from the fact that I am in the middle of changing some of my mood stabilizing medication and it really affects the way I view myself. That is why I have not blogged in over a week. Then God answers those questions for me very boldly. I had not one, but four people ask me at church why I have not blogged recently, one of whom I do not really even know. Okay God, I get it.
But I am still racked with fear. So I have to ask myself: ”How would I live if I were not afraid?”
1. I would be more transparent. I would allow people to see who I really am and the struggles of my imperfections.
2. I would be more willing to give of myself. I would not be afraid of what other people thought if I spoke up and fumbled my way through explaining things.
3. I would offer myself more, and when not needed, not to take it personally.
4. I would minister without hesitation. I think of a man named Alan who stopped me in Michael’s craft store a few months back. He asked me to pray for him. I told him I would do that, but what I should have done was pray over him right then and there. But I was afraid. Afraid of stares, afraid of being awkward.
I need to remember that God equips the called; not calls the equipped. I need to remember that it is not about about me; that I am just the vessel. Even Beth Moore has horrid criticism. Jesus faced horrid criticism. I will not be immune. I need to plant my feet firmly in who defines me. May I not be afraid to serve; may I not be afraid to give of myself.
How would you live if you were fearless?
Two days ago via Twitter I heard the news that Rick and Kay Warren’s youngest son had taken his own life. Rick Warren is the pastor of the Saddleback Valley Community Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life. His book made a huge impact on me during some of my darkest days when I was holding strong to the belief that I was nothing. His book influenced me to think that maybe, just maybe I was created for a purpose and was worth something–that I mattered and could make a difference.
I am not alone in being heavily influenced by this book and I grieve that their son Mathew did not believe there was more purpose to his life and chose to end it short. I am angry that the illness won.
Depression is a master of lies about one’s self. Just goes to prove how someone who is suffering can not seem to believe beyond the silent whispers, “you are worthless,” that depression breathes into your head. It is a relentless onslaught to your mental faculties.
I speak from experience. This hits home with me on a most personal level. Even though I do not know the Warren family, I grieve with them. I grieve for all of us who suffer from mental illness that brings us to the point of suicide. I am one of the lucky ones. I survived my attempt. But I have both physical and mental scars which remain. God spoke to me that day. For this first time I understood He knew my name. It was a turning point. But there were still days, months, maybe even a year of a desire to exit from this reality. It was an every day struggle of survival. The meds were not working. Med after med failed me. It took close on a year before I found the correct combination. Every day that I was still here went down as a success at survival.
Saddleback Valley Community Church is a mega-church in Southern CA. Despite being surrounded by thousands of people who knew and admired the Warren family, Rick said, ”But only those closest knew that he [his son] struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided.”
I grieve that only those closest to the Warrens knew of their son’s struggle. I am in no way slamming their decision, I am grieving with them. At the same time, I want to be an advocate for change. In a society where it is okay to accept and sympathize with others’ differences, there is still a stigma regarding mental illness. I think this is true especially in the church, where we are all supposed to be striving toward ultimate fulfillment and full of praise for the one who gave us life. But the truth is that we are a bunch of broken people trying to find grace and peace.
My own experience with being bipolar and in the church has been similar. I can recall quite a few sermons where those who went on meds to treat their symptoms of mental illness were called “having weak faith” or “to think about what Jesus had to suffer.” We were shamed for our illness and the desire to treat it. So we tried to fake it and we kept silent. And we suffered needlessly for years because of ignorance.
This is not true for the church I attend currently. They have never shamed me. Although, when I was at my worst, I don’t believe they were equipped to handle me. They simply did not have the resources, and I was a full five gallon bucket of crazy with a splash of psychosis. I was more than a handful. — And no one knew what to do with me.
With as prominent as mental illness is, and considering how debilitating or fatal it can be, I would like to challenge churches to begin a resource program for those who may come to you in need. We need to know GOOD Christian therapist and psychiatrist for our area. We need a list of treatment facilities for different things. We need a way to know about the drugs we are taking to treat our symptoms. We need someone who will hold us accountable: similar to a sponsor in an A.A. program. Speaking of A.A. programs, churches should have a list of those, because those of us who are suffering often try to self-medicate in order to subdue the extreme symptoms of the illness. It is time to step up and help those who need it–before it kills them.
I don’t know if it has been the gloomy skys or what lately, but I am struggling with feeling icky and fatigued. Kinda tired, kinda blue, yet still very content with life. Just feeling funky and fatigued. I thought going for a walk would help, but not just any walk, I wanted one where I could enjoy God’s creation around me. Trying to get time away for myself is quickly becoming a priority on my list. I would have loved to have gone to the farm that I grew up on and walked there, but yesterday, a trip to local nature park would have to suffice.
It was the first time the sun had showed intself in days, maybe even weeks. When the sun doesn’t shine for days at a time it seriously complicates my mood. I decided to go to the local nature park while one of my oldest daughters was in band rehearsal. A walk to shake off the winter blahs I thought. It was my first real walk in months. Lately the weather has been a series of grey days with little to no respit in between. Even Easter was a soggy mess.
I start hiking up the hill of the main trail of the park. (I live in TN, hills are a requirement of real hikes). I make a conscious effort to take in all of creation that is around me. I am amazed at how the sun’s soft, afternoon light is so beautiful through the trees. Trillium is starting to come out. There is a patch of flowers among the trees– their white buds drooping; soft rays of light shining directly on them for their moment in the sun. I continue along the path and notice how green the underbrush is getting. Color is coming back into a world of grays and browns. Trees that have been naked all winter have small buds that will birth themselves in the coming weeks making the canopy lush. But for now the canopy above me is bare.
As if to retort my thinking, a single beech leaf falls and brushes against my face. I look around. The beech trees have held onto their leaves throughout the winter months. Holding on to the old. It will take this year’s new spring growth to push out last year’s withered, dry leaves. But the tree holds on. The leaves crunch with their dryness, their lack of life. And the tree still hold on. Unlike other trees whose branches are open and ready to accept new growth, the new growth of the beech tree will have to push last year’s growth out before it can continue and mature.
I am struck by the irony of how, as humans we do the same thing as the beech tree. We hold on to the old, the familiar. We do not let go of the old and make way for new growth. We hold on tightly and may even put up a fight to keep the old stuff in place. Stuff that will keep us from growing. People often prefer a known evil to what is unknown. It is time in my life for some changes to be made. I hope and pray that I don’t hold onto last years growth and have little resistance to this year’s new growth. The unknown scares me. I know this upcoming year is going to be full of unknowns for me and my family. Elizabeth is to start kindergarden this fall, which probably means the end of my days as a stay at home mom. On the other hand, my working could be a good thing and we could buy a bigger house–another change.
Today as you pray, pray not to hold onto last years stuff. Let go of anything that could hinder this year’s growth. Sometimes that is a hard prayer to pray because this year’s growth may not all be full of pleasantries. Some of it may be hard. That is scary. We want all good things to happen to us, but sometimes our best personal growth comes from the hardest paths we have walked. Pray for the willingness to walk whatever path will bring new growth.
I have struggled with writing this post for a week. Bear with me.
My husband was watching television the other night and I came in to join him for a few minutes. The show that was airing was on The History Channel and was about Viking men who were about to sail off. The first scene that I sat through was of the men using a community water bowl to wash their face. Then as they would finish washing their face, they each blew snot into the community bowl. UGGG. I thought about how far we had come as a society and cleanliness and hygiene. There was only one woman, who was a slave, in the scene. The second scene one of the men grab the slave girl and rape her before sailing off. Again, I thought about how far we have come in our society that no one is viewed as property. —- And then, I read about Steubenville gang rape case. And I am appalled. I take back everything I thought about us maturing as a society.
What is even more appalling to me than raping a drunk, unconscious girl, is that the boys who were found guilty were empathized with. What? Excuse me? CNN headlines lamented, ” ‘ Promising Future’ of the Stuebenville rapist, who are ‘Very Good Students.’ ” There is now a petition against CNN who’s coverage focused more on the verdict ruining the lives of the rapist than sympathy for the female victim.
What is wrong with our society that the news laments the fate of the rapist more than the destroyed life of the victim?
We have no value for origin of the soul and the holy container that it resides in. The fact that each life and person is precious because it has been deemed life by the Great Creator has been lost by the majority of society: the value of a person based on the value of their soul.
We value our own agenda, while not taking the time to understand or empathize with someone else’s. We value ourselves. ”Love One Another” is the whole summation of what Jesus taught. Show Love. Somehow, it is easier to be oblivious, to be hardened, to turn away. It is easier to justify that someone deserves their station in life than it is to help them out of it. I am guilty of that, especially when I can see the sequence of events that led someone to a despairing place. ”It’s their own fault they wound up where they are,” I think to myself.
But that doesn’t mean I turn away when someone needs help. It may mean I have boundaries, but if someone is in serious trouble, I would hope I wouldn’t turn them away. There were tweets being sent out as this poor girl was being raped. Instead of someone standing up and doing the right thing by helping this girl, a blind eye was turned while a chuckle was suppressed.
I have learned through my own struggles that when people don’t know what to do they turn away. They don’t search for the correct resources to help, they simply turn a blind eye hoping someone else will know better and do better. But there are times when rocking the boat is called for. Helping someone when they can not help themselves is one of those times.
We have to value people for who they are. If we can’t value them for the gifts they have, then we have to at least value them as a creation of God who was given the breath of life. Ann Voskamp in a blog on this same subject said, “In the culture of boys will be boys — means girls will be garbage.” But my dear friends and daughters, I want you to know:
You are of value.
God is omni, but we live in a fallen world.
God can redeem you.
He will rejoice over you.
He sings over you.
You are a most precious thing God created and He longs to bring you to Himself.
God Loves you Radically. You are His Beloved.
“Riffraff, street rat
I don’t buy that
If only they’d look closer
Would they see a poor boy?
They’d find out
There’s so much more to me.”
These words are spoken by Aladdin during the reprise of “One Jump Ahead” (Disney). I wonder about those words he spoke. How much did he believe that he was more than a street rat. Aladdin believed that he was so much more than his circumstances. Somehow, Aladdin was able to wash off any of the labels that had been placed upon him by society. He did not believe he was Riffraff. As it turns out, Aladdin was a true “Diamond in the Rough.”
Contrast that to me. I seem to absorb every negative label that floats my way. Just last night my husband was fussing about the dishes not being done. Granted I had already run one load through the dishwasher that day, but there are always more. I immediately felt I wasn’t doing a good enough job. As a mom of pre-schoolers, sometimes I feel that all I do is run around and catch things before they fall. Literally. It had been one of those days.
The dishes not being done translated to me not doing a good enough job which translated to me not being good enough. Logically, I know my husband was just ranting in general, and that he is quite capable of doing the dishes himself. But somehow that translates in my mind to me not being enough. Somehow I can’t seem to separate what I do from what I am. Ahh, perhaps there is more to that statement than I can process at the moment.
I have always wondered what made me worthy of receiving anything of being anything noteworthy. The truth is that I am nothing without God’s grace. God is the master at using the most unlikely people and the most unlikely circumstances to make something wonderful. Moses was a murderer, David an adulterer. Birthrights and blessings are repeatedly transposed from elder brother to younger brother. Yet, all these men accomplished great things in Biblical history. They were all the “diamond in the rough.”
So, I wonder about myself. Am I a diamond in the rough? What will it take to shine me up? Is it simply the belief in what you are that makes you who you are?
Then I remember the premise of what my who book is about: It is about allowing the Beauty of His Light to shine through you. It is not my own qualities that make me beautiful, but the ability to be the prism through which the light shines. When the light shines through a prism, it shines in the colors of a rainbow. It sparkles, it shines. Our job is to make rainbows happen. Be the diamond through which His light shines!
“I’m irritable.” I typed these words out to my psychiatrist in an email last week. It had been a few days of feeling like I was going to start throwing plates across the room at any moment. The intensity of the desire raises red flags within me. It was an email that followed days of feeling like I was going to loose control with my children. I have been on edge, irritable and easily angered.
The truth is that I am very frusterated with who I am. I know that in Psalm 139:13 David says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” I have to wonder about the meaning of that verse. I wonder because my body is flawed; my mind is flawed. I have bipolar mood disorder, and trying to keep a good head on your shoulders is sometimes very difficult. Tweaking your meds is a constant. I am very blessed. I have been very stable for the past six or seven years. Some people go their whole life without that type of stability. But this constant tweaking. . .I want to scream, “Why did You make me this way! Why, if you are the one who wove me together, did you make me this way!”
I am thankful for my meds and I would be okay with them if it weren’t for the side effects. In recent years, they have gotten to where they make me so sleepy. I try tweaking my meds only to find myself sleeping half the day away and in a mind-fog the other part of the day. No options seem to be acceptable. I can’t be this irritable as my life-style. I laugh at the funny quips from Facebook that say things like, “I say, you are about to exceed the limitations of my medication” or “I don’t need more medicine, I need people to stop pissing me off.” I can relate to both.
I wonder if a more accurate way to say God wove me together has more to do with my creation of spirit and less with my body and mind. God created my spirit in His image. I am not so sure about my body. I try to be at peace and find a light to light connection between my dim light source and the one who is light, pure light, without a trace of darkness.
Even in my frustration, I remember how far I have come, the days of being unstable, the days of intense emotional pain and agony. I remember the soaring highs of chasing the sun and the darkness of the crashing lows. I remember how utterly worthless I felt I was. I remember being acquainted with the night in a most intimate way.
I am grateful that it has been years since I was intimately acquainted with the night. I praise God that someone was able to make a medicine that keeps me stable. Yet, it is not perfect and I still struggle.
I don’t claim to understand why, if God created me, was I created with bi-polar disorder. I suppose the same reason why people are born without an arm, deaf, or with Down’s Syndrome. I could blame it on genetics. But we live in a fallen world where things are not perfect. Humanity is not perfect and we have imperfect bodies. But the soul, our light source, our made in the image of God, — I am not even sure that is perfect, but I know that my light desires the perfection of God.
I once said that I wonder if we are judged on how well we fight the demons of our lives. I still wonder that. It is easy to be good if you have no struggles in your life, but when put under pressure, we find out who we really are. Maybe it is who we are at core that is judged.
If that is so, then being acquainted with the night has served purpose of which I have been made the humble servant of. Whatever path or obstacles you overcome, do it for God’s Glory.