Blog Archives

Acquainted with the Night

“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.

Truth vs. the Lies that Infect Us

In her book So Long Insecurity Beth Moore states, “We’re going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us.”

Sounds like a good theory in concept.  The problem is, is that sometimes, we do not know what truth is in regards to who we are.  A few years back my belief was that I was a most heinous individual.  I hated myself with such a great intensity that it was physically nauseating.  The song I listened to over and over again was “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been.”  I wanted to be beautiful, for there to be a grace about me that radiated, alas, it didn’t.  I believed that no one could really want to even talk to me.  I had nothing of value to offer.   I was too much of a disappointment to everyone in my life.  I felt I was a detriment to those around me.

So I holed myself up.  I could not look up at anyone, afraid I would see disappointment in their eyes.  I wanted to have an emotional beauty about me, to minister, to be an artist and a writer.  Could I dare define myself by such things?  The fear of failure during these years kept me in a silent jail.  I was only one who was unworthy of anything.  I allowed every negative action to affirm my beliefs.

Worse yet, during this time I had a woman who I thought was going to mentor me separate herself from me.  I was devastated and her actions confirmed every negative thought I had ever had about myself.  It was my ultimate confirmation.

Even now, years later, it is hard to believe and write anything to the contrary.  I believed the lies so long, they are ingrained into my very core.

How is it that I had every believed such things to begin with?  Who knows why I have such worthiness issues, but they plague me.

At some point during those years I decided I had to determine what truth was.  People are fallible.  Always remember that.  The things that come out of someone’s mouth are often flawed because of their own perceptions.  The only place to turn was to scripture and I had to believe it as if scripture were speaking directly to me.

So what is the truth?

1.  I am worth rescuing.  (My theme Psalm is chapter 18)

2.  I am a reflection of the Creator.  (Gen. 1: 27)

3.  God has plans for me. (Jer. 29:11)

4.  He rejoices over me.  (Zeph. 3:17)

5.  I am holy and without fault in His eyes. (Eph. 1: 4, Col. 1:22)

6.  My story can be used for His Glory.  (Eph. 5:14)

I can only allow God to define me.  It is His truth that sets me free.  If I start defining myself based on what others think of me, then I become paranoid and lost in the insanity of it all.  I have my doubts and setbacks.  My last blog entry can attest to that.  But I know that God knows my name, and regardless of who I am in relationship with humanity, I am precious to Him.

What truths do you base your life on?  What lies have you believed?  How do you allow those things to define you? 

The Pain of Beauty

As women, we go through great pains in order to be Beautiful.  Although I am not much of a froo-froo girl, I still endure my fair share of torture.  Take those eyebrow waxings for example–ouch!  And although pedicures are a way to pamper oneself, I have to admit they hurt a bit.  Then, we don elaborate jewelry before we leave the house and have a ritual of putting on make-up every morning, oh, and the hair.  Living in the South where “big hair” rules, taking the time to do hair can take up most of the morning.

We do all this to feel beautiful.  It is a woman’s yearning to be the Beauty.  To feel like she is Beautiful.  John Eldridge in Captivating describes a woman as Beautiful when she is “fully present” and at “rest” within herself.

But how does one come to be at rest within themselves?  John Eldridge answers this question as well.  He states (paraphrase), “that a woman becomes Beautiful when she knows who she is.”

About eight years ago I had no idea who I was.  I really had no idea of my own identity.  There are many pages in my journal from that time where the words, “Who am I?” are sketched across the top or off to the side.  I felt lost without an identity.  I didn’t know who I was, yet, I felt that I was more than just a wife and mother.  The questions of “Who am I?”  and “What is my purpose in life?” haunted me day and night.  It had to be more than just who I was in relation to other people.

I was not at peace or at rest within myself.  I was anything but beautiful.  In fact, I ducked and dodged other people because I thought I had nothing of myself to give.  No light to bear.

During those years I hated myself intensely.  I hated the void of who I had become.  I lived in fear of being asked to do things, and more fearful of just being a wallflower and no one noticing I existed.  But wallflowers have to bloom, right?

Not necessarily, I think blooming is a choice we make.  We have to pursue the blooming process.  I did.  I wanted more than what I had, so I chose to learn to bloom.

I started hearing God through the voices of my children.  They taught me so many lessons during that time.  They taught me that it is okay to involve God in the minute details of my life.  That if I ask God for something as simple as to make the bees in our yard go away He will.  They also taught me there is Beauty in imperfection.  That was a very important lesson for me to learn.

I also discovered that God knew my name and that I undoubtedly belong to Him.

The Psalms repeatedly speak of God pulling the Psalmist up from the mire or the pit of despair so that others can see and be amazed at what God can do.  It takes a journey of dark to light to have a testimony.  Those who have made this journey can bear so much more light to those who have never walked the darkened road before.

“Weeping may continue through the night , but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

It is God’s desire to pull you up out of the pit of despair.  He wants His glory to be seen through you.  God’s desire is for you to reflect the ultimate Beauty–His Beauty.

What “pit of despair” has God pulled you out of?  I want to hear your story.  

The Flood

A couple of years ago we had a MAJOR flood in our area.  It was unreal.  We didn’t expect it.  We weren’t prepared.  Dams threatened to break.  Bridges threatened to collapse.  A rain system simply settled on top of us and deluged for days.

The river system that runs through our neighborhood is usually very calm.  But during this time it cut straight shots from river bend to river bend resulting in houses, which were not even close to the river, being swept away down to the foundation.  School’s portable classrooms floated away and people drowned on flooded, congested interstates where the waters rose faster than the cars could get out of the way.  We watched in horror  from our television screens, helpless.

When it was over and the waters receded, it looked like a tornado, not a flood, had hit our town.  Places where the water had risen and tumbled by with such extreme force the landscape had been wiped clean.  School was closed for the rest of the year.  Hardly anything that the water had washed over remained.  On each side of the riverbank yards and yards outstretched of huge trees which had been left laying flat by the tumbling water.  They called it “the thousand year flood.”

I still drive by these places and the landscape is still not the same as it was prior to the flood.  They are recognizable, yet different. The landscape is not quite the same.  Old oaks which once stood firm now lay on their sides, rotting.  River bends were made straighter.

It was a flood that had never been seen in this area.

I can’t help but meditate on what the flood meant.  How it stripped everything away.

In church, I have heard many references in either prayer, words of meditation, or song regarding the Holy Spirit “flooding” our soul.  I used to equate that to filling our soul.  But after seeing first hand the effects of a flood, I think it means so much more than that.

It means to wash everything that was there prior away.  Not just wash as in cleaning a window, but to completely strip it and leave it barren.  I think about this being done to me.  When I pray for a flooding of the Holy Spirit, I am asking for all that I was prior to be washed away.

But then, I am ready to be filled.  If I have baggage in my soul, then there is not much room for the Holy Spirit to reside.  I understand the stripping.  I have to be stripped before I can be filled.  Only after I am stripped am I ready.

Soon we returned to the areas which were flooded and we rebuild.  We go back to the river and learn to live life on it once again.

In some ways, life is better.  Houses were remodeled and new life begins on the riverbanks.  Roads were restored.  People came together.

Can it be that way with our soul?  After it is stripped can it be restored?  I believe so.  Not only will it be restored, but it will be richer and more beautiful than before.

“Father, flood my soul with your Holy Sprit.  I am ready to be nothing of myself and filled completely by you.”

Sticks and Stones

My daughters who are three and four years old are into a stage of name calling.  “You’re a tiny baby” one of them will say.  Of course, the other then retorts with, “No, you’re the tiny baby.”

This eventually leads to the one who is younger by only a year running to me and saying, “Elle is calling me a tiny baby.”

Usually this ends in me reprimanding them both for name calling.  Lately though, I have taken it to a different level.  My first tactic was to say something along the lines of, “Well, mommy says you’re a big girl.”  But then, after a few times of saying that, it dawned on me:  What does my youngest daughter, Caroline,  believe about herself?  She seems to be so easily swayed by either my definition of her being a “big girl” verses her sister’s definition of her being a “tiny baby.”  So I changed my tactic again.  When Caroline would run to me with the latest name she had been called by her sister Elle, I would stop and ask her, “What does Caroline believe about herself?”  At first this conversation required prompting, as Caroline would just look at me like I had two heads.  “Does Caroline believe she is a tiny baby or a big girl?”

“I’m a big girl,”  she would exclaim.

“Then you don’t need to worry with what your sister thinks or calls you,” would be my reply to her.

So simple of an argument, but yet, so relevant.  Even as adults, we often let other people’s opinions of who we are, what type of person we are, what we are good at, what we are not good at define us.  We have to remember though, that everyone’s perception of who we are is influenced by who they are and the lenses of life through which they view the world.  Those lenses are colored by their own past, things people have said to them, their own views and life experiences.  Any remarks they would make you is from their own perception.

So if someone should tell me, “Holly, you are horrible.”  I should not give much credence to it.  It is just their perception. On the same token, should they say, “Holly, you are wonderful.”  It should not matter.  It should not matter because I should have my own definition of who I am.  If I have one editor tell me I am a good writer, yet another tell me I need to give it up.  Who do I believe.  I believe what I am told from the Spirit of God — He tells me to write.  So I do.  Sticks and stones.  .  .

This was a struggle for me for a long time.  I have many journal entries where the phrase, “Who am I?” is doodled in the margin.  I had no sense of myself.  I went to college in my thirties to try to find myself.  I allowed my paranoia of what other people thought of me define me.

Through it all, I kept hearing the voice of God calling on gentle breezes, “You are mine.”  For a long time I argued that of 6 billion people on Earth, God could not possible know who I was.  I was wrong.

A voice that said, “You are mine, and I am calling you to me,” persisted.  For many years I did not allow myself the believe the voice of God telling me I was of value.

“I am calling you to me, and you are to be a light bearer to others.”

No way.  Not me.  You got the wrong person.  I can’t be a light bearer.  I have too much darkness in me to bear light,” my thoughts would reply back.

Slowly, and through a couple of traumatic events, God revealed Himself to me.  He does know my name and He does believe that I am of value.  I have worth to Him.  So much so, that He has pursued me for years.  He has been patient with me.  Through listening to what God believed about me, my definition of who I am started to change.  Casting Crowns song, “The Voice of Truth” became a mantra for me.  If I believed God was truth, I had no choice but to submit my own beliefs to be in alignment with His.  I had to believe for myself what God believed of me.

I am worth fighting for.

I am worthy.

I am a light bearer.

I make mistakes.

He delights in me.

He raised me up.

I am valuable.

I am loved.

What do you believe about yourself?

Relinquishing comfort for healing

Christ Healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, Murillo
The pool of Bethesda was probably beautiful in its day.  With its grand columns, and open air,  at one time I bet it was a much sought after pool for relaxing.  The name Bethesda literally means “house of mercy.”  It is at the Pool of the house of Mercy that Jesus is at during a festival.  (See John 5:1-15).  The Pool had five covered porches.  Whether it was because of the festival or an ongoing thing, the pool of Bethesda was covered with those who were ill, lame, poor and blind.  Now there was a legend about the Pool of Bethesda that occasionally an angel would come down and stir the water.  Whomever made it into the pool first received healing.  It was there that Jesus met a man who had been sick (some translations say lame) for 38 years.  When Jesus saw him He asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

You would think the man would say yes, but instead he gives excuses.  “I can’t sir.  For I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up.  While I am trying to get there, someone else always get in ahead of me.”  He never once said he would like to receive healing.  Many scholars refer to this as a story where we get to comfortable in our brokenness and continue to live there instead of seeking the healing hand of God.

I have a friend who is like this.  Her life is in quite the mess, yet instead of taking the steps to get well, she waits for it to happen.  But isn’t that all of us to some degree.  Isn’t that why AA says you have to hit rock bottom and get sick and tired of being sick and tired before you are willing to make progress?

We find perverse comfort in wallowing in our own wounds.  To read out for healing is a scary thing indeed.  The end of the story is that Jesus healed the man.  Jesus simply told him to “get up and walk” and he did.  He no longer had to wait on an angel to stir the water.

We are often comfortable in our day to day lives.  I take medication for being bi-polar.  Although my symptoms are well controlled, it is the goal of my dr and myself to get my medicines the best they can be, so that I can enjoy life to its fullest extent.  Together we do a pretty good job.

I don’t know that our wounds are there for a reason.  But I do believe that overcoming our wounds can have healing power for others if we allow it.  I think Brennan Manning explains it best in his book Abba’s Child.  He too talks about the pool of Bethesda.

“Thorton Wilder’s one-act play “The Angel That Troubled the Waters,” based on John 5:1-4, dramatizes the power of the pool of Bethesda to heal whenever an angel stirred its waters.  A physician comes periodically to the pool, hoping to be the first in line and longing to be healed of his melancholy.

The angel finally appears but blocks the physician just as he is ready to step into the water.  The angel tells the physician to draw back, for this moment is not for him.  The physician pleads for help in a broken voice, but the angel insists that healing is not intended for him.

The dialogue continues–and then comes the prophetic word from the angel:  Without our wounds where would your power be?  It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women.  The blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living.  In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.  Physician, draw back.””

 

If that is the case then I am definitely a wounded soldier.  Today I am glad I am a wounded soldier, but there was a time where I spent my days by the pool of Bethesda comforting myself and believing that I didn’t deserve all that life had to offer.  I want to tell you think about the ways your life resembles the Pool of Bethesda.  Do you need healing, but have given up on receiving healing?  Do you have an excuse every time the water is stirred?