Coming Home Again

Gosh I’ve missed this space. Coming back here feels like walking into a former home, like a going back in time. I am not the same person today that I was when I was last here.

The past few years have been hard. There has been pain. And I had to go away for a while to process it all. This year has been a year of restoring, of growth, of finding our way again.

I started a new blog, thinking that was the answer to finding my words again. I posted there once. Turns out this space is still my heart, but my heart wasn’t yet ready to open up again.

It’s strange, this season of life we are in. Our kids are no longer little and the stories and the struggles aren’t always as benign and innocent anymore, so we don’t share them as publicly, to protect and honor our daughters’ personal stories that are theirs alone to tell. It’s a good and beautiful season, but it’s often a very lonely season as we try to navigate a path that is constantly changing.

And our lives are no longer as isolated and individual. I used to feel a sense of security sometimes telling a story here or there, because by the time some random reader saw one of us in real life, most likely the rawness of the moment had passed and we could talk freely about this or that. But now we are out and about with real people every day and the processing has to be done before the story is set free and that’s much harder because so much of that processing honestly happened in this space.

So it’s been a year or two of relearning.

So much has happened since I was last here consistently. Our girls have grown and changed and it’s been hard and beautiful and often surreal. Three kids are in private school. I now work outside the home. We started a new branch of the non-profit we are involved in. We bought an investment property on a nearby lake. I travel to Haiti multiple times a year. Our business has grown exponentially.

Normally these types of things happen slowly. You go along each day in life until you pause and look back and see how much things have changed. But these things all seemed to happen in a Big Bang type explosion. One day life felt normal and then the next it had been completely upended and we had to find our way again.

And sometimes we could see God there with us. And sometimes it felt like we had imagined Him because how could he be there in all that pain? But now we have enough distance to be able to look and see that He was there all along.

We have a joke we send back and forth sometimes when life seems too ridiculous: “They say God gives you only what you can handle. Apparently God thinks I’m a bad-ass.”

And sometimes it feels like that as one thing after another comes our way. But we know deep down that God keeps sending us these trials and temptations and utter ridiculousness not because He thinks we are bad-asses, but because He wants us to be daily reminded that ultimately He’s the only one who is. We can do nothing of our own strength but we sure try, so He stretches us to the end of ourselves until we have no choice but to cling to Him and let Him do the work in us and through us and for us.

Ultimately that’s what these past few years have been – God continually reminding us that we aren’t as capable as we often think we are. That we need Him daily for every breath, for every step on the path. That just when we think we’ve got life under control, He’s still the one ultimately in control, and our safest place is resting fully in Him.

So we continually to do all these things He has called us to….

because it’s all For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Uncertainty

The scary part about exploring the dark places of the soul and taking lids off of boxes long shelved is never being sure what will be found inside. We have walked some shadowy places in recent years and we have doubted everything we’ve ever believed. Is God real? And if He’s real….is He good? (Which is a far scarier question in my mind.) Is there truth? Is there black and white? Or is it all varying shades of grey? What are the absolutes and how can we be sure? Everything feels entirely upended and out of sorts.

It’s been almost two years since the winter that undid us. I don’t really remember what our marriage was like before that. I’m sure I don’t remember it correctly. We are remaking us – as individuals and as a couple. And it’s hard. It’s messy. And it’s terribly unknown.

It’s uncomfortable living in all the uncertainty. Being take-charge people who like to have a plan, a direction, these years in shadowy places – wandering, wandering, endlessly, aimlessly wandering – they make me anxious. My skin starts to feel too small and my breathing becomes rushed.

I still have no answers. We still sit in the shadows. But one thing I know – most things are only frightening in the dark. Bring them to the light and our fears become smaller. And we find we are not alone.

So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m telling you that we desperately love Jesus, but we struggle with our faith in the goodness and trustworthiness of God sometimes. And we love each other, but marriage is hard and we want to quit sometimes. And we don’t need to be preached at, but we would love to be walked with. In honesty and grace. Because I know we are not alone. There are others who wrestle with the questions every day and sleep with doubt every night.

When Matt turned thirty, his mom took him out for lunch and told him to be aware, because this was the decade when our friends would start getting divorced. And almost ten years ago, I think we found that interesting and maybe possible, but a little hard to believe. But now, at the other end of that decade, we see it. And we know the struggle and the temptation and how hard you have to fight for and work on marriage. Daily.

Something similar is true with faith. It doesn’t grow in a vacuum. It must be fed and nurtured. But God is big enough for our doubts, so we bring them freely.

The internet is a much scarier place to bring those doubts, but you all know that’s how I roll. So I bring them, and I invite you to bring yours. Let’s create a safe place to wrestle with these mid-life questions and walk in the uncertainty together.

These Disconnected Interwoven Things

She has this box she keeps locked in a closet in her heart. In it are all the hurts and pains and losses of the past thirty-something years. She used to carry them with her, as a part of herself, in a way that was healthier, more whole. Until the hurts became too heavy and she couldn’t bear up under the weight anymore. So she tucked them all haphazardly into a box and put the lid on tight. And she pushed the box into a dark corner of the closet floor, behind happier memories and lighter times.

Every once in a while the lid threatens to come off the box. A comment is made, a memory is triggered, and the lid gets tipped. But she reaches in fast and puts the lid back on. Because the risk of that lid coming off is too great. The pain stuffed inside is too deep and seems endless and she doesn’t know if she could ever find a proper home in her heart for all of it.

Yet she knows that box cannot stay there forever. Pain like that has a way of demanding to be dealt with; forcing its way into the light. But she doesn’t know where to begin. There isn’t time in each day to properly work through the pain, to walk through the memories and find a place for each of them to live in their own broken freedom. She has seen the damage hiding can do, but she sees no alternative. Showing her brokenness could break them all.

 

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Waiting.

I’m nearly forty now, neither young nor old, but I know this: I could spend my whole life obsessing over THAT THING I’m currently waiting for. Because the waiting? The searching? The wondering?

It never ends. There’s always something OUT THERE. There’s always something just beyond my grasp. Maybe this is what it means to be alive: longing. There’s always something I’m looking for, and sometimes I find it. But often I don’t.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

~ Shawn Smucker, via emilyfreeman.com

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I read Shawn’s post on waiting this morning and it resonated. And I find myself waiting to write again. Waiting for a happy ending to come out of that dark season. Waiting to be able to tell the full story. Waiting for full redemption. Waiting for all the pieces to come together.

But what if there is still a story to be told now? A story written in the waiting? The story of learning to laugh again. The story of watching God rebuild and restore my family. The story of fighting for my children and my marriage and my ministry. The story of wanting to throw in the towel but never backing down. The story of surrender and staying soft.

There is a story there. And it requires taking the lid off the box. The risk is great. But maybe the time is now.

For His Glory ~

Sara

When Grace Shines Through

Barely old enough to buy the champagne we toasted with, we took vows and we promised forever and I felt safe and you had hope and we walked back down that aisle with grand plans but no idea what the future held.  And a decade and a half later we woke up in the middle of our hurried thirties with five kids and a business and a million responsibilities, next to a person we thought we knew too well but maybe didn’t know at all.

And we both broke vows and we broke each other’s hearts and you lost hope and I built walls to keep myself safe.  And we almost lost it all.

But hope holds on and safety can be found when we refuse to let go.  And for a year now we have fought, often with each other, but also for each other.  And we have learned that it’s possible to fall in love with the same person over and over and over again.  We’ve learned that forgiveness comes at a cost but it is worth the price because redemption is our reward.

And on nights when I want to give up and make my own safety behind those walls, on nights when you lose hope and we wonder if we will ever be us again, God reminds me that our surrender is to Him because our trust is in Him, and we must choose to stay soft toward one another and always assume the best.  Because this love is real and true and imperfect and broken, but in all those broken places, His grace shines through.

Sometimes I wake up with the sadness
Other days it feels like madness
Oh…what would I do without you?

When colours turn to shades of grey
With the weight of the world at the end of the day
Oh…what would I do without you?

A decade goes by without a warning
And there’s still a kindness in your eyes
Amidst the questions and the worries
A peace of mind, always takes me by surprise.

I feel like I’m walking with eyes as blind
As a man without a lantern in a coal mine
Oh…what would I do without you?

My imagination gets the best of me
And I’m trying to hide lost at sea
Oh…what would I do without you?

The difference between what I’ve said and done
And you’re still standing by my side
A guilty soul and a worried mind
I will never make it, if I’m on my own

So you’ve got the morning, I’ve got midnight
You are patient, I’m always on time
Oh…what would I do without you?

You’ve got your sunshine, I’ve got rainclouds
You’ve got hope, I’ve got my doubts

Oh…what would I do without you?
Oh…what would I do without you?
Oh…what would I do without you?

~ Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Brave Trust: Stay Soft {One Word for 2016}

2015 gave the word brave and it had its own anthem:

I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

Bethel Music – You Make Me Brave

And that theme carried me through the year as God called me out into the water and the unknown again and again and again.  And in November I began to get a feeling for what His word for me would be for 2016.  It was trust but it wasn’t.  So I kept asking, seeking, praying.  And God showed me how my fear, my lack of trust, causes me now to throw up walls, to push people away, to become hardened, almost in an instant.  And then I knew, my word embodying the idea of trustand taking a cue from a friend: soft.  A softness that signifies being open, being vulnerable, being free from chains and walls and fear.

And already, only nine days into the year, it feels He’s asking too much and fear wants to wrap its ugly arms around my heart, and truth fights to keep the walls down, to keep my heart set free, and soft.  And 2016 is given an anthem as well.  A song to carry me through the unknown days and uncharted waters that lie ahead….

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Lauren Daigle, I Will Trust in You

“There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood”  – Whatever this year holds, He’s already been there.  Whatever tomorrow brings, He is good.

Here’s to 2016: a year of brave trust and staying soft.

For His Glory ~

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Farewell, 2015 {And Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out}

It’s been a quiet year here.  This post will make seventeen for the whole year.  There was a time I would post that in a month.  And I miss this space, I miss the writing, I miss my readers.  I miss sharing and growing together.  But the words just haven’t come.  It’s been a year of quiet introspection and working things out with pen and paper and God. And it’s like my public words are locked in some great vault and they are numerous – so many things I want to say and share – but I wait for someone to come and turn the key.

But as I look back on this last day of 2015, on a year that I am more than happy to see go, on a year that has taught me more than I was ever brave enough to ask about myself, my relationships, and my Jesus, I know that I am ending the year with deeper appreciation for all three, a deeper understanding, a deeper peace in Christ than I knew to be possible twelve months ago.

Sometimes God takes us places we would never ask to go, places we think He would never ask us to go, and in those places we learn things about Him and about ourselves that we never would have known otherwise.  And we can choose to become bitter or we can choose to let Him make us better; we can choose to nurse our hurt and shut the world out or we can let Him use those places we would not go to lead us to places we’ve always wanted to be.

This is…what God desires of each of His children. He wants us to be ‘more than conquerors,’ turning storm clouds into chariots of victory. It is obvious when an army becomes ‘more than conquerors,’ for it drives its enemies from the battlefield and confiscates their food and supplies. This is exactly what this Scripture passage means. There are spoils to be taken!

Dear believer, after experiencing the terrible valley of suffering, did you depart with the spoils? When you were struck with an injury and you thought you had lost everything, did you trust in God to the point that you came out richer than you were before? Being ‘more than a conqueror’ means taking the spoils from the enemy and appropriating them for yourself. What you enemy had planned to use for your defeat, you can confiscate for your own use.

~ Streams in the Desert, December 18

Looking back on the past twelve months, fear has wanted to shut the world out but God has reminded me to be brave and so I keep tearing walls down and letting God do what He needs to do in my heart.  And looking back on the past twelve months, I see the spoils I have taken from the enemy.  What Satan had planned to use for my defeat, for my utter destruction, God has confiscated for His own glory and my good.  And He has taken this hard, dark year, and made it a thing of incredible beauty.

As we look forward to 2016 so many things feel unknown, as they should.  And my heart, even after all I’ve learned this year, my panicked, terrified heart wants to guard itself and enforce every measure of control I can imagine in my little world.  Yet, I know that’s not God’s way or God’s best.  So I keep tearing down walls, I keep being brave.  I choose to stay soft, to trust, to follow Him, wherever the next twelve months take us.  Because I know He is good.

For His Glory ~

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Weeks in Review: 2015 {March & April}

**In the interest of getting this published before June, the photos in this post are in completely random order.  They may or may not have anything to do with the content that surrounds them.  This may cause some anxiety for my OCD friends.  

Oh, hey there, mid-May!  How’d you get here so fast?

March and April were busy, hard, beautiful months.  I’ll try to catch us up to the beginning of May and then do a May-recap at the end of this month.

March was in like a lion, out like a lamb with more than just the weather.  God and I hit rock bottom that first week of March and I nearly thought that the demons that haunted me all winter were in one final push to kill me.  I think I was right.  But we did (I think…I hope!) hit bottom and things are slowly looking up and it’s two steps forward, one and half steps back, or sometimes three.  But more forward than back these days.  That season changed how I view God, though, and we continue to wrestle, though I’m so tired of wrestling and want simply to rest in Him, but that’s another post for another day.

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Amania’s 8th birthday (March)

March was also MAACS competitions for the girls.  They all worked hard; Emma and Ellie earned some medals, they all earned more of my admiration.  These girls have so many gifts.  Between weekends of MAACS, there was testing week and pushing through all of that.  Normally a bit of a break for us, we kept going on school with the promise of a vacation at the end of the month keeping us going.

March also began a journey of pursuing other educational options for the girls.  Matt and I both felt very much on the same page that we needed to do something different next year, so we scheduled tours and asked questions and kept on praying.  We visited the local private schools and our public school options and we kept on praying, but chose not to discuss it until we finished the tours.  But in the meantime God gave me the gift of others speaking life and hope and truth into my leadership of our school and He began to work healing in my heart in that area and opening my mind and heart to trying again.  And by the time we finished touring, I knew that we needed to keep everyone at home again, with some staffing changes for next year, but with the reassurance that we are doing a good thing and everything will be okay.

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Sunny bunnies (March)

At the end of March we took a family trip to Lost Valley Ranch, our favorite family vacation spot.  It was definitely a different trip.  Our marriage remained in a very raw, fragile place from the winter.  And Influenza A made a valiant run through the girls the week up to leaving, leaving Amania to get sick last, right before we left.  She was “off” the whole trip and we’re still sorting out the why (aside from being sick).  But that’s also another post for another day.

April was soccer for three and school for all of us and my continued renewed enjoyment of running.  April was also endlessly cloudy and cool, which got old fast, but it brought us daily closer to the end of the semester and the school year.

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Pike’s Peak (March)

April was also Easter and the most sickeningly sugary (but cute!) cake I’ve ever made. We also enjoyed the second annual art show for our local home school organization. Such a fun event!

It occurred to me recently that I haven’t counted gifts here all year.  So, settle in or prepare to skim….

Chandler + Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods (March)

3113.  a quiet New Year with those I love most

3114. a blank page, a fresh start

Amania, Garden of the Gods (March)

3115.  a bunny for Emma

3116.  Monday – back to school, back to reality, praying for the joy to come

Ellie + Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods (March)

3117.  days in the dark, overwhelming sadness, trusting that faith grows here

3118.  time alone, away, to think, rest, reflect, renew

My people, Lost Valley Ranch (March)

3119.  sun shining outside, the Son shining in my heart and mind today

3120.  dinner, transparency, prayer – the body of Christ at work

Matt + Ellie, Garden of the Gods (March)

3121.  enrolled!

3122.  laughing with my girls at the dinner table

Heading out to ride, Lost Valley (March)

3123.  sleep, real sleep

3124.  time in the Word

Lost Valley (March)

3125.  warmer days, stunning sunsets

3126.  68* and a walk to the park in January

Morning Run, Lost Valley (March)

3127.  back to school – first day nerves, confidence found

3128.  the oldest one – driving my car, trying on my clothes – this hard, beautiful age – wanting to freeze time with this one, knowing it rushes on

Emma’s Monochromatic, MAACS (March)

3129.  candles and early morning quiet – the start of a new week

3130.  warm winter days

Chandler + Ellie, MAACS (March)

3131.  laughter with my people

3132.  trusting the Lord to provide all I need

Three blondes, MAACS (March)

3133.  weekend, snow, the Super Bowl with friends

3134.  permission to chase a dream; freedom from guilt for the cost

A cupcake of compassion (March)

3135.  snow skiing & knee injuries & educated friends who give free advice

3136.  a husband who hears and helps

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(March)

3137.  sunshine and February beauty

3138.  IF: Gathering and leaving strong and filled and known

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My kids think they’re funny (March)

3139.  hitting bottom (or so I thought)

3140.  seeking help

Sunset (March)

3141.  flowers that remind of new life and new hope

3142.  snow fall and birdsong

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(March)

3143.  lunch, laughter, and connection

3144.  time with my second-born

(March)

3145.  quiet evenings

3146.  a full schedule

(March)

3147.  dirty counters and floors – signs of a full, messy life

3148.  slow weekends, long date nights

(March)

3149.  snow

3150.  morning skies

(March)

3151.  girls – all five – who voluntarily play together on a Sunday night

3152.  friends who stop and pray right now

“You must put your soul in one position and keep it there.  You must anchor yourself steadfastly upon the Lord.” (April)

3153.  Winter Jam with my three bigs

3154.  sitting at the bottom of the pit

(April)

3155.  hard conversations and moving forward

3156.  tears, so many tears – all in His bottle

(April)

3157.  trepidatious hope

3158.  good days

Lunchtime for bunnies (April)

3159.  hitting bottom again

3160.  breakthrough and relief

Coffee love (April)

3161.  waking with a happy heart

3162.  testing week and tired kiddos

Art Show (April)

3163.  MAACS wins and losses – girls made stronger through it all

3164.  our last 8 year old

Dinner with dear friends (April)

3165.  vacation and time away

3166.  Colorado Rockies, Garden of the Gods, Lost Valley

Chandler’s Easter hair and Easter hare (haha) (April)

3167.  rich food and deep laughter at the table

3168.  horses and mountain trails and deck reading

Cake win! (April)

3169. spoken words that give strength, hope, life

3170.  good date nights

Cousins (April)

3171.  good work days and fun family nights

3172.  Easter and resurrection hope

PinFail vs PinWin – the first one still makes me laugh (April)

3173.  laughter with friends from far away

3174.  conferences and words that strengthen heart, mind, and soul

A drawing by Emma, given as a gift to our youth pastor and his wife when they moved away (April)

3175.  long weeks, tearful nights, and wilderness seasons that seem unending

3176.  prayers that echo and hearts that feel broken

Gracelaced art – I just love her stuff

3177.  hard decisions made and being on the same page

3178.  new roads for sweet friends; a tearful farewell

Christine Caine’s words (these and others) have ministered to me repeatedly the past few months (April)

3179.  weeks of searching that bring us closer

3180.  unexpected words that bring life

Another Gracelaced piece.  I don’t own this one, but I love it (April)

3181.  the sea, sun, and sand

3182.  deep conversations, tearful nights, hope restored again

(April)

3183.  the daily wrestling

3184.  a missed flight and a near-miraculous journey home

Cease endlessly striving for what you want to do, and learn to love what must be done.  Hanging where I can see it all day every day from my “desk” in the dining room.  (April)

That’s it, friends.  Not gonna lie, that “gifts” list was painful to walk back through.  It was a hard winter.  I’m daily learning to lean into and trust God again.  It’s a strange place to be, this wrestling, not trusting.  I’m not used to it.  It’s a growth season following the darkness of winter.  Perhaps beauty will burst forth soon.

Still Always For His Glory ~

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When God Feels Like an Enemy: An Update on the Past Six Months

In casual, everyday conversation, depression serves as a good synonym for sadness.  In this sense, it’s simply a mood state we all experience from time to time, typically after we’ve brushed up against one of life’s inevitable setbacks or disappointments.  For example, I’ve heard people say they were depressed after watching their favorite team lose a big game, or even after ripping a hole in a good pair of blue jeans.  Such “depression” doesn’t last for long, and it rarely affects our ability to function.

In a clinical context, however, the word has a radically different meaning.  It refers to a profoundly debilitating form of mental illness.  (The precise diagnostic label is major depressive disorder, but most clinicians simply call it depression for short.)  It’s a syndrome that deprives people of their energy, sleep, concentration, joy, confidence, memory, sex drive – their ability to love and work and play.  It can even rob them of their will to live.  Over time, depression damages the brain and wreaks havoc on the body.  It’s a treacherous illness – a shudder-inducing foe that no one in their right mind would ever take lightly, certainly not if they understood the disorder’s capacity to destroy life.

Stephen Ilardi, The Depression Cure

I’ve carried depression as part of my story for twenty years now, beginning with a major depressive episode, then settling into  predictable seasonal sadness.  I’ve skirted around a significant depression for almost two years, managing with oils and supplements and just believing that eventually life would settle a bit and my mind would find normal again.  I wondered when that would come, when it would happen, but found a place where I was content to just wait and keep on plodding along.  And then November came and I was pushed, emotionally, off of some great cliff into a darkness that still escapes description or explanation.  And I wrestled for weeks, months, to grasp hold of something, anything to make sense of it all.

Mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from normal experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain.  But it is not an immediately identifiable pain, like that of a broken limb. It may be more accurate to say that despair, owing to some evil trick played upon the sick brain by the inhabiting psyche, comes to resemble the diabolical discomfort of being imprisoned in a fiercely overheated room.  And because no breeze stirs this caldron, because there is no escape from the smothering confinement, it is entirely natural that the victim begins to think ceaselessly of oblivion.

William Styron, Darkness Visible

And that’s where I found myself as February wrapped up and March entered in.  Every time I thought I was making progress, gaining a foothold, getting on top of the wave that was this drowning depression, it was as if someone would come and physically shove me back under, to the bottom.  Until I could fight no more.

I felt like a pawn in someone else’s game.  I had prayed with no response.  I had asked God to show me what sin or error might have put me here.  Silence.  I asked others to pray for me.  Relief, then back under.  So finally I surrendered.  I was going to sit in that pit until God came back to get me. I had enough faith left to believe that He would.  Eventually.  When He was finished with whatever chapter of this story He was writing.  And so I would sit.  Because I couldn’t strive anymore.

It is not trying that is ever going to bring us home.  All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, “You must do this.  I can’t.”

C.S. Lewis

I was angry with God.  So angry.  I was empty and defeated.  I had no kind words to say to Him or about Him.  I felt completely abandoned.  I felt like He had turned His back on me.  I truly didn’t know if I could continue to trust a God who played people like chess pieces, who allowed broken hearts and broken lives.  Who allowed devastation around the world and in my own home.  It was all too much to bear.

Betrayed. My stomach turns at the word. I remember vividly when someone I loved dearly and deeply turned into an enemy. There was a proverbial knife in my back and I was hurt, angry, and aching. I wonder how many of you have walked through betrayal. It is awful. You’re powerless to stop the pain and you keep wishing in vain that it could somehow be a different story.

Jesus wished it could be a different story, too. Just before this scene in Mark where He is betrayed by Judas and arrested, He was in a garden on his knees in deep distress, begging His Father to take the cup (Mark 14:35). Jesus knew what was coming and that it would feel unbearable. He’d asked His three dearest friends on earth to pray for Him, too—but three times, He comes to find them asleep. In His deepest hour of need, dreading what lies before Him, His friends can’t even keep their eyes open.

Son of Man, Son of God, Living Word—betrayed for our sake. He drinks the cup of death that we deserve, so that our cups might overflow.

He was arrested so we could be set free. 

He was deserted so we could know we’re never alone.

He was betrayed so we could be held in the arms of Love.

Ellie Holcomb, She Reads Truth

And while I sat in that pit, Jesus was writing a different story, a deeper story.  He was writing the only thing He knows to write – redemption.  While I wrestled and strived with God, Jesus began a miracle work of healing and restoration.  Because He knows what it is to have God turn His back on you.  As He prayed in the Garden and all His friends slept, and then ran away.  As He hung on that cross and God turned His own broken heart away for the sin Christ bore…..Jesus knew what it was to be completely alone in the darkest place imaginable.

Restoration is not complete.  While I can see the daylight now and I sit on warmer ground, I still sit. And I can see that pit not too far behind me.  I spend every minute of every day literally “taking every thought captive”, practicing the things I’m learning to prevent the downward spiral that seems to be second nature right now.  I know one hard shove is all it will take to land back at the bottom.  And it terrifies me.  So I guard my heart and my thoughts with all vigilance.

Sometimes we don’t understand the things that happen to us.  Sometimes the hard things in our life are part of a story God is writing in someone else’s life.  But sometimes He gives us the opportunity to choose the direction the story will go.  I thought this winter would cost me everything – my mind, my marriage, my family, my faith.  I had nothing to hold on to. God allowed that.  And that’s still hard to rest in.  But God has allowed other dark seasons in my life, seasons that I also thought would cost me everything – right down to my life.  But He wasn’t finished writing.  And He isn’t still.  As a writer, I understand that stories often take unexpected and painful turns, and if our characters were humans with free will, they would no doubt rail against the author in anger and confusion.  And while human authors write countless different stories with good and bad endings, my God only writes one kind of ending in the lives of His children – restoration and redemption.  Truth, beauty, and hope.  He will restore what the locust has eaten. He will redeem.  He will make all things new.

I’ve always been fairly transparent about my battle with depression because it’s part of my story.  To hide it would be to hide what God is doing in my life.  And to hide it would give it more power.  Speaking it makes it less terrifying and gives freedom and courage to others who need to tell their story too.

God is big and mysterious and His ways are higher, and often harder, than our ways.  And sometimes that’s scary and confusing and hard to swallow.  But He is good.  And He is true.  And when I had lost almost all faith, that is what I clung to.  I knew He had a better plan, no matter what this plan cost me, this was not all He had for my life.  And no matter where you are today, God’s not finished.  And, yes, that sounds so cliche and I’m so weary of Christian cliches and you are too, but some are true.  And when you are in that pit, truth, real truth, God’s truth, is what must be held to, even when it seems dead and untrue and you feel completely forsaken.  You are not alone.  Somewhere, somehow, Jesus is writing redemption.  Just sit down and wait.  He will come for you.

For His Glory ~

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Looking Ahead: 2015 Goals

I really hadn’t planned on setting many goals for 2015.  At the beginning of 2014 I had about a 35-point list of things I wanted to accomplish.  And it was perfect for 2014 that felt full of hope and potential and promise.  I probably only accomplished half to two-thirds of those goals, but it got me motivated, spurred me on, and gave me at least a small sense of accomplishment at the end of the year.  But 2015 came in with a different vibe.  So much felt unknown and hazy.  I felt (and still feel) big changes on the horizon, but nothing concrete.  Setting a couple dozen firm, ambitious goals felt wrong somehow.

But my friend Chelsea posted about her own goal-setting time and it inspired me.  Hers weren’t lose 10 pounds or eat more real food or read to the kids more.  They were about living well, living full, and I realized that’s part of what I want for the coming year.  Ending 2014 feeling small and hollow created a deep desire to make 2015 a year to live life courageously and abundantly.

And so I pondered my own answers to the Eric Liddell quote she shared: When I _____, I feel God’s pleasure.  What makes me feel closest to the Lord?  What makes me feel alive in Him?  What desires and passions did He place deep within me, flames that still burn like embers, quiet but ready to fan to flame?  And I came up with my list:

  • Run (more accurately, finishing a run; but in order to do that, I have to get out and run)
  • Dance.  I have always always always loved to dance.  It makes my soul happy.  It makes my body happy.  I don’t do it nearly often enough.  I want to fix that this year.
  • Write truth and beauty.  Writing is a balm for me.  It’s how I process life and relate to God and the world.  Words are one of my great loves and stringing them together is, I believe, one of my gifts. Words are also incredibly powerful. I want the words I write to bless those who read them and please my Savior.
  • Laugh easy.  I love to laugh.  But I don’t do it nearly often enough.  I take life too seriously sometimes and in my effort to just have peace and order in the home, I can stifle my own laughter and be too stuffy.  And, seriously, who wants to live that way?  Life is hard enough – I might as well laugh when I can, which is a lot more than I do.  And stop taking myself so darn seriously.
  • Soak up the sun.  Sunshine warm on bare skin – it keeps me going through the cold winter months.  Last summer got a little crazy.  Part of that is the season of life.  But we bought a house with a pool to enjoy it – because Matt knows how alive and at peace the sun makes me feel.  Once the mercury breaks above 70 again, I want to be in the sun as much as I possibly can.  Or even days like today, when I can sit in a sunny window and enjoy the warmth soaking in.
  • Travel.  I love to travel.  Go places, see new and old things, visit friends, share the world with Matt and with my girls.  I would love to take a couple of road trips this year, if the Lord wills, along with a couple of our “standard” get aways.
  • Learn.  Oh goodness, I love to learn.  I think God placed in me that drive to be a lifelong student.  I love (or at least used to love) the classroom environment.  I thrived there.  So, one of the things I’m most excited about for this year is a return to school.  Lord willing, I will start taking classes at the local university again as of next week.  I have no idea what I’m doing or what direction this is going to go or honestly how this is going to fit in our already full lives, but I’m almost beside myself with excitement and nervousness.
  • Create.  I don’t always feel like I’m a creative person, but I know deep down I am. I need to create beauty from time to time.  Whether it’s spray painting a piece of furniture or garage sale frame, creating photobooks to chronicle our lives, decorating a room in our home, or making a gallery wall of art and photos, I feel so much joy and satisfaction creating beauty in my home.
  • Open the doors.  This not only refers to my insatiable need to open every door and window in our house as soon as the temperature breaks above 60 and until it’s so hot outside everyone is sweating inside the house and cranky at me, but also to how much I’ve come to realize I love hosting people in our home.  I’m not a great cook / entertainer / hostess, but I still love having people over.  I may serve the same menu of chicken tacos / guacamole / Summer Brew every time you visit, but we will laugh and relax and hopefully you will walk away feeling loved and cherished.
  • Be brave.  My word of the year – Brave.  Staring down a year that felt (feels) so nebulous and undefined, with scary adventures like returning to school and the real life truth of kids growing up and preparing them for the world, Brave is my theme.  To face the anxiety that bubbles just under the surface, to take on the fear that I can’t do this (whatever this may be at the time), to confront the lies that Satan whispers in the dark.  Brave is my theme and my challenge, but He makes me brave.

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What about you?  What goals do you have for this year – big or small?  How can we spur one another on in this journey of life?

For His Glory ~

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A Mental Reset

Matt sent me away for overnight last Friday.  He reserved a hotel room here in town and told me I was to go, read my Bible, drink some wine, write, and pray.  I was in need of a serious attitude adjustment and only extended time alone was going to cure it.

I’ve wanted to do something like this for years, but either the timing was never right or I felt selfish spending the money that way.  But I came away as refreshed and renewed as I always imagined I would.  It may become a regular thing.  My “mental health retreat.”

As I sat in my hotel room Friday night and Saturday morning, I worked on a couple of mindless projects and watched a mindless movie.  But I also spent some significant time in prayer and in the Word.  My depression has hit hard this year.  Some marriage issues in November and December knocked me off my feet and really opened the door for Satan to slither in and fill my head and my heart with lies.  Already feeling weak and insecure, I quickly bought all he was selling until I found myself in an emotional vortex that had nothing to do with weather or grey skies and everything to do with my identity.

But I came home on Saturday with a renewed understanding of God’s love for me, His truth, His promises, and His overcoming, overwhelming grace.  Below is a short list of the “Lies I’ve Believed and the Truth I’m Clinging To”:

  • What I do doesn’t matter / isn’t important enough.
    • I think this is a big one for us as women.  And I want to say it’s bigger for us SAHM’s, but I don’t know if that’s really true.  The world has convinced us that we can have it all and do it all and we (and life) can be awesome all the time.  And that’s just not true.  Working moms wrestle with feeling like they’ve let their family down by not always “being there”.  SAHMs feel like they’ve let the world (and God) down because we’re not out there “using our gifts”.  (<—- That one has been on repeat in my mind for years.)  The truth is, we can’t have it all or do it all.  Some of us can handle / juggle more than others, but we all have to make choices and sacrifices.  And those choices and sacrifices are personal and real and should not be trivialized.  And we’re all using our gifts, or growing in new areas, and most likely both.  Nothing is wasted with God.  Nothing.
  • I’m not using my gifts by being a home school mom.
    • This may be true (haha).  In a lot of ways I don’t feel like I’m using my gifts.  Teaching is **not** one of my gifts.  And, honestly, that’s okay.  There are days I don’t love home schooling.  Sometimes those days will string together into weeks, maybe months. I’m thankful for the privilege and the freedom it offers, but it’s honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  It’s exhausting and challenging and only occasionally rewarding in this season.  I do it because I honestly believe it is what God wants us doing; I have all along.  That is the only way I could have persevered all these years.  I also believe that the rewards will come.  Someday.  When my children have their own children.  Hopefully.  All of these things do not make me a bad home schooling mom.  I care passionately about my children.  I care passionately about their education and I make sure it happens, even if it’s not in the form of me doing science projects in the kitchen or tacking up historical figures all over my house or writing impressive blog posts about what we’re learning at home.  My diligent concern for my children and their education is what makes me a good homeschooling mom.
  • There are a limited number of good things available in the world.
    • This one is a fairly new struggle for me.  I don’t recall typically being a jealous person.  But I realized this weekend that over the past year or so I have begun to believe the lie that something good happening for someone else means there’s less good in the world for me.  As if God could run out of good gifts to give!  And so when I would see someone else doing something I wished I could be doing (going back to school, for example; or writing a book) I would find myself all knotted up inside, trying to be happy for them but simultaneously feeling like I had missed my chance at that life dream.  And so, I am choosing to remember that my God is the giver of ALL good gifts and He cannot run out of good things to give.  And the things I may think I want most may not be the best for me, at least not right now.  And I have to trust Him for that.
  • I will never be enough.
    • This one is actually true.  But that’s okay, because it’s true for everyone the world over.  Only God is enough for any of us.  And there is awesome freedom in that.
  • Depression is destroying my life and the lives of those I love.
    • The past ten weeks or so have been really, really hard.  My mind has grown increasingly dark and desperate.  As soon as I thought I was making forward progress a new wave of lies would crash over me and I would be drowning again.  The lowest point came as I laid in bed one night and honestly thought, My family would all be better off if I just left.  Moved away.  Started over.  They would be free from depressed me and everyone could start again. This is obviously a lie from the pit of hell, but it rang so true in my head that night.  And I knew something had to change.  Depression doesn’t write the story.  God does.  And the story isn’t over yet.  He has used depression to write beauty in my life before.  He can (and will) do it again.  And He can make my darkness something beautiful in the girls’ lives too.  (<——  please note – I am not going anywhere!  This is not a “cry for help”.  It’s just me sharing honestly.  My head is on much straighter than it was the night I had those thoughts.  All is well.  Everyone is stuck with me for a very long time again.  😉 )
  • I’m not valuable / talented / significant.
    • In an effort to keep things real in a social media world where everyone is trying to put their best face forward at all times, I know that I can often highlight my weaknesses / struggles / failures more than my strengths / talents / victories.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, as I regularly have someone walk up to me and thank me for keeping life real here and on Facebook.  But, again, somewhere in the past 12 to 18 months, I started believing that was all I had – I can’t bake, I’m not a great cook, I’m not a teacher, I can’t keep my kids’ schedules straight, I sleep through half marathons, and generally am pretty lame.  And that’s not true.  I do have gifts and talents and skills and strengths.  God gave them to me.  And while it is healthy for me in some ways to be fully aware of how not-perfect I am and put that side out there for the world to see, it’s also okay and glorifying to Him to recognize my gifts and talents and enjoy them and, without being obnoxious, maybe even share them with the world.

God is so good, my friends.  He is our healer, restorer, defender, and redeemer.  This week has been a refreshing change from the past several.  It hasn’t hurt that the sun has been out almost daily, but I know that the true change has come from the restoration of Truth to my heart and mind.  Thank you to the friends and family that have prayed so diligently for me these past couple of months.  Your love and concern were a candle that kept light in my world when everything was so dark. Depression is part of my story.  Oils help.  Sunlight and warm weather help.  Proper nutrition helps.  But I’m coming to realize more and more that it’s part of the story God is writing in my life.  And as I said above, depression doesn’t write the story, God does.  And His story is always redemption, restoration, healing, wholeness.  Maybe not here, but one day.  And so I can rejoice because He lets me see His glory and bring Him glory in my brokenness here and now.  And because I will one day live in whole, restored glory with Him forever.

For His Glory ~

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