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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Weeks in Review: 2014 {Weeks 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, & 52}

Here we are. December 29.  The year is almost over.  The past few weeks have been….interesting.  They’ve been crazy fast and unbelievably long.  It never really felt like Christmas and yet Christmas is over.  We celebrated three birthdays, and also enjoyed several Christmas celebrations since I last reviewed.  Time flies.  Except when it doesn’t.

Early November brought the return of Matt and Emma from Haiti and led straight in to planning and preparations for birthdays and Christmas celebrations.

We celebrated Ellie’s birthday first with the Pinterest fail of the year.  I was attempting to make a rainbow cake.  It didn’t work out so well.  (hahahahaha)

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Next up was Thanksgiving and some wonderful celebrations with family (and a few exciting games of Nerts here at home).

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Grace adopted a bunny.  His name is Timothy.  And he’s quite possibly the cutest thing ever.

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We celebrated Emma’s 13th birthday.  She opted to make her own cake.  I have no idea why?!?!?!

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We wrapped up the kitchen project, 98% of the way anyway.  Which, if you do many DIY projects like this, you know that’s as far as they ever get until it’s time to move.  The transformation is unbelievable.  We’re even a little shocked when we go back and look at pictures of what it was just three months ago.

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And then there was the #TeamNovember party for the Haiti team.  Ugly Christmas sweaters abounded.  As did food and laughter and friends new and old.

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Then we hit the final week of school, and crunch time for Christmas prep and shopping.  Up to this point we had been in kitchen and party mode 110%, so ten days out from Christmas I had done next to nothing in that department.  So, a day at the coffee shop to think and browse and organize uninterrupted, plus the magic of Amazon Prime and Christmas went off almost seamlessly.  (One child’s gift to me didn’t make it until the day after Christmas, but such is life.)  The girls and I celebrated the end of shopping and the end of the semester with cupcakes at a local shop.  Hurray!

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Last, but not least, we celebrated Matt’s birthday over the weekend.  He and I snuck away to Kansas City overnight where we talked about the past several weeks and looked ahead to next year.  We met some dear friends for late night refreshments and came away from the weekend feeling more connected to each other than we have in weeks.  He ended his birthday with an exciting case of the stomach flu (along with two of our girls; another one had had it two days before Christmas).  Fortunately it was fast moving and everyone was well again by the next day. I am beyond blessed to be married to the man that I am, and the past several weeks have reminded me of that.

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The beauty of the last seven or eight weeks have been heavily clouded by the return of a very dark season for me personally.  The sun, I’m pretty sure, didn’t shine at all for several weeks, and that never helps.  But some personal struggles in our home opened my heart and mind up to a season of confusion and doubt that I haven’t experienced in a very long time.  The Lord used my time away with Matt and some of our conversations, along with the prayers of a few dear friends, to lift that veil and peace and joy have returned to my heart and mind, and for that I am endlessly thankful.

I will close with the gifts I have listed over the past several weeks, along with another picture of Timothy, just because he’s so darn cute.

3081.  75* —> 35*; goodbye fall, hello winter

3082.  strange, long weeks; wrestling with attitudes and self-doubt; my God who is greater than all of it

3083.  soul baring talks on date night

3084.  raking leaves in the snow

3085.  bread and wine, laughter, prayer, and friends

3086.  blankets, heating pads, hot coffee – warmth on bitterly cold days

3087.  Timothy the bunny

3088.  a heart that longs for more

3089.  my big, big God

3090.  hard weekends, long talks, relationships restored

3091.  my Ellie turning 9

3092.  kitchen mess that means kitchen progress

3093.  nights to lie awake praying

3094.  Thanksgiving celebrations – food, family, laughter

3095.  words of grace, hope, and courage on a Monday morning

3096.  feeling tired and empty, running to Jesus

3097.  reconnecting with old friends

3098.  “Friendsgiving” and laughing til our sides hurt

3099.  a God who knows how my heart aches and is worn and weary and who folds me in His love

3100.  Emma turning 13 – the gift of her

3101.  a tree, lit and decorated

3102.  our 12th annual company Christmas party

3103.  continuing to wrestle

3104.  finally laying it all at God’s feet

3105.  peace

3106.  a good week

3107.  the end of the semester

3108.  the start of something new

3109.  celebrating the birth of Christ

3110.  answers to prayer and conversations that finally bring peace, restore trust

3111.  celebrating my beloved

3112.  the grace of God and essential oils that held off the stomach flu (for some of us at least)

That’s it for us right now.  I pray that your New Year is wonderful and filled with joy and hope.  But even if it’s not, we know that God is faithful and He is good.

For His Glory ~

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When you just need to embrace the struggle….

It’s five days til Christmas.  One Christmas movie has been watched.  Our Advent calendar sits, lagging chronically three days behind.  So does our Ann Voskamp Greatest Gift book.  We haven’t baked a single Christmas cookie or even thought about a gingerbread house.  We’re probably skipping the church light show.  The presents are just now bought, wrapped, and under the tree.  And I’ve barely played any Christmas music.  Pinterest and the competitive moms would say I’ve failed.  Some days it feels that way.

For my whole life it seems, Christmas has been my favorite holiday.  The lights.  The joy.  The wonder.  The gifts.  (Gift receiving is a love language.  Just ask Gary Chapman.)  But the past three Christmases I have learned the beauty of the struggle that surrounds the season.  That all isn’t merry and bright, but Jesus came to bring light and be light in a dark and lonely world.

But there is part of me that wants to skip it.  Just skip the season all together, like I want to skip January every year.  To just keep rolling along with school and business and life.  To not stop and see how perfect everything could be and realize just how imperfect and broken it really is.  Because the imperfect and broken just hurt.  And who wants to hurt during the most wonderful time of the year?

But this tension, this struggle, if we yield to them, they can open our eyes up even more to Jesus and the reason we celebrate the season at all.  We can lean hard into Him and lay all of our burdens down.  And He will meet us where we are and whisper truth and hope and good news.

And as I sit here, five days before Christmas, alone in my kitchen quiet, I can dwell on the darkness that has been the past seven weeks. I can focus on the lies that Satan speaks in the dark and the truth he doesn’t want us to see.  I can look at all the things undone, unsaid, forgotten, because when do we ever get it all right.  I can dwell on how my heart aches some days or how far away God can feel.  Or I can fix my eyes on the soft glow of the lights, the lights that twinkle hope and point us to the Light of the world.  I can fix my eyes on the tree that reminds me of the wood that made a manger where my Jesus was laid and that one day made a cross where my Jesus died.  I can fix my eyes on the beauty of the gifts all around me.  Not just the ones under the tree, but everywhere, the gifts that He never stops giving, if only we will open our eyes to see them.  And I can remember that just as a baby is not born without struggle, without pain, Christmas brings its own tension to draw us closer to the Jesus that we struggle to celebrate.

For His Glory ~

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A Choice

She wrestles through the weekend with thoughts of inadequacy, fear, and restlessness.  Tears fall and doubts creep in.  And on a Tuesday she decides to call it what it is: a battle for her heart and mind.

Satan’s game is to make us want what we don’t have, to make what we have never look like enough, and to make us doubt everything we believe, so she calls him on his dirty tactics.  If we stay at home, we want to have a mission outside the home.  If we are out in the workforce, we wish we could be home with our families.  When our children are young we long for them to grow up and become more independent.  When they grow up we miss the simple days of early childhood and naps and Nick Jr.  When marriage is rocky we wish for the smooth everyday type days.  When marriage is mundane we wish for excitement.  When we are alone, we wish for more friends.  When we are surrounded by others, we long to be alone.  And it’s true what they say: Jealousy comes from counting someone else’s blessings instead of our own.

So she calls foul and she sets her eyes on Truth.  And she plays music and she puts words in her heart.  And she knows that Satan knows her weak spot and he will be back but she knows every time she fights and rises again, she rises a little stronger.

When Jesus sets me free, the freedom is also eternally done, for no chain can ever shackle me again.  Once the Master says to me, ‘Prisoner, I have freed you,’ it is done forever.  Satan may plot to enslave me, but ‘if God is for [me], who can be against [me]?’ (Romans 8:31) – ‘Whom shall I fear?’ (Psalm 27:1).  The world with its temptations may seek to ensnare me, but ‘greater is he’ (I John 4:4) who is for me than all those combined who are against me.  The scheming of my own deceitful heart may harass and annoy me, but ‘he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion’ (Philippins 1:6).

Look Unto Me, Spurgeon, November 25

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.

For His Glory ~

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Wait

For two weeks she wrestles with insignificance and discontent and the desire for more out of life.  And she wonders where is the line between contentment and complacency, between feeling settled and feeling like you were made for more than menu plans and car pools?  On one hand she’s more than satisfied with this simple life and on the other she longs for adventure and creativity and a little bit of the unknown.  And she wonders what does God want for this one life He’s given?  What is His best?

And she comes to the end of two weeks and has no answers, only more questions, more wrestling.  Her husband encourages her to find what she’s passionate about and invest in it.  But that takes time and energy, neither of which are found in abundance these days.

So she reads.  She reads Found and has thoughts on prayer and drawing closer to God, but is most struck by the one line “Maybe….I want God to like me most.”  And maybe that cuts to the heart of it a bit?  Wanting to be liked the most….by God, by others.  It’s a disease called people pleasing and it’s a hard one to reconcile with that second-born nature of also needing to be a little bit different from those around you.  She finds herself in constant paradox.

And she thinks on the words of The Nester.  Words on contentment and that “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”.  And those words spoke peace to her domestic side over the summer but now maybe they are speaking on a deeper level.  Perhaps this imperfect, obscure life that feels so small is a place to learn contentment, patience, trust, faith.

And she knows that it’s in the hidden places God grows us, deepens our roots to make us strong for the future, and like winter for trees, dormant seasons give us rest.  But she longs for spring and life and productivity.  She longs to see fruit and abundance and growth.

She has no answers and so she waits in the silence.  She waits for the rain.

For His Glory ~

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2014: Weeks in Review {Weeks 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, annnnd 44} (Holy cow.)

It’s November 2nd, and I find myself with a couple of quiet hours in the house.  Alone.  For those of us that need times of quiet, this is truly a Sabbath rest.  Wind blows outside and leaves fall like ticker tape.  The calendar page has changed, Halloween is past, and the holiday season is officially upon us. Christmas music is playing at the mall and I finally turn it on at home because I can’t have Simon Management beat me to my favorite time of year.

September and October were wonderful, crazy, beautiful months that flew by, filled with sports, sports, and more sports.  Having avoided the sports circuit for so long with our girls, this was a wild and fun (and sometimes overwhelming and exhausting) season for our family.  We learned that having five kids in four different activities during the same eight week period with only two drivers in the home made for some interesting challenges and a lot of calling on gracious friends with extra room in their cars and on Grandpa and Grandma to help with the shuttling.  We are crazy thankful for everyone that helped us make that schedule work!

 

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So September was a little nuts.

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Soccer season and road trips always make me wish we had a Suburban.

The beginning of September brought us the third annual Capitol Craze 5K Mud and Obstacle Run.  This event benefitting Haiti Lifeline Ministries has been a highlight of our fall since its birth.  It was a beautiful day for a race (although the poor kiddos had some chilly, chilly temps to run in) and it was a very successful fundraiser for the ministry.  We are so thankful for the opportunity to serve alongside our kids as well as many wonderful friends and family members while benefitting some of our favorite Haitian cuties.

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Behind the scenes work on registration and social media for the race meant some late nights, which means I consumed a lot of coffee the first two weeks of September.

The 300 foot water slide was a huge hit.

Race day started off foggy and cool, but it turned out to be an amazing day.

September also took us to Branson, Missouri, where we celebrated the marriage of the girls’ youth pastor (and our friend) to his beautiful bride.  The weekend was a wonderfully refreshing time for all of us girls.  We rented a condo, did absolutely nothing on Saturday (until it was time to go to the wedding), and just generally enjoyed being together without being busy in the midst of a very busy season.  The wedding was one of my all-time favorites.  It was a beautiful, peaceful ceremony that showed the couple’s spiritual maturity and love for the Lord and each other.  It was a beautiful thing to see with my daughters all watching as well.

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Ready for the wedding!


I had to introduce the girls to hot, fresh Krispy Kreme before we left town!

While the girls and I were in Branson that weekend, Matt stayed home and started our kitchen renovation.  I would have loved to have him join us at the ceremony, but I also love that my kitchen no longer looks like a doctor’s office waiting room.  It’s still a work in progress (the joys of a DIY), but so much better.  I even scored a gigantic hole in the wall between the kitchen and dining room (a much needed change).

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Before: 1970’s Jenn Aire cooktop that was top-of-the-line back in the day, but not equipped to serve the small army that is my family, and the beautiful backsplash tile. (#sarcasm)

Before: Sink, counters, backsplash.

Before: wallpaper and countertop matching – Level: Expert.

When you order a cooktop and have it shipped you take the very real chance that it will arrive looking like this.

After: Cooktop, take two.  And a glimpse of the countertops.

Before and After: the old doorway and new opening between the kitchen and dining room.  Also paint colors.

Late September and all of October were marked by extensive fundraising by Emma as she prepared to leave for Haiti.  She baked and baked and baked to raise the funds she needed and the Lord provided most abundantly.  As her mother, I was so blessed to watch the Lord provide through her hard work and watch her faith grow with each donation, large and small.  She has experienced first-hand now the lavish love of the Owner of the cattle on a thousand hills and has witnessed His extravagant provision for her.  And for the next several days she is enjoying the fruit of her labors as she plays with and ministers to the children at Lifeline.  I can’t wait to hear how God uses this time to work in her life.

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Fundraising: cookie dough and Oreo truffles were among some of the goodies Emma made and sold to fund her way to Haiti.

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I’m so thankful that both of our girls have had the opportunity to travel with Matt to Haiti.

October also brought the Kansas City Royals to the playoffs and eventually the World Series.  Matt has always loved baseball and has faithfully cheered on the Royals every summer, but even the girls and I got swept up in the excitement that was the Hunt for Blue October.  Their games brought a lot of baseball instruction as well as late nights and great memories as a family.  And I think it probably earned the Royals at least five more lifelong fans (Minion #4 never really got into it all and often read a book during the games 🙂 ).

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Early in October I had told our Chef-in-Training that **if** the Royals made it to the World Series she could make bacon bowls the night of one of the games.  Well, Game 6 brought us bacon bowls, scrambled eggs, and chocolate chip pancakes, courtesy of Minion #2.

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Game 7 brought us a ballpark themed dinner with hot dogs, nachos, and soft pretzels.

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Late in October, Matt’s grandmother Marcye went home to be with the Lord.  She lived 95 years and left behind a legacy of love, forgiveness, mercy, generosity, and prayer.  She was a wonderful, godly woman that I am thankful to have known and that our girls knew and will always remember her.  We are thankful that she is whole and strong and dancing with Jesus now and that we will see her again one day.

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Chandler shared a birthday with Grammy and also a certain fondness for her.  This is the last picture of them together, from their birthday last June.  Grammy was turning 95 and Chandler 11.

And it wouldn’t be a complete Week (Months) in Review if I didn’t also count the gifts, because they have been many and because I never want to forget.

3029.  late summer storms

3030.  remembering how much I’m needed

3031.  being available

3032.  learning to overflow

3033.  a weekend experiencing and contemplating lavish generosity

3034.  a 300 foot water slide

3035.  turning 37

3036.  birthday wishes and calls

3037.  generous girls and husband and brownies with candles

3038.  fall evening and girls playing hide and seek with walkie talkies

3039.  another Capitol Craze completed – exhausting, hard, wild, fun, and always worth it

3040.  time to reconnect with far-flung friends – glory in how our love for Jesus and our love for Haiti keeps us connected

3041.  time to slow just a bit with the girls

3042.  sleep and lots of it

3043.  a wedding weekend for our favorite youth pastor

3044.  slabs of granite that sing glory to God

3045.  the gift of kitchen progress

3046.  fall showers and grace that rains down

3047.  walking out this faith in front of the girls – teaching them to live out their faith

3048.  long talks about loving difficult people – living out love

3049.  hot tears and tired children

3050.  messy days that make us lean hard on each other, on Jesus

3051.  no sleep, nights of prayer, late starts

3052.  still eating dinner on the deck; these beautiful fall evenings

3053.  weeks that feel disjointed and disconnected

3054.  Saturday soccer and shopping

3055.  Sunday that feels like a Sabbath

3056.  watching baseball history as a family

3057.  hard days

3058.  installed cooktop

3057.  surviving the wild weekend of sports

3058.  lessons in character, grace; inner beauty shown

3059.  Spoken banquet and time with friends

3060.  an empty calendar page

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3061.  rainy days, quiet evenings

3062.  a wonderful, wild, fun, hectic sports season ended

3063.  sermons on prayer and more fall dinners on the deck

3064.  Grammy

3065.  knowing Grammy is with Jesus and whole and healed and home

3066.  a beautiful celebration of the life of an amazing woman

3067.  mourning as those who have hope

3068.  a clean house and a hole in the wall

3069.  date nights and Royals wins

3070.  long weeks and late night baseball

3071.  a girl with her Haiti trip fully funded; praising our Jehovah Jireh

I’ll close with a few more random photos from the past few weeks…

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Last swim of the season

Amania got to have “flat” hair. Finally.  🙂

Chandler wearing nearly a dozen ties destined for kids on Haiti.  Because Chandler.

A welcome sight after nine months in the Old Testament.

The trouble with trees.

My kids make amusing to-do lists.


How you shop for clothes in a large family.  #HandMeDowns

I call this one Costumes for Lazy People – an old Tinkerbell costume and “Starbucks”.

May your coming week be blessed my friends.  May God meet you where you are be real and present in your life and may you glorify and enjoy Him in all you do.

For His Glory ~

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For When You Wear Regret Like a Robe…..

While on vacation Matt told me about an article he had read, written by someone who regretted saving herself, her virginity, for marriage.  And I laughed and said that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. I read her article.  And my heart breaks for the bad theology she was raised in and for the broken religion she was taught because, based on her post, so much of it is so far from the gospel of grace that Jesus lived.   And as a church we have so far to go to teach our young people that purity matters but it does not define us and that we stay pure because we trust that the God who made us really does know what is best for us, not because of pride or fear or shame.  And this morning I read Ann’s words on why to wait and they were beauty and grace.

On that same vacation I read Just 18 Summers and pondered the caricatured pressure, anxiety, and regret these families lived with and how they were an over-stated reflection of what so many of us feel and it seems to me that Satan has two primary tactics in which he wages war – pride and regret.  And while the book and the article are unrelated, the messages of pride and regret go hand-in-hand.

We wear our pride and think we could never make those bad choices, do those awful things – never have sex outside of marriage, never drink too much, smoke, do drugs, yell at our parents / spouse / children.  Because we’re good people, rule followers, righteous, and we just.don’t.do.that.  Until we do.  We fall and we stumble and we sin and we wake up in the dirt and mess of our own choices.  And while all can be forgiven, none can be undone.  And regret climbs on like a weight we can’t put down and it follows everywhere like an ugly shadow.

Or our pride keeps us on edge, trying to put forth an image, make us something we know we’re really not – pulled together, controlled, prepared, practically perfect in every way.  Until we realize we’re not.  And we see the time that was wasted pretending when we could have been living real. And our heart breaks for the relationships lost and broken while chasing the wind.

And I know regret well.  I can’t fathom regretting saving oneself for marriage.  It just doesn’t register.  But I can I understand the feelings of how is this suddenly okay, when it’s never been okay before.  I get that.  But giving away pieces of one’s soul in the name of being more at ease on your wedding night seems counter-productive.  But I know Satan will use any method to keep us from experiencing the fullness of God’s love, even to the point of making someone regret trusting His word.  And I have bags full of stuff I could carry around and regret from my pre-marriage life, but I’ve never been a big fan of living with regret and I see how those things shaped me and changed me and life carries on because God is bigger than all of it.  And while my pride was totally stripped, regret never really haunted me.

Until I became a mother.  And the thought of how my singular influence could so shape a life and that latent perfectionist within has never been able to handle the pressure and Satan found a way to saddle me with that burden of regret early and I daily have to lay it down.  The things that should have been said differently, or not said, or should have been said that weren’t.  The time that should have been used more wisely.  The snuggles I skipped, the stories we didn’t read, the encouragement I didn’t give to my husband or children.  And the hours I could spend focusing on what didn’t happen…..that’s when Satan wins a victory.  Oh, I could invest so much time and energy into what could have been but what would be the point?  I cannot go back.  I don’t intend to have more babies just so I can try again.  God has given me this one marriage and these five girls.  He’s given me eyes to see where we need to go, not just what we missed in the past.  I can’t go back and re-do any of it.  But I can make the most of now – being present, being available, being real.

And I think this concept of regret is a fairly Western, 21st century problem.  I don’t imagine my grandparents or great-grandparents or yours sitting around the fire at night lamenting all the “quality time” and “experiences” their children didn’t get.  They didn’t feel pressured to provide swimming pools or elaborate fire pits or elite sports teams or study abroad opportunities to make their lives full.  They lived their one life the best they could.  They loved, cared, and provided for their families the best they knew how.  Our generation has the luxury of worrying about the quality of time we spend with each other  or activities we are involved in and we’re killing ourselves because of it.

There are so many many things that could have been done differently.  I don’t want to spend this one life looking back wishing for  a do-over.  I want to look ahead with hope and joyful anticipation of all that God can make out of the ashes of a messed up past.  He makes beautiful things….
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For His Glory ~

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*image source – Pinterest; original source unknown

Weeks in Review: 2014 {Weeks 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, & 35}

Sometimes the need, the drive, to put words on paper, characters on screen….sometimes it’s deep and maddening and yet the words won’t come or time won’t stop long enough to let them flow.  And so a list or two and some photos.  Because time goes so fast and I don’t want to forget these moments or how to find my words.

July was:

  • Grace going to Kanakuk
  • a glorious time on the lake with friends for the Fourth
  • Grace going to Haiti
  • Ellie enjoying her first year at Camp Enosh and Chandler enjoying her last
  • celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary
  • a week of nothing but laying by the pool with the girls
  • sorting through nine years of school files and still keeping too much stuff
  • Chandler’s first trip to Schlitterbahn
  • a LeCrae concert
  • back to school preparations and planning

August was:

  • our oldest turning fourteen
  • littlest one losing her two front teeth and learning to ride a bike (not related events 😉 )
  • the start of fall sports with volleyball and soccer practices
  • finally getting all of Amania’s documents updated with her American name
  • a few days away with my beloved soaking up the sun and burning through a stack of books and nourishing heart and soul, mind and body
  • the return of Friday classes for the girls
  • lots of race prep as Capitol Craze draws closer
  • friends in for the weekend to close out the month
  • a tour of our newly renovated Capitol building – architectural beauty

And of course, both were filled with countless good gifts…….

Jesus looked up at said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.’ (John 11:41)

 The sequence of events in this passage seems strange and unusual.  Lazarus was still in the tomb, yet Jesus’ thanksgiving preceeded the miracle of raising him from the dead….Jesus gave thanks for what He was about to receive.  His gratitude sprang up before the blessing had arrived, in an expression of assurance that it was certainly on its way.

Streams in the Desert, August 4

And as I teach my girls that feeling follows action, I’m reminded that the practice of counting the gifts, looking for the gifts, often shows us just how much we have to be thankful for and a grateful heart starts to overflow.  For God is a gracious and generous giver.  We need only to open our eyes to see.

3006.  a God who tramples our iniquities underfoot and casts all our sins into the sea (Micah 7:18-19)

3007.  oldest off to Haiti for a week; this mama heart leaking just a bit

3008.  fifteen years of marriage – lessons of love, sacrifice, friendship, and intimacy

3009.  faith

3010.  fire pit, friends, and s’mores

3011.  girls all home

3012.  mild evenings

3013.  a broken Saturday – tears, struggle

3014.  a Sunday that makes strong – music, sermon, concert

3015.  beautiful Monday and little projects completed

3016.  grocery shopping with Minion #4

3017. a fourteen year old in the house

3018.  summer ending, but not quite over

3019.  August thunderstorm; heavens declaring His glory 

3020.  weekend and school planning and the super moon

3021.  September weather in August

3022.  window shopping with my people and so much race prep finished

3023.  weekends and friends and laughter and new church additions and a day of rest

3024.  a week and the beach and my beloved – resting, reading, reconnecting

3025.  G’s Frozen Custard and last day of summer treats

3026.  the first day of a new school year

3027.  meeting with Jesus in the early morning quiet

3028.  remembering that gentleness toward them is worship of Him


















Time flies, my friends.  Treasure the moments.  List the gifts.  Be all there for this one life you have to live.  

For His Glory ~

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