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

Grace We Don’t Deserve

I have words today, lots of them.  But I have even more emotions that I can’t seem to sort through.  The news of Josh Duggar and his crimes against young girls have my heart breaking and my head in a dark place today and I’m struggling to make sense of it all.

You see, I was molested by a teenage boy when I was a young girl.  This is a part of my story I’ve never told here.  It’s never seemed appropriate or relevant or something I could put words to anyway, so I didn’t share.  I’ve shared openly in other forums, just never here.

And so this story strikes close to home for me and my family and I feel ill, physically ill, and my heart absolutely breaks for the whole Duggar family.

I’ll admit, I’ve not read the police report, and I’ve only read a couple of the news reports.  I really don’t want or need to know details and I’m protecting my own mind from going places it doesn’t need to go in light of my own background.  But, from what I’ve read, it seems that Josh confessed what he did, repented, it was dealt with with the proper authorities, and the family has tried to heal and move on from unspeakable tragedy and shame happening under their own roof.  Even before this all went public, the Duggar family was sentenced to carrying this shame forever, secretly or publicly.  They could never forget.  JimBob and Michelle cannot and will not ever probably forgive themselves for what happened under their own roof, under their watch.  Josh will forever live with the guilt and shame of what he did to those girls.  And those girls, they are forever scarred and will carry the shame of a sin they did not commit for the rest of their lives.

But now it’s all public.  Very public. The whole world knew them already but now the world knows more than it ever should have.  Not only were these girls robbed of their dignity by someone they should have been able to trust to protect them, now they’ve lost the veil of secrecy that they had from the world.  This was their story to tell and that has been stolen from them too.

And when we hash this out on social media and berate Josh Duggar and/or his parents or the faith they grew up in, we abuse these girls all over again, but publicly now.  Their dignity, their shame, is the price of admission for the world to express their hatred for the Duggar family.  And it needs to stop.  Those girls, Josh’s family, JimBob and Michelle, they all need time and space and grace to heal.

Sometimes I love social media, but it’s times like this I hate it.  We do not sit in the judgment seat – either temporally or eternally.  So let’s choose grace upon grace and even more grace.  Because we are all broken, we are all sinners, and though your sin may not seem as big as someone else’s, we’re all filled with darkness and desperately in need of light and grace and hope.  Let’s show some today.

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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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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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

What Will Your Verse Be…..

I don’t normally post, comment, or react much to news from Hollywood, but tonight the interwebs and social media are filled with stories of Robin Williams’ death and memories of his life.  And my own heart feels heavy from the loss.  He was wildly funny, unpredictable, talented, gifted even – and we knew he had to be broken on the inside.  Those that make the world laugh hardest are often the most broken.  But his humor was redeeming, his stories resonated, his characters were so human and so real.  He inspired us.  He challenged us.  He made us laugh and cry and laugh until we cried.

And as someone who has been there, who has wanted to just give up and not have to hurt any more, my heart breaks for Robin and his family.  The world lost a great comedian today.  His family lost a husband, a father, a friend.  And an awareness has been restored to depression and bipolar disorder – the need to reach out, to offer help, to give hope to the hopeless.

Oh, there is so much hurt in the world tonight.  The death of an actor is but one of many losses in a world riddled with headlines of chaos and fear and death and we all need so much hope and courage just to face the day.

Lord, the world is aching tonight.  Hold us close.  We only get so many turns around this great sun.  May we use the time You give us to share Your love and news of Your endless mercy and goodness.

(a clip from one of my very favorite movies “Dead Poets Society”; scroll to the bottom to mute the music before watching)

For His Glory ~

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Adoption – One Year Later

A week ago we quietly celebrated the one year anniversary of Amania’s homecoming.  And when I say quietly, I mean by cleaning out the garage and going to soccer and otherwise living normal life.  Because it was needed.

Fifty-four weeks ago we were making plans and preparations for our quick trip to Haiti to bring our girl home.  Fifty-four weeks ago we were worried about parasites, language barriers, bed wetting, night terrors, RAD, food hoarding, and a dozen other worst-case-scenarios we had read or heard about along the way.  Fifty-four weeks ago, we had no idea what the next few days would look like, let alone the next year.  And a one year anniversary seemed a million years away.

We came home and she settled right in and all those things we worried about turned out to be nothing.  Parasites were treated.  Her English skills grew overnight it seemed.  Bed wetting, night terrors, RAD….all those things were non-issues, needless fear.  Praise. The. Lord.

And yet the past year hasn’t been without struggles and tears and wrestling.  And there were struggles we didn’t expect.  Struggles not directly related to our new addition, and yet connected.

There were the unexpected opinions of others who suddenly felt they could (and should) weigh in on how we run our family and our lives.  There was the Mama Bear reaction in me as I watched the world swarm around our newest family member (for months after she came home), all the while ignoring all of our other children who are all old enough and smart enough to know what was going on.  There were the struggles of our bio girls as they adapted and accepted this new family member – helping them feel valued and loved, while helping her assimilate.

And then there were my own struggles.  Some I’ve shared here, some I haven’t.  And those I haven’t are simply because I just haven’t had words. I do not understand my own struggle to connect with this child, how she has what appears to be a perfectly natural and healthy relationship with everyone else in our family circle, except me.  How our relationship is still so stiff and forced and awkward.  How I’m not a kid-friendly mama.  I love love love my kids, don’t get me wrong, but I’m very German and we are utilitarian, functional, efficient, not particularly cuddly (at least that’s my impression of us).  Unless of course you like cuddling with porcupines, which is what I often feel like around small children.  (True confessions, right here, friends!)  And the level of guilt and shame that I feel admitting all of this because Godly Christian women are all supposed to think young children are the best things since Jesus Himself, or so it would seem.

There has also been the unexpected toll taken on our marriage because of my unexpected and unexplainable reaction to Amania’s home coming – the depression, the disconnect.  And I feel like our marriage has been through the ringer and there are days I wonder if it will ever be the same.

And I haven’t said much here about our journey with her home because I honestly haven’t known what to say about the emotional places we’ve been.  As someone in our family reminds me, she is doing so much better than we ever expected and things could be so much worse.  But the fact is, this is my reality. This is where we live.  And while I’m thankful we don’t live in “worse”, this is by no means easy.

I have been praying about this post for weeks, maybe months.  Because I don’t want it to be about me, but I am, without a doubt, the one who has struggled most since Amania came home.  And right now, I don’t know if I will even hit publish, because I feel so vain, so shallow, so dysfunctional for these struggles I’ve had.  But as I prayed this morning, asking God for words that were transparent yet redemptive, He reminded me that this too is redemption.  This process is His continued refining of all of us.  This struggle has been a struggle for our whole family and He is working out something good.  I don’t know how long it will take for Amania and I to have a “normal” relationship, but I do believe with all of my heart that one day we will because our God is a God that redeems the broken.  He makes beauty from ashes.  He restores the years the locust has eaten.  And I think about how our adoption, my adoption, cost Him everything and why should I expect that this adoption would not also cost me more than money, time, and energy, but also a greater breaking of my heart, that I would know Him more and be more like His Son.

And I don’t know how long this process will take, but I will wait quietly on the Lord to restore and renew and make us all whole again.

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So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten….
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.

Joel 2: 25-26

For His Glory ~

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2013: Year in Review

As we prepare to say farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014 tonight, it only seems fitting to look back one more time on this super-crazy-good year…

2013 started with me just so thankful that the holidays were over.  Thanksgiving and Christmas without Amania last year was indescribably difficult, and for the first time I can remember, I was just happy it was over.  We rolled right on through January and February waiting for news, and in March our answer came – our girl was coming home!

But, first – one last vacation as a family of six to our favorite ranch in Colorado – Lost Valley!

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It snowed and it was cold and Matt was sick and exhausted and in some ways the trip was a forecast for our whole year – good, but not easy, but like everything else, I’m so glad we did it.

Just a few short days after that, Matt and I packed up to head to Haiti to bring our girl home….

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And then the process of adjusting to this new family member began.  Everyone did amazingly well and it wasn’t long really before she felt like just another one of our girls.  It has been a continual process in some areas, and will be for some time, I’m sure; but we are blessed in how easy, all things considered, the transition has been.

And then it snowed.  In May.

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And then, because our lives were just too normal (???), we decided to buy a new (to us) house.  And so, what was meant to be a relaxing summer of bonding and recovery turned into an insanely busy summer of packing, home repairs, moving, showings, inspections, closings, unpacking, painting, and more.  I’ve never been so happy to see a summer end and a school year begin, just so we could have some structure to our lives again!  But, it was totally worth it.

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in with the new(er)….

And all that crazy ended up pushing me over the edge and I faced a season of depression I haven’t seen in years.  And God, in His great wisdom and mercy, introduced our family to essential oils and we have become completely committed to this crazy, oily way of life.  And because of my (sometimes excessive) transparency, I have been blessed with the opportunity to share oils with many old and new friends and watch them also find healing in these seemingly simple treasures.

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In August we started a new school year and we settled in a bit and since then we’ve helped organize a race and had friends visit and taken road trips and celebrated birthdays and life has been beautiful.

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And we played soccer and we played volleyball and I got a tattoo to remind me that hope is that anchor for the soul that gives the heart wings.

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And Thanksgiving and Christmas came again and everything was different because everything has changed.  And two years ago I never would have guessed I could be happier than I was then and a year ago I never would have guessed what a year would bring and today I wouldn’t change a thing.

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And a video, just for fun, because watching Amania open her “big gift” as we call it, on Christmas morning, was absolutely priceless….

(click the photo and it will take you to the video in a new window)

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As we prepare to say farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014 and I look back on this crazy year, I can’t help but have a heart full of thanks for God’s faithfulness, mercy, and goodness.  His love never fails.

Looking forward to a new year of adventure with my favorite people and following God wherever He may lead us.

For His Glory ~

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Joy Find #16 – another year of God’s unending faithfulness and love

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How I Cope with the Clouds

So a couple of weeks ago I posted about my on-going battle with depression.  Over the years I’ve tried a variety of methods for treating this shadowy illness.  I’ve tried a variety of prescription anti-depressants.  I’ve tried light therapy (in the form of tanning beds).  I’ve used St. John’s Wort as recommended by my physician.  And I’ve tried just waiting for winter to pass (as that is when I struggle most).

All of these methods have been successful to varying degrees and with varying long-term effects.  Prescription meds work, I won’t argue with that.  But they come with a multitude of side effects and a variety of long-term consequences that are just beginning to be understood.  I am thankful for modern medicine and pharmaceuticals and believe God has given us this knowledge to be used for our benefit and His glory.  I have no issues with someone who uses prescription anti-depressants or with using them myself if necessary.  However, I believe God has given us in the created world what we need to treat and care for our bodies in times of sickness or health and we all know we are beginning to see how the overuse of man-created compounds and chemicals is causing a plethora of unintended consequences (cancers, antibiotic resistant bacteria, etc).  Therefore, as much as possible, I would prefer to find more natural ways to treat myself and my family.

Enter my current treatment plan, and a little backstory…..

In July, as I think I mentioned, I was desperate, drowning, and hanging on by merely a thread of hope.  I cried out to the Lord for some kind of relief because I knew I couldn’t go into the new school year, much less the winter, already so far behind emotionally.  And through completely “random” circumstances (a phone call from my husband to a friend about something completely unrelated), I was told about essential oils.  I’ll be honest, on a normal day I would have politely written the idea off as “not for me”.  But this came at the end of a day of dedicated prayer for help, so I listened and started reading and asking questions.  I ordered two oils and expected absolutely nothing.  I kept praying and hoping and committed to trying the oils (and St. John’s Wort – more on that momentarily) for  the month of August.  It was decided that if I was not feeling noticeably better by the end of the month, I would go back on prescription meds for the first time in 13 years.

Sidenote – I added in the SJW because, as I said, I was desperate for relief.  I have used SJW many times for seasonal depression and have found it helpful, enough to get me through the winter months, but not life changing.  I thought, if nothing else, it might provide a boost to my fragile mental state.  🙂

And so I faithfully used my oils and my SJW for a couple of weeks and really didn’t think much of it.  We had a birthday in the family and there was no mama-meltdown (a miracle in itself).  Then we had a birthday party complete with sleepover friends and I actually had fun.  We started school and I felt peaceful instead of overwhelmed.  Our schedule picked up pace and I did not panic.  And that’s when I realized it, I felt better.  I felt more free, whole, and human than I had felt in months, maybe longer.  It took about two weeks, but the change was amazing.  I don’t know if it was “just” the oils or “just” the SJW or the combination of the two , but I’m not eliminating one right now to find out.  I have found something that is working incredibly well, and I’m sticking with it.  I may try to taper off of the SJW in the spring, but for the next several months, I am staying the course, Lord willing.

So here’s my treatment plan:

Lots and lots of this…..

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Combined with daily doses of these…..

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I take the SJW according to the directions on the bottle (in this case, 1 capsule, 3 times daily).  I put a drop or two of the citrus oil in every glass of water I drink.  And I put a few drops of Valor in the palm of my hands, rub together, and inhale deeply three or four times a day (more if needed).

I was impressed enough with the oils that I signed up with Young Living to be a “distributor”.  Now let me say this – I am not a fan of MLM.  I don’t like home parties and tend to find MLM products over-priced and not significantly better than their locally found competitors. That said, there is a wide variance in qualities of essential oils, these are shown to be good, quality oils,  and, as I said earlier, I have something that is working.  I’m not interested in rocking the boat.  If I can sign up and get it at a discount – woot!  If God chooses to do something else with this and grow something out of it, then that is His prerogative.

Since signing up and ordering my oils, I have been trying all the ones that came in my kit and have had great success with many of them.  One daughter has used Purification for blemishes.  I diffuse Peace and Calming at breakfast, lunch, and dinner to help keep our gaggle of girls under control as we transition to different parts of the day.  We have used Lavender for a multitude of things – rubbing on feet and pillows at night, soothing burns or scrapes on skin, helping our very distractible child to focus during school (night and day difference when we use it and when we don’t), and even alleviating one of the most severe allergy episodes I’ve had in years.

So, to say I’m a fan is probably an understatement.  I’m still very overwhelmed by the abundance of information and possibilities with these oils, as well as the sheer number of them, but I am learning as I go and am excited to learn more.

For His Glory ~

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****If you are interested in placing an order with Young Living (www.youngliving.com), my distributor number is: 1484727. As I said in my post, I am not actively trying to grow any sort of a business; I’m just completely amazed at how beneficial these oils are and I love that the only “side effects” are good ones, so I am happy to share that with anyone who wants to know more.  It’s always all for God’s glory.

When Hope Gives Wings

For nearly twenty years the clouds have followed me.  For nearly two decades I have wrestled with doubt, fear, overwhelming sadness, and despair.  For nearly twenty years, I have struggled with depression.  Like the clouds, it comes and it goes and often it is seasonal.  But when it hits, it is heavy.  And lonely.  And dark.

But, God, He is the God of light and life and promise and through every season He has carried me and shown me grace and mercy and tenderness.  But most of all it has been His hope that has carried me through the dark seasons.  And it’s the hope found in His word that gives the most comfort…

  • Though he slay me, I will hope in him.  (Job 13:15)
  • Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 33:18)
  • And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)
  • Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.  (Psalm 42:5)
  • For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5)
  • For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. (Jeremiah 29:11-14a)
  • But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him. (Lamentations 3:21-24)
  • Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope.  I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles. (Zechariah 9:12)
  • In hope he believed against hope… (Romans 4:18a)
  • Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
  • Let your hope make you glad.  Never stop praying.  Be joyful always. (Romans 12:12 paraphrase)
  • So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20)

And that’s just a few of them.  And when a word comes to define what God is doing in your life, when a word from His word is what you cling to and your forgetful heart needs it ever present before your eyes a constant reminder, you write it all over the house but it’s still not enough, and sometimes you just want to write it on your skin where you can never stop seeing it.  So finally one day, you do….

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Hope – that anchor for the soul that gives wings to the heart.

And the battle isn’t over, but we will continue to fight, because God gives hope.

For His Glory ~

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