Keeping Vows

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Sixteen years ago, just babies ourselves, we took a vow and said “I do” and we promised all our tomorrows with barely any yesterdays behind us.

And we made a love and made a home and we birthed babies and birthed a business. And somewhere along the way our lives got busy. Yours with your work and your ministry. Mine with our house and our home school. And we had one of the strongest marriages I knew, yet somehow we lost ourselves and we lost us.

Then one day we both woke up and realized we were in bed with a stranger. A stranger we had been married to for a decade and a half. And we looked in the mirror and a stranger met us there too. And we searched, to find ourselves and to find each other again.

And this sixteenth anniversary feels a bit like that first year. Two people committed to life together, learning to know one another again. Two people trying to figure out who they are and where they belong in the world and in each other’s life. Two people trying to make a way together. To make a love and a life that will last.

And as we look ahead, I won’t lie, I look ahead with a little bit of fear. Because this year was a road I never expected for us and it was a year I thought “us” as we knew it might be over. And I know there is no iron-clad guarantee we won’t go there again, except grace.

But I also look forward even more with hope. Because God is a God of abundant mercy and He delivered us from that dark pit and He is doing a new thing in our marriage. And because He has called us to Himself and to each other and He will make a way. And because He has brought gifts out of that dark season, gifts we may not have received any other way.

And so I see beauty and grace rising from ashes. I see Him making a valley of suffering into a door of hope. And I see Him making two an even stronger one, all entwined in His love.

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For His Glory ~

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Celebrating the Middle

She turned twelve a little over two weeks ago.  I’ve been slow to post because life has been moving fast everywhere else.

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The past year has been a bit dicey as tween-sized hormones brought tensions and mood swings and battles that are becoming old hat in this household of girls, but they’re battles just the same.  Yet underneath those battles over food and clothes and hair, that same gentle soul still lives.  She still loves all the animals and all the people.  She is still the generous servant who would give you the shirt off her back and help you put it on.  She has dreams of going to nursing or medical school and becoming a medical missionary.  She loves to run mostly, I think, because she can encourage the other runners as she goes.  She got braces this year and the long-coveted Miley Cyrus hair cut (not pictured 😉 ).  She handles life with grace and selflessness and she’s a blessing to anyone that knows her.  Miss Chandler.  My favorite middle child.

Gold

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Fifty years ago their story began in a Catholic church in northeast Kansas.  And while there are parts of their story I know they would probably rewrite or change if they could, every part of their story wrote our story. And their story has written a legacy of serving others, giving generously.  Their story has written a legacy of two children happily married, families serving Christ.  Their story is leaving a legacy of faithfulness and perseverance and hope.  Their story isn’t a fairy tale, but no true story is.  Their story is written in Christ.  And their story is redemption.

Happy 50th Anniversary to my parents.  Thank you for giving us a legacy of love.

For His Glory ~

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Week in Review: 2015 {May}

I just dropped the oldest girl off at the church for a week at camp.  I wish these camps had been available when the girls were five.  Or even eight.  Because that’s when I needed them to go somewhere else for a week in the summer.  Now I’m just sad when they leave.  It’s the cruel irony of parenting.

Meanwhile, the other four are here, building Minecraft villages and swimming and I’m successfully procrastinating every responsible thing I should be doing (like laundry, or selling old school books, or planning my parents’ fiftieth anniversary party) by sitting on the deck and blogging because I have zero ambition this summer and fall is going to hit me like a ton of bricks when reality returns and I realize I accomplished absolutely nothing.  haha

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^ Me…..this summer

So, looking back and catching up, May opened up with a few days on the beach with Matt, who has now been dubbed “The Rainmaker” because everywhere he goes, it rains.  Needless to say, our hope for sunshiney beach days turned into cloudy, windy beach days, while everyone back home enjoyed one of the warmest weeks we’d seen yet this year.  And then we came home.  And the rains followed.  We’re thinking of having Matt go out to California to test our theory, because we’ve all had plenty of rain here.  :-/

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Rain notwithstanding, we ended up having a good time away.  We connected on some things and got to enjoy a little bit of sun.  And, of course, that water.  One bonus of minimal sun was no sunburns.  Haha.

We came home and powered through the end of the school year.  The girls finished up **around** May 8 (some a little earlier, some a little later).  I wrapped up my first semester back in school as well.  We finished up the soccer season with a weekend of tournaments for four of the five girls.  We also had Ellie’s ballet recital and graduations and parties to attend.  The girls and I spent the end of May deep cleaning the house and Matt put them to work outside.

I started journaling again in May, like with paper and pen.  I’ve gone through many seasons of journaling and for a long time this blog replaced that, but I’m realizing now it shouldn’t have.  There are so many little details of life that it would be good to write down, but get missed when you only blog once a month or every few weeks.  I know why I stopped – it takes time to write every day.  And when I go several days without writing I start to feel like a failure (I clearly have too high of expectations for myself).  But it’s been somewhat cathartic and healing.  And because not everything belongs on the World Wide Webs, it’s given me a place to put those things again.

spelled right and with multiple smilies….Happy Coffee

And listing the Endless Gifts + Photos (in no particular order again)….

3185.  warm air and open windows

3186.  a text, reaching out

because I didn’t realize I was going to need a blanket for two days on the beach, so a towel had to suffice

3187.  potentially painful meetings that go well

our first to get braces

3188.  redemption being written

3189.  a marriage worth fighting for

3190.  nutrition class aced

3191.  slower pace settling in for a while

3192.  pan-fried tacos and Cafe Holliday

Ellie and her sweet ballet instructor, Miss Linda

3193.  watching Amania delight in playing soccer and even score a goal

3194.  enjoying exercise and running again

3195.  imperfect Mother’s Day and perfect grace

3196.  last class and the end of the semester

3197.  the opportunity to go back to school

3198.  an unexpected friendship beginning?

3199.  cheerful, productive children

3200.  a clean kitchen

3201.  time to write and gather thoughts

the flight we never should have made it on

3202. laughter and groceries with my Emma

green roses from Kansas City City Market

3203.  enchilada dinner prepared by Grace

3204.  a “long” run

what happens when you’re eating lunch while your flight is taking off

3205. life-giving words from my husband

3206. a God big enough to handle my doubt

3207.  sunshiney days

3208.  pink sunsets

3209.  hard, but needed words

3210.  time to write and remember

3211.  a sweet new ride and getting home safely

3212.  a sweet police officer who let me off with grace and a warning

3213.  sweet girls who work hard while I’m gone to bless me with a clean house

3214.  sunshine & garage sales

swamp pool

3215.  Ellie’s ballet recital – seeing grace, beauty, confidence

3216.  sharing my story & a post that goes wild

Coco enjoying the warmer weather

3217.  feeling raw and exposed and putting up walls again

3218.  sitting in the dark

3219.  sunshine and warmth

one of two does on my morning run

3220.  open windows and fans blowing

3221.  flowers in pots

3222.  dinners on the deck

3223.  family-friendly feel-good movies

3224.  quiet happy Sundays

That’s it for our May.  Wishing you a wonderful week friends.  One that’s as productive (or un-productive) as you need it to be.

For His Glory ~

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That Duggar Post: A Follow Up

Holy cow.  You all are awesome. Your love for my post on Friday regarding the Josh Duggar situation and my personal take on it caused it to take off.  The feedback I received was filled with grace and encouragement (eh, for the most part), and I thank you all for that.  That said, I feel like I need to clarify a few things.

When I wrote that post, I knew that it would get **some** additional traffic, due to the timeliness of the material and the incredibly personal nature of it.  But I wrote it for my usual audience, most of whom know me personally and know my heart and my mind on many of these topics.  However, I had no idea how much additional traffic it would get.  Had I known that, I may have been clearer about a few more things.  And because of that, I want to be clear: in absolutely no way am I condoning Josh Duggar’s behavior or (entirely) how his parents handled the situation.  As I stated in my original post, I have not read the police report for very specific reasons, but what I have read leads me to believe that the family dealt with the situation in a way that seemed best to them at the time. Does this mean that it truly was the “best way” or that everything was done that needed to be done?  Not necessarily.  Does that mean that airing the Duggars dirty laundry on Facebook, Twitter, and all the media outlets is the best way to promote healing for a family that is deeply troubled and hurting?  Absolutely not.

And that was the point of my post.  Not that Josh didn’t do anything wrong.  He did!  And not that his parents shouldn’t have handled it differently.  Maybe they should have.  (and their health and healing today.  And my point was that we are broken, scarred people – all of us – in desperate need of grace and love from one another and in desperate need of a Savior.  Even those of us that claim the cross daily live with the consequences of our choices, big and small.  And we all make terrible, sinful choices that affect others. And others around us make choices that affect us.  Hope and healing come when we speak honestly about those things rather than masquerading perfection.  When we live real, others can find their own hope and healing too.

I know this post won’t get the traffic the other one did.  But at least it’s out there.  And maybe it clears some of the questions up, maybe it doesn’t.  But I again call for us to show grace upon grace upon grace.  To each other.  It is up to the Duggar girls whether or not they will forgive Josh and / or their parents.  It is not our sin to forgive or judge.  But we win the most when we show love.

Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.

Tim Keller

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For His Glory ~

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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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Weeks in Review: 2015 {March & April}

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

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

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

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

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Amania’s 8th birthday (March)

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

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

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Sunny bunnies (March)

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

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

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Pike’s Peak (March)

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

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

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

3113.  a quiet New Year with those I love most

3114. a blank page, a fresh start

Amania, Garden of the Gods (March)

3115.  a bunny for Emma

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

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

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

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

My people, Lost Valley Ranch (March)

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

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

Matt + Ellie, Garden of the Gods (March)

3121.  enrolled!

3122.  laughing with my girls at the dinner table

Heading out to ride, Lost Valley (March)

3123.  sleep, real sleep

3124.  time in the Word

Lost Valley (March)

3125.  warmer days, stunning sunsets

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

Morning Run, Lost Valley (March)

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

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

Emma’s Monochromatic, MAACS (March)

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

3130.  warm winter days

Chandler + Ellie, MAACS (March)

3131.  laughter with my people

3132.  trusting the Lord to provide all I need

Three blondes, MAACS (March)

3133.  weekend, snow, the Super Bowl with friends

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

A cupcake of compassion (March)

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

3136.  a husband who hears and helps

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(March)

3137.  sunshine and February beauty

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

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My kids think they’re funny (March)

3139.  hitting bottom (or so I thought)

3140.  seeking help

Sunset (March)

3141.  flowers that remind of new life and new hope

3142.  snow fall and birdsong

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(March)

3143.  lunch, laughter, and connection

3144.  time with my second-born

(March)

3145.  quiet evenings

3146.  a full schedule

(March)

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

3148.  slow weekends, long date nights

(March)

3149.  snow

3150.  morning skies

(March)

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

3152.  friends who stop and pray right now

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

3153.  Winter Jam with my three bigs

3154.  sitting at the bottom of the pit

(April)

3155.  hard conversations and moving forward

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

(April)

3157.  trepidatious hope

3158.  good days

Lunchtime for bunnies (April)

3159.  hitting bottom again

3160.  breakthrough and relief

Coffee love (April)

3161.  waking with a happy heart

3162.  testing week and tired kiddos

Art Show (April)

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

3164.  our last 8 year old

Dinner with dear friends (April)

3165.  vacation and time away

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

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

3167.  rich food and deep laughter at the table

3168.  horses and mountain trails and deck reading

Cake win! (April)

3169. spoken words that give strength, hope, life

3170.  good date nights

Cousins (April)

3171.  good work days and fun family nights

3172.  Easter and resurrection hope

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

3173.  laughter with friends from far away

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

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

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

3176.  prayers that echo and hearts that feel broken

Gracelaced art – I just love her stuff

3177.  hard decisions made and being on the same page

3178.  new roads for sweet friends; a tearful farewell

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

3179.  weeks of searching that bring us closer

3180.  unexpected words that bring life

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

3181.  the sea, sun, and sand

3182.  deep conversations, tearful nights, hope restored again

(April)

3183.  the daily wrestling

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

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

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

Still Always For His Glory ~

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Eight

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Two weeks ago, this sweet girl turned eight.  And as I wrote yesterday, our relationship is unique and her heart is a mystery.  But God is writing the story and one day we will know the secrets she holds as He unfolds her heart.

Regardless of where our relationship is, she is our daughter, our family, and forever one of us.  And while God knits our hearts and joins our worlds, we wait for the redemption that is coming.

Happy birthday, my beautiful, mysterious girl.  I am thankful for you and for the privilege of being your mama.  I know one day we will dance naturally together.
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I love you,

Mama

Adoption: Two Years Later

She came home two years ago on March 29.  It was Good Friday.  And something that we prayed and labored for for two years came to a sort of completion but something we would pray and labor over the rest of our lives began.  A new daughter, a new life, a new story to weave into our own.

It started almost right after she came home.  I just called it a sort of “baby blues”.  My heart and mind were tired from the sudden upheaval of adding a new member (no matter how long the wait, it always comes suddenly).  I was emotionally drained from the years of waiting.  It would pass with time.  That’s what I told myself.

But as time went on, it really didn’t get better.  She seemed to be attaching well to everyone in the family except me.  The world around us acted as though she hung the moon.  My heart felt cold.

Time went on and she became one of us, as though she had always been here.  Sort of.  Her relationship with family and friends was normal.  Her relationship with her sisters was healthy and strong.  Her relationship with Matt was beautiful and unbreakable.  But she and I, we kept each other at arm’s length.  I, resentful and lacking confidence and more fully aware than ever of my short comings as a mother.  She holding back from me, guarded, untrusting.

The past two years we have danced this way, more of a line dance, side-by-side, than a slow dance, face-to-face.  Occasionally we will turn and draw closer and it will feel almost normal, almost natural.  Most days it’s an awkward relationship and feels like I’m forever babysitting someone else’s child.  An unnatural mother with my natural children, I don’t know how to reach out to connect with this one not born of my body who brings a six year long story I was not part of.  My four biological girls, I can look at their face, listen to the tone of their voice, and instinctively know so much of what is going on inside each of them without a word being said.  This littlest one holds secrets I may never know.  Her face and tone often betray something deeper, but she holds it all tight inside.  Only she holds the key.

The shame and guilt of being the mother who can’t attach has worn on me.  When you adopt, you read and prepare endlessly for the child who struggles to attach.  You walk into it with the awareness that the child may never be able to form healthy bonds if they were never formed in the first place.  But no one talks about when a parent struggles to attach, especially the mother.  Because mother-love is supposed to be instinctive and strong and deep and easy, that’s what the whispers in the dark tell me.  And what mother spends countless hours preparing paperwork and endless nights of tear-filled prayers longing to hold a child she did not carry and then builds walls around her heart once the child is home?  Satan assured me I was the only one and that I was the very worst mother possible.

A few weeks ago, in a post-adoption group that I am on in Facebook but don’t participate much in so it rarely shows up on my feed but this day it did, God gave me a grace-gift in the form of a woman sharing my story, except it was hers.  How she couldn’t attach or connect and the shame she felt and that her child had been home over two years and it was just finally starting click.  And a glimmer of hope flickered in my heart.  Not that Amania and I will connect soon; I dare not hope for that.  But hope that I am not alone in this painful place, just as I am not alone in the other dark areas of my life.

I do hope that Amania and I will one day have a natural, comfortable relationship.  That she will no longer look at me like there’s a story she cannot tell, but that our story will be written together.  I do not know when that will come or how long it will take or how hard we will have to work to get there.  But I find no small significance that our story starts on Good Friday – that day that Satan thought he won the victory, but God wasn’t finished.  Friday was dark and hopeless and terrifying.  But God was writing redemption and restoration and hope and beauty.

God’s still writing.  And in some parts of my heart and in parts of Amania’s heart it’s still Friday.  But Sunday’s coming….

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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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