But… is it well?

There are times when a post or other piece of writing just comes. Regardless of how long from the initial idea to when I sit down to write… sometimes it just flows freely, straight from the Lord.

And then there are those times when I know what I want to write about, when I’ve been thinking about it for days… and yet I still have to spend time planning, preparing, researching. Finding the right scripture. Praying over the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, in these circumstances the words are just as much from the Holy Spirit – but they just don’t come as easily.

This is one of those times.

It’s been on my heart and my mind to write again for some time now. Not only is it a way that can help me grow and process and heal, I know it’s an avenue through which the Lord uses me to speak to others. The state of our world right now with the coronavirus is one that needs Jesus, and we need Him more than ever.

Over the weekend I discovered a new worship song, and I haven’t been able to get enough of it. It incorporates the chorus of the famous hymn “It Is Well”, and it does so through the theme of reminding us that God is still in control, no matter what.

Control – and the little of it that we as humans have right now – is a buzzword for sure. But not just in society and the world around me… it’s a buzzword in my own life. See, since moving to Virginia, I’ve been realizing that while I have grown and healed in some pretty incredible ways that can only point to Jesus… one of my, umm, unhealthy coping mechanisms of choice… one of them still likes to try and get at me. It likes to try and rent space in my head. I haven’t been able to shake it completely, and it has been the source of so much frustration.

That coping skill would be an unhealthy relationship with food.
That coping skill is an eating disorder.

Why do I share so openly, why do I name it… well, a few weeks back, sitting in therapy, I realized that the shame that surfaced a year ago… that same shame is wrapped up in this eating disorder. That shame is what’s keeping it around. And what’s the quickest way to start dispelling shame? To start shining the light in the darkest places, all in the name of Jesus.

This post isn’t to sit and talk about the eating disorder for days and days, but it is relevant to the overall theme I’d like to share today. Eating disorders are incredibly complex struggles, but one of the most common triggers, one of the most common needs that needs to somehow get met, one of the most common below the surface aspects to the whole thing…

… control.
An eating disorder, more often than not, is at least in part about needing a sense of control in one’s life.

So when I heard this beautiful worship song last weekend, and when not only it incorporated such a beautiful hymn but it did so by way of a theme that could not be more relevant in my life… well, one could likely understand why it has become such a favorite already.

But this theme of control. As I’ve wrestled with it in preparation to write, I wanted to find a scripture passage that could help convey my heart in all of this – a heart that ultimately wants to line up with His heart. I find it so ironic that the passage I decide on speaks so specifically to some of the themes and practices I share when talking about how I’m able to hold such peace and joy during this season… but then again, that’s just like God, isn’t it?

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:18-28 ESV

Some, if not all, of these words likely sound familiar. Romans 8 is one of the more famous chapters in the entire bible, and rightly so – it not only speaks to so many fundamental themes within the Christian faith, it also provides some pretty incredible promises that we can cling to throughout our lives here on earth.

I think it’s safe to say that these particular verses are incredibly relevant today. I mean, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the chaos that is all around us today. More unknowns than the world has ever faced. And yet… if we as Christians really stop to think about it, this life is temporary. There is suffering in front of us, yes. But our God promises us His glory, face to face, at the end of it all. As it says elsewhere in this chapter, if God is for us, who can be against us? He loves us so completely, so passionately… His love and God Himself is all we ever could need.

When I go back and read this passage in its entirety, I am reminded that in times of trial, in times of hardship, in times that just feel so out of control… the best thing we can do is turn our focus to Jesus.

Not to try and STOP being anxious.
Not trying to push away the fear and anger and questions.
But instead turn TO Jesus.

Whether it’s worship (music), reading scripture, remembering all that God has done for us… the best thing we can do in this season is to run TO Jesus. 

See, when we try and run FROM all those negative things… well, more often than not, we’re trying to run with our own power. And you and I both know that as long as we are the ones trying to move mountains… those mountains will never move.

I cannot tell you how many times, especially in this last year, that in moments of hardship or pain or anger I have said – you know what, these negative emotions and thoughts, they are what they are. But I’m going to turn my focus TO Jesus, to Him and nothing else.

And it’s amazing… when we stop trying so hard to NOT worry, when we just run to the foot of the cross? It’s amazing how the worry just… disappears. When we stop being worried about our worry, when we stop feeling like horrible Christians because we’re angry or because we don’t know where the money is coming from to pay the rent in April and May… when we let those things be what they are and say “Jesus, I need you”… it’s amazing what happens.

Joy happens.
Peace happens.
Jesus happens.

The song I mentioned is “Still in Control” by Mack Brock. The first verse is as follows…

“How can I say it is well when my voice can barely speak?
How can I sing You a song in the midst of suffering?
Jesus, will You meet me here? Let Your peace wash over me
I need You now more than ever, teach my soul to sing”

The words acknowledge that we cannot make the suffering go away. We cannot make the natural human emotions as a result of that suffering go away.

But… we can ask Jesus to come. We can tell Him just how much we need Him. And the moment that we do just that, He will be there.

As I share all of this, please know that I am still learning more and more every day how to live under this understanding. It has taken me years of hard work, therapy, seeking the Lord… it has taken me a lot to get here. I was talking with someone recently and they remarked how I have all of this great knowledge of myself and the world around me, how I’ve managed to learn everything at such a young age. I replied and reminded them that for seven years after high school, yes I worked for most of that time, but really… this path of healing and learning and growing was really my full time job. God works a different timeline for each of us, and for some reason that only He can know, He has allowed me the time and space to have the knowledge that I do today.

That’s why in this season, with all of this chaos and uncertainty, I truly feel He has prepared me for just such a time. And not only that, but with as clear as He made it for me to move to Virginia last October? I firmly believe that He has me here in Virginia very specifically during this season. He has prepared me and brought me here to be a light, His light, filled with a peace and with a joy that can only come from knowing Him.

If someone, even the most “religious” or “devout Christian”, in the middle of all of this COVID-19 stuff did NOT have any worries or questions or fears? I would wonder if they’re okay. No, really. These are circumstances that are so very trying for the human condition. We naturally want to have control of as many things as possible in our lives, and right now… right now that can’t really happen. Like, at all.

So my prayer for you, dear friends?
That you would know just how okay it is to be human right now.
That you would know how much you are not alone as a Christian in being human right now.
And that, more than anything else, you would know just how much there is a seat for you at His heavenly table.

He loves us.
He loves you.
He even loves me.

I say we let that Love be bigger than all of the fear that COVID-19 could ever cause.

That Love… it already is bigger.

That Love is waiting for you.
And His name is Jesus.

What REALLY happens when we say yes?

It’s been five months and two days since I moved.
Five months and two days since I left behind everyone and everything I’ve ever known to move 3,000 miles away – about as far from California as I could get and still be in the US.

Five months and two days since that plane took off in Santa Rosa, since the moment when I realized that life as I knew it was about to be turned upside down.

But… it’s also taken five months and two days for me to really start to see just how crazy this whole thing really is. I’ve done all I can to have grace with myself and be gentle with myself in this period of adjustment (thanks, momma!), but as crazy as it sounds… I feel like I’m JUST NOW realizing that what I did was kind of a big deal.

Over the last few days God has given me multiple opportunities to share again the story of coming to Richmond, a story that is ultimately His. I shared the timeline of everything with my parents and I and how God so beautifully wove it all together, and then when I talked about how I had to do something with my free rent leaving California… I explain it as that in the process of figuring out what was next, God made it abundantly clear that Richmond was it. And because of what had happened five months earlier, because God had done the impossible in my life… I wasn’t about to say no. I knew that He could do the impossible in whatever adversity we face in life – I mean, He had just done so for me.

So as I’ve put it so many times, especially again in the last few days… I said okay God FINE I WILL GO. I will forever call this season in my life “The one where God gets reeeeeally ironic” – I can’t tell you how many times I tried to move out of the area after graduating high school in 2012, and how every single time God closed the door. Some door closes were far more dramatic and emphatic than others, but He always brought me back to Santa Rosa.

During the 68 days last year when He worked the miracle, I finally realized why He had kept me there for so long. I still had things to learn about Him and about myself, and I honestly don’t know how that could have happened anywhere else. By the end of the 68 days, though… I was so content to still be living in Santa Rosa. And when my dad accepted the call up in Idaho, I looked into staying local – nothing would have made me happier.

Obviously God had other plans. I mean, I’m here in Virginia.

But that’s what I want to talk about… what happens when we say yes to Him. “Saying yes” can happen in small ways or in big ways, and it can be incredibly easy or incredibly challenging. I think for many of us we find that saying yes more often than not sets us on a path that will be much harder… but harder does not always mean bad. Harder just means that we have no choice but to rely on Him.

As I was taking notes during the sermon this past Sunday, a thought came to me that is radically changing how I look at the last few months. Going back to this Christmas/Advent season, the theme of Immanuel kept coming up… Immanuel, God with us. At the time I was honestly pretty over it… Since it’s now March I feel like I can talk about it some, but Christmas sucked for me this year. Big time. I’ve never truly CRIED cried during a sermon, but I did on Christmas Eve – and they weren’t tears of joy.

The thought from this past Sunday, though… It was a few weeks after Christmas when I began to see how bad the depression had gotten, when I began to see that I need help processing the fact that I don’t know how to be depressed anymore – I’ve only ever known depression with a desperate desire to die, and now… now that’s gone. Praise Jesus, absolutely. But it meant that the depression went fairly unnoticed by me for a good amount of time.

Around the same time that I began to see and realize all this, God started sending me small lifelines here and there, or as I heard someone say recently – He started sending me “God winks”. And what’s so crazy? So many of those God winks have come through work, through multiple co workers. One who has a clerical job for the state department of behavioral health… one who used to work as a counselor/therapist before joining the business sector… one whose husband was a pastor for many years… it honestly got to the point where I was like “OKAY JESUS I SEE YOU I GET IT YOU CAN STOP NOW”… but you and I both know that He doesn’t stop.

There have been plenty of other God winks over the last couple of months, but it caught my attention for sure that so many significant ones have come through work. So on Sunday as I was reflecting on it all, I wrote down that this season has been one of “the little things”. God has sent me so many reminders over the last two months that He is with me, no matter what.

… Immanuel.
God with us.

He hasn’t answered the prayers and cries of my broken heart in any one big way. But gradually, He has sent me more and more evidence of Himself, of Immanuel.

I think of the story that we all know – the man on his roof in a flood, crying out for God to save his life and rescue him. A rowboat comes by, a helicopter comes by, whatever else comes by, but he denies their help every time because he was waiting for God to save him. Eventually the man is lost in the flood, and upon entering heaven he asks God – why didn’t you save me??

God’s reply? I tried – I sent you a rowboat, I sent you a helicopter, but you said no to them.

As I mentioned above… the God winks have truly been lifelines. Not any one big one, but many little ones. And in thinking of His promise of Immanuel and seeing it played out in all the little things… nothing could be a more beautiful display of Him and His love for us.

I think I’m finally realizing what a big deal this move is… I mean, in telling the story over and over throughout the weekend, I had plenty of chances to hear just how crazy it sounds. Not just a move coming together in 30 days. Not even a move this far coming together in 30 days.

A move this far for someone who really has NEVER EVER moved… in 30 days.

So… what REALLY happens when we say yes to Him? We’re saying yes to a life and a path that is far more difficult, no doubt. This move and transition has absolutely played out as the hardest thing I’ve ever done, just as I predicted. And considering all I’ve had to endure in the last now eight years… that’s saying quite a bit.

But because that life and path is far more difficult… we have no choice but to rely fully and completely on Him. We have no choice but to press into Him and His promises, even if we feel like He is so far away and even if we feel like we’re doing a horrible job with it all.

As I think about everything from the last five months, one phrase comes to mind…

“I can’t. But He can.”

Five months and two days have taught me just how true that is.
Five months and two days have given me opportunity to put this faith into practice in some very real and difficult ways.

Five months and two days of a life FAR outside of my comfort zone… and a lifetime more to come. Bring it on.

reflections from a girl who wanted to die (but no longer does)

It’s no secret that mental illness is becoming more and more common. We are being told new statistics all the time, high schools are becoming more and more active in the fight against teen anxiety and depression, and some days it seems as though everywhere you go there is some evidence of this darkness – this demon – called mental illness.

So there’s a lot of awareness, yes. But as someone who walked the road for so long and who still does in many ways… awareness does not always equal the support and the community that we need. Sometimes it does, yes. But depression in its very nature seeks to isolate you. It seeks to take away all the things you hold dear and it seeks to truly terrorize you. I’ve had to learn so much about reaching out and communicating my needs, and much of that has come just in the last few months.

It’s interesting, though. Because when you live nearly your entire life with one normal, one constant battle, one thought and demon that seeks to destroy you – the thought of wanting to end your own life – when that’s all you ever really know, what happens when one day you wake up and everything is different? Granted, mine was maybe a two month process (from realizing what needed to happen until the day it all started to make sense). But still – when you’re comparing that time frame to seven years, if not closer to fifteen years – it seems like no time at all.

So, back to the question – what happens when you wake up one day and everything is different? Well, first of all, you learn even MORE just how important it is to rest and to take care of yourself. You learn to be gentle with yourself and to appreciate that your body, for the first time in probably close to fifteen years, can finally relax and leave that constant state of hyper-vigilance behind.

Then as you begin to move forward… you realize that the phrase “nothing will ever be the same” could not ring more true. I mean, just looking at my symptoms – they haven’t gone completely away. Not even close. But it HAS been vastly different because now I feel worthy of using the coping skills that I do have. The symptoms have been here… I’ve been exhausted and experienced depression and this last weekend even started to feel a pull to some old negative coping skills… but yet, things are different – because I didn’t give in, because I’m still here. Because I let God help me through it.

And the biggest difference? Yes all of the same shit still happens. It does – that’s just life. But the biggest difference that is still present? I no longer have the desire to die.

HOLD UP.
WAIT.
WHAT DID MARY JUST SAY??!

Yeah… you heard me. I don’t want to die anymore. It’s crazy, because in all honesty I never thought I would be able to say that – just ask those who are closest to me. But I mean, not only can I say that… I’ve been able to say that now for almost five months. And if that’s not a miracle of God, I don’t know what is.

September is national suicide prevention month, and for the first time I have walked through this month with an entirely different perspective. For once in my life I can say and truly believe that it can and it will get better. Even looking back, knowing what I know now… I don’t know if I would ever say that to someone in exactly those words. Because it was those same words that had me bitter and angry and resigned and that would honestly leave me more and more hopeless every time I heard them.

I want to come back to the question… what happens when you wake up one day and everything is different, when for the first time in fifteen years you don’t want to die? Well, one result is that you’re now walking through life with a different kind of burden. You’re walking through life with a burden that is hard to describe and that is so hard for others to understand. For myself, I have found that since that Monday morning in May I just view the world so very differently. I mean, when you have a near death experience that lasts that long (on and off, but still), it leaves you scarred. So when I say “nothing will ever be the same”… I don’t just mean the changes that have come from realizing and being able to internalize that I am fully known AND fully loved by our God of the universe. That is a big change and that is life changing, yes.

But I will also never see people the same. I will never not hurt for someone who is hurting. I will never be able to look at my own life without getting overwhelmed with gratitude, with “what ifs”, with the “almosts”… And, coming back to a point from earlier in this post, that can leave someone incredibly isolated and lonely. It’s a different kind of loneliness, yes… I no longer want to die, and being able to say that gives me so much joy. But I am walking through each day with a different kind of burden. Life is a process, and so I will forever be working on giving this burden over to the Lord. But it still just blows my mind that I was so close so many times. I tell people all the time that more than likely, per statistics, I shouldn’t be here. Plain and simple. I should not be alive.

So tonight, I close out suicide awareness month having walked through it with a completely different perspective. I am preparing for the move out to Virginia (another post to come soon), and God in His just absolute awesomeness has orchestrated it all so that there is a community “Out of the Darkness Walk” through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Richmond in just a few weeks. But not only that… It’s on my birthday. You guys, it’s on my birthday. I get to celebrate all that God has done by bringing me out from the darkness of a life colored by suicide ON MY FREAKING BIRTHDAY.

God is good. There’s just no other way around it. Life hurts, yes. Sometimes it really sucks and even starts to hurt like hell. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t good or that He doesn’t love us.

And being able to proclaim those truths over our lives – God is good, loving, kind, so many others – in no way negates the realness of our pain or the fact that life this side of heaven is just plain hard.

All it means is that He is here… with us, in the muck, and in the pain.

What a paradox, yes. But what a beautiful, life changing, and life SAVING truth.

freedom… and not just the political kind.

freedom
noun
liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another

It’s the 4th of July today, so naturally the subject of freedom has been on my mind most of the day. Most people speak of freedom today in the context of the freedom we have here in the United States. Some people have no idea the gravity of the religious freedom upon which this country was founded, but I think some people do still truly appreciate the religious freedom that men and women have fought to gain and keep for the last 200+ years – and that they still fight for today.

Continue reading “freedom… and not just the political kind.”

coming to you from 36,000 feet

Well… to say that it’s been a week would be quite the understatement. After changing my plans on Sunday to not only fly to Chicago through a small airport (instead of direct) but ALSO to rent a car and make the five hour drive up to Minocqua… I thought THAT was a wrench in my plans for this vacation. Now, though… oh my goodness. That was nothing.

Continue reading “coming to you from 36,000 feet”

giving anger its rightful purpose

Emotions. We all know that no emotion is bad (at least I hope we do), that it’s just more about what you do with them. But for so many raised in a conservative and faith based house, like… I know for me at least, it took YEARS of work to begin to let myself feel angry. For so long, the emotion of anger in and of itself felt sinful. In reality, though? That could not be farther from the truth! This is a perfect example to lean into that phrase, as cliche as it is… no emotion is bad, it’s all in how you respond.

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fully known & fully loved

If I could thank Dr. Jillian for just one of the many things she left me with? One lesson, one gift? It would be the gift of a life living fully known AND fully loved. She was only able to give me that in human form, emphasis on the temporary part of human form. But… as a result, she has impacted and touched my life in a way that no one else has.

“To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever….”

I found that quote credited to JK Rowling tonight as I was looking up quotes on grief on Pinterest. Some reading this may find it odd that I start a post with this title by sharing a quote about grief. However, anyone who knows my story well knows that an experience with grief ties in very closely with the idea of being fully known AND fully loved.

Continue reading “fully known & fully loved”

Yes, dear friend. He really has overcome.

As I have moved into my adult years and begun to understand life more and more, I have observed how sometimes God gives different people different specific – and unique – messages that they have on their hearts to share with the world. For example, one amazing author/speaker that I know has the most incredible and beautiful message that he shares about the grace of God. He can speak about God’s forgiveness and grace in a way that I have never heard before, and it is his heart’s desire to share this with the world. Another amazing author/speaker that I know has started a nonprofit that helps Christians learn and become more equipped to witness and live as missionaries in their everyday lives, and having had the privilege to hear him speak on this subject multiple times – he gets it. He gets what it’s like to live everyday as if God is going to use us to witness in a mighty way, and he is excellent at communicating this message.

Continue reading “Yes, dear friend. He really has overcome.”

Talk the talk, walk the walk… AND walk the walk?

By now it’s no secret that my life has drastically changed for the better in recent months, but my mind is continually spinning day after day after day because all of these changes are ones that I never EVER dreamed possible. I mean, Ephesians 3:20 has become my life verse for a reason. I’m finding myself in a place that just a few short months ago I never even dreamed attainable, and now? Now anything is possible. I have now seen firsthand how God can do absolutely anything, even things that we think are so impossible that we never even think to ask.

Continue reading “Talk the talk, walk the walk… AND walk the walk?”