Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Garden and grief, a beautiful place to be real

So I said in my last post that "I can't see the trees." It's true.  And you can't just snap your fingers and be teleported to the other side of grief.  I've only written a few times this year, but when I write, I don't hold back.  In my case, grief is about my brother taking his life at age of 47, and losing a dear friend to cancer a few months later.  Its true what's been said, you can't go around it, you must go through it.  

But I have a Great Shepherd leading me through the desert.  This is not about pulling yourself of by your own boot straps, or faking joy, or mustering up the "right" feelings.  It's about truth transcending our feelings, and being OK with both, truth and feelings.  It's about being real.

There is a movement in suicide awareness called Project Semicolon.  It is to signify to suicide survivors and those who are pressing on with mental illness to keep going.  Do not put a period on your story, there is more!

Once we get OK with real, we can begin to reach out and encourage others.  In time, we can minister even in our brokeness.  Actually, that is all we have to offer, because God says,  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

The song Even If by MercyMe is linked below.  The words resonate with me because he says how it's easy for him to encourage in concert when things are going well for him.  But he doesn't stop when things go bad... the story behind the song is good.  I also put a link in below for that.  I want to write only when there is HOPE typed out on the keyboard, even if its in pain...I want you to know I have hope.

Isaiah 40:11
"He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young."

This BLURRY SEASON doesn't mean I throw in the towel.  For me it has been an intentional effort to be in community that presses into God; to stay in God's Word even when numb; and to give myself permission to hold back  from gatherings when I need to, not entirely, but to know that is OK.

I've learned that I judge myself harshly by setting a standard of how I should feel, and be by putting markers on time.  Sometimes I judge myself for being happy, sometimes for being sad... When all along I need to "just be" and not figure it out.  Just "be with Jesus" or sometimes just trust that He is "being with me."

Learning to live "in the moment" has been a goal of mine for years, but God is helping me with that skill set in this season of my life.  God sees my heart, and He knows me in a way that no other can know me.  He has suffered and walked this earth - He feels with us, and prays for us knowingly.

I just finished a Bible study on 1 Peter with a sweet community of women who have walked along side me as I have laughed, literally fled the scene in tears, participated, and at times sat and wept quietly, but stayed.  I'm sure it has been awkward for them at times - AS IT HAS FOR ME! But God kept saying go and just "be."  God kept me in community,  kept me in His Word, and kept me from isolating.  Only God could do that.

Last night one lady said "It's so hard to believe that Adam and Eve gave up walking in the garden with God." 
 It. blew. my. mind.  

Why?! Because we can still walk in the garden, and I so often don't think I can in my grief.  He dwells in our hearts, He is with us - Emmanuel, and "the garden" is not a lost opportunity for us!  On good days and bad days we can "walk in the Garden" with God.  He said, "I will be with you always..." (Matthew 28:20)

John 1 summarizes Jesus' ever presence so well. 

"1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

14 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. "

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

God came and dwelt among us, so that we could dwell with Him!  Romans 8 is another of my favorite passages.  You can read it in full here

But I love these verses:
26" 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. 27 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. "

37" No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Can grief make you feel separate from God? Yes!  But only Jesus was truly separated from God when He died on the cross.  He said "My God why have you forsaken me?"  He knew why, so that we would not have to be separated from Him.  And yet His pain was very real.  His separation was very real.  Beyond what we will ever comprehend!

As Raymond Edman, one of Billy Graham's mentors said, 

"Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light."

Our circumstances change, but they do not change the character of God.  He loves us, and loves for us to dwell with Him - even in pain...especially in pain.  He understands our lament.  The pain we surrender to Him can be used by Him.  

I'm falling forward into this pain and healing.  I'm falling forward into His presence every morning.  If you don't know where to begin, read Psalm 119, even take it slower, and write a few verses of it a day.  That in itself is DWELLING IN THE GARDEN.

I don't only listen to songs of lament, I have included a few of my favorites of lament, and also those that re-direct my thoughts to the character of our GOOD GOOD FATHER.

Even If by MercyMe

The story behind Even If

Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane

1 Peter 5:10
10 "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."

Yearn by Shane and Shane

Behold by Hillsong Worship
1 John 3:1
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Worthy of Your Name by Passion

Where will our souls walk today?  In the Garden? Our bodies can walk through this world, and yet our souls can walk in the Garden with God.  When the spiritual and the physical blend, there is a new of just being at peace no matter what we are feeling.  Seems like a contradiction.  It is a contradiction that I want to lean into.  Letting Jesus hold us, dwell with us.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I only see trees...someday I will see the forest again.

Sometimes we really can't see the forest for the trees.  Still devastated one year later.  If you are devastated, there is not a time table, no judgement.  I hesitate to write much these days.  It is a time to be quiet.  But I am writing for those who think they should be further along in grieving their loss.  May you be encouraged.

My brother took his life just over a year ago.  I am just barely beginning to process the loss of this precious man and all he meant to me and to so many.  It has taken me a year just to face the tragedy of the loss.  So many stages in grieving.  This is not a self-indulgent post, but one of benefiting from other people sharing.

I want to urge you (us) to press on.  Keep seeking God.  That's where I am, because I have hope and truth.  John 17:17 says,  "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."  I believe this to be true, and so I will stick closely to God's words, and not my own.

This past Sunday helped because our Pastor taught from March 8:23-25,

23 "He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly."

This helped me to understand where I am right now.  I know what I believe, but I just see "trees."  I long to see clearly again!  It reminds me of my favorite passage, Acts 17:24-28,

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring."

This morning I also thought about 1 Corinthians 13:12-13,

12 "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Life hurts everyone at one time or another.  I don't have answers, and never will. But I am pressing in none the less, and though our hearts may stay broken until heaven, we have heaven now in our hearts. His Kingdom dwells in us.  Colossians 1:27 says, "Christ in us the hope of glory." My hope remains for God's love to continue to fill in the cracks of this broken heart.

So if you ask me right now, how are you? I'm learning to be OK with brokenness, healing comes in stages, but it comes. On my morning run I saw the trees blooming and thought, oh my sweet brother, I wish you had waited to see the blooms, and the healing that comes in stages. But now you are now whole. I know one day I will be whole.  One day I will see you again!

These lyrics are my prayer, I have it playing on repeat:

Behold, Hillsong Worship

This next song also speaks volumes to me because before this tragedy I had written so much to encourage others.  In Psalm 40 David tells it so well.  We encourage and share God's love, but we are also in need.  Pause and hit repeat.  Verse 17, the last verse says, " As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.  You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!"

Even If, Mercy Me

Monday, January 2, 2017

Deliberate in Pain, your Christmas might have hurt...but God will redeem it, HE ALREADY HAS

It has been a quiet year of blogging.  If I write at all, it has always been for the hurting.  I am not expert, just a sojourner sharing what God lays on my heart.  This is my sweet sis and my brother.  We will carry on and share God's light.  That is what Joel would've wanted, that's what God wants.

I keep having this thought that seems like its a nudge from God to write.  And I keep telling God I have nothing to write.  As you know its been a hard year, and 2017 does not mark the end of the year for me.  March 17 will be one year since my brother took his life.

The new year verse that popped up on my Bible app was Isaiah 43:19,
"For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."

The moment I read this verse I sent it to my immediate family, hoping to show that mom is not in the dry wasteland, and God is doing a new thing, and blessings are coming in ways we don't comprehend...

But I can't fool anyone, especially my husband and kids.  So I followed up with - I know I fail at this.  What is it I fail at?  I had to ponder that.  Grief is not something you fail at.  

But there are things I'm putting in place that I see now as God beginning to "make a pathway..."  

A couple weeks ago I was encouraged to read Psalm 119 and only that Psalm for a while.  The Psalm is poetic and repetitive, bringing calm and truth.  Truth I need.  Truth we all need.  

I know your year has not been easy either.  Who has an easy year?  In John 16:33 Jesus tells us,

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

Jesus had trials and sorrow!  He came so that He would glorify the Father in redeeming all this pain by walking towards the most painful moment...separation from His Father on the cross.  Along these lines, I was recently thinking about how Jesus wept.  And it became more personal to me than ever before, because He wept over the loss of Mary and Martha's BROTHER.  Jesus actually understands why I cry, specifically about my brother.  John 11:35, 

"Jesus wept."

So in what ways to I see the pathway beginning to open for the rivers to flow through wasteland?  The GRACE to be DELIBERATE.  I have been reading Psalm 119 over and over, and at first it was because of a suggestion.  But each time the Word became more alive!   And that is what Psalm 119 is all about!  

After  couple weeks of reading it, I have begun to deliberately write out 8 verses a day from Psalm 119.  Again, a deliberate method of meditation.  But God reminded me of a sermon where it was said that sometimes in an activity we move from drudgery, to deliberate, to delight.  I probably have the 3 d's wrong, but you get the idea.

So I'll end with this.  This is not the first time I've started to write out Scripture since my brother's death.  But I feel the Spirit of God taking my hand and saying pick up the pen Julie.  It's OK to be "right where you are.  I am here with you."  Remembering the verse, "I will never leave you." Hebrews 13:5

Sometimes I move away from God, sometimes I just sit near God, and sometimes I move towards God.  My prayer and belief is that He will always pursue me, and I know that He will always pursue you!  

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:8

Lord, let us be deliberate in drawing near to you.  So no matter where you are today, it is possible to be deliberate, even in the smallest way, to draw near to God.  Even if just to say, God help me.  I've had many tell me that we were not meant for this world.  And its true.  But until eternity we are meant for it.  Even in our pain, we are meant to glorify God, and to give a reason for our hope. 1 Peter 3:15, 

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

I'm not going to over analyze what I just wrote, it just flowed from my pen after praying.  I pray it encourages you.  And by that I don't mean that a verse takes the pain away.  But the Creator of the Universe would want us to know that He is the Word, and that one day He will wipe away all tears.  Revelation 21:4,

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."

God has given me friends who never fail to bless my heart when I lease expect it.  I thank God for each and every one of you.  May you be blessed with hope today and not be too hard on yourself.  And here is one more deliberate thing to try...SMILE.

Shane and Shane, Psalm 34

Shane and Shane, Yearn

This one hurts, but its so redeeming!  Its what I'm trying to say...I'm not there yet, but falling forward
Shane and Shane, Though You Slay Me

I have hidden your work in my heart💙
Psalm 119:11

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Shifting my gaze - in a season of grief

Illumination and light are words that I am attracted to in the Bible...John 1:5 "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." But to those who are grieving, you are not alone, and I do not offer simple answers.  There are none.  I am just walking with you.  Lets press on.

In my study group this week we have been encouraged to choose a verse from the Sermon on the Mount to meditate on and memorize.

I chose Matthew 6:22-23.  "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"

The context of this verse is more about "seeing" things (STUFF) you desire in order to make you happy.  But I immediately interpreted it as "seeing" THOUGHTS, WORDS.  Thinking about Jesus and His Word to illuminate my mind, and to replace dark thoughts.  I attached this verse to depression.  When you look at it through that lens it rings true as well.  Working it out.

Jesus is Light // Jesus is the Word // There is Power in the Word

John 8:12 says,  "Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 1:1 says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." and Hebrews 4:12 says,  "For the word of God is alive and active..."

In the past I have loved sharing the love and light of God with others through His Word.  In fact I started this blog believing God wanted me to share the ashes of my life because I know that in the end, He will make these ashes beautiful.

It has been a desert season and I am thankful for those of you who have poured into me.  I have been encouraged to work through the grief of losing my brother tragically this year, and my friend to cancer,  by pouring God's Word into my spirit and sending up praises to God.  Sometimes I'm numb, sad, mad and don't want to look for the light.  But God has placed special people in my life to point me to His Word whether its a good day or a bad day.  Thank you.

So as I turn the page of my 50th year, I will always know it is a year of loss.  It will always be marked with pain.  In fact just typing these words creates a visceral ache in my chest.  But it will also be  marked by those who've encouraged me to fall forward into God's grace and healing.  It will be marked by those who have pointed me to God's Word, to God.  And even in that, it's OK to not be OK in the process.

I hope that most of all this year will be a year

Marked. By. The. Cross.

What does that mean?  John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  A perfect Holy Jesus took on my sin in exchange for eternal life and relationship with God in heaven.  I want to live marked by the now, but impacted for all eternity, and to share this impact for the glory of God - in sadness or in joy.  It is all the "now and the not yet."

Letting people help without me feeling the need to present a "happy Julie" has been a learning experience this year. In the past I could fake it, but this year I just could not do it.  It has been humbling and yet, has been a gift actually.  And the ironic thing is that by letting go and being "just Julie," I am feeling the freedom of God's love.  It's not about me, its unconditional love from God, and its about God.  God is the lover of my soul.

So I'll leave you with my chapter for this week, Psalm 19:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Like Incense/Sometimes By Step, Hillsong 

I Need You, I Love You, I Want You, Tenth Avenue North

Sunday, September 4, 2016

When the unimaginable happens - BEING HELD

To my precious family, it is OK not to read this.  I love you.  And it's OK to not be OK.

It's been a 6 month season to be quiet.  I will continue to be quiet.  But I will take a moment to share that God is indescribably close to the broken hearted.  Many of you are walking through  an intense season of suffering right now.  You are not alone.

Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."

That is what I know today.  That is a truth that I have been clinging to, but that is not always what it feels like.  I'm sharing today because we all have faced suffering, or are in the throws of suffering now, and sometimes we need to know that someone understands what it feels like, when the unimaginable happens.

I hesitate to write because I'm still grieving, learning, and respecting the grief of my loved ones in the tragic loss of my brother in March 2016.  He was the last person we ever dreamt would take his own life... We are all still in the throws of shock, pain, disbelief, unending questions, finding hope, and needing to walk through these doors one at a time.  

And to you our friends, there is no right or wrong thing to say as you journey alongside.  You have spoken, hugged, written, called, loved... thank you for being there for us.  For stepping into our chaos and loving on us.  As awkward as it may feel for you at times, it is a balm to our souls, believe that.

So I am simply writing you a letter, a glimpse of what I know now, and what I still long to know.  I have FOUGHT to be OK, for fear of the darkness.  I have resisted the FREE GIFT OF BEING HELD in the darkness.  I have feared my own desperate thoughts, my own body physically crumbling with fatigue, pain and illness, and it has.  

I have feared my own inability to see light.  Feared I would not be able to help everyone else be OK too.  Feared what this pain would do to them.  Feared that my true raw grief would cause others to flee - you have not.  That God would flee - HE WILL NEVER LEAVE!  But when everyone you love hurts at once, you need certainty that God will hold all the pieces - even when you can not see Him.  

I have silently lived as though clawing at the edges of a cliff - yet by God's grace clinging to His daily "Manna" that I could not even see.  By that I mean, the daily grace that levels my path.  The grace for just one day at a time.

Isaiah 42:16  "And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them."

Lord, please sink this deep into my soul - with You - it will be well.  You have been here all along.  I've never once doubted Your goodness God, that is the one thing I have kept before me.  You have kept before me.
God. Is. Good.

I think back on the last 6 months of turmoil in my soul, and in all the souls who loved and were loved by my brother.  Some of the chaos in my mind is just now beginning to clear, just beginning... I am beginning to reflect on the beautiful things about Joel, and the many ways he blessed my life and everyone he knew...the list is endless!  

Joel was a good dad, husband, uncle, son, brother, cousin, nephew, friend.  He never knew a stranger.  In fact, he went out of his way to draw in the lonely.  I will forever hold onto the last hug I gave him.  It makes me smile every time.  He thought I was done hugging and he turned around, but I was still attached to his neck!   His motion twirled me through the air.  We laughed so hard!  I loved laughing with him!

But while walking this road, I recently read a quote by Edward Welch, in his book Running Scared, that said "Whatever you think you need will control you."  

This morning, though it may sound "vague", the "whatever" that has controlled me in these last months has been my desperate belief that I have to be OK.  To be OK for myself, and for all my family.  To walk through grief and not suffer emotionally, physically, or spiritually too deeply BECAUSE, as a child, "suffering" was not a safe place.  I think many can relate to that.  

As a kid I believed in God with childlike faith, but I didn't really grasp that Jesus suffered in our place, and that He walks out suffering with us daily, ready to shoulder the weight.  He says that He collects our tears.

Psalm 56:8 "You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book."

As life unfolds, God begins to peal back the layers of self-protection, and reveal that He is our Protector, our Comforter, in the midst of our greatest pain.  But I have been running scared anyway.  And its OK.  But in the running I have not escaped the pain.  You can't.  There is no way around it, I/we have to walk through it.

Now I see this.  Now I see that the suffering is all part of the darkness that WILL NOT OVERCOME me.  But it is part of the path. To walk in darkness with faith.

Only. Possible. With. Grace.

John 1:5 says, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."

I have declared this verse for over 2 years now - but I could not receive it when I needed it most.  

I know now, that I have been, we have been, and continue to BE HELD BY GOD.  I know God will use the suffering and He will heal me/us.  Hopefully one day we can bring hope to those who walk this path.  To bring awareness to, and prevention of this kind of loss, as well as comfort to the survivors.  But as I/we wait, God is the HOLDER OF ME. OF US.

I don't have answers, the grief will take its course.  As I waive the white flag, I'm not giving up.  I'm gaining hope.  I feel God's presence.  I felt like there has been a ceiling between God and me these last months.  I can't describe it, but I need to say that God is showing Himself with tiny embers of hope glowing again.  I want to share that, because if you are in a dark place, you need to hear that.  For so long, I could not imagine that would ever be possible.  

I have a long way to go...  I just want to call my brother, I love him, and I can't believe it's true.  I know I will be with my brother again in Heaven.  But for now I hold onto this...
Psalm 27 "I am still confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."  

Psalm 91:4 "He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection."

Hold Onto me, by Elevation Worship

Exhale, by Plumb

Need You Now, by Plumb

Lord I'm Ready Now, by Plumb

A Time for Everything Ecclesiastes 3

There is an appointed time for everything. 

And there is a time for every event under heaven...

A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance...

A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak...

Saturday, March 5, 2016

This Mama Bear is praying to Abba Father - when your kids suffer

You know, when you go through stuff yourself it stinks, until later when you look back and you see God was holding you all the time. You begin to see how he was weaving a story in your life that would eventually be an encouragement to others. You end up loving those opportunities like no other, because what could be more joyful then bringing hope to someone especially when you know what that kind of despair feels like.

It's a completely different thing when it's your kids. You know the truth, you know that God loves them more than you ever could, and you know that walking these ropes is strengthening them for an amazing call on their lives.  

Well, I have no excuse. But I'll be honest, it can make me feel angry. I never felt angry with my own struggles, ever!  But the "mama bear" thing comes out in you when it's your babies, even if they are grown.  And as much as I know God is holding them, in my flesh I absolutely hate it, and it absolutely makes me angry, I want to kick and scream at the enemy and say "leave them alone!"  And sometimes, that is what we need to do!  And then I find myself praying to the Lord, "You're their protector, and you're making them stronger in this."  A friend reminded me it is OK to have anger.  The Bible says to "anger and sin not."  It's OK to be angry for others, for your kids, as long as you share your anger with God, and not towards God.  He knows our emotions.  The Father Himself had to watch His Son die!

I read some verses this morning, Psalm 126:5, "weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning." How many times do you know of people who speak of joy after long-suffering. Who is a better example than Jesus Christ himself?   We are about to celebrate the ultimate victory, joy after complete despair, His resurrection!

I also came upon my favorite chapter in the whole Bible this morning, Acts 17, where it talks about the fact that God is right there all around us even though we can't always see him, and then Paul goes on to say,  "in him we live and move and have our being." That refreshes my soul, it's only in Him, and I know that my kids believe that it is in Him.  They demonstrate great faith and perseverance, and I have seen the answers to my daily prayers out of Colossians chapter 1, "Lord let us discern Your will, and bear fruit that brings You glory, all because you have adopted us into your family through the blood of Jesus."

So God opens my eyes in the middle of my anger. And I'll be honest I still feel frustrated, but it is outweighed by the fact that I know His love is far greater, and is far more powerful than my anger. He is so sweet to meet me here, and remind me of his sovereign loving care. And he lets me see how he is lifting them and strengthening them.

I remember one day when my dad said to me,  "I know the struggle is hard on you but I just love knowing that God is at work."  It felt a little strange, and yet comforting, that my dad was telling me that he was OK with my struggle, because he knew God was in it.  Don't we all need to hear that?

I'll end now with a song that I was just listening to on the treadmill. It's called Touch the Sky by Hillsong, and it's really true, when our knees hit the ground and we surrender, He is our all, and it's beautiful.  We don't want our kids clinging to us, to other people, to achievements, to anything/one but God. It is grace that reminds us that this is what God is up to, He's up to the ultimate Fathering of our children.  Signed,
Mama Bear

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Depression/Anxiety tried to crush me. God's story in my life...

Anxiety/Depression Disorder, yes, I have it, and I have something to say. Even with this diagnosis, I always seek share HOPE & LIGHT, because God can redeem every story. I shared my story 2 years ago, and am compelled to share it again for anyone who is battling and looking for hope. I sometimes revisit my notes on healing because it is a continual process. A couple years ago I was asked to share my story of God meeting me in my darkest hour. After that I felt it was time to share it in written form.

What I left out of the written blog post, was that I had sometimes slipped back into fighting my own way. At one point my anxiety meds were at the upper limit and I was taking more and running out. I needed counsel and accountability. My way alone had short term relief and long term misery.

I've had it all. I realize now that I was mildly depressed all my life. I had some anxiety attacks in college, severe post partum depression after each child that was mostly characterized with anxiety. I couldn't sleep or eat starting the day they were born. Nervous nausea blind sided me and took up residence in me for months. ( talk about feeling incredibly guilty! I still have to remind myself that it was not my fault and it was chemical.  I loved my babies well, I just couldn't take care of myself!), and finally a severe clinical depression that left me bed ridden for weeks that spilled into months.

I think we all need to know there's another way. I will admit, that I still run from community, starved for it at times, yet too exhausted and afraid to pursue it. Afraid I will ruin it. Well, this is all the truth, and it if ruins anything, it is something that I shouldn't be clinging to anyway. Godly community will understand the fight, the physical/emotional/spiritual limitations at times. I'm prompted to share it again because I have close dear ones struggling, both friends and family.

You are not alone in your struggle and there is a light. John 1:5, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." So when I cry for you, I cry with you, but with hope and the knowledge that when we surrender to God, He is there, He is there even when we are not surrendered, waiting to embrace us.

I am so glad that there is an amazing conference going on this weekend at Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington KY. The topic is Depression and Anxiety. I am including a pic of the pod casts for you to see if you want to download them. I listened to the first podcast cast and felt like my life story was being spelled out in detail. The church needs education. Years ago, there was no place to turn, but we need/can offer healing community now...we must!

It is always a good thing to talk to your doctor about frequency and duration of symptoms. Having the "blues" or getting "nervous" is normal. But when these things begin to rob you of living, or become crippling/paralyzing, a doctor, counseling, and medicine may be needed AND THAT IS OK! More than OK, may be necessary.  The "whole" person needs care, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  God works in all these areas, and His grace will carry you through.

In the first podcast Pastor Rob describes his acute onset of anxiety. What I discovered 15 years ago, was that I had been living with an anxiety disorder that was not acute. It had finally thrown me into acute clinical depression. I've been healed of clinical depression, praise be to God, but I still fight with God's grace every day.

Anxiety/depression sometimes "sit on my shoulder," that familiar spirit of despair trying to re-attach. That is the humbling pain that keeps me near the thrown of grace. It also keeps me real with those who need real. And when those I love are in the fight, I feel the darkness enough to almost go there, but NOT. Instead to be able to share how Jesus can hold you and heal you and to give hope. So below is my first post, The God Who Heals, as I wrote it 2 years ago, unedited. My prayer is that I will always be able to do 1 Peter 3:15 says,

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

Psalm 42:7-8

"Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.…"

No Longer Slaves, Bethel Music

I Surrender, Hillsong Worship


The God Who Heals (2013):

Seasons of fear, depression, anxiety, self-hatred, insecurity, illness, headaches…used to define my life. I knew I was a Christian, but I lived and felt like an “orphan.” My back story is common to many. The brokenness in my childhood family was not wasted. My disposition to anxiety and the crushing blow of people against the ministry my family was doing collided. It drew us to Jesus for healing. He never lets go!

I’ve been praying about how, or when, or if to share my story in blog form. I believe God is saying it’s time. I also believe that the specifics of my story are not necessary to convey the faithfulness of God. All of us have stories. The important thing is that we point each other to God, that we give hope. The Word says in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” It also says in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” We need HIS light to shine through our stories, giving hope to others.

About 12 years ago God began to shift my heart from because “I was” (fill in the former circumstances) therefore “I am” ( self- condemning label), to because “God is” (fill in the characteristics of God) therefore “I am” (who HE says I am!). I am a child of God!

I’ve also learned to accept these seasons not as punishment, but as “refinement.” I still have spells of fibromyalgia flares, fatigue, and anxiety. God’s work in our lives, does not remove all our weaknesses. Nor do we cease to sin. But, when we believe that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, we know that HE completely justified us at salvation through the payment of the blood of the perfect spotless Lamb, Jesus. That is, the Father sees us as perfect, and our the debt of our sins is paid. Then HE continues to sanctify (purify) us throughout our lives, drawing us closer in relationship to HIM and victorious living. His desire is for us to bear fruit that brings HIM glory, Colossians 1:9-14. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Instead of living in condemnation, I know I have direct access to HIS throne, through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

He draws me closer with my weaknesses. I know that HE will work out HIS purposes for my life whether in difficulty or in ease. Psalm 138:8 explains in the following section.

My Path to Healing began in 2002

I was so ready for help, but didn’t know where to turn. My depression was full blown and bulimia had become a monster in my life. I would pace in my house going over names of ladies to call for help a hundred times, but not feeling safe with anyone. I remember laying on the living room floor one day looking at the ceiling and saying, “God, people say you talk to them! I am listening! Why aren’t you talking to me?

I found a number for a “Panic Hotline” that was listed in the newspaper and learned it was at the Christian bookstore! When I finally got the nerve up to call, I was told that it no longer existed. I was devastated! But God moved her to have a lady call me. An hour later, this special stranger to me, called me. She spent an hour on the phone with me, that alone spoke deeply into my heart.

She encouraged me to get a 3x5 spiral and begin collecting verses. The verse she gave me to start with was Psalm 138:8 “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” She taught me in those few minutes, that the Bible is God’s language, and when it is sown into my heart, He would call it up in times of need ,or times of worship, or just to bless me. It was the beginning of me learning to hear God. I also began listening to teachings on the power of the Word of God.

Healing Step 1: His Word

Step 1 was learning to speak out His Word, believing His power in it. He was gentle, and He gave me just one verse at a time. I would write it on a card and just read it over and over, not to memorize, but to survive! I didn’t know that it was going down deep into my heart this time. I would linger with one verse for weeks at a time.

Hebrews 4:12 says 12” For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Isaiah 55:10-11 “10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
… 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Jeremiah 23:29 "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?“

It was during this time that Steve began rising up early to pray and read the Word, equally being drawn to God. He was trying to help me through this season with two small children, while I was in bed, too terrified to pull back the covers each day.

Healing Step 2: God loves me, this is true!

I was beginning to learn that God personally loved me. I had always felt so distanced from God, and so sinful, that I just couldn’t accept that there was a personal love from God. Especially when I could not conquer fear, fibromyalgia, fatigue, eating disorders such as bulimia. I began to purposely bathe in Scriptures of His love for me, like:

1 John 4:16 “We know how much God loves us and we have put our trust in Him.”

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

1 John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the sons of God. And that is who we are!’

Healing Step 3: Receiving the truth of God’s Forgiveness

I began to receive God’s forgiveness. I would ask for forgiveness and say out loud, “I receive Your forgiveness Lord, and I thank you for it.” Saying it out loud helped me to hear it, not just think it. . I prayed through many memories as I repented, received His forgiveness, and forgave others, and just began to soak in His love.

That was important for me because I had trouble with compulsive thinking. I would re-visit a conversation, a thought, an action over and over. That is also when I began to pray and meditate on 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I would pray that a dozen times a day, walking out my victory verse by verse, day by day.

I began to see that self-hatred was a form of pride. Self-reliance lead me to self condemnation because I could not fix everything! Ultimately this lead to humbleness, dying to self, and recognizing my need for His strength and righteousness.

I also began to understand that confession and humility were different from shame and humiliation. There is such a fine line between redemption and condemnation!

Isaiah 66:2 “This is the one I esteem; he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my Word.”

Isaiah 54:4-5“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth…
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.”

This passage was especially meaningful to me. My new found friend/mentor had given this verse to me. She recognized that the stronghold of fear, in the form of rejection and shame lay heavy on my shoulders. On my drive home after we prayed together, I truly had a vision! It was a big black spider web. All the moments of shame in my life flashed before me, one at a time. As each one did, the web began to get white, until it was all white! I had never experienced anything like that before! As an adult, any small correction or advice from someone else would cause me to feel shame, deep shame, unequal to the size of the mistake I had made. Shame was a monster and God began to stamp it out! I still begin my prayers, “Lord Jesus, Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner.” I feel such grace in these words now.

Isaiah 30:15 “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,”

Isaiah 44:22 “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

Psalm 51:3 “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”

Step 4: Dealing With Fear, knowing God is our Defender

I also began to tackle fear with the Word. It says in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and a sound mind.” I would pray that over and over.

I have also repented to my kids (and still do) for parenting out of “fearful love” instead of “perfect love.” It says in 1 John 4:18 that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” What a delicate shift…

I also prayed Matthew 16:19 and inserted my needs into that verse, “Lord, bind my mind to the mind of Christ, and loose the stronghold of fear in my un-surrendered soul, for what is bound in heaven is bound in earth, and what is loosed in heaven is loosed in earth.”

Healing Step 5: Control, with God in Control, I am safe!

It is really eye opening when you realize that instead of fearing people, I need to have a Godly fear. A reverence and a trust in His ways. Earlier I mentioned Hebrews 12:27-28 says, “This means that the things on earth will be shaken, so that only the eternal things will be left. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be destroyed let us be thankful and please God by worshipping Him with Holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.”

The things I was clinging to were of this world, not THE CREATOR. He was shaking these things loose! But holding me tight! As I began to see truth vs. lies in my heart, I began to see that my desperate effort to CONTROL things in order to feel safe, was actually sin. I did not recognize it before this season in my life. I was too lost in the “orphan” loop. But as I began to learn truth I would pray:

Psalm 19

“Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

14 May the words of my mouth and this meditations of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Knowledge of the lies, and the behaviors that followed the lies, pointed me to my desperate need of the Cross, and my daily need of grace to overcome sin and unhealthy behaviors, false gods, that never proved to meet my needs, just make them greater!

Step 6: Meditating on His Character

What is a Holy fear? It is a state of mind that comes from studying and meditating on the attributes of God. For me, now I need to know that He is a God of peace. Jehovah-Shalom, Romans 16:20 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

Names of God:

Jehovah - the self-existent one: I AM

Jehovah – Jireh (the LORD will provide)

Jehovah – Rapha (the LORD who heals)

Jehovah – Nissi (the LORD our banner)

Jehovah – Shalom (the LORD our peace)

Jehovah – Raah (Rohi) (the LORD my shepherd)

Jehovah - Tsidkenu (the LORD our righteousness)

Jehovah – Shammah (the LORD is present)

Jehovah – Sabaoth ( the LORD of hosts/armies)

Adonai – (Lord, Master)

Elohim – (Mighty One)

El Elyon – (Most High God)

El Shaddai – ( Almighty God)

El Olam – (Everlasting God)

Yeshua – ( Jesus, Yahweh is Savior)

Christos – (Christ, Messiah)

Step 7: Total Self Abandonment

I needed to learn to put on His Robes of Righteousness.

Isaiah 61:10

“…For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Fall into God! He gives peace in the time of need. I began learning to abandon my human love cup and be filled with God’s love to overflowing. Human love hurts because there are always unmet expectations. But God’s love knows no boundaries.

The book of Hosea tells His story in a mighty way. Hosea 1:2-3 “When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord. So he married Gomer.”

Soon after they marry, she leaves Hosea. And then God says in Hosea 3:1 “The Lord said to me “Go show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites.”

Hannah Hurnard says her book, in Hind’s Feet on High Places, Our goal needs to be to love people more than need them. “Overflowing pitchers, not leaky cups.” It says in

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 “All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”

“When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with His comfort through Christ. So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation! For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you…we are confident that as you share in His suffering, you will also share in God’s comfort.”

As I began to hear and sense God loving me personally, I began to love others with HIS strength, not my own. A fresh way to love started to blossom in me!

Conclusion! “Because God is who He says He is…I am who He says I am! We are in Christ!

Ephesians chapter 1: loved, blessed, accepted, redeemed, adopted, chosen, forgiven.

Isaiah 61:10 “…for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,“

I need to put it ALL on the alter. Hurnard, tells an allegory of a girl named “Much Afraid.” Throughout her journey she came to a new name: “Grace and Glory.” This is one of my favorite books! Hurnard refers to Matthew 5:46 “If you love those who love you, what reward have you?” Hurnard goes on to say “in heaven every one loves everyone else, and in hell no one loves anyone. But on earth we are in the perfect environment for learning how to love as God loves: to abandon ourselves to loving the apparently unlovely people who remind us in many ways we are still very unlovely ourselves.”

Finally, it says in Hebrews 13:20-21 “And now, may the God of peace, Who brought you again from the dead, our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to Him.”

Bridging the gap between then and now:

I have been learning that I can not control things now, any more than I could back then! Only God can! When Kristen was in 9th grade we learned she was clinically depressed and struggling with anxiety. We soon learned that she had been dealing with undiagnosed ADD. Even in all that, God was doing a special work in her life, and ours.

By 10th grade she was "coming back" and she continues to grow spiritually, and emotionally from day to day. It was during a very special time with God on an inner city outreach in Houston, and also at a summer camp, that God shifted her from the “orphan” heart to an understanding of her relationship IN HIM. Her testimony now speaks of "losing" the label "depression, anxiety.". We believe God has broken the chains of depression and anxiety, praise Him!

And during this time I had another lesson to learn. I had begun to try on my own strength to help Kristen not feel pain or depression. I was forgetting the truth that God brings beauty from ashes and He can be trusted! I didn’t want her to experience my former pain (And I know that sometimes I still try too hard to protect both Kristen and Josh.) I began to ride the waves of emotion with her and beg her to tell me what was going on inside. As I’ve mentioned, I have often repented to our kids for parenting out of “fearful love” instead of “perfect love.” I am now learning to let go for bigger things, like “mom, I want to be a missionary in Honduras.” And IT FEELS GOOD!!!! GRACE! Our family recently went to visit and work along side Kristen with Sparrow Missions in Honduras. She has almost completed her second summer staff position there. It was precious for our family to be together there. Thank you LORD!

Since then, I have experienced “grace” in seasons that would normally “rock” my world. Things we all experience when doing life together. I want to add right here, that I still take medication. I do struggle with generalized anxiety disorder and fibromyalgia. But many of you have seen miraculous deliverance in one way or another at one time or another. I owe it all to Him, daily. I believe it is OK to take medicine!! There is a chemical component for some people that is the same as a diabetic needing insulin. My husband is a neuroscientist and has explained brain chemistry to me and strongly encouraged me to trust the doctors in this for myself and for Kristen. But just as God has lead us to the right medication, He has most often met me in undeniable “God moments” through scripture and moves to action that are way outside of what I would ever do.

Finally, I find that Romans 8:6 helps me identify how I am doing. Romans chapter 8 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.

Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

Yes, I am still learning! Thank you Lord for always teaching me, may I always have a teachable heart! It’s a process. It says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

When we put on Scripture, get dressed in HIS robes, we can move/push into the darkness, not flee from it. We can walk assured that He has assigned our portion and cup and He is our Refuge. Ps. 16:1 says "Keep me safe, O God. For in You I take refuge. Verse 5-6 say "Lord, You assigned me my portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance...I will praise the Lord, Who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."

If the "things hoped for" part feels too far away, cling to just one verse right now. Write it, carry it, read it, pray it. It is full of living power. Don't look at all the obstacles, or even at other stories and wonder how that could ever be true for you. I always use the corny line with Kristen, "how do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time." Fine a verse that speaks to your need and His character, and cling...He will do the rest!

Just a quick summary of the lies and the truths God is replacing in my heart. There is an awesome diagram that summarizes these truths. It comes from author Ruthie Delk in her book Craving Grace.


I WAS:                             I BECAME:

Rejected                           Bitter

Abandoned                      Controlling

Judged                             Afraid

Hurt                                 Isolated


HE IS:                            I AM:

In Control                      Secure Psalm 16:1

Accepting me                Accepted Ephesians 1

Lover                             Loved 1 John 1:3

Provider Jehovah          Jireh Cared for Luke 12:6, Matthew 6

Defender                       Unafraid 2 Timothy 1:7, 1 John 4:8

Righteous                     Righteous Isaiah 61:10

Redeemer                     Forgiven Isaiah 30:15, Psalm 130

"He who calls is faithful, He also will do it." 1 Thess. 5:24

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

The Bible
Hind’s Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard
Craving Grace Like Chocolate, by Ruthie Delk