Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Long Time Coming, Part Two

A year ago I don’t think I possibly could have understood why anyone would call a long period of discouragement good.  Good is happy, right?  But now I know that good is God.  Period. I think some of my best times have been through the tough times when God was all I had.

Because I have Jesus, my circumstances don’t dictate my attitude.  He’s teaching me that I can find contentment in anything He brings or allows into my life.  Can it be painful and yucky?  Of course.  We are promised there are going to be hard times.  I’m reading a lot about Paul these days.  At the end of his life he faced shipwreck and imprisonment and ultimately death for the gospel.  Those are the times he wrote so many letters in the New Testament that are a constant source of encouragement to believers.  He writes about contentment in Philippians:

I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don't mean that your help didn't mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. Philippians 4:10-14 (The Message)

And as my wonderful Pastor said last week, God is still winning.  Nothing is out of His plan.  Even when it seems to us like he must have lost control for a while.  Everything is planned for his purposes. 

So, in my weakness I eventually turned to God.  And those weeks in January were some of the best, most tender spiritual times I’ve had in my life.  Giving the crushing weight over to Christ and confessing that I can’t handle it on my own was the most victorious day.  I think a big part of my problem was that I was trying to do everything on my own.  I wanted to be a great wife, a terrific mother, a part of our church, a friend, an encourager on my own and in my own strength.  What I actually needed was to rest in Christ’s strength and the power of the Holy Spirit.

For example, I always want to reach out when someone is hurting.  Normally, I would try to bring them a meal or send them a card.  Thos things are great but not when it’s me feeling like I have to run to the rescue.  It’s only ministry when I’m just letting God’s love and grace flow through me.

Or as a Mom I feel like I should constantly be doing things to be good.  I should be doing projects, making terrific meals or going places.  That’s me trying to mother in my own strength.  Sometimes a morning snuggle on the couch or having hot dogs for supper are the moments that God helps me remember that it’s not about what I do.  

God has brought me a long way.  I know there are still going to be struggles along the way.  Here are some things I’m doing and not doing on the depression front:

I am feeling good, in fact I have been feeling great the last few months.  Partially because I really believe that God can and has healed the hurting places in my heart. When I was struggling the most, I used that as an excuse to allow myself to run away from God and others.  I thought things that I should not have.  Depression is serious, but it is not an excuse to sin or shut down.  I think I used it that way. 

I am exercising.  Shocking!  Right now one of the things that is really helping me is a jogging date with a friend.  We meet at 6:05 a.m. three days a week and jog together.  I get an hour of great conversation, breathless but great.  For me, my mood is a way better motivation than losing weight, although I wouldn’t complain if that was a side effect.   And getting up that early helps me stay on a normal sleep pattern.  All of which from what I’ve read are important in dealing with depression. 

I am not taking medication, although I know it may be necessary at some point.  I think from what I’ve read that it wouldn’t help me right now.  I needed to deal with the spiritual symptoms in my life. 

I am experiencing open doors of ministry.  I understand better how to show compassion to people who are hurting.  I know what it’s like to need encouragement and am better equipped to give it.

I am at peace.  When I have those waves of exhaustion or sadness, I don’t hate it.  I don’t hate feeling weak. I love running right to Christ and letting His strength and peace wash over me.  I know there is some purpose behind what I’m going through.

And mostly, I’m thankful.  Very, very thankful that God allowed this to come into my life.  The things he has shown me are things He knew I needed.   I know what it’s like to hurt and how to comfort others.  He’s taught me about compassion.  He’s taught me that His promises are true.  He will never leave me.  I could not have gotten here without walking a less than fun road.  The place I’m in is good, because it’s where God wants me.  I don’t want to be anywhere else.

Umm, that seems like a lot.  But guess what?  There’s more. 


Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – the message.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Long Time Coming, Part One

Over the past few months I haven’t been writing very much.  Some things have come up in my life that have put blogging on the backburner.  I’ve alluded to all this and really didn’t mean to leave you hanging. There were a few things that needed to fall into place before I could write about it here, but I’ve been looking forward to it because even though not that many people read this, it’s really important to me.  It’s how I process what’s going on and what God is doing in my life.

I am going to do this in parts because I don’t think anyone wants to sit there and read my life story for four hours.  I have no idea how many parts there will be.  You know how I am with numbers.

It’s not a surprise that weakness and vulnerability are not celebrated characteristics in our society.  They aren’t even really acceptable within the “church” world.  I grew up going to church all. the. time.  And I’m glad I did.  Really.  I have great memories of time spent with my church family.  But growing up in a church that is way bigger than the town I currently live in doesn’t offer a lot of opportunities to be vulnerable.  You have to be a professional singer to be on the worship team, the bulletins are slick and perfect, there are a ton of people that look really put together all around you.

The problem is that it’s just as easy to be fake in a small church.  I proved that this fall, but there are some really important things God has taught me about weakness and vulnerability. The truth is I have never wanted to show any weakness because I’m totally not.

I don’t really know when I began to struggle.  Sometime last summer I guess.  I was tired and overwhelmed with life, parenting and ministry.  There were basic simple things that I could not accomplish like laundry or getting birthday presents in the mail.  I put on a good facade for everyone, including myself.  There were some good days and weeks but the overall direction was down. 

One morning in January I woke up and felt like I could not move.  It scared me enough that I dragged myself to the doctor.  My doctor was on maternity leave so I had to see an older man that was filling in.  I was less than thrilled with that but it turned out to be good.  We did a strep test and it was negative.  But instead of dismissing me with the normal call back if it gets worse, the doctor kept digging.  He finally asked, “Could you be depressed?”

At first I was shocked and my gut response was to burst into tears but I didn’t.  I just casually said maybe.  As I was driving home I realized he was right.  I don’t know if I could have been diagnosed as officially or clinically depressed.  Maybe I was just severely discouraged or disheartened.  I just didn’t realize it until he said it. 

On top of feeling overwhelmed, I felt extremely guilty.  I didn’t have it that bad.  I have a healthy family, food, shelter, transportation and plenty of other stuff.  There are people who’s children are dying of cancer or have lost their houses in a flood and they are plugging right long while I was sitting in my pajamas in the basement. 

I didn’t want to feel that way.  I kept thinking I should be able to snap out of it but I couldn’t.  The guilt only makes it worse.  Hiding it only makes you feel more alone.  Pretending you are fine makes you feel like a fake.  It quickly becomes a vicious cycle. 

It took its toll on all areas of my life. I really had no idea where to go from there.  But just having it out there was like a huge weight off my shoulders.  So, I was depressed or severely discouraged.  I’ve been reading a lot of information of depression and women.  If you are a woman, you are way more likely to be depressed.  The more kids you have, the more likely you’ll face it.  If your symptoms last more than 2 weeks, it’s not just a funk.  That is my unscientific summary.

Where does that leave me?  I don’t know the prognosis from a medical stand point, but spiritually it actually leaves me in a good place.  When Paul is struggling with a “thorn in the flesh”, he asks the Lord to take it away.  This is what he wrote the response was:

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-10

How crazy is that?  Because I am weak, helpless and vulnerable, God can demonstrate His strength.  And He has. 

I had to slow down, re-examine some things, and trust God in a whole new way.  So I can’t say it was bad.  Hard?  Yes.  Painful?  Yes.  But bad?  No.