Thursday, September 3, 2015

When the Church is Silent (or not helpful)

One morning, not long ago, I woke up crying. It was a silent, soft weeping.  I had been dreaming about sharing an extremely difficult time with a group of people.  In the dream, I was not rejected  by the crowd nor was it a bad experience.  I did not wake up feeling terrified.  Neither did I wake up feeling energized.  “Resigned” is probably closer to the right word.  I do not relish the idea of being so transparently vulnerable.  I really am a private person.  I will share intimately with those I trust and that I feel safe with, but to be so unguarded with people I barely know? Um, no thanks.

I recognized this dream as a signal.  I knew this time would be coming.  While I had shared this struggle with a couple of small groups of people, I knew it was only a matter of time before God asked me to share it with more.

Here is my story…. 

For a time, I had known something was not right.  It was not that I was just “unhappy” or “unsatisfied”.  I could not pinpoint it.  Mere words could not even identify it some days.  “Despair”, “Fear”, feelings of severe “inadequacy” and “failure”.  I even blamed myself for not being able to “fix” it.   I must not be praying enough, spending enough time in the word, trusting God enough…..  I was ashamed.  If I was a “good” Christian, why could I not win this battle?  I must not have enough faith.  I did not want to ask for help of any kind, asking was a sign of weakness. Being terrified of “scandal” among my circles of acquaintances and friends was not motivational either.

After an extensive amount of time and soul-wrenching anguish, I finally asked the doctor for anti-depressants.  I won’t go through all the medical treatment that transpired, but it took over a year to get the diagnosis and medications correct.  (Part of that was my fault for lack of follow-through because of fear).   Talking to a therapist/counselor was a necessity.  I needed to be able to talk about how I became depressed and identify coping skills to keep me from succumbing again.  Continuing to pray, seeking God, and studying his Word was vital too. (It still is).

In the beginning, I was scared to share with my Christian friends and church family about my struggle.  I was afraid of the stigma attached to depression.  What would they think of me?  Would I be a failure in their eyes too? (I saw it then as a personal failure that this was happening, actually, I still struggle with this….)

Most of the people I trusted with my heart have been more than understanding.  Yes, there have been a select few that reacted with a response I dreaded, but they are the exception.  

If we ever hope to change attitudes toward depression in the church, and to break the bondage of shame and fear for the captives, the silence needs to be broken.  Someone has to step forward and tell the truth.  I want to speak for your friend or loved one that is struggling with depression.  I want to share truth in the hopes of displacing the fear and stigma.

The truth – 10% of America’s population suffers from depression in some form.  That means one in 10 of those people in your church pew, your small group, or around your dinner table at Thanksgiving are dealing with it (or have, or will).  But we think we are alone.

The truth – It is an illness; a disease.  No amount of our “will” can overpower it and banish it thoroughly.  It is not JUST a flaw of character or a spiritual disorder.   But we feel like we are not trying hard enough.

The truth – It is not a choice.  No one would “choose” to be in that state of hopelessness.

The truth – Even if someone looks “happy”, they can be depressed.  We can all act.  Our happy face can be hiding our pain and fear.

The truth – Platitudes do not help.  We frequently know the Word.  Quoting it AT us really is not helpful (especially if we don’t have a relationship with you).

The truth – Your unsolicited (even if well-intentioned) advice of what you saw on Oprah (insert any other talk show, internet website or magazine here), especially if you have not experienced what we are going through just makes us feel judged.

The truth – Just because we accepted medical help doesn’t mean we don’t trust and believe in the healing of our Heavenly Father.  I am still trusting Him, DAILY.  The manifestation is just taking some time.

What we DO NOT  need?  Your judgment.  Your “suggestions” on why our bible study and prayer time is not productive.  Your scorn.  A loss of your friendship when you learn of the battle we are facing.  The “awkward” look when we are in common company.

What we DO need?   We always need Jesus; point us to Him.  Sometimes we need medicine (even temporarily.)  AND we need an open atmosphere where we don’t feel ashamed of our struggle.  A place where light can be brought to the subject and awkwardness is banished.  Jesus brought light to every situation He touched.  I like to picture his hand open to the desperate soul of the woman with the issue of blood lying in the dust at his feet.  Shouldn’t the church, the model reflecting Christ, be a haven for those in the midst of depression?   The church is not a place for the perfect.  It is a place for the broken.  We are all broken.  Just in different ways. 

This is an opportunity for us to make a difference in lives of hurting people.  Let us be in the practice of "First, do no harm."

I encourage you, if you suspect a friend or relative is suffering, reach out, offer them the hand up out of the dust that Jesus would have offered.  Offer them - Love.  Acceptance.  A friend.  Support.  Kindness.  A Listening Ear. Your prayers.  A cup of coffee. (Okay, maybe he didn’t use coffee, but you can.)

As I walk out this journey, you can expect me to share more, because I have a story that can benefit others as I continue this pilgrimage of healing, growing faith, and transformation.

If you suspect someone needs professional help, do all you can to help them get the help they need.  A pastor, a licensed therapist/counselor, psychologist/psychiatrist, (probably all of the above.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Should I pray for Patience?

We are an impatient country. The light turns green and someone honks before your foot is off the brake. If the grocery lines have more than two people in them you hear grumbling and complaining. Groups of people together are always conversing about ways their patience is being “tried”.

I admit, I often struggle with impatience. Ahem! I DO have FOUR children!

I often hear, “Patience, don’t pray for it! Because you WILL be tested.”

 "But the Fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, PATIENCE, Kindness……. "(Gal 5 :22)
Patience comes after Love, Joy and Peace and before Kindness. I always wondered if that was purposeful? Surely the word order was not just random? I guess it could have read differently, but I think it was intentional. I have no theology to back it up, just my thoughts and musings.

First listed is Love. The highest commandment? Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, Soul and Mind. Then? Love others as yourself. Is it any wonder the first fruit of the spirit mentioned is Love? Forgive the cliché, but Love makes the world go round, right? Love was the motivator for God to send Jesus as a sacrifice for us. (John 3:16) Our response, Love for Him, should be a motivator in our interactions with others.

Second is Joy. Joy is the outflow of Love, isn’t it? Pleasure, delight. What could be more delightful than reveling in the Love of a Savior? And then having the privilege to share that Love with those we know. And when we are delighted, it is easy to make the stretch to peace, isn’t it? Can you reach a place of tranquility and serenity when you are coming from a difficult place that isn’t joyful? Yes, but it sure is easier to come from a place of joy.

I haven’t lost you yet, have I? Because I have not even come to the reason I started the post, Patience. Why was Patience tucked in behind Peace? There are those pesky verses in James (chapter 1, verses 2-5) that talk about the testing of our faith developing perseverance and perseverance helping us become mature and complete, how can we reconcile that with Peace leading into Patience? Shouldn’t we welcome the hardships? Stay with me friend, you can have trials and tribulations and hardships and still be AT PEACE! You can be working out your salvation with fear and trembling and still be AT PEACE! You can be having your faith severely tested and still be AT PEACE! How is it possible? You know WHOSE you are. You go back to the basics. When a child struggles with a concept, a teacher has to strip away the concepts to get back to the point where the child DID understand. Same for us. Strip away the hindrances and get to what you know, even if it goes back to JESUS LOVES ME, THIS I KNOW. Build again on that foundation. That is PEACE! An understanding of the TRUTH! When we understand the Truth and can recognize it in ourselves, when we have had to strip away the obstacles in our own lives, we can learn to have patience with others while they do the same. (I told you I would get there!)

Does that mean we won’t get exasperated with each other? No. Does it mean we won’t disagree? Absolutely not. Praying for Patience isn’t the way to go. How about we start at the beginning. Let’s recognize and acknowledge God’s Love for us. Let’s show His Love to those around us. Let us express that Love in Joy. Let us live in Peace by stripping away those misunderstandings, wrong assumptions or wrong thinking. Maybe then we can have some more Patience with each other and with ourselves. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Taking flight

Standing in my kitchen I watched out the window. The fledgling robin sat on the back of the patio chair and flapped its wings a few times. The parent perched nearby offering encouragement. “You can do it!” The parent flew to the back of the swing-set. The fledgling watched, tilted back it’s head, cried out. “It’s too hard, but I will try!” Turned to the parent. Flapped it’s wings. Took off, wobbly, and low to the ground, awkward. A short flight. Landed just under the swing-set. I was distracted by the kitchen responsibilities for a bit, but came back to the window a while later to see the fledgling atop the swing-set. I couldn’t help but smile and think, “Good for you, little one!” It started to rain, and the robin was hunched over on top of the swing-set, seemingly paralyzed by fear. Comfort and safety of the dry nest was in the tree only a few feet away. The adult flew nearby, offering encouragement again, “Trust me! You were made for this! Stretch out your wings and fly!”
Our heavenly Father is the same way with us. Nearby offering encouragement when we think life is too hard. We can look to him for that encouragement every time. Trust in what he says. He won’t lie to us. He knows our capabilities. We can trust in our abilities that He has gifted us with. Let’s not let fear paralyze us from taking off in flight. Our comfort and safety are in His will for us. He made us for a specific purpose. He gives us hopes, dreams, goals, missions, but we have to stretch out our wings, and trust that we were made to fly!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Getting older...

Turning 40 and being "de-conditioned" (Physical therapist's kind way of saying "totally out-of-shape") has brought to light some challenges and insights. Our trip to Disney World and the beach in June was wonderful. A lot of walking, but wonderful. On the plane ride home I had a hard time getting comfortable. My leg and hip were cramping and sore. I told myself it was just all the walking and the time fighting the sand. After a few weeks, the hip and low back were much more painful. I consulted a doctor and was asked about recent injuries. I could not think of anything. I came home and asked my husband if he could think of anything I did. He reminded me that I had picked up our 60-something pound seven-year-old and rested her on my hip during the fireworks at WDW. OH YEAH! I remember a little "pop" in the back area. I was sent to physical therapy. I threw my whole pelvis and sacrum out of alignment, yay! So now I am being "educated" tortured twice a week and being asked to repeat it at home twice a day. It is a time commitment, but I do feel better after/when I do therapy. This is also a wake-up call to take better care of my physical body.
But we are not made of our physical bodies alone. Our soul and spirit round us out. That is how I see it in my mind's eye. As a circle with three pieces (kind of like a pie - don't get distracted by pie now). Nurturing just one of the three (body, soul, spirit) alone makes us lopsided. I personally suffer from being a very lopsided circle. More like an amoeba. And depending on the day, even an ugly little amoeba. I tend to forget to balance my focus. I will direct more attention to my spirit, absorbing God's Word and spending time before Him (which is not bad), but when I neglect my physical self, it is not ideal. God created our bodies and has given them to us as a stewardship. How we take care of them is a testament of our respect for Him and His creation (us). I am convicted. I am praying as always for guidance from the Holy Spirit and I am trying to be receptive.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oceanside Revelation

I learned something about myself recently. You may wonder, considering I am creeping up on the big 4-0 very soon, "what else can you learn about yourself after 40 years?" I have always been a worrier. I told myself it was just my nature. Maybe to some degree that is true. I know I am not alone. If the Bible has so many verses on worry and anxiety, it must be a problem for at least a few other people. I have found myself lying in bed awake well into the early morning hours, mulling over possible situational outcomes and considering aspects of different situations in the past and possibly in the future.

Lots of things have culminated in helping me see the truth. Until now, I feel like I have been in a fog. Fearful, overwhelmed, surrounded. I have been focusing in on one small piece of a 1000 piece puzzle, losing sight of the whole. One thing that made it all "click" - I went to the ocean. (For a midwestern landlocked girl, this is a big deal!) When I was standing on that beach, staring into the vast, beautiful, powerful ocean, I thought of MY God. I thought of the Creator who created this powerful and vast ocean. I thought of the powerful God that can work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). I contemplated how trivial some of my "worries" are when faced with the eternal. I was awestruck by how much I had lost sight of how BIG God is, how nothing is beyond his reach. I could hear in my mind,

 "When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
 Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
 It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
 It is well, it is well, with my soul."

Do you know the story of "It is Well?" The Hymnist, Horatio Spafford had sent his wife and four daughters on a sea voyage, hoping to join them later. The ship his family was on collided with another vessel and his four daughters did not survive. On his voyage to join his wife, he penned this hymn while sailing the area of the ocean where his offspring had perished.

I was sent into introspection standing on that beach with the cool water lapping my ankles. When "trouble" comes, how do I react? (My definition of trouble is a whole different subject for another time.) Do I run to my Father, confident in His care, provision and concern? Do I bemoan my troubles to others, on Facebook or in real life to garner sympathy? Can I say, "It is well with my soul"?

The other song that reverberated in my heart while wiggling my toes in the sand?
"When the oceans rise and thunders roar
 I will soar with You above the storm
 Father you are King over the flood
 I will be still, know You are God."

Sometimes we need to be still, rest in his peace and KNOW, He is God.

Do you need a dose of perspective like I did? Be encouraged! "Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders— he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out. He’ll never let good people topple into ruin." PS 55:22 MSG
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." John 14:27 NLT
"So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:6-8 NLT

Don't let Satan or circumstances snatch your peace. I returned from my trip, this wonderful time with my husband and my God on flights that were less than perfect (by far), to raw sewage in my basement and ill children. It would have been easy to fall back into my old patterns of worry, fear and despair. But I fought for joy and peace. You can too. Rely on God. Stand firm and hold on.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kechene Photo Update

This post is a long time coming. Sorry I haven't gotten it up sooner. Lots of thanks to all the wonderful people that helped make dresses, donated tees for boys, donated money for materials and of course, my friend, Chaos, that delivered them all the way to Kechene, Ethiopia. Look at these wonderful happy faces!!!
Thanks for an opportunity to live outside my own little world.