Trust

“In whom are you placing your trust?” I can feel Him asking me.

In whom am I placing my trust? In what I see, feel, fear, hear? In people? Circumstances? Probabilities and likelihoods?

And inside of me there is this most dangerous swirl:
“I belong nowhere.”
“I’m loved, but I’m alone.”
“My life doesn’t matter.”
“I’m not special to anyone.”

Lies, lies, lies, lies.

And this:
“I have to demand and beg for people to care about me.”
“I have to panic and fight until someone’s hand is in mine, some reassurance that I’m not going to be doing my life alone.”
“I have to plead and beg for someone to WANT me.”

Again: Lies, lies, lies.

But also this:
“I have no family. I’m no one’s wife. I have no parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles, or siblings. I don’t even have a family who has adopted me in as daughter, sister, aunt.”
“I have no emergency contact.”
“I have no one who I can just count on spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with.”
“I have no one to say goodnight or good morning to.”
“I have no way of knowing whether or not anyone will be there for me when I need them.”
“On average, most days, I am doing my life alone.”

Truth.

And how do you carry that, that balance between this very real pain that is NOT a lie, and the lies themselves? The lies that can, if I’m not vigilant, in a split second manifest themselves as truths, as reasons to give up and despair and quit?

How do you wield your sword and scream “no!” in the face of the falsities when your heart aches with a pain that has no solution?

And how do you handle that, the pain that is beyond your control? How do you grieve and feel sad without getting stuck in that place of
“my life is too hard”
“it’s not fair”
“I’m all alone.”?

How do you honor your heart and process your emotions without forgetting that THIS DAY IS A GIFT and you are so, so held within it?

You ask yourself where you’re putting your trust.

And live your life with eyes open to see what God IS doing, not just what it seems like He isn’t.

Because this:
– Yesterday two separate friends loaned me maternity clothes.
– Last night people who love me put their hands on my tummy and shoulder and head and prayed over my life and the life of this baby growing within me. And they called my life, and baby’s life, GOOD.
– Today I called someone to vent, and she let me. I said, “Can you give me three minutes to just be an immature baby and say things I’m not proud of, and then can you just forget I ever even said or thought these things?” And she did. And rather than thinking I’m an “immature baby,” she said she understood completely why I felt the way I do.
– Today I met up with a friend for coffee. And we cried and laughed and spoke all sorts of truths- the hard ones and the ones about Jesus being victorious over all.

Do I have anyone to come home to? No.
Do I know where I’m spending Thanksgiving? No.
But am I loved? Yes.

Alone and not alone.

Lies and truths and half-truths.

But this:
Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.” -Isaiah 43:1-4

And this:
I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” -John 10:10

And this:
God sets the solitary in families…” -Psalm 68:6

And this:
“My child, pay attention to my words; listen closely to what I say. Don’t ever forget my words; keep them always in mind. They are the key to life for those who find them; they bring health to the whole body. Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” -Proverbs 4:20-23

He won’t fail me.

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Sorrow

I miss having my clothes fit.

I miss feeling comfortable in my skin and confident and good about myself.

I miss recognizing my face when I look in the mirror. The face of three months ago is not the face I have today.

I miss feeling confident that I was going to be able to give Arlow a good life.

I miss having a job I know and love and am familiar with.

I miss having my finances (mostly) in order.

I miss not needing a lawyer. I miss not having a court date.

I miss not being scared.

I miss having a family.

I am grieving so much. I am battling fear and shame and self-loathing and despair in almost every area of my life. All day, every day, I am keeping my mind locked up against anything that would come in that wouldn’t be the voice of my God. But the sadness? That’s valid.

And I know, I know that all I can do is cry about what’s been lost, and then pick myself up and move on. But it’s a lot. My entire identity. My entire life. Everything is upside down. Nothing is the same anymore.

And it’s my own fault. None of this is what God had planned for me. These are all consequences of my own actions.

I am so mad at myself.

But I can’t unpack and live there, in the what if’s:
“What if I never feel good about myself again?”
“What if I’m all alone?”
“What if I hate my new job?”
“What if my finances keep getting worse?”
“What if court doesn’t go well?”
“What if I’ve ruined Arlow’s and my life?”
“What if I’m not going to be okay?”

I can’t live in the fear of the future, hating myself in the present, and wishing with everything in me that I could run back to a past that doesn’t exist anymore.

I have to keep going forward.

I have to believe in a God who redeems, even when what needs redemption is a mess of my own making.

I have to believe in a God who still has good plans for my life.

I have to believe that He is in control, He is making a way.

And I do. I believe that.

But everything is different. And tonight, I just want to cry.

Above All

“I think we should bake cookies and watch Halloween movies with the kids tonight!” I said to Madison, excitedly.

I envisioned us all warm and cuddled together on the couch, while outside it poured, and in the oven baked little sugar cookies with pumpkins printed on them.

And that is when I realized that today, I don’t feel depressed.

For the first day in months, I feel like myself.

Yesterday, I wrote this in my journal:

“Sometimes you have to stand right in the middle of the mess of your life–right in the middle of the fear and doubt and depression and grief–and you have to spread your arms open wide and say over all of it, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.'”

Right in the midst of my never-ending mental battle over all that I’m afraid of and sad about, something in my spirit yesterday had enough. Something inside of me was unraveling, breaking loose, and it needed to be allowed the time to properly unfurl. So I opened my mouth and I spoke about God’s holiness until the fuel behind the words lessened, and I found inside of me instead a glowing ember of something like joy.

And I realized yesterday, with a sense of peace that I can take no credit for, that no matter what the future holds, no matter if it’s okay (as defined by me) or not, God will still be God in that moment. He will still be God, He will still be good, and He will still be orchestrating events in my life according to His plan for me. In this moment, I am held. And I will be held in every single moment, good or bad, in which I find myself in the future.

I surrender my fear, I surrender my idea of what my life “has” to look like, and I surrender my rigid belief that almost certainly the me of the future is not going to be okay.

And, of course, I still pray for provision and protection and blessing. But when I say “amen,” I do so, not with this white-knuckled grip on my life, but with a sense of surrender. A sense of peace. The future I am praying for is even more important to God than it is to me. He cares even more than I do. So I can trust Him with it.

Is that why today I didn’t feel depressed, because some deeper-than-my-consciousness part of me yesterday chose worship? I don’t know. Will I still feel like myself when I wake up tomorrow? I don’t know that either. But I do suspect there is a process happening in me that is going to lead me to deeper health and freedom than I’ve known in a long, long time. And I am encouraged.

Nothing Is As It Seems

I feel like I ruined my life. I thought things were so hard six months ago. I was wrong.

I am grieving the loss of a lot- people I loved and my job and having a steady income and being able to be a good mom to Arlow by taking him to daycare and who I was before depression came and stole the life right out of me.

When I look around now, everything is uncertain and nothing is secure.

And what needs to align in order to make my future doable seems impossible.

I am scared the best days of my life are behind me, and given that the last three years have been filled with the desire to die, that is a really sobering and terrifying thought.

This has been a week of fears gaining strength. In the insensitive comments of friends who mean well but don’t know better, in the silence of friends who can’t bring themselves to tell me it’s all going to be okay, in my own rapidly beating heart as I try to figure out how to fix everything and realize I can’t.

Lean not on your own understanding…

In so many ways, I can’t fight this. I can’t make myself have a job that will pay me enough to survive. I can’t make people feel differently than they do. I can’t force people to sign off on necessary forms so that I can get my LICSW. I can’t create for myself parents and grandparents and people who will step in and teach me all that I don’t know, who will help me not be alone in this next season of my life. I can’t know that any of it will ever feel okay to my heart again. I worry about Arlow, that I am ruining his life too. And I can’t fix that either.

But I can bathe myself in truth- books and podcasts and scripture. I am reminding myself that nothing, not people or systems or facts, are bigger than my God. I am letting friends speak truth into my life, reminding me of all the times the Bible says not to be afraid, reminding me that life is a gift, and reminding me to be vigilant to the fact that there’s a very real enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy.

I remember who I was as a child and teenager and young adult. My future seemed so bright and promising. I feel like I ruined the life of that child who worked so hard for good grades, who fought so hard to be a good person, who tirelessly chased after a future she believed in. And what for? So that depression could grab me around the ankles and pull me to the ground? So that in my fight to stay alive, that’s all I’d be able to accomplish- my heart would keep beating but all the good I’d worked for would come crashing down? So that I could choose to walk in sin just to make the pain temporarily lessen, only to now have my back against a wall? To be buried in debt, to have no family, to see no way out?

I never, in a million years, would’ve thought this is who I’d be at thirty. I wanted so much more for myself. I feel like I ruined my life.

But how I feel doesn’t determine what is true. The truth is, God redeems.

God doesn’t have a plan B. None of this comes as a surprise to Him. The good He has spoken over my life, the promises and plans to prosper me, they are STILL IN PROCESS. Hallelujah.

He sees a way through where I do not. And He is good. And I am going to stake all of my hope, my entire life, every single breath in my lungs, on that. He is good. Because the second I take my eyes off of Him, I will drown.

I am Peter, walking on waves.

And I can’t control the storm, but I can control what I choose to fix my attention on.

Praying for rescue, praying for deliverance, praying for protection, praying for miracles. Choosing trust. One breath at a time.

And in the meantime, I’m keeping my eyes open. Because while I wait for God to answer the big prayers, I don’t want to miss the ways He’s showing up in my daily life. Every single day, He shows me He’s with me.

I don’t know how anything will ever be okay again. But I know I’m not alone.

  • In the ability to rise above the depression enough to get up early this morning and take Arlow to the vet for his annual checkup.
  • In the gift of getting to weigh Arlow at the vet today and finding out my boy is a healthy, lean 108 lbs.
  • In TV shows that make me laugh.
  • In text message reminders from friends who encourage me to keep my eyes on God, even when my thoughts rage and my feelings overwhelm.
  • In Madison’s ability to come over and stay the night tonight when I really needed to not be alone.
  • In the flicker of life I felt tonight, while I made hot chocolate for Madison and the kids and outside the rain poured and lightening flashed.
  • In the way Arlow rests his head on me.

“We are not subject to the same chance and fate of every other human being on earth. We have been transferred from the kingdom of fear, luck, self-effort, and darkness into the kingdom of light.” -Judah Smith

Lessons From The Road

No one can do it for you.

They can love you and care about you, but they can’t fight your fight for you.

People could talk to me and pray for me, but they couldn’t drive for me. No one could come rescue me and bring me home.

*

You can’t control how you feel, but you are in control of how much you suffer.

You can say, “I can’t…” and “This is not okay…” all day long, and it doesn’t change your circumstances one damn bit. All it does is increase your suffering.

You have to breathe.

Don’t rage against what you feel- let it be.

Trust the process.

*

Bad feelings aren’t necessarily bad things.

Stop labeling things as bad just because they feel bad; a lot of good is born out of things that feel really bad.

*

You don’t have to give sucky emotions power by calling them truth.

Emotions come and go. We have to be careful not to let them determine our truth.

*

Some trips are about fun and some trips are about growth.

*

Sometimes it’s important to stop calling the contents of our hearts “wrong” or “bad.”

When you find yourself aware that not everyone sees the world in the same way as you do, maybe it’s better to draw the “wrongness” of your heart closer to yourself rather than push it away. Maybe what feels wrong is actually a unique wiring.

Maybe the key isn’t in making yourself be different, but learning how to embrace what is within you.

Maybe sometimes what we think are our flaws, the ways we struggle, the ways people don’t understand us, maybe the unique way we see the world is actually a secret God whispered into our hearts, and the trick is to learn how to let that widen us up to living bigger and deeper, rather than letting it make us feel discouraged or close us off to life.

*

On the road, all by yourself, you have no choice but to sit with your pain when it arises. You can’t drink it away or overdose it away or refuse to get out of bed, because you’re not home and you have a dog and someone has to take care of him.

And also, being all by yourself, thousands of miles from home, you suddenly realize how terrified you are that you’ll somehow die before ever getting home. You worry about car accidents, mostly, but also murder a little bit when you’re sleeping in a dark parking lot in your car. You worry about your car breaking down and your finances and what if you never get to go home again?

And you realize there’s a whole, beautiful life waiting for you at home. And it’s not perfect, but its yours, and dear God, how badly you just want to be back home where you get to live your imperfect, beautiful life.

So you sit with your pain. And you promise yourself you’ll do that at home too. You promise yourself that even when you’re back in the land where drinking and overdosing and trying to use other people to save you are options, you won’t do that.

*

You have to take some deep breaths and do the things for yourself that you can do- like not text and drive and stop when you need a break and call and talk to people (without begging them to rescue you) when you need to talk.

And you have to trust God with the rest, like no flat tires or car troubles and getting you back home alive.

If you carry the weight of the things God’s responsible for, it will suck all of the beautiful living out of your day and replace it with fear and worry that you were never meant to carry.

*

Every time Arlow makes eye contact with me, I say, “I love you,” or, “How are you doing, baby?” And I do that not because I’m insecure, but because that’s how I communicate.

And that’s how I communicate in my relationships also.

And so when people don’t do that with me, when they go days without talking to me, it feels like they don’t love me.

But not everyone communicates their love in the same way you do. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

 

*

Sometimes you can be royally pissed off and sitting in a park in New Mexico and hating everything about life, and then a woman and her kids will come sit with you and want to pet your dog, and you’ll be even more cranky because you didn’t ask for company or small talk.

But then you’ll notice the woman has a tin can labeled “Please Help. Need Food.” And she won’t address it. She won’t ask for anything. She’ll just set it off to the side and slightly behind herself. And she’ll talk about the weather and her kids and where the nearest CoinStar is while she watches her kids wrestle with a dog twice their size.

And you’ll reach into your wallet. Because MFing New Mexico sucks and it’s hot and dirty and no on drives well, but God clearly led you and your bad attitude to this park where a woman with a genuine need and a smile happened to cross your path.

And what a gift New Mexico turned out to be.

*

If you walk your dog in Texas, people will literally stop their cars to conversationally say to you, “That’s a big dog!”

They will also give you the water out of their car and hold the cup for your dog so he can hydrate.

*

The same part of my brain and heart that were terrified to be so far from home are the same part of my brain and heart that feel four years old.

“I’m so scared,” and, “I want my mom,” came in the same breath.

And maybe that’s how we parent ourselves sometimes. We say, soothingly and with a voice laced with love, “I know.”

But we don’t let that stop us from doing the hard, scary thing.

*

If you sit down in a park in Mississippi and sob into your hands, if you’re too weak to hold your dog’s leash anymore and so he runs wild and free while you cry, no one will even notice.

*

I used to think people who picked their scabs were disgusting.

But then I found myself bored and stuck in traffic with a bunch of week-old mosquito bites.

*

A rainbow feels like a personal promise to me in Utah just as much as it does here at home.

*

You can’t outrun your problems or your pain.

You come home at the end of a long road trip and you’re one part, “Thank God, I made it!” And, “Thank God I am back in the right time zone! And thank Him for my bed and my shower and my plants and cats and clean underwear and closet full of clothes!”

And you’re one part complete, black depression.

The road trip wasn’t a solution, it was a lesson.

And now it’s time to put to practice what you learned on your drive.

Now, in this really hard moment, you get to say to yourself, “No, I CAN do it.”

And in the face of blackness, I get to say to myself, “No, I WANT to live.”

*

“You’ve got a big heart. The way you see the world, it got you this far. You might have some bruises and a few scars, but you know you’re gonna be okay. And even though you’re scared, you’re stronger than you know. If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding, if you face the fear that keeps you frozen, chase the sky into the ocean, that’s when something wild calls you home.”

Things Being Loved Teaches You

1. You are lovable. You are not a burden, a charity case, or a waste of anyone’s time. You are chosen. You are wanted. You belong.

2. No one will be able to make you feel secure about your relationship with them until you start to see yourself as lovable.

3. It is safe to exist, just as you are. It’s safe to ask yourself questions like: “How do I feel?” “What do I think?” “What do I want to say?”

4. You don’t have to perform. Love doesn’t require we show up “put together” or “perfect”. Love doesn’t want facades, it just wants you to come exactly as God made you- flaws and all.

5. Your flaws don’t make you “bad” or “wrong” or “less than.”

6. You can speak freely. You don’t have to weigh every single word you say. It’s okay if you’re not always understood, if people don’t always agree, and if what you say isn’t funny, because you’re safe.

7. Not everything social interaction is a test. Love doesn’t demand you keep proving yourself.

8. You don’t have to view your life through the lens of “How do I not measure up? How much about me do people see as ‘wrong’?” You are not inferior. You are exactly who God intended you to be.

9. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You don’t have to try to be like others in order to measure up.

10. Love doesn’t walk out on you.

11. Not everything in life has to feel scary.

The Chasm

I had a memory come to me early this morning, as the sun was coming up and my head was still swimming from the mistakes of a couple days prior.

When I was a kid, I went through a period of time where my biggest fear was that there would be an earthquake and the ground would split in two, separating me from everyone I loved.

I must’ve seen that on TV–(The Land Before Time?)–but it became a very real fear for me. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than being able to see your loved ones but never touch or talk to them again.

I started altering my day, as much as possible, staying as close to my mom as I could so, should the ground split in two, we’d for sure be on the same side.

And I’d fall asleep at night, my bedroom beneath the living room, listening to my parents up there fighting–the lullaby of my childhood–and I’d feel okay because they were directly above me, and again, should the ground split in two, we’d all be on the same side.

I don’t know that I’ve fully outgrown that.

*

Over and over the last few days I’ve had to tell myself to breathe. To make inhaling and exhaling my task, more than managing the swirling in my brain or the anxiety pumping my heart.

I’d close my eyes and breathe and hear the voice of my God shushing me back to a place of peace. “All you have control over right now is taking care of yourself, resting, letting your body heal,” He soothed. “That is your only task. The rest of it it out of your hands. But that’s okay, because it’s in Mine. Just rest, child. Just let yourself be held.”

Nothing will separate me from Him. Not sin nor fear nor a chasm in the ground.

And He’s doing a good thing in my life. He is building a life for me that won’t crumble. I know; I can see it.

The safest place for things to be is in His hands and out of mine. I suspect I’ll never have to stop learning that lesson.