Practicing Kindness

“Go easy on yourself,” the hope-speaking counselor would say when I left his office. For months, I thought it was just his way of wrapping up.


Then I began to hear.

I heard how much I dwell on expectations I didn’t even know I had. I heard my own bitter disappointment in being where I am, struggling desperately to climb my way out of depression and anxiety.

Morning after morning I would wake and want to stay hidden. I would sleep long at night and then sleep my day away too. Tears ran and ran. Previous passions sat untouched. Phone calls went unanswered. I hurt desperately, while at the same time feeling so numb I can hardly breathe.

Why is this happening again? What am I not doing right to have landed me in this place once more?

Why can’t I control it? Why can’t I make it stop?

I despise it. I despise that my body is preparing to flee what no longer endangers me. I’m angry at the darkness washing over me. It holds me captive.

“Get it together,” I plead with myself. “Wake up happy. You’ve had too many days of darkness. Choose light today. Choose joy.”

But I can’t choose, and I hate it.

“Hey, go easy on yourself.”

One day, it is too much. The demons are too loud. I sit in the hope-speaking counselor’s office drowning in condemnation.

“Stop that sh*t,” he says. “This is what is going to happen: From now on, when you start going down that road, you’re going to hear my voice in your head saying, ‘Stop it.’”

He speaks compassion into me, and I hear it. Be kind to myself.

It seems so obvious, but it isn’t. Condemnation comes far more easily than compassion, and sometimes it sneaks in so subtly its presence is there before I know it. Being kind takes practice.

Be kind to myself.

As the memories of trauma sneak up on me, I work hard to practice being kind to myselfMy hope-speaking counselor’s voice is turning into my own when condemnation creeps in. I have been practicing. Kindness is beginning to replace rebuke. The work is hard, but the payoff is tangible. The darkness doesn’t always go away, but light is beginning to enter it.

I will continue to practice.

I will be kind to myself.

My Fit

I hear the silence even now.

I see the dark of my closet surrounding me and feel the tears burning as they pour down my face.

I am hoarse from yelling “I don’t want this!” over and over again.

My chest feels like it is going to explode from my heart racing so ferociously. I can’t breathe. Even my lungs are protesting.

The silence is deafening.


I hear verses float through my head: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I scream them too.

God, why aren’t you comforting me? Why aren’t you saving me? I’m mourning like I have never mourned before. You didn’t promise me ease, but you did promise me your presence. Where is your presence? Where are you?

Two years later, I still don’t know what to make of the silence. I don’t know why depression hinders the experience of God. I see countless ways God intervenes in my life, but I struggle even now to feel Him as before.

Months ago, I reached an end. I had no fight left.

Then a cloud pulled back. I caught a glimpse of my reality. Somewhere along the way, somewhere in the darkness, I had chosen to do life on my own. I had decided that since I wasn’t experiencing the presence of God, I couldn’t count on Him. I would need to take care of it.

The problem was I was making an outright mess. I was striving with everything I had, and all I could show for it was complete exhaustion.

I had traded in the truth that God is good all the time and the promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me for the lie that God can’t be trusted. It wore me out.

God, in His tender graciousness, allowed me to give it a go.

Now, I believe, He is right here helping me open my hands. He let me throw my fit, and now He’s helping me settle back down and rest in His goodness once again.

I still struggle to feel God’s presence, His comfort. I don’t know why. More days than not, however, I am able to rest in what I don’t know. I am able to trust even though I don’t understand.

A Very Un-Crappy Christmas

Mid-November to mid-January is my least favorite time of year. This did not use to be the case. I used to love it. I would eek out Christmas as long as I possibly could. I loved the lights, the color, the way it seemed to make everyone smile just a little more.

Then trauma entered my holidays. Take-my-breath-away memories. Heaviness and paralyzing fear replaced joy and anticipation.


Trauma isn’t my reality any more. It is the past. But trauma is a wily thing. It doesn’t seem to want to recognize time. Nor does it distinguish between real versus perceived versus non-existent.

This year the pounding in my chest, the lightheadedness and nausea still visited. They didn’t come with the flooding of memories, and they came less often, but their power was the same. I felt a suffocation to be happy. No one told me that was an expectation. No one shamed me for not being able to smile. But all around me was happiness. And cheer. And delight.

I just didn’t feel it.

As evidence of my changing reality, my love asked boldly on my behalf for a very un-crappy Christmas. Every day he asked the Father. My whole tribe was gracious to make Christmas as simple as I needed it to be. The tree went up, and we baked the memories we hold most dear. But that was it.

Christmas came, despite my protestations, and it was very un-crappy. I would even say it was lovely.

This is the place where I want share the life-changing lesson I learned. I want there to be a piece of enlightenment that will change every Christmas yet to come. But there isn’t.

I made it through the day. It wasn’t traumatic, and I experienced no panic. But I didn’t know joy either. Joy continues to elude me. Slowly I am building the muscle to not beat myself up about that. I am growing in self-compassion.

My simple Christmas did make me see less of the tinsel and more of the babe. My need is so great for the Hope that came into the world that night over 2000 years ago. In the absence of joy, I was acutely aware of my brokenness. I am so, so broken.

I confess this Christmas season what I wanted to know was not my brokenness but my healing.

So I am thankful for my Very Un-Crappy Christmas. I just want more.



Hard happens in every life. Most bounce back, whether by health or denial. For me, this season has robbed me of resilience.

Wounds have run deep ruts I have not had the strength or endurance to climb. I have screamed and yelled and begged for rescue.

But I didn’t really know what I was asking.

My picture of rescue was to be lifted out of the valleys. I wanted the pain to go away. Healing would mean the fear that grabs me so tightly would strangle no more, and the explosion of sorrow in my heart would be snuffed. I wanted to be fixed.

In the past days, I have seen the glimmers of healing. Hope flashing in the pit, as if a gem catching the sun.

I saw it, and it caught me. It’s lightness stayed with me. And so did the pain.

I see this to be true: healing does not come in the disappearance of pain but in the learning of how to sit with it.

Healing does not soften the blow of the offenses that run so deep. To lessen the pain would be to dismiss its impact. Part of my healing has been to name those places and agree even with myself that they matter. No, healing does not remove the pain.

My hope glimmered in the place where I sat with my pain and didn’t feel the choking of fear.

At the depths of the pit that consumed me, I fully believed my pain would kill. I felt as if my body were shutting down. Pain was overwhelming me to a point of death, sucking the very air out of my lungs.

To some that sounds dramatic and extreme hyperbole. But to those who have walked through it, it is real. Depression brings despair even to body and bones and breath.

After months of my hope-speaking counselor believing resilience for me, speaking it over me despite my adamant refusal of its existence, I am beginning to believe it for myself.

I’m ok. Hard things have happened and much of the hard still bears its mark, but I’m ok. The paralyzing fear is at bay. I see the light at the top of the pit, and it’s getting closer. Brighter. One day I might even stand atop it.

Hope is precious. Today it is glimmering.



To Raise My Hands

Moses’ arms were burning. They had been up for hours. The staff of God was raised overhead, the weight of it now unbearable. The fire began in his wrists, burned down his forearms and raged in his shoulders. He willed them not to quiver, not to break. His will was running out.

The Israelites’ fate against the Amalekites depended on him. As fatigue overtook him, and he lowered his arms out of exhaustion, the Israelites wavered. The Amalekites began to win. He pushed the staff back up and Israel regained their footing. They took back the lead. Moses had to keep the staff raised for the Israelites to be victorious. It took all of his concentration to keep the pain from winning. There was no way he was going to make it.

And then his concentration was interrupted. He felt the hands of Aaron and Hur steady his shaking arms. They saw his pain. They saw his need. They would stand with him.

They found a rock for Moses to sit on, and as he sat, they lifted his arms. They kept them steady until sunset, when Joshua overcame the Amalekites with the sword. They did it.

This is one of my very favorite pictures in Scripture of the power, the shear need of community. Moses could not do it. He couldn’t. He tried, and he willed, and he struggled. So his friends literally held his arms up. It’s beautiful.

Can I confess something? In my deepest of places, I wish I didn’t need people. Over and over again, that need brings pain. Disappointment. Rejection. Right now I desperately need my arms to be lifted for me.

I am left struggling.

There are those who pass through. A conversation here, a prayer there. People know my story. But very, very few are staying with me until sunset. I catch my breath for a few, but then I’m back at it again on my own. Trying to hold up the weight of the staff that will save.

Community feels like the key to the puzzle I will search for and never own. I initiate, I pursue, and in need, I am still alone. 

At the end of the day, I can not make community happen. I can ask, I can share, but I can’t force it into existence. If we were created to live in community, and community is where healing happens, why is it so stinkin’ hard to experience?

If I am honest, and I’m pushing myself to be painfully so in this place, as much as I want to be able to go this alone, I cannot. I have been trying. But my arms are so weary. I want to say that isn’t so, but it is. Day after day, I need a few someones to hear my anxiety and not grow tired of praying for it. I need someone who can speak hope when my thoughts turn so dark they scare me. I need someone who will call me and say, “Are you out of bed today? Get dressed. Let’s face the exhaustion together.”

I need a community to raise my hands.

There is a voice lurking, saying I am too much. It says I’m doing it wrong. My perseverance runs so very thin. My hope-speaking counselor curses at that place for me. I will learn to curse at it too.

My husband speaks a different hope. He said I should ask God for it. Ask God for the community I need. Asking bares the risk of disappointment. But I will.

In my brokenness and exhaustion, I will ask.

Running the Maze

I returned to work two weeks ago, and I’ve lost all rhythm.

My sabbatical afforded me the freedom of no schedule. I put in my day the things I wanted. The things I hoped would help me walk forward in darkness.

Then I jumped on a moving train.

My hope-speaking counselor kindly pointed out today I’ve stepped back into my numbing clothes. Convenient how busy-ness covers my hurt. My anger. My disappointment.

It was a hard truth to hear. The past six weeks have felt like climbing a wet, slippery mountain. It has taken all my energy to keep moving toward the summit. I do not want to slide down. I do not want to have to struggle up again. The work feels too much.


I feel broken, and I’m not sure it’s in the best way. I feel so inadequate, so ill-prepared to go where I’m pretty sure hope resides. I know that sounds absurd. Tenacious used to describe me almost better than any word. There is so little energy left in me to keep pressing into the deep now.

The hope-speaking counselor suggested I stop running. He likened it to being in a maze, frantically searching for the way out. What would be more helpful would be just to sit down and be where I am. Why do I fear that so very much?

The maze feels as if it’s closing in again. I need space. I need arms to hold me up and a face to witness my tears. My courage is so very thin.

This is the place where I sit. The words that tumble into this space in the cyberworld are where I where I practice just being where I am.

I have less and less an idea of what the summit will be like, but I do believe hope lives there. I wish I had a nice ribbon to wrap around the now to make it easier to walk, and perhaps easier to read, but there is no ribbon right now. There is just mess. You are bearing witness to it all. Thank you. Thank you for sitting with me.

Sabbatical Learning


Depression does not define me, but it will always be intertwined in my story.

Excruciating feelings and places of trauma I thought would kill me have not. I can be resilient, even when I’m convinced otherwise.

I long to know my feelings are of consequence, and yet, I don’t treat them as if they are.

A safe place breathes a freedom that is addicting. The desire for it is unquenchable.

Hope can be carried for another. Hope was held tightly for me, and I am overwhelmed with that gift.

I need people, desperately.

Help well-intended has suffocated. The Holy Spirit in me can be trusted.

Without knowing it and despite feeling otherwise, my voice was silenced. I feel the effort of climbing the mountain to free it again.

My crazy is not beyond the reach of grace.

God does see me. Just because He tarries to speak comfort does not mean He is not deeply moved by my grief.

There are times when tears can feel so, so good.

And sometimes, I have to open my eyes and realize I’m ok.

Chains of Shoulds


I took a stand against shoulds long ago. Or at least I thought I did. I have seen one follower of Jesus after another drown under what they “should” do. Shoulds do not fan freedom. They suck life.

This week, I heard my hope-speaking counselor say something he’s been saying all along. Only this time, my ears could hear. Some of the weight I carry, some of what makes it so much work to get out of bed and tackle the demands of my crazy life, I put there.

The shoulds I hate so much lay on me as a suffocating blanket I can not get out from under. I’m struggling for air, struggling for light.

They crept in as thieves in the night. I did not see them.

They are trying to do the right thing, trying to avoid hurt and dysfunction. Pursuing intimacy in my marriage and protecting my kiddos from the arrows of my own wounds. The pursuit of emotional health has ensnared me. The voices of good I hear paralyze me. There are a million very good shoulds I can not live under.

I need freedom. The hope-speaking counselor is good at giving me permission. I’m just not good at feeling it.

I do not want to mess this up. Not because I don’t want to mess up but because I desperately want the good that is suppose to come from it.

I am losing me in the process.

I have to learn how to give up the shoulds. They are dreadful because in and of themselves, they are good and profitable. My pile, however, is so big and so heavy, it has distorted my sight. It has distorted my gait and my very soul.

This is the space where I need grace in its greatest measure.

The honest truth is that the shoulds bear bitterness in me. I can’t offer them freely. They are a pretending.

What a hard and ugly place.

I cling to this little flash of hope that comes alive, as the hope-speaking counselor challenges me to actually own what I feel instead of try to feel my picture of right. There is freedom in that place. There is light and lightness.

Let grace come. Let it wash over me and breathe hope.

Four Days

The silence I have felt from God in the midst of darkness is one of my hard places. I see His hand protecting me. I see Him bringing freedom, restoring and redeeming. But I don’t feel him.

I don’t feel His comfort, and I don’t feel His peace.

I have known a time when God was so present I could almost touch him. I could feel His arms around me and my heart knew His delight as surely as I knew the sun would rise. Why, when I need His presence most, when I ask and pray and cry and scream for His comfort, do I feel nothing but deadening silence?

This week, the littlest and I were talking about Lazarus. He knew the story vaguely, and I told it to him again.

Mary and Martha and Lazarus were really good friends with Jesus. He loved hanging out with them, and the Bible says Jesus loved them deeply. Well one time, Lazarus got sick. Mary and Martha knew Jesus could make him better and sent a message to Jesus begging Him to come to where they lived and heal Lazarus. Jesus got the message, but he didn’t come. He waited. A couple of days later, He went to where Lazarus lived, but Lazarus had died. . .”


I told him about how Jesus cried when He saw how sad Lazarus’ sisters and friends were. And of course, I told him how Jesus had called Lazarus out of his tomb. That was the part he wanted to hear. Isn’t that the part that redeems the story? Isn’t that where we cheer and think about Jesus’ as the hero?

There is much that pricked me as I remembered this story. But circled with a red pen and highlighted in yellow were the words, “He waited.” Mary and Martha were in agony. They knew things were bad, and they feared the outcome. They had begged Jesus to come, but He waited. In fact, John says Lazarus had been dead for four days before He came. For four days, Mary and Martha longed for Jesus presence and heard only silence.

In those four days, they did not know (nor could they have perceived) Jesus was going to raise their brother. They had only their grief.

Could my darkness be like those four days?

Twice in John 11, it says Jesus was deeply moved when He saw those around Lazarus grieving. His spirit was so moved, He wept.

When I weep, it is not pretty. It is ugly, loud and gut-wrenching. It physically hurts. When the Jews saw Jesus respond with such emotion, they could only say, “See how he loved him!”

Jesus loved Lazarus. And He loved Mary and Martha. He knew the pain they would walk thru, but he still decided to wait.

This is the clearest picture of hope I have had in two years. Just because Jesus waits to make His presence felt to me doesn’t mean He does not care deeply about my heart. As I recounted the story to my littlest, a picture grew of the Father weeping at my pain. I saw Him shaking, as tears poured from His eyes, as His heart hurt with mine.

We are the lucky ones in the story of Lazarus. We get to read the end before we have to wait. We see Jesus call Lazarus out and command his grave clothes removed.

Mary and Martha, the disciples, and the multitudes overcome in grief had to walk through every minute of their hearts breaking. They didn’t get to skip to the end.

But Jesus did come. And He wept.

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

A Different Hope

My ears didn’t hear hope from my hope-speaking counselor today. I heard hard. And the hard felt stone cold against my fragile heart. He spoke that the more health I experienced, the more my discontent would grow.

I’m not going to lie. It sucked.

I so much want a hope I can hold onto. I want to touch it and feel it and see its colors. I want to smile as it breathes life back into weary, weary bones. I want comfort.

I want relief.


The hope-speaking counselor won’t give it to me. Instead, he sends me further into the raw places that take my breath away. I am trying my best to hold those places together. But he is relentless. I am crumbling.

The madness is that as I crumble, I feel the stirring of life. I feel it.

He calls to the deepest places of what I want. Not to what is easy or comfortable or even right. Though I have a feeling those will be waiting at the end.

He calls to what stirs my heart. I have silenced it for so long. He speaks that it matters, and everything in me fights his words. The more I feel, the greater my discontent.

This is the opposite of relief. There is no comfort. It does not feel good or restful or happy.

Anger bubbles as I type the words I know to be true: my hope-speaking counselor is speaking hope. I fight just to stay in the fight. I do not want what he is saying. I do not want that reality.

And yet I do.