Hiding

I’m diving deeper. It is so, so hard.

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I sat with the hope-speaking counselor today and spoke things I’ve never spoken before. It shocked me. I have spent years burying those thoughts. I did such a good job, in fact, it startled me I could even say them out loud.

For 20 years I have been running from desire. My home taught me feelings are optional. They don’t change the facts. A logical decision is always the right one. Well-intentioned mentors instilled in me the danger of desire. The heart can’t be trusted.

So I got really, really good at ignoring desire. It worked great until the hurt became too much. Disappointment overwhelmed me. I moved from not acknowledging to outright numbing.

Just in case you’re wondering, depression is a great game of numbing. Numbing the bad sounds appealing until you realize it sucks the joy too.

Part of my healing lies in tackling this beast haunting me for two decades.

Last week I told the hope-speaking counselor I was beginning to feel a little brave. He replied with, “Then take a risk.” Today risk is slapping me in the face.

This is risk. This. Choosing to dive into the murky and dangerous black of desire.

What if it spins me out of control? What if I sink in discontent so deeply I’m not able to climb back out?

What if desire cuts even the few thin strings on which my faith is resting?

I write, and I hear, “Nothing is too big for God.” Take the risk.

Last week I listened to a podcast with Dan Allendar and John Eldredge. They were talking about the restoration of the heart. Do you know what Dan Allendar said?

“Hiding is the only thing standing in our way of restoration”

Ouch. I have not only been hiding this place, I have been trying to even forget it is there. I am filled with fear. I am so very afraid of what lies within desire.

There is no good in darkness. It has to come to the Light. I want restoration even more than I want to not expose what I have been hiding.

Help me, Lord Jesus, to be brave.

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.

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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.

Grace to Grace

One of the delights of my Fall was beginning to connect regularly again with a dear friend.

Every other Thursday I show up to her house with life in full-tilt all around. In the midst of the crazy, we sit and break bread together. We lay our souls bare, and it is easy.

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Just before Christmas, I knocked on the door feeling completely empty. It took everything I had just to show up. My energy was being sucked into surviving the season.

I had nothing to offer but two grilled cheese and some truffle oil on potatoes.

She opened the door full of her own exhaustion. The exhaustion that comes from little ones teething, clinging. The exhaustion of preparing to pack her precious family of six into a shoebox for two days on the road to Grandma’s.

She was being poured out to empty.

In the time between comforting a babe and entertaining a princess, we sat down as we always do. We broke our bread and were grace to one another.

We had nothing to offer other than ourselves, which was exactly what we needed. Exhaustion to exhaustion. Brokenness to brokenness.

I realized that often in relationships, even those we hold most dear, we can feel great expectation to be something other than where we are. Brokenness can convince us we have nothing for another.

But most of the time, we just need to show up. On that Thursday in the middle of my exhaustion, I just needed to show up.

My heart is full over the space where we can be broken together. I welcome the grace we can pour over one another because it is only grace that shows up when we are empty.

Let’s keep showing up. Let’s keep knocking on the door and offering the meager loaves we have. It’s an abundance.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

Leaving Christmas

Twinkling lights filled our home as I left. We spent the morning pulling out boxes and putting up memories.

The tree showing off our years of life together limps this year. Several branches of light have turned dark. Some blink, while others shine steady. Its glorious cacophony of sight is every bit a picture of our family. Where we’ve been and who we are.

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Hallmark mixes with glue and glitter. Darth Vader with the babe in a manger. Mexico, Hungry, Holland, Italy, Austria—they all dance on our tree and bring back pictures of a different place in our lives. It’s beautiful in its mosaic.

Lunch brought conversation of heaven and play and the Spirit and feasts. The littlest asking each, “What are you most thankful for because Jesus was born?” One by one our hearts are filled with the gratefulness of rescue coming. We feel our brokenness. Christmas brings the reminder we are being made whole again. We know the need of our redemption.

The family packs in the car and makes the drive to the airport. I’m headed away for a week. When I return, a son will be a year older and Advent will be half passed. A lot of life will come in seven days.

I wait my turn to prove who I am, and it is not lost on me to where I go. I will leave Christmas behind, twinkling and making merry, to go where Christmas is not seen.

It will not be the Carol of Bells I hear the next week but the call of a people to prayer. The air will fill five times daily with the reminder to those around me.

There won’t be trees decorated with memories or the signs of a Savior in hay.

My heart already feels the stirring of the world opening. It is being captured once again. My little bubble of sunshine and freedom is breaking wide. I am carried on it like waves taking me out to sea—moved to an unfamiliar place before I’m even aware.

I remember this. I remember how this feels. It speaks to my before.

Hope feels different today. It feels big. I welcome it and ask for its continued beating within.

I don’t feel stuck in this moment. I feel the movement of the one who writes my days. It is calling me back to the place of life.

It is good.

Glimmers

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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.

 

 

The Trauma of Yesterday

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Immediately I feel nauseous.

It washes over me like a wave. It fills my belly and begins to squeeze my chest. My heart is racing. Adrenaline flows through my limbs. They begin to tingle. My head tingles. My eyes struggle to focus, and I’m so light-headed I dare not move.

My breathing becomes fast and shallow. I want to close my eyes. I do.

The waves continue to come. Nausea, adrenaline, pounding. My heart literally feels like it’s going to beat out of my chest. I want to throw up.

“Open your eyes,” I remember my hope-speaking counselor say. “Come back.”

He is not here to coach me. I have to fight my own way through. It takes all my will to open my eyes and focus on the cup in front of me.

Stay here. Feel the chair beneath me. The cup is full of pens. They are real. I am here. I am not there. I make myself feel the air on my skin. The hair falling on the back of my neck. My eyes begin to focus. I remember to slow my breathing, and I count.

Inhale. Exhale.1.

Inhale. Exhale. 2. . 3. . 4. . 5. .

Stay here.

It happens in an instant. Trauma revisits me, and I’m sucked into my body’s God-given preservation system. It’s meant to protect me, but it doesn’t discern I’m not in danger right now. Trauma lives in the past.

My body is the one the keeps bringing it to the now.

Today is was a coffee shop. The thought of going to a coffee shop where my world was turned upside down years ago. It was the place where my picture of reality tumbled down like a domino train. Where what I thought was, wasn’t. The explosion of that place, the betrayal, I feel them as if they are happening right now.

My body fights as if they are now.

I hate it. I hate that my body is preparing to flee what no longer endangers me. It holds me captive to a place I want to have no power over me.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Let me grieve the pain of that place without the panic of today. Free my body of it’s fight. Bring sorrow, but please speak relief over the terror that haunts me.

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.

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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

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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.