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.

Owning Pain

My hope-speaking counselor was at it again this week. Pushing, stripping, freeing.

He does not speak counselor talk. He speaks grace, and he curses. I like him.


For years, I have been told I didn’t feel enough. And that embracing my feelings was the way to health. Oddly, I didn’t think I wasn’t feeling before. I felt deeply. Often feelings swelled to the very top of me and had only paper to spill onto. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t feel enough. So how was I not doing it right? One word broke my spiral of self-defeat.


“It sounds like you think your feelings are inconsequential,” said my hope-speaking counselor.

Well, yeah. That’s what I’ve been learning for forty-one thirty-four years. Feel deeply, I hear. But who is there to care about what I’m feeling? Too much life has been sucked from me trying to convince people to care about what makes me most me.

Like the time I called across an ocean weeping so hard I could barely speak. “You need to find someone else,” said the friend who had promised to walk through the ugly with me.

Like the time trauma paralyzed me, and I begged for relief. “Why does it bother you so much when you were complicit?” was the response.

Like the time I begged God to comfort me in the darkness and I heard only silence.

Those feelings labeled health. . . my heart yells at me that they are inconsequential. The line becomes so fuzzy it vanishes. Survival takes over for hope.

The hope-speaking counselor asks about places that hurt. I share with honest words. And then he calls my bluff.

“You have a qualifier every time you share what you’re feeling.” The spotlight on my heart glows bright. I feel its heat bearing down.

He is right. I am completely exposed. I do feel deeply, and then I convince myself it’s inconsequential. I preach to myself what those wounds only hinted.

My qualifiers pass the buck. But my pain is my pain. People hurt me. My fear is real. It grips me to the point I can hardly breathe. I get angry, and I want to curse. Ok, so I do curse.

My hope-speaking counselor tells me I can feel, and it won’t kill me. I think he is crazy. When I felt deeply before, the hopelessness overwhelmed me. The pit sucked me in.

Or did it?

It’s odd the freedom that filled my heart when he invited me to feel without qualifiers. Maybe freedom lies not on the side of passing the buck. Maybe my attempts to survive are what is killing me.

Nothing and Everything

The words come at a stop light.

I push them away, refusing to entertain them. . . willing myself to choose different words to dwell on. . . hoping for a split second they will vanish as quickly as they came. I don’t believe the words in my mind, but they yell so loudly. So very loudly.

I lose the battle, and the words flood me. They wash over my mind, and I am ashamed. How can a follower of Jesus have such dark thoughts?


I do not understand. Where has hope gone? When was the exact moment it evaporated? Did it slowly float away, as if a leak in a balloon or was it sucked out by the vacuum of trauma and fear? Did I know the moment it faded away? If feels as if going to get my winter coat and not being able to find it. I thought it was safely stored away, but in need, it is gone.

I put my foot to the gas and find my way into the Aldi parking lot. My body racks in sobs. Soon my cheeks are stripped of color and my shirt shows the collection of tears. I hurt. My chest squeezes in agony. It is not a specific pain but more an absence that has grabbed me. I feel nothing and everything. It is unbearable.

In the sound of my tears, my phone lights. Words from a new friend ask about my battle with the gremlins. It stops my sobs and makes me breathe. I share my darkness with her. She knows it. She has felt my crazy before and knows the struggle to make a mind obey a will.

My picture is not pretty today. It often isn’t. But it is a picture I want. I have to remember I want it day after day. Often hour by hour and minute by minute.

The fight is wearing me down. My hope-believing counselor spoke resilience over me this week. He spoke so surely of something I couldn’t feel. He spoke of a different narrative with an ending yet to be written.

Words spoke despair this week. Can I also receive the strength?

I’m missing me. . .

You know when you’re in a dark room and you feel disoriented and can’t distinguish one thing from another? Even in a room you know well? In your bedroom, you know exactly where each piece of furniture is placed. You know where clothes are left of the floor and the spot where a cord reaches across in peril.

But when the lights are off, all you see is the darkness. There is a bed to walk around, but how far does it go? Clothes usually land somewhere around here. . . are they right in front of me or to the left? My beautiful smoky purple walls look exactly like my yellow bookshelf and my white mirror. The wall that was obvious in the light can only be guessed at by a hand reached out in exploration.

It takes so much longer to walk in a dark room. It takes so much energy to navigate around danger.

Depression is the darkness that darkens every room. I miss the light.

I miss joy.

I miss wonder and peace. And energy and vision.

Perhaps, most of all, I miss hope. Hope is incredibly veiled without light.

I miss how the funky nail polish on my toenails made me smile. I miss waking up in the morning with excitement for my day. Or even energy to want to get out of bed. I miss flipping through cookbooks, imaging flavors coming together and dreaming about when I could create in my kitchen.

I miss clarity of thought. And passion.

I miss me. A lot.

I’m a week into my intensive counseling. It’s been. . . intense. There is someone fighting to breathe hope into my heart. All I can offer are tears and exhaustion to join him. Just showing up is all I have right now. But I’m doing it.

I’m back!

Hello there. It’s been awhile.

I’m so sorry for the delay in returning to this little blog of mine. I grossly underestimated the lack of time I would have with three kiddos waiting for school to start. Thankfully, we have survived, and my baby started Kindergarten today. My oldest baby started Middle School.

So what’s been happening in my crazy beautiful life? I’ve been working hard to remember the beauty. I wish it wasn’t the challenge it has felt in the past few weeks. It has felt painful–not beautiful.

As I type, my heart is crushed by its short-sightedness. It has believed pain to be the opposite of beauty. But it’s not, is it? There is something captivatingly beautiful in the metamorphosis that comes from the struggle to heal. Rough edges are smoothed. Calloused places become soft. Strength begins to shine.

Beauty appears slowly. In the midst of the struggle, it doesn’t even feel like it’s coming at all. But in the hands of the perfect Creator, it always comes. It always comes.

My eyes are opening to the truth that beauty surrounds my crazy life. Sometimes that is far more by faith than I would wish to confess. But in the craziness, there are shapes and figures of a beauty that doesn’t inhabit the world. I am trying with all I can muster to embrace it.

Everyday Life

Flipping through Pinterest this week, I could feel my anxiety growing.

I love looking at all the cool ideas–all the possibilities and creativity–why the sudden gnawing in my stomach?

I realized that this is what currently surrounded me:

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Reality was pressing in tightly. My “normal” life was ever present. My home is not pleasantly Pinterest all the time.

C and I have been talking a lot about fantasy versus reality recently. It seems like our entire culture is obsessed with living in a fantasy. And when reality hits, we don’t know how to cope. This is a problem.

As my daughter learned last week at camp: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Ah, comparison. . . isn’t that what it all comes down to? I’m comparing this:

to this:

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A year ago, after I spent days painting that striped wall, I could not have been more proud. I loved every thing about it. Today, that pride is ebbing.

I do not want comparison to steal my joy. But I have to fight for it.

When comparison is threatening to get the best of me, I am trying desperately to embrace my everyday life. I am asking Jesus to allow me to love our unfinishedness, our not-quite-rightness, our chaos.

It’s in my unfinishedness that I long for the work of the Father.

It’s in my not-quite-rightness that I long for Jesus’ healing hand.

It’s in chaos that I long for Peace.

So I clicked off Pinterest. In fact, I closed my computer.

I got up and walked around and said thank you for the kids whose clothes I still need to put away.

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And I said thank you for the guest room, with bare, uncreative walls and bed full of loved American Girl clothes waiting to be stored for the next generation.

photo (18)Thank you for yellow placemats, adrift on my table, that remind me of the color of the sun.

Thank you for red Italian pottery, sitting on the counter, waiting to find its home.

Thank you for my everyday. Thank you, Father, for blessing my socks off and ripping my eyes of what could be to see what very much is.

I am so grateful.

Bringing Bones to Life

Music is one of God’s greatest venues to speak to me. It opens my soul.

When depression bore its weight the heaviest, I would get lost in the beauty that danced through my headphones. Music took me somewhere else, and I longed for the escape.

In January, I picked up Chris Tomlin’s newest album (Burning Lights), and I found myself listening to one section of the song “Awake, My Soul” over and over and over again. I didn’t even like the song that much, but the artist Lacrae speaks a portion of Ezekiel 37, and the words burned into me.

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”

Ezekiel 37:1-9

I was the dry bones.

I was scattered and pulled apart. I needed God to breathe into me so I could come back to life.

I could picture my dry, withered soul lying with the stillness of the desert taking more and more of me. I was grasping for anything that would offer a respite.

And then I could picture the wind beginning to stir. God’s breath was coming. From the east, from the west, from the north and the south. It would fill me, and my body would be lifted. Color returned and my eyes could open.

Yesterday, I was listening to a David Crowder song (Oh God, Give Us Rest), and music, again, stirred these images.

I am not the dry bones anymore, but I still need the breath of God. I still desperately need it to fill me and give me life. I need it continue to shine.

Would you open up Heaven’s glory light
Shine on in and give these dead bones life
Oh shine on in and give these dead bones life

Let it shine, let it shine
On and on, on and on, come to life