Bless the Lord O My Soul -Through Depression

I crept outside into the quiet buzz of night. I lay my head on the cool grass of our front yard and stared at the stars. I remember thinking, one day, one day when my life makes sense, I will write about this. 

The memory creeps up on me now after reading Psalm 103, “The life of the mortals is like grass.”

I remember the haze of depression and anxiety  I was walking through that night almost two years ago, right after giving birth to my second daughter Elyse. I went outside to stare at the stars, to remind myself that there was a world outside my own spinning head. I needed to remember that no matter how chaotic my mind was, there were still stars that shone, and grass that grew, and a cool night breeze that could kiss the tears that ran down my cheeks.

Sometimes we need to remember that we are cherished and loved. We need to be reminded that we matter.

But when my thoughts are so loud and noisy that its hard to escape my own mind, I need to remember how small I am. I need to remember that my problems, and my fears are like a blade of grass in a thick sea of green.

The world looks different in the deep night, from the ground looking up. As hard as this disease of mental illness is, I’m so grateful that it forces me to pause and look outside myself. To look for angels on the hillside when it seems like I’m fighting a losing battle. I’m grateful that the deep longing in my soul reminds me to look for “He that is in me,” rather “than he who is in the world.” (1John 4:4 (emphasis added)

When my body feels heavy and ill fitting, and my mind doesn’t seem to tick the way it should, I can call to Him from “my inmost being.” I can be flawed and broken, because “He heals all my diseases,” Yes He satisfies me with good things, He renews my youth, He redeems my life. (Psalm103)

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Infusion Day

I’m sitting here with a faint smile across my lips. My daughter is laying across my lap, her hand cupping the perfect point of her chin. We’re resting and waiting as the medicine drip, drip, drips into her veins.

Once a month we come to the hospital’s infusion center for her to get a steroid drip and IVIG blood infusion.

We get up with sleep still in our eyes and quickly fill our bellies. We load into the car in our comfy clothes and bags of books and blankets and stickers, to camp out at the hospital. The day starts early and wraps around dinnertime, sometimes later.

The day after, she’s lethargic and cranky, suffering a hangover from the infusion that her body so desperately needs.

I dread these long days of being tied to an IV pole, but a part of me craves the comfort of them. The comfort that comes in knowing that these are days of healing.

God speaks to me more loudly as I sit in the hospital and watch the smiling children with their sunken eyes and patchy hair. We’re lucky here, because Elyse gets an IV in her arm instead of needing a port in her chest like most of the kids.

A doctor from Elyse’s hospital stay came in to do her check up. Tears collected in the bottoms of her eyes as she took in how much she’d grown—How Elyse’s once angry red skin now looks smooth and creamy.

Today a nurse gave us a Joy Jar. A jar with a rubber ducky, and a soft square blanket, a light up ball, and thick, bright crayons. A tall, clown-like man came in with polka dot tennis shoes and oversized glasses. He bent down over his long slender legs and played a ukalele, singing a slow folk song.

This isn’t like an amusement park where children come for their fill of happiness. But this jar of joy, and this awkwardly sweet clown are brave and beautiful reminders that this place is full of life and hope. As the kids hum along to a melancholy tune, wearing hats embroidered with the letters NEGU (never ever give up), I see happy that is fought for—like striking a match in a dark and unfamiliar room.

I want to sit and listen to every family’s story. Stories like the three sisters that come along every two days to hold their baby sister’s hand during chemo; or the grandma that brings her three year old, Eva, once a week. Her sparse short hair is always decorated with a large pink bow. I want to light a candle for each of them like a birthday cake. I want to hold onto their wishes and blow them like dandelions.

As I sit now and see the brave stories unfold, I long to be the kind of person that sings their sad songs with them, and offers jars full of joy. They teach me that joy is fought for, and hope is holding the candle of faith during a long, hard wait.

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Oh Baby- This is Us

You know all my secrets baby,
The truths that I hold in,
Thanks for keeping quiet baby,
For holding tight my hand.

You know all my crazy baby,
The thoughts behind my smile,
Thanks for knowing the real me baby,
For loving my twisted mind.

You know all my stories baby,
The fire that’s brought us here,
Thanks for guarding the door baby,
For keeping God’s truth always near.

You know me all the way baby,
The whole twisted lovely mess,
Thanks for staying and laughing baby,
For reminding me we’re blessed.

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Dog Years

Hours pass like a slow drip, belly full of jumping beans,
Days ticked off a calendar,
Until the day that meant another year older,
“When Mommy…when?
“Shhh…Not yet.”

At a desk, Staring out the window, 
Sprinklers dot the glass,  
Sun and kelly green grass shout summer,
 “Ms. Lake, Can we leave….now?
“Shhh…Not yet.”

Slow days measured by ringing bells
The hallway stretches so long,
Ruby red cap, pressed gown, behind a closet door,
“Is it time?”
“Shhh…Not yet.”

Hair grown long, mind made up,
Perfect plans with sips of coffee,
Kitten Heels, A job, A lease
“Do I have it figured out?”
“Shhh..Not yet.”

Candles, a ring, a date on the calendar,
One day that changes all tomorrows,
Wrapped in white, hair pinned to perfect,
“Dad, Am I ready?”
“Shhh…Not yet.”

Swollen, aching, impatient 
Bursting with life, Ripe with change,
Belly hiding toes, Quiet pastel room,
“Dr, Is she coming?”
“Shh…Not yet.”

Anxious, praying, hoping trusting
Letting go of what is, Waiting for what’s coming,
Tears of change, Heart spilling life,
“God…Will it ever make sense?”
“Shh…Not yet.”

 

 

 

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Get Back Home

We are living in an apartment as our house gets remade. But as the walls are rebuilt in our home, its within the four walls of this small apartment that I’m learning how to live again. You see I’ve been so concerned about what I want to do with my life that I’d forgotten the importance of who I already am. Sometimes we have to relearn the basics. 

As I curl up on an unfamiliar couch in an apartment full of borrowed furniture, my words curl around me like a blanket as I reread an old manuscript I had tucked away and forgotten about. I read the things that had first helped me to find my writing voice. Things about how to be a mom and still find myself at the same time. Words that somehow gave voice to the constant stone at the pit of my stomach, and the little question marks that constantly buzz like unfinished thoughts in the back of my brain.

I had discarded these stories as postcards of my past, as I fixed my eyes on bigger goals. But life’s unplanned challenges have humbled me. Like wiping away the layers of makeup before a mirror, I’m remembering what I really look like.

In the background the lyrics of an old song hums a familiar tune,

“Once, there was a way to get back homeward
Once, there was a way to get back home
Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby”

As ironic tears line my cheeks, I realize I’ve taken a long, hard journey home. I’ve circled back to me- to that unmasked face in the mirror. A face that is creased with a few more crinkles in the corners of my eyes, but those same green eyes and freckles look back at me honestly. I wish I could explain to my teenage self how the soul doesn’t droop and sag like skin. Although my skin betrays me to be 33, my soul still feels smooth and bright, like an unweathered stone.

As I read the words from a girl who didn’t know the pain that I know now- its easy to think I knew little. I was naive and optimistic like an eighteen year old that doesn’t think the sun will leave a lasting mark. But in a season when I’m jaded and lost, these words from my past are as green as the grass I lain in to tell stories from the clouds. Green like the crab apples we’d pick from the mushroom shaped trees in Apple Hill. Green like the sweet peas I pureed to create my first homemade baby food.

As the landscape of my life shifts, cracks, and droops I remember that my soul is still planted in the same small hole. Each word I write, read, pray, and speak are like buds of life that spring forth from that same unmovable place.

When Bree was two, she would put her shoes on the right feet. I watched proudly thinking somehow she’d learned her right from her left. At four years old though, its a guarantee that her foot will find the wrong shoe, even when I  set them in front of her the right way. Today, I just watched my 21 month old, Elyse fit her little feet in the proper shoes, while Bree waddled out the door again like a duck, toes pointing in opposite directions. I realized that sometimes the right thing comes naturally.

As I assert my own knowledge and independence, I go through a season of getting things backwards too.

I dream that someday I will be a writer and speaker, but the truth is that the important tending needs to happen in the little circle of soil that holds my soul. From that small, sacred place, God can bring forth life that can bear fruit and shade. But its in the dark hole where He does the work that matters most.

Curled in the dark, like a womb, a waiting place, I wait for God to do His good work in my heart. I pray that He will grow me into a tree that stands tall, but more important, that I have solid roots like fingers always reaching back home.
“The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

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When You Love

 

Fickle child don’t pout,
Your birthday candles are puffed
and tucked back in their box,
But look at the twinkling lights
He’s hung for you in the sky,

Your castle made of blocks
may reach high and then fall down,
But you are His temple,

Your sweet head may swirl with fears, doubts, and a gajillion “what if’s”,
But your heart is
safely tucked inside His heart

Your balloon floats out of sight.
But He is everywhere,
At the end of the rainbow,
On the tip of your tongue,
In your dreams, 

When you love,
When you’re brave,
and especially
When you feel all alone.

 

 

 

 

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Finding Faithful

When I was 5, my mom lost me in a small department store. She thought I was with my dad.

 I found a blonde woman with a kind expression on her face. She took me to a clerk that announced my mom’s name in a loud tinny voice over a microphone at the register.

I know now that if my mom had known I was lost, she would have searched for me frantically. She would have performed the kind of urgent red faced dance I do when I lose sight of one of my daughters. As a child though, I bought a small yellow bungee cord that I attached to my mom’s belt loop. Holding the other end, I thought I’d found a fool proof way to always keep my mom close- so she wouldn’t lose me ever again.

How often do I fool myself into thinking that God has lost sight of me or just doesn’t care? How often do I mistrust the people I love and trust most? In life’s uncertainty, I feel like a five year old little girl, lost amidst the shelves of unfamiliar problems, peering up at giants I don’t recognize.

In my insecurities, I hide, run away, and tether myself to false control in the form of approval, possessions, status, and ego. I beg God for my own plans to work out, rather than trusting in His plans.

This week we’re exploring “faithfulness” in our fruit of the Spirit Facebook study. What I’m realizing is that my own capacity to be faithful, depends on trusting God’s faithfulness to me.

I wish I could tell that five year old little girl how much her mommy loves her- how desperate her mom is to keep her safe. But I couldn’t understand this kind of fierce love until I became a parent myself.

I’ve come to learn that my mom’s love reaches further than a four foot bungee. More than that, I get to experience relationships that require a delicate balance of loving and trusting and holding another’s fragile heart in my careful hands. But even in faithful and loving relationships, I can get hurt and I can hurt those I love most. I’ve come to learn that God has designed these complicated relationships for me to seek His faithfulness, and to cultivate a deeper dependence on Him.

I can soak up God’s love and faithfulness to me in his Word, and when I feel lost I can whisper His name and find my way home. From that place of centeredness and security, I can be a faithful wife, compassionate mom, and kind stranger. I might feel lost sometimes, but I never leave His sight.

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Giving up On My Dreams and Living in my Reality

I have a book that I bought that is supposed to teach me how to get things accomplished.

Its called “Eat that Frog,” by Brian Tracy. The only problem is I haven’t read it. I got that initial jolt of excitement when I read the back of the book while browsing in Barnes and Noble back before I owned a kindle. “Eat That Frog is a proven system for dramatically improving your time management skills so you can get more done, more effectively, in less time.”

Doesn’t that sound great you guys? It sounded great to me. I got a high when I bought the book, knowing that I was taking the first step in improving my time management. Only problem is I never seemed to find the time to read it. And that was BEFORE I had kids!

Because it always seems to be something, some excuse that holds me back from doing the things I know I should do. I’m sure you can fill in the blank with the prescription you’ve written yourself for personal improvement, “Once I’m done with ______________ then I will do this _____________.” I don’t know about you, but something always seems to come up that prevents me from being my aspiring self.

Take this blog for example. I haven’t written a thing because I’m always waiting for the perfect circumstances to sit down and pour out my heart in a meaningful way. The stars just haven’t aligned recently. So instead I’ll settle for an afternoon in my hotel room, my dog snoozing on the chair as the sun streams in through the clouds and sheer curtains on the seventh floor. I won’t mention my toddler covered in erasable marker creating a masterpiece on her arms and the coloring book on the floor beside me.

But I’m stealing a moment to write this because I’ve made a resolution. I’m going to stop waiting for the “once…then…” to be fully present in my life now. But I’m also going to stop trying to measure myself against an impossible standard.

This means a house thats relatively clean and not immaculate.

A diet that is a happy blend of salads and protein shakes and wine and chocolate chip cookies.

It means feeling accomplished when I find time to do a 10 minute workout instead of delaying working out until– well you know all the excuses.

It means sharing a blog post that shows my life and heart in process.

Its having friends over to laugh and sip wine on a Monday night while my kids sleep in the next room.

Best of all, having friends that love me and celebrate me and all my contradictions– the former hair stylist that never does her hair, the pastor’s wife that doesn’t like small talk and potlucks, and the stay at home mom that longs to change the world. 

I love stories about people accomplishing amazing feats, stories about redemption, the stories that depict people’s love and dedication to one another and their calling– the underdog that overcomes impossible odds to do something amazing. But sometimes these stories paralyze me.

Sometimes I need to step back from my aspirations and live my life one word at a time. I need to remember that the small things, like mustard seeds have incredible worth and potential.

So I’ll plant these little seeds that I have right now.  I’ll plant myself in this moment. And I’ll grow. I’ll grow little by little, in these days of undone to do’s, my barking dog, and a bed that seems to keep unmaking itself every morning.

I think I’ll focus on these little things and let God move the mountains.

 

 

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Home isn’t A Destination

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At the edge of now; Searching for not yet

What is; What is to come,

Warm brushstrokes of hope bleeding into the dark sea of unknown,

Plans harpooned; Disquieted and motionless

As stillness ripples across the white caps of uncertainty

Fingers of light touching things submerged,

The meeting place of lungs and gills,

Anticipating, trembling; Longing waiting,

Humming with hope, Holding still,

Peace in knowing; Faith in waiting,

The crossing place where the Divine teaches us,

To walk across sin’s sinking surfaces,

Holding His guiding hand home.

 

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Called to Be

sister

Calling. Something that seems to come outside us. That irresistible thing that beckons us, shapes us, needs us to engage. I don’t know about you, but this is a word that I’ve grappled with every few years, finding it impossible to sift it down to one single grain.

But I think more and more, calling is the complicated thing that our generation and younger generations seem to long for. To live a life of purpose that somehow pays the bills and fulfills us, so our lives feel good, and look good on Instagram. Is that what calling is? Or does it have an illusive quality- something we’re always looking to find more fully- but never fully “arrive” at.

When a person tries to fill themselves up with purpose, or position, popularity, or possessions, they are going to become bloated, and so incredibly empty.

In 1 Corinthians as Paul addresses the people of Corinth, he scolds them for allowing themselves to become “overinflated or distended” with pride- the Greek word physioo. As Pastor Tim Keller points out in his book about self forgetfulness, Paul doesn’t use the normal Greek word for pride, hubris, but makes a point to use this other, more descriptive word to emphasize the Corinthians problem.

When we try to fill ourselves up by searching for approval and achievement, we’re going at it the wrong way. Calling isn’t something that we need to search for outside of ourselves, but something God has planted within us; who God has created us to be. It flows out of who we are. Our essence.

Calling isn’t necessarily how we’re going to pay the bills, but maybe a nice bonus. Calling isn’t going to make our lives fall into perfect order, or gain us popularity, or make us look good on Instagram. Calling doesn’t mean that we always want to do it either- sometimes following our calling feels like trust, obedience, and hard work.

Calling is living out who God created us to be in a life that serves him and the people around us. It can be as small as writing an article for the preschool newsletter, reading our kids poems, or making a meal for good friends to share over a good conversation. It can look like sitting with someone when conversation is halting and uncomfortable and tears flood our vision. It can go bigger than we imagine by rebuilding a village in Africa, raising thousands of dollars for the underprivileged, or finding a cure that saves millions.

Calling isn’t about going to the right college or having a fantastic resume. It isn’t necessarily about traveling across the world or impacting thousands of lives. Lived out, calling looks like the next right thing.

But the point is- calling isn’t something we have to earn or prove, its created by God, and fueled by the Spirit. Its about prayer, faith, and steeping ourselves in His word. Day by day, minute by minute calling is lived out in trust and obedience.

So how do we teach our kids this, as we ourselves are still figuring it out?

I don’t have all the answers, but I think the first step is not pushing our kids to achieve. Achievement is great, but it flows out of being who we are. No I think first we need to teach our kids how to be. How to be present, how to be honest, how to be loved and loving, how to be whole. The first step is teaching them how to be God’s child. That happens when we bring them to church, when we pray with them, and read God’s word, when we talk with them and answer their questions.

But most of all it happens as we live out God’s calling in our own lives- quieting our hungry egos and filling ourselves up with him. Remembering that we don’t need to be popular, or skinny, successful, or rich to be loved by Him. We already are.

Prayer
Remind us that only You can satisfy this ache within us.

We come to you now with open palms and empty souls.
We are dry clay jars of dust, ready for you to fill us, fuel us, and repurpose us for Your glory.

We feel hungry and empty,
And yet we look to be filled by whatever is at the end of our fingertips.
Until we are full, and bloated, and completely unsatisfied.
Sometimes we’re distracted into believing we have all we need,
Sometimes we’re smug and satisfied, easily pleased with our own abilities.

Thank you for tugging our hearts back to You,
For reminding us of our overwhelming need for Your Glory.
Thank you that the Holy of Holies dwells in our chests,
No longer behind an untouchable veil.

Let us lean into our longing and linger in Your presence,
As you pass over us let us realize the magnitude of Who You are.
Satisfy us with your fullness, and let us continue to hunger for You

Thank you for reminding us that only You are our source for true fulfillment.
Touch us with Your presence Lord,
Fill our heart cups with Your living water
Fill our souls with the bread of your life.

We lift our palms to you, empty and filled, lost and repurposed.

 

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