Letting Go Of Perfect

You can simply come wrecked and torn,

I notice her with her walls all up, trapped in a moment where she felt like she needed to pretend. She stood upright but everything about her revealed to me that she was crumbling on the inside. With each fake, plastic smile she became more exhausted with the fine art of hiding behind a façade.

I place my hands on her shoulders, “You don’t have to be okay right now. You don’t. Maybe if you give yourself a little space to fall apart, you might feel more together. A little more free.”

She wrestles; fighting inwardly and then the tears start to stream down her darling face. She melts into me and I hold her. I whisper, “I know what it’s like to go through the motions, just pretended to be okay when I really wasn’t.”

I know what it’s like to be a faker. Don’t we all?

As if one more coat of mascara is going to make our eyes sparkle again.

Like the perfect under eye concealer is going to make us look like we actually rested instead tossing and turning, the replaying of events, the things we should have said. The things we shouldn’t have.

It’s possible to be surrounded by people and feel more alone than ever. It’s possible to say ‘I love you’ every time you feel it and still feel unloved. It’s possible to have a smile splash across your face and not feel an ounce of happiness within.

It is possible to feel everything and nothing…and wonder what the heck is wrong with you.

But, I know the power of walls coming down in the acknowledgment that I am a needy girl with a God who is big enough to handle it. I know the power of literally watching words set a heart free.

It’s okay.

You don’t have to be okay when you’re not.

You don’t have to hide or fake it.

You can simply come wrecked and torn, just as you are and know that is enough. 

The rain comes, it always does, and we feel it soaking through the façade until we let go of this little thing called perfect.

It happened to me in a tiny choir loft, running a fever and losing my first baby to early miscarriage. As a lady looked over at me, fully knowing what I was going through, she asked me how I was doing. True words came rolling out, my pain unmasked.

“I’m just here.”

That’s when I stopped pushing myself so hard while my body tried to keep up with the fast pace of pretending to be perfect. Pretending that I was stronger than the grief I was feeling inside. The walls came down and it was the most freeing and purposeful pain.

I felt so small and it was okay. I asked those hard questions and even the useless one of “why.”

I let myself be small and frail. I let my mom hold me like she used when I was little.

I found God in that broken space of loss and found myself at the same time. The one with angry poetry underneath my worn out Bible, the girl who knew that faith and questions could linger together in my sadness giving way to deeper, unshakeable roots in Christ.

By admitting that I wasn’t okay I found room for real healing, the kind that takes time and can’t be rushed.

Whether your heartache has been recent or decades ago, I wish I could sit with you and hold your hand to let you know that it’s okay that you are not okay right now.

One day you will be.

You will be strong and steady, someone that others lean on. One day you might be holding chubby babies, or climbing the corporate ladder and finding joy in your “right now” moments.

I pray joy will return and God’s peace will surround you.

Much love and prayers,

Jennifer Renee

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:3)

 

 

Hidden

Show me your glory pic. Me

I remember a time of chasing shadows, running so fast as a little girl trying to outsmart the stretched out version of me. I wanted the sunshine not the shadows and even as an adult I still want that very same thing.

Last week I wrote about my very real battle with seasonal depression, I am unafraid to be vulnerable with you because I know that God unlocks places within us for a reason. My freedom journey is sweeter when I take others with me. Joy has returned to me, but my heart has turned to those who still wrestle and wonder when things will change for them. They are waiting for the dark cloud to lift.

I typically refer to depression as “the dark cloud” but this morning as I was reading scripture I felt a tug on my heart as I read these words:

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings…”

(Psalm 17: 8 KJV)

I felt like God was whispering to my heart.

It was never a cloud, but the shadows where you were hidden and tucked away with Me.

As a child, I tried to outrun my shadow but the faster I ran; the faster my shadow followed me. An outline of my form and elongated, a shadowed version of me; I could never outrun it. I wasn’t mean to.

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Ps 91:1)

In Exodus 33, Moses meets with God and doesn’t want to leave unless the presence of God goes with them. In verse 18 he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

But, a full discovery of God would overwhelm him. So God gives Moses a way to be hidden and still experience the presence of God. He couldn’t see the face of God, but could see His back.

“When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” (Vs. 22)

Throughout scripture it talks about being hidden in the hand of God, or in the shadows of His wings. Everything about this speaks to me. He is a God who protects us and shelters us. The cloud becomes a shadow, a hiding place tucked away in the safety of God. A shield and a refuge from the storm, hidden in the One who numbers our days and knows exactly what we need and when we need it.

It’s not the dark cloud, friend. You are hidden in the shadow of the Almighty.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

When Sunday Morning Doesn’t Come

“I agree that marriage it hard, and a good marriage is worth it.  However, the hardest thing I’ve ever done isn’t marriage….the hardest thing I’ve ever done was a long, ugly, extremely messy divorce and the unhealthy, dysfunctional co-parenting relationship I have with their dad.”

I was sitting in the studio interviewing relationship experts Jeff and Debbie McElroy about the goodness of marriage when my phone buzzed with this message from a friend who was listening. She knew she could contact me, because we have walked the same journey of “long, ugly, messy divorce”.

As I sat in the studio with Jeff and Debbie I was encouraged. Encouraged to see two people so deeply committed to each other and so obviously in love. As Jeff described the “why” of marriage I found myself nodding along, “yes, this is what marriage is for! It’s for showing the gospel!” Jeff and Debbie continued painting the picture of how marriage models the gospel for us, how it shows us redemption in tangible ways. How in each marriage God wants to enter into every hopeless and dead place and bring resurrection. As Jeff says “Every marriage has a Sunday Morning coming.”

After they left the studio I needed to be alone for a few minutes. I needed to sit with the reality that the “Sunday Morning” of my marriage will never come. I needed space to grieve that fact, to take that truth to Jesus and sit with Him in the pain of it.

lily

Last week we received a message from someone who was hurting. He had heard a story of how God had healed a man’s wife of cancer, but his wife died. The same God who allowed cancer to take his wife’s life allowed another man’s wife to have more years with her husband and kids. His “Sunday Morning” of cancer-free-life will never come. And, I imagine, the reality of that truth hurts daily.

What do we do when the reality of our situation is that for us here in this moment Sunday Morning isn’t coming?

Today I’ve been thinking about Job and all that he lost. I saw him sitting there in sackcloth and ashes with dust literally pouring from his head and I was jealous. Not of all that Job had gone through, but of the time Job took to sit and mourn his loss. I was jealous of Job’s ashes. Ashes that told everyone who saw him and everyone who came in contact with him that this was a man in mourning.

I sometimes wish we had something to wear to let others know that our season of mourning hasn’t past yet and that we are still filled with grief.

I think we do a pretty lousy job in our American culture of grieving that which is important. We wear black to funerals and the next morning wake up and put on whatever color suits us. As quickly as the flowers from the funeral spray shrivel up, die, and are thrown in the trash, society tells us to move on. We’re not allowed to sit and blankly stare, or to talk about our loss, or cry. Our employers give us a day, maybe two, off of work to attend the funeral and say our goodbyes and then we’re expected to return to work and the task at hand.

But grief isn’t an occasion that comes and passes, it comes and stays, lingering at the door of our heart. It sneaks up on you unexpectantly in the strangest places. When you’re going through your day as normal and all of a sudden you catch the scent of something that reminds you of them. When those day’s come when time slows and memories seem to wrap your mind like a blanket and grief is stirred back up again. And you have to leave the room and lock yourself in the bathroom to mourn in private, because it’s unacceptable to mourn in public.

We live in a society that is afraid of emotion. We don’t know how to express it and we don’t know how to comfort others that do. We’ve been trained to not grieve and mourn, we’ve been trained to get over it, or at least pretend that we have.

But God is not afraid of our grief, or our anger, or questioning, or fear. He is not caught off guard or intimidated when we come to Him with shaking fists and tear stained cheeks and beg for the pain to go away. He doesn’t mind when our eyes fill up with tears at the most awkward moments. He doesn’t turn His back to us when we come with questions and fears and ask “why”.

Jesus was a man acquainted with grief. He wept and was sorrowful. Jesus mourned. And He shed tears, unashamedly.

He welcomed the broken woman who literally washed His feet with her tears and He did not push her away or tell her to pull herself together. He welcomed her to His feet to pour out every single bit of grief that she had carried for so many years. He did not dismiss her tears. Yet, we feel as if we can’t bring our emotions into the throne room of grace because we feel like we can’t bring our emotions into our modern day churches or workplaces or homes. But if there is one place that grief is welcome, it is in the presence of God.

I hear people talk often about how in Heaven we’ll never cry again, but I’m not sure that’s true. Revelation 21:4 says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes”. To me the picture of Jesus wiping tears from our eyes is not the picture of bride who never cries, but a picture of a husband who lets her, and who comforts her when she does.

Tears are precious to God. He collects them, He doesn’t dismiss them. We are welcomed into the presence of God when our hearts are filled with grief and sorrow.

I find it interesting that in biblical times ashes were a symbol of grief. When someone they loved died or a tragedy happened they would literally take ashes and throw them on their heads. They would cover themselves in filth to represent the darkness of heart they felt.

“To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isa. 61:3

Jesus offers us a holy exchange. He invites us to come to Him, ash covered and tear stained. He bends down into our sorrow and He wipes the tears from our eyes and pours oil over our heads. And as that oil runs rivets down our face and our shoulders and our hands and feet, it washes away the ashes of our mourning.

But we have to come.

We have to come to Him and bring every bit of sorrow. We have to come and sit with Him in the pain. Only when we come can He reveal the true beauty there.

~Keri

Photo by jmtimages Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Where The Sad Girls Go, How to love someone who is depressed

fall leaves

“You don’t look pregnant anymore.”

I began to cry as we walk out of the doctor’s office.

“I’m so mad I could cuss.” I say, standing in the parking lot looking less pregnant.

“Do it.” My husband says, giving me permission.

“I can’t.”

“Then I’ll do it for you.”

And then he swears for me. I stand there in utter shock and then I double over laughing through the tears and say something snarky like, “You are going to split hell wide-open.”

We laugh through aching hearts and somehow I know that everything is going to be okay. We are going to be okay.

I think that is when I wrestled with my first encounter with real depression. Every fall it comes back and I wrestle trying to find words and look much like a Cymbalta commercial minus petting a cat and gazing out the widow.

I figured out where the sad girls go because at that broken moment, I was one of them.

I’m not sure if it’s connected to that time loss during multiple miscarriages, or just seasonal, but each year just as the leaves turn beautiful shades of orange and red and then finally let go giving way to winter. I become like the barren tree stripped of leaves and life, but it is still me, just the quieter version of me.

And in my head I go, that’s where the sad girls go.

Each year it becomes less of an issue, but I still go off–grid and have a hard time finding words. Even writing becomes difficult and I miss the more vibrant, spunky side of me. I stop making calls because I feel like I have nothing to say worth hearing.

The sad girls drift off inside of their headspace and dream of brighter days. I feel so thankful that each year it becomes less of thing, but it’s still a thing. It’s real. But, I’m not sad. I feel hope rising to the surface of my heart because I know this will pass. It always does.

I’ve battled depression on and off for years and I remember thinking that my husband was strong enough to lift the dark cloud off of me. But, he couldn’t. Somewhere in my headspace, my winter months of darkness and bareness of joy, I wrestled with prayer and with God and stopped wrestling with others. My hands were up in surrender with the white flag raised, “God, If you can save me, throw me a lifeline. I’m desperate, I’ll take crumbs I don’t even need a full meal. I just need something.”

And God always came to my rescue. Sometimes it seemed like the sadness lasted for much too long, but it eventually left and my color returned. Laughter filled my lungs and a song spilled out from a renewed heart. When I couldn’t pray, I asked others to pray for me and had trusted friends to hold my hand on the journey. I never asked them to jump in my pit of despair with me, just maybe take me out for chips and salsa and give me a reason to change out of my yoga pants. And after the conversation became lighter and tears stopped, we would have a cake-date afterwards. Sometimes you just need to celebrate the small victories because if we can’t, our expectations might be a little too Hollywood, airbrushed fakeness, and not based on reality.

I’ve learned that letting others see my ugly and broken moments is receiving love when I’m the furthest thing from perfect. In the past, I wanted others to only see me when I was happy and living life to the fullest, but God has given me the truest friends and family that have been unwilling to leave my side at dark, broken moments. They love me just because, no strings-attached, no need to jump through hoops or fake anything. I just get to show up and that’s enough. Man, that’s nice. 

So, how do we love someone in depression crisis and soul funk?

Realize that it’s bigger than you. Ask really good questions about feelings and what they need from you.

Realize that if you are doing all the things that they “need” and it’s still not enough, take breaks for your heart and do whatever you can to not go into crisis-mode with them. Someone has to be the strong one; Lord knows it doesn’t feel fair. But someone has to be the voice of reason and hear the voice of God if the other person’s judgment is murky.

If you feel yourself fighting so hard, fighting with your loved one as you walk on edge through the crappy minefield and look them in the eyes and say, “We are treating each other like the enemy when we are allies.” And join forces again. Keep reminding yourself that this is not who they are, but as they wrestle with change in their hearts, minds, hormones, and brain chemistry, everything is pretty much based on fear and a lie. The things that used to make them happy don’t anymore and they don’t even know why. That’s brutal.

Get help! You might need personal therapy, it’s so brave and should be celebrated, not an embarrassment. It doesn’t mean you are failing, it means you care enough to not give up. You need a friend that is sticking as close as a soul sister possibly can. Prayer journal, angry journal, or verbally barf on someone you can trust. Someone who can drop a truth-bomb like, “What is coming out of your mouth doesn’t line up with the Word.” Don’t let what you feel rule what you know to be true. Like, this too shall pass like a kidney stone with spikes the size of Texas, but it will pass. So, let me speak truth wrapped up in love and hold you while you cry. 

Figure out your default setting. For me shutting down emotionally is what I do. I’m working on it. When you feel yourself shutting down, ask yourself why. For me, my broken girl syndrome might emerge instead of the confident, godly woman that I have become. Anytime I felt backed into a corner, trapped, or embarrassed publicly, I would just check out and put up a wall to protect my heart. Or I would come out swinging. My default is flight, not fight. I hate conflict, but boundaries need to happen if someone is crossing lines and just expecting you to deal with it and be the nice one. Communicating is essential if you want to have something that lasts. Period. If you stop the lines of communication, you might as well stamp an expiration date on your healthy relationship.

When you love someone, you do whatever it takes to protect the one you love. A person in crisis no longer knows how to protect and cultivate your tender heart; they are focused on what they are feeling and what they need. So, it feels very personal and selfish. Try to focus on what you love about them, remember the better days and pray for better days to be restored.

Figure out their default setting. Harsh truth, anyone who is depressed doesn’t even know what their default setting is.So…there’s that. But, they do have a love language and things that fill up their tank.

Stop doing the same things. You need something to look forward to. Try to break away from your normal routine and do something fun.

Find a reason to hope and dream again, take your “wounded one” with you and live a little. No lists, agendas, or jumping through the hoops, just being together and chasing after joy and each other until hope returns.

Just because they are depressed doesn’t mean you have to be too. When I was going through my seasons of depression, I didn’t need my man, or friends, to join me and set up camp there. It was my depression and because I love them, I just needed them to understand, love me, and pray for me. Not push me or tell me I’m wrong for feeling that way. I never expected them to fix me, so it would be stupid for me to feel like I am the Junior Holy Spirit and able to fix someone else’s depression.

Guard your heart and mind and take your thoughts captive, it’s the only thing you are accountable for right now. I’m so grateful for a God that loves me just because I’m His and I’m enough for Him, even when I’m at my worst.

You are not alone. You might not feel Him, but God hasn’t left you.

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands, Your walls are continually before Me.” (Is 49:16)

I get it, I know what it is like to wrestle with this and win. Don’t go through this alone; let someone walk you through this!

Much love and prayers,

Jennifer Renee

Photo Credit: Melissa

Ask Big, Beth Johnson’s Broken Girl Story

I asked my friend, Beth Johnson, to share her story with us. I have watched Beth go through devastating circumstances and her strength and faith have moved me in so many ways. I love Beth…and I know you will too! 

~Jennifer

Beth's family

This past Sunday was unusually cool for early September, and we were unable to attend church due to my recovering from eye surgery and my son with a stomach virus. When I felt the inviting cool air I mentioned to my husband I would like to take a walk, and with a silent but understanding current passing between us he encouraged me to do so. So with nearly blind eyes, all covered with protective goggles and topped with awkward sunglasses he helped me find worship music on Pandora on my phone and I set out to walk our circle drive for some alone time.

Time alone or “me time” is very rare, and as my soul began to absorb the worship, and my skin the much needed sunshine, my tears began to fall. How had I sunk so far into depression so quickly? I have struggled with it on and off for years and of course I knew the answer for this latest episode and anyone that knows me would know the answer as well. But this year of all years I should be full of thankfulness and abundant joy. And thankful I truly am, but somehow I find myself completely empty, void of joy and to the point I was fearful for where I felt mentally and physically.

To make a long story short and one that I will save for another time, my eight-year-old son underwent lifesaving brain surgery this past April 1st, 2014. For years we had watched him decline, and then for two long weeks we watched not knowing if we would ever be able to take him home, or if God would call him to his eternal home. But God miraculously saved him and he is thriving.

I am sobbing by now, “Please feel my thankfulness.” I pray to my heavenly father. Even though I am empty I am so thankful. I will never forget what a miraculous healing God is doing in my son. I am humbled that he heard this mother’s cries for her son’s life. Months of much needed tears burst forth and in my currently near blind state and my gift for coordination I stumbled on a rock and nearly fell. Not a pretty picture I assure you. I had to laugh through my tears and was thankful we live out in the country where no one could see my current condition. Hot pink t-shirt, yoga shorts, layers of protective eye gear and hair that had not been touched for days. And then the symbolism hits me, just as the rock I nearly fell on. How had I come to this dark place so quickly? Surrender and Trusting. If there has been one thing I feel God has been trying to change in me for the past 9 years of my life, it would be surrender and trust. I am a Blood Type A, OCD, and schedule everything. But it is the only way I can keep up with the demands life has given me. But in this, I know I have to lean on him, surrender my will and ideals, and trust that with his strength I can carry the loads I have been given. And foremost to trust he still loves me and sees where I am and what I need. I continued to cry and prayed for forgiveness for continuously plunging ahead thinking I could work full time, take care of a recovering disabled child, keep up with a teenage daughter and be an attentive wife as well as keep up with laundry and meals, all without his help. All without taking the needed time alone with him and for time I need for me. I’ve been a Christian since childhood, I know how to answer well-meaning people who say “I don’t know how you do it” to which I smile and say “All with God’s help,” but it’s so easy to say and yet I have never learned to surrender and truly accept that help. Especially when that “help” might mean stopping and doing nothing or taking time for myself.

“Bless the Lord Oh My Soul” came on Pandora and I tried to sing through my abundance of tears, entering into deep worship before the throne of God. And as my heart surrenders I tell my heavenly father, “I am done, I am empty, and I can’t see hope. I can’t keep going like this.” I had scared my husband and myself with the words I had spoken just the day before, “The week after surgery when I was all drugged up on pain pills and slept for a week was like heaven to me.” I had prepared ahead easy menus, my sweet and helpful mother-in-law was helping with the kids, and all I had to do was sleep. And as I had to come off all that medication and got back to life, the terrifying realization hit me; I didn’t want to do anything but sleep, to hide, to not have to feel or take care of anyone.

Now that sounds like a strong Christian woman whose son had been miraculously healed only five months earlier doesn’t it? But the truth is, although God is healing my son’s seizures, unless God has other plans and more intense healings Zane will always be disabled and have Hemi Plegia Cerebral Palsy. The daily struggles of feedings, behavior issues, health issues, lack of sleep, school nightmares all while having to play these many roles was not going to change. And please do not get me wrong, I love my children, my son is a rare gift God chose to bless me with, I child I begged God for and prayed into this world. But unless you have a child with special needs, there is no way you can possibly realize the work, the extreme stress and tears that go into raising these precious gifts. So I continue to pray and cry out for help as I walk and look around at my dream home and lovely yard my husband built for me seven years ago. Seven years ago that I jumped ahead of God’s will and talked my husband into building this house that we would struggle to keep for years to come. More tears come as I again repent of my charging ahead and being led by my emotions. God had revealed to me years back as I prayed through a financial struggle that I had used the building of this beloved house to try and comfort and heal the pain and disappointment of having a disabled child. I am not proud of the huge mistakes I make, but I know he has forgiven me. But regardless, when you get out of God’s will or rush it too soon; there will be consequences. My consequence is to work full time. This all happened before I knew Zane would face such terrible health issues and I would struggle to work and keep up physically and mentally. But God knew what was to come, and I often wonder how changed life might be if I had not blindly jumped and had waited for His timing.

In my praying I began to plead for help. “Give me more energy, strength, healing to my body so I can get out of bed every day and be a good wife and mother knowing the struggles I will face.” Just then the song “Mighty to Save” came on and the specific line, “Savior he can move the mountains, my God is mighty to save” came on. And almost audibly the Lord spoke to me, “Beth ask big!” And I just stopped and wept the deepest, most healing tears. Again he whispered, “Ask big Beth.” And the most beautiful peace came over me. This God, my heavenly father who loves me though I jump ahead of his plans more than naught, was urging me to ask him for bigger things. I nearly dropped to my knees. “How can I ask you for more than I already have? I have a beautiful home you have provided for us to keep, a loving husband, beautiful daughter and you are healing my son and restoring him to me. I do not dare ask for more.” My heart whispers in return. What an unworthy child I felt like, getting in over my head and then crying for help and waiting until I could go no more until I surrendered all to him. The word “Trust” pressed on my heart strongly. So I began to worship, walking with vigor, in humble awe that my savior could love me so much and want to give me more than I could even think of asking for. And so in trusting him, I did, I asked. I asked “Big”.

When I came back inside the house with red swollen eyes my husband said, “Your better!” And I smiled, “Yes, I am.”

Ephesians 3:20 (KJV) says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his purpose that is at work ,within us.”

I encourage you, do not let your feelings of inadequacy keep you from feeling like you are a child of the ALL MIGHTY GOD, and I encourage you to ASK BIG!

With Love,

Beth Johnson

Restored, Michelle Bollom’s Broken Girl Story

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To fully understand my story, you have to know my history with brokenness. I was a broken girl from as far back as I can remember. My first fracturing came when my parents divorced when I was too young to even remember my parents together. My dad got custody of my two sisters and me while my two brothers went to live with my mom. Little did I know, we would not see our mother again for several years. My dad was broken. My mom was broken. My whole family was broken.

All the years of fighting and the tug of war of divorce left a vulnerable child without adequate protection who became an easy target for others. The next fracturing came from sexual abuse from not just one, but also numerous people who were in my life from the age of seven to around twelve. From that abuse I became good at self-blame and began my search for love in all the wrong places. As I grew up I attracted broken people myself. I lived most of my life trying to pretend I was not broken. I was out of balance in almost all areas of my life. I was a person that carried those secrets for far too many years. I learned to operate in a false self, burying my secrets deep. Smiling on the outside to cope with those feelings of guilt and shame from my buried secrets, I tried to medicate with alcohol, drugs, shopping, and sex. There is no balance in brokenness.

I married a wonderful man in 1996 that did not know of my brokenness. When I became a mother three years later to twins, I was fractured by post-partum depression and then medically-induced menopause after a total hysterectomy. With my emotions now out of control I became a workaholic to try and escape the despair I felt, as I became a broken mother. I ran my family into credit card debt three different times from buying things to compensate for my guilt of being an absent mother.  I also bought things to fill all the aching voids I felt inside.

My next fracturing was the one that almost shattered me. In the spring of 2006, my brother died suddenly. He had lost his battle with addiction. By this time I had learned to hide my brokenness in the church pews practicing religious rituals. However, because of his death, I became very angry at God. I wanted nothing to do with Him. That summer, I found The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It was a life-changing book for me. I made a barter with God that if He was all that people claimed He was, I would follow Him…if He would deliver me from my smoking addiction. He was faithful and took that addiction away from me in 2007. I began finding comfort for my brokenness in God and His word, but still I did not fully trust God enough to surrender all my secrets to Him. In 2008, at age 38, I was fractured by a stroke that later uncovered diabetes. Right after came another fracture from my Dad’s sudden death later that same year. The months following my stroke led to an overload of doctors and diagnoses. Looking back now, I realize that all my health issues were a manifestation of trying to keep my secrets buried and turning to everything for comfort except God, The Greatest Comforter. I had revealed my secrets to my husband and a few others over the years, but it wasn’t until I released my secrets to God and became obedient to Him to let Him use them, as He wanted to that He could finally do some of His best restorative and transforming work in my life. It is true, “We are only as sick as our secrets.”

My secrets of abuse, addiction, and debt were bad, but my biggest brokenness was from a secret I had buried for over 20 years. Abortion. Abortion affects 1.3 million women each year. It is the one topic that gets people really fired up. I have been in churches where pastors went on and on about the Sanctity of Life and many so-called Christians got so riled up over the subject that they came across as condemning. Condemnation from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ only tends to make the isolation and shame worse for many wounded women.  I saw no one offering to help restore lives after the effects of abortion or reaching out to these women to offer them Hope.

When I saw all my brokenness that was weighing me down by the shame and guilt I was carrying from my secrets, I cried out to God. He knew all my brokenness all along. He was waiting for me to release all of it to Him so that He could use it for His Glory. I wrestled with God for two years before I let go of the fear and let God strengthen me to the point of sharing my secrets with the world.

I clung to this verse in some of my darkest moments:  

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10 AMP).

God did strengthen and settle me, but I was desperate to overcome my brokenness. Then one day I saw: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the words of their testimony;” (Revelations 12:11)

That was it! God was confirming to me that we only overcome by sharing our “Broken Girl Stories.” Sharing how God has restored us. There are far too many Broken Girls not operating in the best that God has for them. Whether that secret be abortion, abuse, unplanned pregnancy, not finishing school or college, yelling at your kids, anger at your spouse, vanity, a critical or judgmental spirit, cursing like a sailor, having an affair, getting a divorce, self-hate, turning to pills, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, work, volunteering, or food for escape or comfort. It doesn’t matter what it is, God can use it all to create something beautiful out of our brokenness. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is courage! We can’t repair our stories until we share our stories. The broken, the ugly, and the messy. Real Wholeness from our brokenness begins when we release ALL the broken pieces, all our (secrets, sins, struggles) to God. Only when we release it are we able to obtain real emotional deliverance.

My hope is that everyone will begin to Live R.E.S.T.O.R.E.D.

~XXOO Michelle Bollom                                Michelle Bollom is Founder of Restored Ministries, http://www.restoredministries.org    Michelle's profile pic

Happily married to Joe for 18 years and mom to twins Connor and Curran. Michelle resides in the North West Suburbs of Houston, TX.  She is a Lover of Jesus, words, and enjoys encouraging others.

 

 

The Story Without Ending, Julia Miller’s Broken Girl Story

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Sometimes God places you somewhere and you have no idea why, but later it all comes together and you realize that you didn’t just sit down at a table with a few women you’ve never met…you were placed there to help someone cry a little and know that they are not alone. I met Julia Miller this summer at She Speaks and instantly loved her and felt like her story needed to be told here on Broken Girl. I know you will love Julia as much as I do. ~Jennifer Renee

Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  In my fifth grade classroom, I teach my students this very simple reading strategy.  

“Look for the conflict, then tell me the plot events that lead to the resolution,” I say.  

We learn at an early age that a story must have an ending, and in most cases, it is a happily-ever-after ending.  

However, when asked to share my story, my first thought was one of self-doubt.

“I can’t share my story.  I don’t have any answers yet.  It won’t help anyone because so much has been left unresolved.”  

I can share the conflict, and the beginning plot events.  I can weave hope into the story, however I can’t yet share an ending.  

Once upon a time….last October, after a summer of invasive and time consuming fertility-based testing, and two rounds of a fertility drug that had frighteningly strong emotional side effects, my regular ob-gyn told me that he could no longer help me, and referred me to a fertility clinic.  

That was on a Tuesday.  

I called the fertility clinic, scheduled the first available appointment, and stomped around the house for the rest of the week.  I cried and I yelled and felt very lonely.  Fertility struggles are often private, and isolating.  Everyone around me had beautiful, healthy babies, and I was on the deserted island of reproductively challenged women.  I was angry that my journey to become a mother was going to be a difficult one, and I was furious that my body was “broken”.

This news was heartbreaking.  I had no idea…

The following Sunday morning, as my husband and I were getting ready to go to church, my father rang our doorbell.

I toasted us English muffins, poured orange juice and coffee, and we sat together at the dining room table.  After I finished my breakfast, my dad reached across the table and took my hand.  

He very softly said, “There is no easy way to say this.  Your little brother has gone to be with the Lord.”  

My beautiful, 27-year-old, talented, smart, funny, beloved baby brother Matt lost his struggle to addiction on October 18th, that previous Friday night.  My mom and dad found out on Saturday.  My sister and I were told on Sunday morning.  

My world came crashing down.  I know that sounds cliche, but that is how October of 2013 felt to me.    

I wish that my continued “plot events” would be that my family is healing in our grief gracefully and easily, and that we have been blessed with a baby to bring new life and joy back to our lives.  

It has not been such a neatly written story.  My mom still cries every, single day.  My dad bought them a new house because the memories of our childhood home are often too painful to bear.  My sister grieves quietly, not always sharing her pain.  I know she breaks down when she is alone.  I fell apart in the grocery store last Saturday, when I saw Matt’s favorite yellow-smiley face bakery cookies.  I had to leave the church foyer on Sunday, when two women with beautiful baby girls were standing in front of me as I walked out of the sanctuary.  I lost my first pregnancy in May.  That little life went straight to Heaven and is with Uncle Matt.   

Here is the thread of hope in my story…

The despair will fade.  Just as stars break through the dark night sky, joy will begin to intersperse itself through the pain.

Did I also laugh on the day that I broke down over cookies?  Yes.  Am I persevering in my journey to become a mother, and praying fervently along the way?  Absolutely.  Is my family coming together tonight to eat dinner on the back porch, catch up, and love one another?  With God’s healing hand guiding us, we will never stop gathering together.

God brings healing slowly but surely.  The pain is not so acute, and the fear for the future is slowly dissipating.  We will always miss Matt.  I will never give up on trying to become a mother.  And while many hours still are painful, I can honestly say that they are less painful.  Nothing can be as awful as last October.  And while many days are still uncertain, they are less uncertain.  I know that I will be a mom, in the time and way that God has planned for me.     

I would rather become a mother in a time that is ordained by God than myself.  I wish I could hear Matt laugh, see his smile, wrap my arms around him and hold him close, call him to tell him that he is going to be an uncle…but not at the expense of him being sick and in pain.  

God has a perfect plan, to keep us safe, to protect us, and guide us.  I hold fast to this verse, in my times of weakness and fear of the ending to my story:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

When it is time for my “resolution”, I will happily go to meet Jesus and hug my brother.  For now, I am excited to witness the story that God has written for my life.  

 ~Julia Miller

Julia Miller's family

Matt, me, my husband Jeremiah, and sister Colleen.  We were so happy together, but we will be even happier someday in Heaven.

Julia Miller is a Chicago girl living in the suburbs who loves the Lord, her husband, her family and friends. Julia writes in an attempt to heal, share hope, and maybe even a little bit of humor. You can read more of Julia’s writing over here.Julia's bio pic