Fairy Tales

As I type these words one billion people are turning their attention to London to watch the Royal Wedding. It’s every girl’s dream. Horse drawn carriages, fairy tale gowns, tiaras, palaces. This morning Kate woke up a girl with no title, a commoner, and tonight she will go to bed Her Royal Highness Princess William Arthur Philip Louis, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus.

I have to admit, I’m caught up in all the hype. My step-mom is British so her appreciation for the Royal family has rubbed off on me. All morning I’ve been enjoying the pomp and circumstance and craving a good strong pot of tea (P.G. Tips, please).

I can’t help but wonder if the reality of Catherine and Williams’s marriage will measure up to all the hype. Today was all smiles and glamor, but what about when the crowds go home and the cameras are turned off. Will their life behind closed doors still be a fairy tale?

I know mine isn’t.

And while you may think Princess Catherine and I don’t have that much in common, deep down I think maybe we do.

We’re both women. And at the heart of every woman lies common desires. To be loved, to be accepted, to be valued, to have our dreams come true. The problem with dreams and desires is that inevitably something goes wrong. Sometimes we face disappointment or discouragement. Sometimes our dreams are completely shattered.

I know I’ve faced my fair share of disappointments, discouragement and shattered dreams. I’ve had my sleepless nights wondering what went wrong. I’ve looked at other women’s lives and convinced myself that if I just had their ________ I would be happier. But the more I talk to women, the more I hear their stories, the more I realize that none of us live perfect fairy tale lives. Not even Princess Catherine, or Princess Diana, or Her Royal Highness the Queen herself.

Broken dreams are part of life. Part of life I’d rather opt out of. But God tells me that broken dreams help me become more like Jesus. If I allow Him to pick up the broken pieces of my shattered dreams and create something beautiful out of my mess.

So I guess I’ve decided I don’t want to be royal after all. I’d just have the same problems but with added pressure and funny hats. No, I’ll keep my less than happily ever after life, broken dreams and all. I’ll endure the disappointments and discouragements that come with being a woman. Because I know in the end it will all be worth it. One day, just like Princess Catherine, I too will get a new name. A name not given to me by Her Royal Highness, but by the King of kings and Lord of lords. And on that day… it will be worth it all!

The Resurrection & Crumbs

My husband walked in Wednesday night from church with a book in his hands.

I stayed home with my sick baby, trying to get a fever of 103 down. Needless to say, I was trying not to panic knowing he had to leave for church. He tested the cold bath water and assured me it would bring her fever down. And it did as I acknowledged my blessing of having a healthy sick child that is recovering.

“By your stripes we are healed.”

His word is true, active, and alive. In my humanity I acknowledge that healing looks differently through our eyes. Sometimes healing comes complete as the eyes shut and the final breath is inhaled. Sometimes our miracle is received and celebrated, and we cradle it knowing that gift didn’t come from the medical world, it came from God.

My husband handed me the children’s book, “The Story of Easter,” and smiled. I opened it and written on the first page was this:

‘To Whitley and Elise who are the resurrection and reality of Mom and Dad’s “special” dreams.’

It couldn’t have been more beautifully stated. They are living proof that God is the healer. He restored my broken body that wasn’t supposed to bring life and gave me the miracle of feeling life growing within instead of miscarried life and dreams.

As I write this now my heart hurts because heaven just welcomed a child home my daughter’s age. My mother’s heart aches because a woman with the most beautiful faith I’ve ever seen watched her child fade as she prayed daily for God to heal and restore. Even knowing the end was near, never once did she feel a release to stop praying for earthly healing. Faith like that is stunning and beautiful.

After miscarrying for the second time I held my hands up in the air in surrender and worship to God. I had teenagers in our Youth Group at the time ask me how I could love God so much while I experienced death within. But, God is stronger than death and a grieving heart that loves God purely is stunning and perhaps even confusing for those who can’t get past the question…why?

The lady who made petition for her daughters healing by saying, “Even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table…” was stunning; it was a faith that made Jesus stare in amazement.

“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” (Matt 15:28 NKJV)

She was saying to Jesus, “I don’t need the full course meal, but let me have just a tiny crumb of what you have to offer because that tiny crumb falling from the master’s table is more than enough for me. I’ll take it God; I’ll take the crumbs from Your table.”

Her daughter was healed that very hour and yet so many others receive their healing when they enter heaven. I don’t understand why others receive their healing here on this earth while others wait, but I trust the God who resurrected my dreams and reality.

Sunday I celebrated my risen Savior, the resurrection of God’s dream for all of us. For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son. He loves us even when we turn up our noses at the crumbs falling from His table. He loves us when we are full of faith and He loves us when we are wrestling with Him in rebellion, kicking against the form that wants to lead us safely.

Just a few hours after church and Easter lunch with treasured family we received a phone call telling us that one of the most beautiful girls that ever walked this earth, Sheree Hohn, was killed in a tragic car accident Sunday morning. She was headed to church to celebrate with her beautiful family and she never showed up. Jonathan and I were so blessed to have her in our youth group when we were Youth Pastor’s.  If I could describe her in just one sentence it would be this…Sheree Hohn was the sweetest sunshine with a heart for God that was stunning.

I wish I could utter some words like, “One day we will all understand why heartbreak happens on this earth to the most incredible, God-loving people.”

But, all I can think about is this mother and father saying goodbye to their thirty-year-old sunshine. All I can think of is her sister, Angela, who was her other half and best friend. They didn’t even have time to ask for crumbs, but they grieve with hope knowing they will see her again. But, it still hurts with waves of shock pulsation through those left behind.

To My Jesus who is the Resurrection and the life,

Kiss the faces of those who weep and whisper the songs of heaven as we wait for Your return. I don’t understand this, I’m not sure I want to. But, I ask this one thing…give us a faith that is stunning. I’m satisfied with crumbs or the full course meal; faith in You is what sustains me.

Amen

The Great Sorrow part 3

This is part 3 of a 3 part series. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here. 

Good intentions

Something changed that day. My heart began to hope again. I remember going home and heading straight into the bathroom. I locked the door. Took the bottle of pills from the cabinet and purposefully dumped them in the toilet. I remember standing there watching the water circle around the bowl when I heard the voice again. “This isn’t over.”

And it wasn’t. Depression didn’t leave me that day. It stayed for a long time after that. Something else stayed too… my friends. We started getting together regularly to pray for each other. They would call me in the middle of the day just to tell me they loved me. They sat with me in church, held my hand, smiled at me. They never judged. In fact they began to open up to me about their own struggles, their own failures. Every day they stood beside me and gave me strength to fight.

Word got out, as it often does in a small close knit church. Kind souls who meant well would hug me, tell me they loved me and whisper words of hope to me. Always the same words. Over and over again I heard it… the joy of the Lord is your strength. And it made me want to scream. What joy? What strength? While things were getting better, I was far from whole. Every day was a battle just to get out of bed and keep breathing. There was no joy in my life. No strength. Which made me wonder, maybe there was also no Lord in my life.

Revelation

If there’s anything I’ve learned on this crazy journey of life it is that God is good. Even in the darkness. Even in the suffering. Even when I feel forgotten. God. Is. Good.

He was good when He tattled on me. He was good when He arranged for two women to attend the same church as me at the exact time when I would need them. And He was even good when I couldn’t find joy in His strength. Weeks after my self-appointed date with death He spoke to me about this scripture that had been quoted to me over and over. This verse that had become the very bane of my existence. He told me I didn’t have to listen to that verse. He wanted me to listen to another one instead.

You will make known to me the path of life;

in Your presence is fullness of joy;

in Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

He wanted to show me the path of life. There was joy in His presence. Joy was being made available to me. And the amazing thing was I didn’t have to find it. I only had to find Him.

But I didn’t know how. My entire Christian walk had been about pursuing Him through works. And it left me broken and disillusioned. I remember clearly the first night I heard His voice. He simply said to me “will you let me hold you?” And like a frightened little girl I reached out my arms and allowed myself to be held in the arms of a strong and loving Father. That night I cried out all of my tears. The entire time I felt wrapped in love. Completely accepted. Completely free.

Here was the answer. Safe in His arms.

Flash Forward

It’s been nearly fifteen years since I held a bottle of pills in my hand and wondered what death would feel like. I’ve realized many things in the last decade and a half.

  • Depression still chases me. It still wants me dead. But I’ve learned to recognize him when he comes now. I know his voice. I’m privy to his lies. I don’t have to believe him. I don’t have to let him in. I can fight back. And I do.
  • There is evil in this world. I don’t like to dwell on it, and I’m not looking for a demon behind every bush. But Satan is real. And he really does want nothing more than to steal, kill and destroy. He will stop at nothing to thwart the plans that God has for me. I must be on my guard.
  • One person really can make a difference. My friends saved my life, literally. They invaded my personal life, they risked rejection and they got all up in my business. And I am so glad they did. They sacrificed for me. It took them away from their families. From their own agenda. I can never repay them. They will always serve as a reminder to me. I can make a difference in someone’s live.
  • I am so thankful to be alive. When I was in the midst of darkness I was convinced that things would never get better. But they have! I can’t even begin to explain how much better they have gotten. Life is still hard; it still has its ups and downs. But it is GOOD! And full, and beautiful. Had I gone through with it I would have missed so much. I would have missed Christmas mornings with starry eyed toddlers. Watching my beautiful kids blowing out birthday candles. I would have missed weddings, anniversaries and births. Joy and laughter. Heartache and pain. All of it glorious. All of it good.

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’ve never experienced the Great Sorrow. Maybe you have. Maybe you live there now. Wherever you are can I just say… He loves you! He really does. I know it hurts. I know you feel lost and alone and forgotten. But you’re not. I know you may not believe me, but it will get better. But you can’t stay here. You have to get free.

Remember the Great Nothing from The Neverending Story? How no one could defeat it? Well, that’s not entirely true. In the end the Great Nothing swallows up all of Fantasia. Every tree, every mountain, every living creature. Everything except one small grain of sand. The Empress holds out the grain of sand to Bastian and tells him that if he believes then anything he wishes for can happen and all of Fantasia can be restored. I don’t believe in wishes. But I do believe in faith. God promises that with only the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains. He also promises us that just like Fantasia everything that our enemy has stolen from us will be restored.

You can be free. You can live in the light. You can find joy again.


The Great Sorrow part 2

This is part 2 of a 3 part series. You can read part 1 here. 

The Darkness

I often think of depression as a living thing. Those who have lived with it will probably agree. It has a mind of its own, and can’t be controlled. And it grows. It eats every bit of light it can find and grows and grows until the darkness completely swallows you. Depression has a voice. It whispers to you in the dark lonely nights, and mocks you in the light of day. Depression robs you. Of sleep, of relationships, of hope, of joy. Depression is a master of lies. It convinces you that things will never change. That no one really loves you. That everything bad that is happening is all your fault. That the world would be a much better place if only you weren’t in it.

Depression is good at its job. It’s sneaky and subtle. It slips in unannounced, and slowly winds its way into your life. It steals bits and pieces. Unnoticed at first. And then when you’ve become powerless to fight back it steals blatantly right out in the open. It is a master manipulator. Working its magic to separate you from healthy relationships. Like a hungry cheetah stalking its prey it isolates you from the pack then picks you off when you are alone and afraid.

I remember as a girl watching the movie The Neverending Story. It was one of my favorites. I watched it again a few years ago with my own children. I’ll never forget the scene when the Great Nothing moves across Fantasia swallowing everything in its path. I remember thinking that’s what depression looks like. Nothing escapes it. Nothing can fight it. Nothing can overpower it.

When the Great Nothing comes everything else disappears. Light, sound, shadow. It all falls prey to the Nothing. It all gives in to depression. Eventually depression wins and nothing but darkness remains.

Tattle tale

But I had decided. It was time to be free. And in my mind the only way to freedom was through death. Sunday morning I woke up feeling very peaceful, almost joyful. Not because the depression had left, but because today was my last day to have to live with it. Things were going just as I had planned when in an instant everything was ruined.

Unbeknownst to me God is a tattle tale. And at approximately 11:30am on that beautiful spring Sunday morning God tattled on me. My two best friends were in church (I was in the building, but not in the service, hiding once again) and at the exact same moment God somehow, someway told them both of my plans to end my life. They both left their seats, met each other in the lobby and with tears streaming down their cheeks set out to find me.

Just a few short minutes later they had found me and drug me into an empty Sunday School room. Missha spoke first “We know what you are planning” Crystal joined in “Tell us everything”.

And I did.

I told them about the Great Sorrow, about the Darkness, about the Plan. And as I sat there confessing the ugly, dirty truth of who I had become the strangest thing began to happen. For the first time in a long time I felt free.

Confession is good for the soul.

I don’t remember the words that were spoken that day. I do remember tears. Lots of tears. I remember hands, holding mine, encircling me. I remember prayers, said on my behalf. Whispered prayers that turned to shouts. I remember love. I remember light.

If you are suffering today can I ask you to please get help? My story doesn’t end here, in fact this is just the beginning. God wants to rescue and redeem us from the deepest darkest pit. Will you hold to Him?

Worth

Our worth is not based on our merit, our appeal, or significance. Although I can assure you that our actions reflect a much different picture. You cannot put a price tag on it; you cannot coat it with another layer of makeup and enhance it. It cannot be found in another person’s eyes or in the way that you are treated.

Our worth and value is wrapped up in so many things, at times we long to find it in others and our loved ones. Craving words of affirmation and a tender touch, we ask for it without words. And sometimes in our weakness we ask in the form of emotional barfing and experience the sting of reality.

Our neediness is revealed, our hearts are tender, and we sit in the waters waiting for someone to throw us the lifeline of worth. Our neediness causes the rope of worth to be much too short. We are left with words that bruise.

Clearly the words hurled in our direction were not what we wanted to hear; in fact it was the exact opposite. We are faced with the harsh reality that the ones we are craving approval from do not speak our language.

Only God can speak the language that heals the hurts.

I’m reminded of a story about a little girl and her father on a date. Before he takes his first bite he begins to praise his daughter telling her how wonderful she is and just as he is about to choke down his first bite she stops the fork from entering his mouth and says, “More Daddy.” This happened repeatedly, “More Daddy.” Even though the father didn’t get to finish his meal, his daughter’s heart was full.

Who are you looking to asking for “more”?

“Therefore do not cast away you confidence, which has a great reward. “ (Heb 10:35)

Your worth:

A mirror cannot show you it.

A man cannot assure you of it.

A magazine cannot strip you of it.

Your past cannot deny you of it.

Words To Embrace

Words are so powerful. When aptly spoken they bring nourishment to the aching soul. When spoken recklessly they have the power to change the course of someone’s future. Hurting hearts carry around those reckless words:

I wish you were never born.

If I could go back in time…I would.

You will never be good enough.

Words that cut leave invisible scars for the untrained eye, but not if God gives you the discernment to spot what a broken heart looks like.

A broken heart says, I’m not really sure how to accept your love so when you get close enough that it scares me; I’ll shut you out.

A broken heart says I’ll reject you first before you reject me, for I’m certain that is what is coming next.

A broken heart becomes a builder of walls to keep others locked outside, insulated by loneliness because the silence feels safer.

A former “broken girl” knows what a broken girl looks like. And as we reach our different levels of healing, peeling back the layers until we get to the surface of where it all started…we become free. But, I truly believe it’s not so that we can forget the broken girl that we used to be but to set the captives free by the power of our testimony. (Heb 1:3)

There has to be a time where you shut out the voices that cut knowing that those words are not from God. There has to be a time when you forgive the hurting person that ripped your heart in two. There has to be a time when you replace the reckless words with the truth. The truth that you are loved, that you are valuable, that you were never a mistake.

Embrace the words that are straight from the heart of God.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps 139:14)

You are the treasure of my heart, who every touches you touches the apple of my eye. (Zec 2:8)

You are worth dying for, so I sent my only Son just for you.

Beloved,

God simply adores you!

The Great Sorrow

This is part 1 of a 3 part series. Check back later this week for parts 2 and 3. 

The Decision

I remember very clearly the day I decided to end my life. I had been wrestling with the idea for months, but on this day I realized something that finalized my decision. I realized that God wasn’t going to answer my prayers.

My prayers had started out as pleas for help. God end this pain, take away the Great Sorrow. Let me feel Joy again. But He never answered. Then my prayers changed. God let me die. Let me go to sleep and not wake up tomorrow. Please let that semi swerve into my lane and crash into me. Those prayers went unanswered as well. God was ignoring me. It was time to take matters into my own hands.

So I did what I always do when faced with a difficult decision. I made a list. Not a list weighing the pros and cons of suicide. Instead I made a list of the most efficient way to follow through with the act. My first thought was a gun. We had several, but it just seemed too violent to me. I had read a book about a man who ran a hose through his exhaust pipe into the window of his car. But that sounded complicated, and I didn’t want anything to go wrong. There was always a razor blade to the wrist; I had seen that in a movie once. But I knew it would leave an unbearable mess behind, and I didn’t want my family to have to deal with that. Finally I decided; it would have to be the bottle of narcotics my trusting physician had given me to cope with the pain of recent surgery. It would be painless, peaceful even. I could finally have what I really wanted, to go to sleep and never wake up.

For months my mind had been tormented. But now that I had finally decided my mind was at rest. I was clearheaded for the first time in a long time. The voices that told me over and over again that I was a failure, that things would never change, that it was all my fault, those voices were suddenly silent. It only further convinced me that I had made the right choice.

I decided to wait until Sunday night at bedtime. That was my window. I would be alone, there would be no interruptions.

Looking Back

You may wonder how a good Christian girl like me could wind up feeling so hopeless that death seemed the only answer. I often wonder the same thing myself. It didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow gradual progress of losing my grip on reality. It started with change, then disappointment. Relocation. Loss of friends. Little things that on their own were part of normal everyday life. But these little, manageable things began to pile up. One on top of the other. And before too long I found myself drowning. Laughter left and sorrow moved in. I became reclusive. Quiet. Sad.

In the beginning I remember wondering how such great sadness could grip the heart of a child of God. I had been taught to believe that as long as you loved God, prayed, read your Bible and went to church that God would make your life wonderful. I believed that the faithful Christian never suffered. Therefore the only conclusion I could come to was there was a problem between me and my God. Perhaps I wasn’t reading my Bible enough. Maybe it was my lack of diligence with prayer. Or it could have been my uninvolvement in ministry at my local church. Desperate to be approved of by God, and consequently set free from this punishment of depression I jumped head first into the works expected of a good Christian girl.

For some strange reason it didn’t work. No amount of Bible reading or prayer lifted the black cloud that enveloped my life.

I know now that I was doing everything wrong. I went to God demanding answers. I opened my Bible in search of a magic formula. I went to church because it was expected of me. But my heart was shut down, closed off, walled up. My pursuit of God was not for love, but for relief. And wrong motives never lead to right outcomes.

So I stopped. I stopped praying. Stopped reading my Bible. Stopped listening to Christian music. I still went to church, but I showed up at the last possible minute, and left before the closing prayer. And even while I was in the building I was running from God. I found every excuse I could to leave the sanctuary and go hide in the bathroom, nursery, or random hallway. God had forgotten me, why should I give Him any of my time or attention?

If you are suffering today can I ask you to please get help? My story doesn’t end here, in fact this is just the beginning. God wants to rescue and redeem us from the deepest darkest pit. Will you hold to Him?