Estate Sale…

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Back in January, my 95 year old neighbor passed away. 

It was bittersweet. 

She was ready. 

My family was not.

This weekend, there is an estate sale at her home which got me thinking.  People have flocked in from all over town to sift through Mrs. Helen’s belongings, only they don’t belong to Mrs. Helen anymore.  All of the things she treasured, enjoyed, collected in her time here on earth…

They’re just things.

She is gone and those things are left behind.  The crowds of people who have elbowed their way through her home didn’t know Mrs. Helen.

They may never have seen her smile or heard her many words of wisdom (and correction!).
They didn’t watch as she knelt down and hand picked acorns out of her yard (and mine!). 
They didn’t see her smile as she kindly acknowledge the annoying dog next door (yes, mine, lol). 
They wouldn’t know how she always wore a jacket when she was outside working in her yard…even when it was hot to everyone else. 
They don’t know she spent the last days of her life in a hospital after cancer invaded her body or how two years before that, she had fallen, broken her hip, recovered, came home and still worked tirelessly in her yard (at 94!). 
They never tasted the yummy deserts she baked and brought up to my house.
They didn’t walk into her kitchen and see the photo of their children proudly displayed on her refrigerator.
They didn’t notice the Bible and notebook spread out on her kitchen table each morning.
They didn’t have the joy of welcoming her into their living room, cherishing the next few moments of conversation  between two women separated by nearly six decades.

What those people are getting…

They’re just things.

They really mean nothing.  Sure, they brought Mrs. Helen joy while she was here and I hope they bring others joy as well.

In the brief three years my family got to know Mrs. Helen, we gained so much more than things.  We didn’t spend a lot of time with her but every minute with her was like an hour of history, wisdom, and blessings.  She was 95.  You can’t live that long and not have a lifetime of treasures tucked away in your mind.  I’m not talking about the treasures these people are fighting over like it’s a Black Friday sale.  They missed out on the real treasures.

Stories of…

Raising two sons.
Losing one of them too soon.
Loneliness.
Joy.
Fond memories.
Annoyances (that would probably be my loud children messing up her yard, lol.  Sorry, Mrs. Helen)

Mrs. Helen is leaving behind treasures.  Today and tomorrow, many people are glancing through her treasures and maybe even taking a few with them.

Me, I’m holding onto them tightly.  I’m treasuring the moments we had with her next door.

The smiles on my five year old daughters face when we’d pull into the driveway and she would bolt out of the car, run down to Mrs. Helen and give her a big hug.

The determination in my boys as they were challenged by Mrs. Helen to see who could pick up the most acorns out of the yard.

Watching her, admiring her strength.

These are moments planted in my mind that I will treasure.

The things she left behind are not what makes Mrs. Helen’s life a treasure, but who she was.

Today, Mrs. Helen is reminding me that who I am matters more than the things I leave behind.

Who you are matters more than the things you leave behind.

The imprint you leave on another person’s life is priceless.

Mrs. Helen gave me a second chance.  My grandparents raised me.  When they passed away, I was 19 and 21.  I was beginning my own life and  was too busy to treasure those moments with them.  I’ve spent my time without them, regretting that I didn’t soak in every ounce of wisdom they could have poured into me.  Mrs. Helen gave me a chance to get to know their generation again.

Thank you, Mrs. Helen, for your wisdom and your acceptance of the loudest neighbors on the street.  We love you and miss you.

Mrs. Helen, your estate here on earth may be up for sale but the eternal estate you’re living in now is priceless, just as the treasures are that you gave to me.

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Nothing is Wasted…

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In the past couple months, I’ve shared some very personal struggles.  The responses have been overwhelming.  Many have expressed thankfulness and encouragement and I am very appreciative of all the kind words.  Some have shared their own struggles, told stories of how alone they have felt, how my voice gives them hope and strength.

That is what matters!

That is why I shared.

We aren’t meant to walk through life alone.

God is using this darkness for something good.

Nothing is wasted.

Over the past couple months since I have been home and trying to adjust to actually living life, rather than waiting to die, one song has replayed over and over in my head.

Shane and Shane – “Though You Slay Me

John Piper says, “It’s not meaningless!

Your pain, your suffering…they are not meaningless.  God is using them or will use them for something good.  You may not be able to see it but somehow, someway, He is using it.  He will use all the hard parts for something good…if you will allow Him too.  And sometimes, even when we fight Him, He still takes hold of those things and uses them for our good and the good of others.

Nothing is wasted.

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Making the best…

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Making the best out of what may feel like the worst…

What is your worst?

Maybe it’s…

a night of drunkenness, confusion, and bad choices
a lifetime of neglect or abandonment
a failed marriage
suicidal thoughts or attempts
witnessing or being involved in domestic violence
rape or sexual abuse
murder

Maybe it’s…

financial struggles or bankruptcy
a job loss
the loss of a loved one
infertility
feeling inadequate as a spouse, parent or child
self-hatred
an eating disorder
self-injury

Maybe it’s something else.  Whatever your worst is, please know this truth…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Did you hear that, friend?  You may not believe it right now but will you please read it again and plant that little piece of truth deep in your heart.  I pray that one day, you will believe it.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

God has not given up on you…even in your worst…especially in your worst!  He is working all things for good.  Even your worst.  That’s a truth to hold tightly.

Your worst doesn’t seem very good, does it?  I know mine doesn’t.

My worst was a childhood filled with physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and abandonment by the very people who were supposed to love, nurture and protect me.  Trust was foreign to me.  Love was engulfed with lies.  Innocence was stolen, striped away.  Years went by and with every day that passed, my shame and guilt grew.  I bore the weight of acts that were never mine to carry.  I retreated into my own little world, building walls all around me.  Those walls kept people out, protected my very fragile heart, and left me incredibly lonely and scared in what I saw as a dangerous world.

Along the way, people came into my life and showed me that life didn’t have to be as scary as I once saw it.  Little by little, I began to see that I could extend a slight be of trust…though never fully…never even close to fully.  But a little was a lot at that point.

Later, my worst led to other worsts including multiple suicide attempts (read here), many years of depression and many thoughts of dying, self-injury (cutting), eating disorders, alcoholism, smoking, promiscuity, and more.  I realize at some point, I had a choice in my actions and trust me, I have paid some pretty big consequences for those choices, but I also believe, had my innocence not been crushed as a little girl, many of those worsts would not have followed.

Today, I am a wife and mother of three amazing kids.  I have been part of a wonderful church family for nearly 16 years.  I am surrounded by some incredibly loving, caring, supportive people.  I am blessed far beyond anything I ever expected.

And you know what?

Life is still hard.

But…

Out of the worst, has come the best.

My worst, though it still leaves me with extremely painful, terrifying, and crippling moments, has also highlighted my bests.  Because of the life I have lived, my heart aches to reach out to others who are hurting, who are broken, who feel damaged and worthless, to pour the love into them that I, at many times, so desperately wanted.  Compassion is something I know well.  My ability to understand pain and to withstand pain is enormous.  I have experienced many things that allow me to be able to relate to so many others in their struggles.

We all have a worst.  Our best just might come from our worst.

In my worst, one of the things I missed the most was my voice.  Innocence was stolen from me and along with it, so was my voice.  For years, I just lived through the abuse, silently.  I couldn’t tell a soul.  I had no one to tell and even if I had told, I feared what would happen.

One night, at the age of 11 years old, I prayed for God to give me the courage to tell…

And He did.

That next day was the first time I told about the sexual abuse I had been living through for years.

Telling did not magically make things better.  Honestly, in many ways, it made things worse.  A lot worse.  Life became more difficult.  That was the first time I believed it was my fault and I began to carry the weight of all the shame and guilt.

I wrote a lot.  It was my outlet, my survival.  I have always loved to write.  I haven’t always written when I should and many of the scary things have never been put into words…even on paper, but I have, over the years, written a lot.  That’s probably why I love this blog so much.  As I’ve said before, for me, writing is like the air I breathe.  It’s a lifeline.

Even though my voice was stolen, I still had words…I could write them.  Someday, I pray He will give me the courage to speak them in front of others.  Through my worst, God has shown me some of my best.  He’s used something so horrible, so dirty, so broken, and turned it into words that have reached deep into the hearts of others.

I teach Bible studies in my church.  I am so unequipped for that but God has been with me every step of the way.  He has used these classes to grow me, teach me, and draw me closer to Him, while also blessing me with the privilege and honor of getting to know some amazing people who saw something in me and took a chance on taking my classes.  I hear many thank you’s, but honestly, I feel like the one receiving all the blessings.

God has given me a voice.  What was once stolen from me, He has made new.  He has given me a platform and a voice and each day, He gives me the courage to step out and use it.  He’s given me a heart of compassion to help others through their own struggles, to reach out to them in their time of need.  I fail often.  I will continue to mess up but my intentions are good.  He gives me grace.  Each and every day, He takes the ugliness of a life gone wrong and shows me the many ways He is making it right.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:5

He is taking my worst and making something beautiful out of it.

Friend, He wants to do the same for you!

 

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Paper Scrubs and Perspective…

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Paper scrubs. 

You know what I’m talking about, right?  They come in a lovely, muted shade of blue.  They’re large and easy to slip on over clothes.  Many hospitals have them for their staff and patients.

After my suicide attempt last month (read that story here and here), I had the pleasure of donning a couple sets of these paper scrubs.  The first set was in the first ER I visited that morning.  I wore them until I was released and allowed to put on the clothes I had arrived in.

From there, we traveled to another ER where I would later be admitted into the hospitals mental unit.  In that ER, I was so graciously given another pair of blue paper scrubs, only this time, they were ginormous (is that really a word?).  I stepped out of the bathroom and kindly asked the nurse if I could have a smaller pair because these were huge.  She seemed agitated.  Who wouldn’t be in that situation…Overworked.  Underpaid.  A stressful environment.  And a patient who doesn’t value her own life making what, at that point, probably seemed a silly request.  Needless to say, she was not sympathetic to my request.  Those giant blue scrubs were mine.

All of my belongings were taken, including the hat that was hiding my less than clean (glued to my head from 2 day old natural oil and hat head) hair.  I sat in that ER, not in a room, but in the middle of a hallway, wearing my nifty (note sarcasm) blue scrubs and my greasy hair.  I was there with two dear friends who helped me laugh it off and make the most of a pretty scary day.  They didn’t care how I looked.  They loved me anyway.  (Thanks ladies!)

So, those blue scrubs were quite embarrassing.  Nothing screams out of the ordinary than to be the only patient in the ER with paper scrubs on.  They might as well have stamped a big label on the back that said…

“Attempted Suicide = Another Fail!” 

That’s how it felt.  I thought everyone that saw me could see what I’d done and I added that to my mental list of failures.  I was there.  I was alive.  I was just as broken as before.  And now, I was on my way to the mental hospital with awesome paper scrubs, greasy hair, and no dignity.

If that doesn’t encourage the depressed, then what will?!

After a five hour wait in that ER, I was finally taken to the mental hospital building down the street.  I was escorted by two people who spoke very little.  The only thing shy of feeling like a prisoner was the fact that I wasn’t in handcuff’s.  They loaded me into what I like to call a creeper van.  You know the ones you see on TV when the news is reporting a BOLO for a kidnapping.  It’s always an old, creepy 15-passenger van.  Well, this was one of them.

I climb up into the van in my giant scrubs and off we went.

Down the street, we pulled in at the mental hospital.  This was a separate building from the main hospital.  I could make some sarcastic jokes here too but I don’t want to go overboard with that so I’ll leave it be for now.

My sweet friends were able to follow us to that building.  What a blessing they could ride in their own car and not in the creeper van!  So I was escorted by my two quiet guards and dropped off in the waiting area where two ladies met us.  They went through all the rules about what I could and couldn’t have there.  Unfortunately, my awesome App State hoodie, black sweats and tennis shoes didn’t make the cut.  So, off my stuff went along with my friends and I walked through the heavy, no way out of here once you enter, doors in my blue paper scrubs, bright yellow hospital no-skid socks, and my jacket that actually past the approval list (thanks Old Navy for my fleece jacket…it passed!)

Once behind bars, I mean those big locked doors, there was no getting out and things got real.  I was alone.  Sure, there were folks there…but it was late and all the patients were in bed.  I had my vitals checked by one nurse and then was sent to a room with another nurse.  In that room, any dignity I might have managed to tuck in my paper scrubs pocket went out the window when I had to remove them to have all the markings on my body viewed and documented in my chart.  Because I have been a cutter for years, there were many scars marked on the chart.  More shame.  More embarrassment.

At that point, the nurse grabbed a hospital gown.  You know the ones…wrap around, tie in the back, you’re lucky if they don’t show all your glory…yep, that’s the ones!

And in that moment, everything changed.

Perspective changes everything.

Those blue paper scrubs…had been embarrassing.  Humiliating.  They had screamed to all, I thought…

Bad choices.
Stupid.
Crazy.
Worthless.
Criminal.
Garbage.

But in that moment, when the gown became the next option, those blue scrubs were like an outfit right off Rodeo Drive.  No money would have been enough to show the value in them.  After a quick glance at the hospital gown and a moment frozen in fear, I managed to spill out a very desperate and wimpy, “Can I just keep the scrubs?!”

I’m certain she saw the look of terror and heard the sheer desperation in my voice and she kindly agreed that would be okay.  Thank you, God!

Those paper scrubs had just become my saving grace.

Why?  Why had things changed so drastically and so quickly?

Well, let me explain a little something about perspective…

You see, before my clothes were taken, they were my clothes.  They were things I had picked out.  They were comfortable.  They were mine.  When they were taken away and I was given something I had not chosen, I was no longer comfortable.  I was bitter.  I was angry.  They had taken away what belonged to me and there was value in my things.  I saw no value in the paper scrubs they were giving me because in my anger, I felt it was punishment.  I felt like I was being punished by having my own things taken away and substituted with their hideous paper scrubs.

When I went into the mental hospital, I no longer had anything except those blue paper scrubs and my jacket (which had no hood and no strings, mind you, or it too, would have failed the permitted list).  Those scrubs had become all I had.  They were mine.  They weren’t the most comfortable (remember, they were huge…we’re talking I was walking on the legs of them with the waist pulled up to my chest huge.  The shirt hung almost to my knees) but they covered me.  And that was extremely important to me.

I didn’t realize until yesterday why they became so important, why my perspective changed so quickly.

Having experienced what feels like a lifetime of sexual abuse, modesty is not just important, but necessary for me to feel safe.  I can’t sleep without blankets wrapped around me.  I’m not comfortable unless I’m covered.  The idea of wearing that hospital gown was the idea of being exposed.  It sent me back to my childhood and memories of being exposed, fear, terror.  Something as simple as a gown can be such a huge trigger.  In that moment, standing there with that nurse, I imagine she not only saw my terror but she probably couldn’t help but see that helpless little girl begging for protection.  Those blue scrubs became my protection.

Perspective changes everything.

When I had things, the blue scrubs were an embarrassment, something else to be ashamed of.

When I had nothing and was at risk of losing the blue scrubs, they meant the world to me.

That night, I was stripped of everything…

Except the blue paper scrubs.

If I had known a month ago, just how meaningful those paper scrubs would be to me now, I would have kept them.  I would have held onto them as a reminder of the grace and mercy God poured onto me that night as I stood there like a frightened little girl begging to keep the scrubs that no longer screamed of shame and imprisonment but of safety, protection, and comfort.

And later, after I was escorted to my room, once again I was reminded…

Perspective changes everything.

I’m a writer.  It’s my therapy.  It’s like the air I breathe.  Words are my lifeline. 

Remember, I had been stripped of everything shy of the blue paper scrubs and my coat.  I sat on my bed and tears poured from my eyes.  (This in itself is huge.  Before that week, it had been nearly a year since I had cried and even then, they weren’t tears for myself, but for another horrible situation.)  I sat there, talking to God, begging for Him to get me out of that hell, crying out to Him in frustration and anger, believing I didn’t belong there.  Yes, I cried out in anger at God!  I’m pretty sure He can handle it, in fact, I am pretty sure that’s exactly what He wanted me to do.

In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.  Psalm 18:6

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  Psalm 34:17

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:30

God knew I was desperate, scared, lonely, and angry.  He could handle it…and He did.

He gave me the courage to get up and go ask for a pen and paper.  Now, remember, things are pretty different in the mental hospital because everything that you once had privilege to is now considered a dangerous weapon that you could use to harm yourself.  The nurse kindly handed over a tablet of paper and the guts of pen.  Most folks know I am a huge pen snob (if you ever want to give me a gift, I love all colors and super smooth, lol).  She handed me this tiny three inch stick of ink.  You know what the inside of a pen looks like, right?  Imagine yourself writing with just the inside…not the nice, comfy, hard plastic shell…nope.  At that point, that pen and paper were the most amazing gifts I could have received.  It would do just fine…and it did.

God provided for my needs in that moment.

I went back to my room and wrote for most of the night.  I poured out my heart.  Looking back on those words, they seem silly now but in that moment, they were real.  They were words of hurt, pain, fear, loss, rejection, punishment, imprisonment, shame, embarrassment, regret, anger, and so much more.  Those words were everything and the fact that I was able to write them down and I have them now to look back on…that means everything.

I had nothing…but paper scrubs, a pad and the guts of a pen.

In that moment, I had everything I needed.

And later, when I desperately needed to try to sleep, I thought of Memphis.  He’s this adorable, (worn out and grungy well loved looking) stuffed hound dog that I sleep with every night.  He’s brown and has long floppy ears.  I snuggle him as tight as I can and while I sleep, the two of us are inseparable.  I’ve had him for about 15 years and have slept with him almost every night (shy of the brief period of time when my three children fought over him).  In the hospital, I didn’t have Memphis.  That was one more reminder of all that had been taken from me.  What I did have, was a solid white less than soft, bath towel.  Not to discount Memphis in anyway, but in that moment, that towel became the comfort and safety I so desperately needed in order to allow myself a few minutes of sleep.  I balled up the towel to about the size of Memphis, wrapped my arms around it and cried myself to sleep, still wearing my blue paper scrubs, my coat and resting my head next to my paper and guts of a pen.

I was safe.

I was cared for.

I wasn’t alone.

God had been with me. 

He had provided for me in every way I needed.  He had filled my heart and mind with His word.

I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118:17

Which I repeated over and over that night.  I wrote it out on my paper.  He reminded me of the words of a song I had listened to many times in the days leading up to my suicide attempt.  (For King & Country, Shoulders)

“…My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders…”

He gave me those blue paper scrubs. 
He gave me a pad of paper and the guts of a pen. 
He gave me a plain white towel.

And He gave me a new perspective.  He gave me His eyes to see the gifts these things were.  When I felt everything had been taken away from me, He met me right where I needed Him to.  He opened my eyes…not to what I was missing, but to the gifts He had placed before me when I needed them most.

My words can’t express the emotions and gratefulness I feel from gifts I received that night.  My words will never be enough to say just how amazing it was to feel His presence that night.  It was my darkest moment and yet the most precious moments of realizing just what an amazing and good God was with me that night.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”  John 6:12

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thank you God, for saving me.  Thank you for providing in my darkest, most desperate moments…nothing is wasted.

I pray my story reminds you…you are never alone.  He is there, even when you think He isn’t or even when you turn away from Him.  He loves you and is waiting for you to come to Him.

Perspective really does change everything.

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The Fight for My Life…

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I spent months debating the idea of suicide.

I debated and weighed out all the pro’s and con’s.

I thought about my family and my friends, what I thought would be easiest, least painful for them.

What would seem irrational to most made perfect sense to me.

There was a plan and a date.

I wrote a goodbye letter.

And all that time, I kept trying to hold on, to convince myself I was strong enough to keep fighting.  I confided in a close few, just enough to reach out, to not feel completely alone, to have somewhere to turn, just in case.  They loved me through it.  Even though I had been honest enough to tell them I was thinking of dying, I still held back on the deepest feelings.  I still kept them at arms length.  I still pushed them away.

One month ago, I faced the fight of my life.  I’ve already shared most of that story here.  Three times, I was ready to say goodbye and three times, God intervened.  One month ago today, I followed through with the plan to take my own life.  There is no real explanation on why I am still here other than God is not done with me.

Memories of that night, that week, the past months, have played over and over, but especially tonight.  That happens.  Anniversaries become planted in our brains.  When things happen, dates are pressed into our minds and they become triggers of all the emotions we felt.

That night changed my life.

I laid down in my bed, pulled the covers over me and expected to drift off into a peaceful, eternal sleep.

Obviously, since I am here writing to you all, I woke up.  That next morning, a new life emerged from that bed…

A life I did not know how to live.

Things happen.  Life throws some pretty ugly punches sometimes.  We all face hurt and pain and sometimes, it can seem never ending.  I don’t know what I’m doing any more than the next person.  We’re all just trying to survive, trying to make something of our lives, trying to keep breathing.

For months, I had stopped trying to breathe.  And now, I’ve been thrown into this life where I have to actually try to breathe.  It’s the complete opposite of what I’ve become used to doing.  Every breath had become excruciating…and now, I’m expected to just breathe.

This was not the first time I had attempted suicide.  Depression and suicidal thoughts have long plagued this worn out mind of mine.  These thoughts don’t go away overnight.  They don’t magically disappear.

It’s a battle I still fight every single day.

More often than not, it’s a battle I fight multiple times a day.

It’s a daily fight for my life.

In this world and especially in the church, there is a stigma attached to mental illness.  In the church, many think you are simply not praying enough, doing enough, reading enough Scripture, you’ve turned away from God, you’re neck deep in sin, and so on.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I am closer to God than I have ever been.  He has been the one constant, the one consistent source of comfort, strength, and hope.  He has given me everything I’ve needed to prepare me for the moments He was certainly not surprised by.

And the people who witnessed the events of that week back in February saw for themselves some pretty amazing stories that played out that week…stories with no explanation other than God having His hand in it all.

Too often, we expect perfection or at least something close to that.  Even though we know it’s a sinful world filled with hurt and pain, we don’t really allow for suffering.  We say, and I’ve said these many times myself…

Feel better soon.
It will be okay.
Just let it go.
Give it to God.
Get over it.
You just have to move on.
It’s not the end of the world.
Are you still worrying over that?

I could go on and on with the things we say in difficult times.  Most times, we mean well.  Sometimes, we just don’t know what to say, so we say nothing.

Tonight, I’m putting it out there again.  Life has always been hard.  Life is still hard.

When you’re in that place, that place of being ready to give up everything for the sake of ending your pain, nothing can stop you…or at least it couldn’t me.  I did all the right things.  I reached out.  I was honest with people.  I sought help.  I kept myself around people 24/7 like I was told to.  And still, it happened.  The thing was, as honest as I tried to be, I also tried to convince myself I wouldn’t really do it…that it wouldn’t really happen, even though deep inside, I knew I was only lying to myself.

The best thing I could have done to save my own life would have been to first, be honest with myself and second, be fully honest with those I trusted and confided in.  By doing neither of those, I almost lost my life.  If you are in that place…if you are having those thoughts…if you are so overwhelmed by the lack of hope, unbearable pain in your heart, that you can’t imagine facing one more day, admit that to yourself and then admit that to someone who can help you.

People told me I was loved.  I didn’t believe them.
They told me they needed me.  I felt in the way.
Friends showed support.  I felt like a burden.

I doubted that anyone could care that much.

Depression is ugly. 

It plays with your mind.  It clouds your judgement and twists your thoughts.

That week, I spent more time in my Bible and reading Scripture than I ever had.  I prayed.  I cried out to God.  I felt His presence.  It was clear to me, even in that darkness, that He was there.  As each day passed that week, it became more and more clear that He was not finished with me…that I had to fight this fight.

I gave up anyway.

But God…

God never gave up on me.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21

I am here and rather than being in the fight of my life, I am fighting for my life.  It’s a daily battle of fighting through the thoughts that have convinced me…

It’s too hard
The pain will never end
There’s no hope
You’re too much of a burden
You’re in the way
There’s too much hurt

Since then, I have felt just as lonely and unheard as before.  I have kept everyone at a distance just like I did before.  I have continued to keep myself surrounded by people but my heart has still been sealed off.  I have hidden behind a  smiled.  I have told others “I’m okay,” when I know I’m really not.  Not much has changed as far as those things are concerned.

But something has changed.

February changed me.  I’m not the girl I was before then.  I’m desperately clinging to the one source that never left my side.  I was clinging to God before, but now, I’m clinging to Him more than ever.  Instead of turning on music I can relate to, I’m drowning myself in His word…every chance I get.  I’m listening to music that reminds me others are suffering too.  I’m embracing the stories that have poured in…the pain others have shared with me because they found strength to share their own stories after I shared mine.

February taught me so many things.

I have learned that in order to make it through this, I have to fight.  Before, I was ready to give up.  Depression steals your will to fight…but I have to fight anyway.  I have to battle the depression, the thoughts, the feelings…and fight for my life.

God has a plan.

I don’t know His plans.

I do believe I am here for a reason.

We all have a purpose.  We all have a voice.  For now, all I can do is be honest with myself and use my story, my pain, my voice…in the hopes that someone else will hear they matter too.  You matter!  I am fighting for my life and yours is worth the fight too!  Don’t give up.  Fight the fight!

He’s still bringing me back to life.  It’s not an overnight fix.  It’s a process.  It’s growing.  It’s learning.  It’s hard.

But it’s life.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or are in a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-TALK (8255).  They have trained counselors available 24/7 to provide free, confidential help.  Seek help.  Call a friend.  Go to your local Emergency Room.  You have nothing to be ashamed of and you deserve help!

A great song to listen to … Ellie Holcomb – “Marvelous Light

“…With years of keeping secrets safe
Wondering if I could change
‘Cause when you’re hiding all alone
Your heart can turn into a stone
And that’s not the way I want to go

So I walk out of the darkness and into the light
From fear of shame into the hope of life
Mercy called my name and made a way to fly
Out of the darkness and into the light…”

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A year later…

The last time I drank a soda was on March 12, 2014.

Today marks one year later.

I don’t miss soda.  At the time, I thought me quitting Diet Coke was nearly impossible.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

Until that point, I literally drank almost two 2 Liters a day.  Yes, two large bottles of Diet Coke, every.single.day.

I do believe the timing was right and God helped me through that.  I had one day of headaches and other than that, no real side effects from coming off soda.  That day, I started drinking water…lots of water.  And now, that’s all I drink except the occasional hot chocolate!

That day also began a weight loss journey for me.  I didn’t really set out to intentionally lose weight.  I think the initial goal was just to make a change.  I don’t even know that I really meant to be healthy.  Like I said, I was just looking for a change.  I started tracking calories, making better food choices and that Friday, on March 14th, I started walking.  My walking quickly increased to longer distances and longer times.  I was averaging about 3 miles a day for nearly 6 months.

From March to sometime in August, I had lost about 55lbs.

Since then, I’ve kind of fluctuated back and forth between 55-60lbs.

I haven’t walked regularly since August but now that the days are longer and the weather is warmer, I hope to get back into a regular routine of walking.

I need to walk.

I need to walk for my health…physically and mentally.

Please excuse the crazy giraffe head in the photo below, lol.  The one on the left was taken at my daughters 4th birthday party in November, 2013.  The one on the right was the same outfit and taken in July 2014.  I had to get all new clothes but I did keep that outfit as a reminder of how far God has brought me.

WeightLoss_July2014_3

So, today is another new journey.  Last year, it was physical health while my mental health was fragile.  It’s still fragile.  It always has been.  Maybe that won’t change…but I know from last year, if I hadn’t had the combination of changes like stopping soda, drinking water, eating better, and walking, I wouldn’t have lost the weight I lost.  It’s time to make better choices for my mental health too.

In this new journey, I’m going to focus more on healthy things for my mind…learning to be more open, share my struggles, focus on God’s power and strength to carry me through these hard times, soak in His word, turn to Him more rather than turning away.

He’s proven over and over this year that He will not abandon me, even in those darkest moments.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake [abandon] you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

I’m going to focus more on His truths.  That’s the direction my life needs to go.  His truth.  Writing.  Teaching.  Speaking.  Family.  Friends.  And God at the center of all of that.  That’s my fresh start on March 12, 2015.

And along this journey, I hope God continues to give me words to share here.  I’d love to see this blog grow.  I’m thankful for the people who’ve been touched by my stories, my life, my sharing.  I hope that continues.  Really, this little place started out mostly just as a journal to myself but it’s been such a blessing to hear from so many who are walking this journey with me.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Do you have any new goals? 

Any new plans that you hope will change you for the better, physically or mentally?

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