My Risk: Transparency…

Risks_PhilippiansTorn
My dear friend, Suzie Eller, is hosting a blog this week on taking risks and I couldn’t wait to participate!  Be sure to visit her blog and say hi :)

I am torn between the two:  I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Philippians 1:23-24

That was the verse I read on the morning of October 2, 2014.

I read that verse after doing a Google search.  The phrase I searched for was…

“Torn between wanting to live or die.”

Yes, at 5am, I typed in those words.  And I wanted Google to give me the answer.

I learned many things that morning.

I learned that God is in control…of everything…even Google.

I learned that God is persistent and adamant about getting His point across.  According to Google, there were 35,000,000 results for that phrase.  7 out of the top 10 were the same…a Bible verse…Philippians 1:23-24.  7 out of 10!

I learned that God has plans for me and there is purpose in my struggles.  Really, I already knew that, but God was clear with me that morning, reassuring me and reminding me.  Last week was a week of much learning and growth in my life.

As I read that verse, I have to admit, I had mixed emotions.  In some ways, it was comforting to feel that God was speaking to me, letting me know I am not alone, that a man thousands of years ago had felt the exact same feelings I was feeling, to believe I need to be here for more than just stumbling through each day.  In other ways, I was disappointed, hoping for a way out, something that would say, “It’s okay, come on home.”  God was very clear and numerous things have come up since then that only confirmed this over and over.

Later that morning, a friend and I dug through the verses before and after the ones above.  They read:

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

As I read through that, the more clear things became.  I began to put things into perspective and think on my priorities.  Last week, after all of this, I was able to decide what’s most important and what needs to be weeded out.  I have a ministry, I have desires I believe God has placed on my heart and those are the things I want to strive for.  Those are the things I need to keep on breathing and that’s exactly what I need to do…press on.

My risks…

I am a Bible study leader.  This week, I shared this story with my class.  I was nervous.  I was afraid.  But I knew it was the right thing to do.  God had been preparing me for this…to step out of my comfort zone, to put aside the fears of what others would think, to be real and transparent, to be a voice.  I did that, with His help and through it, I gave Him all the glory.  My hope is that my honesty about my own struggles will encourage others to share and to let them know they are not alone.  After all, we are supposed to support one another and carry each others burdens (Gal. 6:2).

It was a risk.  People could have walked out of my class.  People could have been disappointed in me and questioned my ability to teach a Women’s Bible study.  I suppose they still could.  But, who would I be if I hadn’t obeyed?  Who would I be if I hadn’t stepped out, taken that risk and been honest?  I wouldn’t be me and me is exactly who God wants me to be.  No one else, just me.

And now, I take another risk by sharing this with you, the world.

What I know is that none of us are free from struggles.  We all face different trials.  We are all guaranteed to have difficult times.  But none of us should ever have to face those things alone.  We should all feel like we can tell someone.  We should all be able to get support, love and encouragement from others.  We don’t always feel like that is possible and that’s just sad.  When we are in our darkest moments, that’s when we need others the most.

I took a risk in sharing my struggle because it was the right thing to do.  Life isn’t easy.  For me, it never has been.  What I know now is God has never let me go and He promises He won’t.  He has placed people in my life that are walking along side me, and sometimes, they are helping to hold me up.  I’m learning to accept that.  I’m taking a risk by letting them in.  I’m the girl who’s spent her whole life pushing everyone away so letting people in, letting them see this vulnerability, exposing my weaknesses, my darkness, well, it’s nothing shy of terrifying but it’s so worth it.

I am confident that one day, I am going home.  But for today, God has me right here.  He has plans and a purpose.  And even though the events of last week haven’t erased the thoughts that cloud my mind, they give me hope.  He gives me strength and as long as I am here, walking on this earth, “I will continue to rejoice…I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” (Phil. 1:18-26)

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The most selfless act… {Part Two}

GiveHope

Read Part One here!

How can you help someone who is struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers on this one and it may be different from person to person so I’m going to tell you from my own experience what has helped me and what has not.  There are many websites with tons of information.  One of the first steps you can take is to educate yourself.  Learn what depression is and what it isn’t.  Try to understand how it affects a person, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Take a stand to know more and then take what you learn, apply it and share it!

For me personally, it has been difficult for anyone to come along and “save me.”  This was never an option.  I simply do not allow others into my darkness…until now.  I will say, the only reason I am sharing this now is because the good that can come from this far exceeds any fears I have of rejection and judgement.  I simply have to be a voice for all of those who cannot find their own voices.

Friends have come and gone.  Many never knew just how clouded my thoughts were.  Only this year, have I really started inviting people in.  Even when I let the walls down enough to let someone in, this depression, the darkness, the thoughts of dying, are things that continue to be locked tightly away, even from my closest friends, including my husband.  This just isn’t something you want to share with those you love.  You don’t want to burden them with these fears, worries, or pain.  You don’t want to create panic in them.  You don’t want to cause turmoil or upset in their lives.  So it stays hidden, deep inside.

I think what I am learning is that if the day comes when my irrational thinking wins the battle, there will be nothing anyone can do.  I don’t say that to scare you even more or to turn you away, I say that to let you know that it is never your fault if someone makes the choice to take their own life.  So many survivors left behind from suicide take on this guilt, wondering if they should have noticed more, done more, or been a better friend.  Don’t carry those burdens.  Just don’t.

Keep in mind these are written from my own perspective but let’s assume they apply to anyone suffering with depression.  If you have a friend who is battling this fight, ask them…really ask them what they need.  They may not be able to answer you right away.  Encourage them to really think about what is helpful and what isn’t and ask them to share that with you!

So, what can you really do?

You may not be able to prevent suicide.  What you can do is extend love, compassion, try to understand – even if you really can’t – simply try.  Be there for me, let me know I am not too much for you, that you can’t carry my burdens but that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for me.  Tell me how much I mean to you, how important I am to you and others.  Just knowing that someone truly cares may be all it takes.  Believing that may not come easy for me.  My mind is filled with lies and all that clouded judgement.  I may not believe that you really care.  I may not even want to believe it.  Keep telling me.  You might get frustrated and feel like nothing you’re doing is working or helping.  You may want to give up on me.  DON’T!  Be patient wit me.  Encourage me to keep fighting.  Keep telling me over and over, that you are there, that you love me, that you know I am hurting, that you see my pain.  I may get angry with you.  I may try to push you away.  I may pull away and try to shut you out.  This is not because I don’t trust you or because I am actually angry with you.  It may simply be my defenses that long ago helped me to survive but now, keep me very alone.    This darkness has invaded so much of me and it will take time.  I may try to avoid you.  Don’t let me.  Due to the depression and the irrational thoughts, I may not be able to make all the right choices, but you can help me by choosing not to give up on me and not letting me give up on you.

From my own experience, what I don’t need is preachy.  I know Scripture.  I know how to read my Bible and I do.  I know God loves me.  I know and believe He has a plan for me.  I have no doubt that God can heal me.  What I need is a friend.  Sometimes all I really need is a person to be there, so that in those moments when I feel so alone and so invisible, someone can remind me I am not alone.  Someone can say, “I am here.”  That’s a hard step for me, to admit I need anyone, and it’s even harder for me to let them in.  In my mind, I feel like too much of a burden.  I feel like I am wasting someone’s time, that they’d rather be doing something else or that everything else in their lives is more important than me.  Don’t let me carry that.  Sure, you have things that are important, but let me know I am just as important and that there is nothing you wouldn’t do to let me know I am not alone.  On the flip side, some may not know all of this.  Some may need to hear God’s word.  You need to get to know your loved ones well enough to know their needs.  Ask them.  If they can’t tell you, keep asking until they can.  But please, please don’t be offended if they are not ready or in a place to hear God’s Word.  You can pray for them and let God work in them through the love your share with them and the light you shine in their life.

I can’t get over it.  Telling me to “Just get over it,” “Let it go,” or “Snap out of it,” does not help.  In fact, what I hear is my problems are nothing, that I shouldn’t be struggling like I am.  Or maybe I hear you don’t have time for me and we both just need to move on.  I take on guilt and shame for being too broken.  I began to question, even more, what is wrong with me.  I know that’s not your intentions.  I realize your intentions are most likely good, that you are trying to be helpful.  If you don’t know what to say, that’s okay, you don’t even have to say anything.  You could offer a hand.  You can pray for me.  You can put me in touch with someone you think would understand.  Please don’t expect me to just get over it.  It simply does not work that way.

I don’t need anyone to fix me, nor do I believe they can.  I don’t need all the answers.  I don’t need you to right the wrongs.  Sometimes, I may just need you to listen, to let me tell you what I am thinking and why I am thinking it without the worry that it will scare you away.  I may need to share the thoughts or memories that flood my mind, without fearing my pain will hurt you.  I may need to scream, or cry.  I may need to just sit and hold your hand.  I may need a hug.  At different times, there may be different needs but I never need you to fix it all or carry it for me.

Take care of yourself.  That’s what I want most.  In doing that, don’t leave me hanging.  I know your family and obligations are important but I need you to remind me that my life is just as important.  If I call you at an inconvenient time, I’m sorry, but if I’m taking the step to call you, then trust me, it’s really important.  Depressed people, remember, pull away, shut others out, withdraw.  So if I have taken that step to call, please know my intention is not to inconvenience you or cause disruption in your life.  If I call, it’s because I am in a desperate moment and am very much in need.  In saying that, if you can’t be that person who drops everything in a moment of need, say so.  Hopefully, I can find someone who will be that go to person.  Encourage me to find two or three people who I can call on at anytime.  Remind me I am loved and cared for and that you’re not bailing on me.  Tell me I am not too much for you but that you also have to take care of yourself.  I will try to understand.  Remember, I don’t want bring pain or suffering to anyone else, but I do need honesty.  And if you are that person, who is willing to accept a call at any given time, take care of yourself.  Have your own support system in place.  If you begin to feel weighed down, don’t shut me out, but seek out support for yourself.  I don’t want you do carry this burden alone just as you don’t want me to carry my burdens alone.

Most importantly, give hope.  Tell me reasons to live, why I am important.  Point out good things in my life.  Remind me of good times.  I may not always hear you.  I may brush you off and not believe you.  I may try to ignore you.  Those are all my defenses.  Those are lies that have filled my mind.  Tell me anyway.  Give hope to the hopeless!

And if you are the person who is walking in my shoes…

Please know, you are not alone.  Yes, I know you feel so very alone.

I know the pain is often unbearable.  I know that sometimes it feels like the weight never lets up.  I realize the fears and worries are overwhelming.  I know it’s hard to believe anyone cares or could possibly care.  I know everything in you wants to run away.  I know your heart aches with every beat.  But you are not alone. 

You may not feel supported.  You may have hundreds who love you or you may have none.  Somewhere out there is someone who will take the time to help you.  Please call a friend.  If you don’t know anyone to call, call a support line, a therapist, a doctor.  Go somewhere and make a friend.  Go to a church.  Go to a hospital.  Go to the police station if you have to.  Just don’t walk this road alone.  Tell someone how you are feeling.  If they won’t listen, tell someone else.  Keep telling until someone hears you.  Someone will listen!

You are not crazy!  You are hurting.  You are lonely.  You are in a dark place and you need light.  You are suffocating and you need air.

It really is okay to need and there are people in your life who will help you find that light.  You may have to seek them out.  I know that can be extremely difficult…do it anyway!  Don’t let your light fade out without trying everything you can to get out of the darkness.  You are worth it.  You are loved.  You are amazing and God can do something with all the garbage you carry.

If you can’t bear your heart to another soul, know that God is always with you.  Even if you are angry at Him.  Even if you don’t want to believe in Him.  Even if you are like I was, that little eleven year old girl who believed her God could never love her or want her, who prayed for Him to save her and never heard her prayers answered, who begged for him to protect her and felt so abandoned, I want you to know, He never left me … not once.  I have run so far from Him, turned my back on Him, been furious with Him, and yet each day, He reminds me that I am loved, He offers me peace and comfort, He extends His grace, and He never lets go.  You are worth it!  You are not alone!

Take off the mask.  You don’t have to be okay.  One of my favorite pastors once said, “It’s okay to not be okay!”  That was a message that I have needed to hear over and over.  It’s okay to not be okay!  Let the tears flow.  Be a mess.  Let others in, let them see the brokenness.  If they truly care and love you, they will love you along with all your imperfections and broken pieces and even more than that, they will want to be there, along side of you, to help you, to be there for you, to listen and to love you.  Let them!

I know this is difficult.  I know this is easier said than done but know I am speaking this as I am going through it with you.  I am facing this just as you are.  I am walking this road with you.  I know it’s not an easy journey but doing it alone only makes it harder and more painful.  I would love to hear from you.  Please know that my heart aches for you.  If you want to send me a message, feel free to do so.  I read every comment and I try to comment back.  I may not be your go to person, but I can encourage you to find one :)  Don’t give up!  There is hope!

www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Suicide Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

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The most selfless act… {Part One}

GiveHope2

I want to welcome you…

Into a place locked away, so very private, a dark and scary place…

To invite you in…

Inside the mind of suicide.

Imagine the darkest night if you will.  No street lights.  Moon barely glowing hidden behind a thick film of clouds.  Faint shadows lurking from beneath the dim moonlight.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Regret.  Shame.  Guilt.  Worry.  Doubt.  Hopelessness.  Picture that same scene day in and day out, over and over.  Occasionally, there may be a glimmer of light because after all, it’s a fight to get out of the dark so you grasp at any sign of light.  There’s panic, seeking something to hold onto, to guide your path through this overwhelming darkness.  A handrail?  The grip of a friend to pull you along?  Clearing your eyes once more, seeking little bits of light, finding them along the way, only to have them fade to dim again.

Imagine tears that pour only on the inside because you can’t allow them to fall freely on the outside.  You can’t bear to let anyone see the pain you feel inside…because you feel if you let them see that pain, they will feel it too and you don’t want to put that pain on them, or anyone.  You carry it on  your own because that’s what you do.  You’re strong.  So strong.  You fight a battle each and every day – a battle to overcome, to survive, to live.

Imagine looking each day at the faces you treasure, your spouse or loved ones, the sparkle in the eyes of the little beauties you call your children.  You stop and stare at them, soaking in each precious memory.  Your heart aches with each beat as you carry a love that is almost unimaginable.  And then you feel it, an ache even stronger.  It’s the ache of letting them go.  You want nothing more than to hold them, love them, be with them.  But somehow, you believe, your love for them is not enough.  You think of how things could be for them if you weren’t in the way.  These clouded thoughts come and in some small way, you know this is not the answer, but you question, “What if this is the answer?”  You consider, many times, the hurt they would feel, the loss, the ache your absence would create in their own hearts.  You want to bring them joy, to give them life, to pour love into them.  You fear the idea of transferring the pain you’ve carried for so long, onto those you love so dearly.  You push through the thoughts and pain.  You stay, for one more day.

Imagine feeling so alone that even though you may be surrounded by people, you feel invisible.  You can’t let anyone in.  Your walls are made of steel.  You wear a smile to hide the pain but if they would only look deep enough, they could see it in your eyes.  You laugh when you really need to cry.  You can’t bear to share the darkness you’re living in, either out of fear of burdening those around you or perhaps out of fear that you will be the one to get hurt, by rejection or even just by the innocence of others not knowing what to do or being able to understand.  Others may pull away out of their own fears or their uncertainty of how they could help or even if they could help.  Either way, you feel rejected.  Alone.  Invisible again.  So to lessen those painful stabs, you withdraw.  You keep the darkness bound tight inside you and all the while, it’s killing you.

I vaguely remember my futile attempt at suicide at the age of thirteen.  I didn’t really want to die.  I wanted to disappear.  I wanted to physically be as invisible as I already felt.  I wanted to hide from the world and from my pain.  I wanted the constant bombarding of painful memories to stop.  I wanted an end.  No one understood.  I was desperate and alone.  It was picture day at school – picture day for the photo that would end up in my freshman yearbook.  That morning, I swallowed a bottle of pills.  This was after days of ingesting a handful here and a handful there.  That morning, I had no restraint.  I opened the full bottle and consumed them all just as the darkness had consumed me.  I made it to school and managed to get by long enough to have that glamorous picture snapped, forever recording the desperation that was invisible to the world around me.  Then came the fear.  Something was wrong, bad wrong.  Did I really want to die?  I remember going to the office and telling them I needed to go home.  They called my grandpa and in no time, he was there to pick me up.  It wasn’t a comfortable trip home I faced, but a trip to the ER, where I very firmly denied any possibility of being pregnant which was the only pertinent question they really asked.  They failed to ask if I had taken anything.  Would I have been honest if they had asked?  I don’t know.  They basically treated me for the flu.  I went home and for a week, a bucket became my closest friend.  I can only imagine the effect those pills had on my body.  What I lived through was nothing less than horrible.  But I was alive.

What I carried with me after that day were all the feelings I had been trying so hard to escape from.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Regret.  Shame.  Guilt.  Worry.  Doubt.  Hopelessness.  I even added a few to the already too long list.  Despair.  Failure.  Weaknessbecause after all, I had failed to give myself the escape I so badly desired.  In times, those feelings and my inability to let anyone into my world of darkness led to smoking, drinking, and self-injury.  I ended up dropping out of college because alcohol numbed the pain and at that time, numbing the pain was more important.  This was not the first time I had tried or considered trying to end my own life, and it wouldn’t be the last.

At the age of twenty-three, I was at what I would consider my lowest point.  I had lost all hope.  I looked at my husband and begged him to leave me.  I cried out to him to take our small son and leave me, insisting they would both be better off without me.  I can’t even begin to explain how much it hurt to believe that and to physically say that to him.  He looked at me and assured me he loved me, he would stand by me, and I was everything to them.  I didn’t want to hear him and I couldn’t believe him.  Soon after, I began seeing a therapist.  I barely remember my visits with this particular therapist but he insisted at some point that my husband take me to a hospital.  I was once again facing those thoughts of disappearing.  We checked into the Emergency Room and waited.  When someone finally came to talk with me, they asked if I was a danger to myself or anyone else.  I told them, “No!”  They sent me home.  Did I lie to them?  In that moment, yes.  I was never a danger to others, but I have always been a danger to myself.  I continued seeing that therapist and he prescribed a couple medications … one for anxiety and one for depression.  I had them filled, several times.  The problem was, I never took them.  I hoarded them, waiting for the right day to come.  Every day I looked into the eyes of a little boy and hated the mother he had.  I prayed for him to have a good life, to be happy, joyful, and live abundantly.  I didn’t feel like he could do that with me.  There are still days I look into the eyes of that little boy who is now a young man, and I wonder, if I messed up his life by being in it.  And now, it’s not only him I worry about, but also his two siblings, my three children.

I managed to survive those dark days and nights.  When that handsome little boy was in kindergarten, on a cool September morning, I pulled my car over on the side of the road after dropping him off at school.  With tears pouring down my face, I cried out to God in anger and desperation.  I clearly remember shouting at God, “This is it, I can’t do this anymore!  I can’t.  You either take over now or I’m dead.”  I want to add here, I knew of God well before this particular day.  I had cried out to Him many times before.  I had prayed for Him to save me, to take me away, to give me an escape from the abuse I had gone through, from the memories, from the pain.  I never believed I was worthy of his love.  Even as a little girl at the age of eleven, staring out my window into the sky, talking to God, praying for protection, begging for a savior, I did not believe He could possibly care about me, but I believed He was there and I hoped that somehow or someday, He would hear my cries.  While change did not come instantly, I know that day back in September, on the side of a little highway in nowhere, North Carolina, changed my life.  Somehow, those simple words created what little bit of hope I needed to cling to in that moment.  I had survived another day.  And I would continue to survive, day by day.

I saw numerous therapists through those years.  One finally convinced me it was okay to take medication for my depression.  I spent a year on Lexapro and it seemed to help.  I managed to get to the point where I came off of it on my own.  A month later, we got pregnant with our third child.  I thought all my chaos and turmoil was behind me.  Life was good and I was living.  I was growing into a mother that I could tolerate and be somewhat proud of.  I was learning to like myself.  I believed my suffering had a purpose and I pursued what I felt I was called to do, reach out to others and remind them they are not alone.  I began teaching Bible studies and opening up about my own dark past of sexual abuse, alcohol, self-injury, depression, and suicidal thoughts.  What I learned was the more open I became, the more others around me felt comfortable enough to share their own pain.  It was working – I was becoming a voice for so many who needed a voice.  They needed to see someone else take that first step, to admit how hard life could be.

Last year, the depression that I thought had long ago vanished, reared it’s ugly self once again.  Only this time, it was the last thing I expected.  After all, I was a full-fledged Jesus girl now.  I spent countless hours in God’s Word, studying and teaching.  I was praying.  I was doing all the right things and I knew exactly what to say to myself and everyone else…except now, it wasn’t working.  Did I have too little faith?  Was I doing something wrong?  Had I not done enough?  Deeper and deeper, I felt myself sinking into that black hole, that pit of ultimate despair.  Those thoughts of doubt resurfaced.  Am I not good enough?  Am I too broken for God to love me?  Am I so damaged that I can’t be fixed?  Am I a hopeless case?  While in my head, I knew none of that was true, those are still lies that creeped in and often screamed louder than truth.  After six years of living life, free from counseling, managing on my own with little issues from my past, the time came when it was time to seek counseling again.  My thought this time was, “I’m in a better place and could just go in, pour out my heart and move on.”  It doesn’t work that way, folks.  You see, when I walked in that door, I knew this had to be the time.  I knew there would be no more therapists.  I knew there would be no more chances.  I knew it was now or never.  I could not start over again.  This was it.  I had to make the choice to open up to this stranger.  I had to let her in and share with her, the most horrifying parts of my life.  It was time to free myself from the torment I had carried too long.  It took a couple months to warm up to her.  We spent those first few months just getting to know each other on a very surface level.  I shared about my family and kids, all the things that were important to me, my Bible studies and friends, etc.  Then came the time…the point where I could no longer hide behind the mask of perfection I wore so well.  I had to face the imperfections, all the broken pieces.  And through the frustrations of feeling I wasn’t doing enough, saying enough, or feeling enough, I climbed further into that dark world, yet again.

Today, I am living each day, day by day.  I am married to the most loving, caring, supportive, and patient man.  He has walked a very long and difficult road with me.  He has stood by me in my darkest times.  He has held me and wiped away my tears.  He has comforted me even when those attempts were pointless because nothing could possibly ease the pain I was feeling.  He has shown me nothing less than endless compassion.  I am blessed daily by three awesome little people who call me mom, yes, me!  I am surrounded by an amazing church family, some of the best friends a gal could ever dream of, beautiful, godly women, friends online – near and far.  I have compassion for the hurting.  I have this incredible desire to be a voice for others, to remind others that they are not alone, to encourage them to keep up the fight.  I am loved and cherished by The One who has never left me, not for a moment.  And you know what, sometimes, it’s still not enough.  As much faith as I have and as much as I believe there has been purpose in my pain and suffering, that God can take all the broken pieces of my life and do amazing and beautiful things with them, as much as I try to hold on to the love of those that surround me, some days, it’s still not enough.  Some days, the darkness is simply paralyzing.  Some days, I still want to disappear.  Some days, I just beg for God to go ahead and take me home.  Some days, I just can’t wait to be free from this place.  But for today, I’m alive.

Depression is not simple.  In fact, it’s very deep, complex.  There is no quick or easy fix.  The further one sinks into this darkness, the less clear their thoughts become.  All rational thinking seems to fade and irrational thoughts replace what should be good, sound choices and thoughts.  A person who is contemplating suicide does not do so lightly.  I have heard many times how selfish suicide is.  I have to say, and I can say because I have been there, suicide is one of the most selfless acts I can imagine.  I am here today because I cannot bear to bring pain to those who have chosen to be in my life, to love me, and to walk this road with me.  I am here because I believe God can use me and will use me in order to help others and I can’t bear the thought of not being here to help someone else.  Even though each day I carry burdens that have weighed me down for most of my life, even though I am constantly reminded that the memories of my past will never truly go away, even though I carry so much hurt and heartache and would love nothing more than to be sitting at the feet of Jesus today, I am alive because I cannot bear to bring pain to others.  There is a desperation inside, that screams to escape, that begs for the mercy of leaving this world.  And when a person has gotten to the point where they are able to commit those final acts that take away their last breath, they have not done so without first considering all the people it would affect and all the hurt they will leave behind.

In the mind of suicide, they feel by leaving this world, they are doing the best thing they can for those they love.  To those who find this incredibly hard to understand, that’s okay and I would expect nothing less than confusion.  But remember, inside the mind of suicide, there is a darkness, one that blinds them from those rational thoughts you walk with, one that creates in them a desire to do no harm or bring no pain to others because they know how heavy that weight is.  In the mind of suicide, they have weighed all the options and feel this is the one option they are left with.  They want nothing more than to free others from their sufferings.  In the mind of suicide, it is the most selfless act they can make. 

In the mind of suicide, the pain they carry outweighs the pain that will be left behind.  In the mind of suicide, all the broken parts of their life are more damaging to others with them here, than with them gone.  For the person who made that choice, the choice to take their own life, do not harbor anger.  Do not carry guilt or debate on what could have saved them.  Move forward with love for them in your heart and have peace knowing that their pain has finally come to an end, that they are no longer suffering, and know that they did not leave you behind without a greater love for you than you can imagine.

In the mind of suicide, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  John 15:13

Some ask, “How can I help?  What can I do?”  Others don’t know what to say, so out of fear of saying the wrong thing, they say nothing.  I want you to know it’s okay.  There are ways you can help.  Together, we can give hope to the hopeless.  Please read Part Two to find out how you can help those who are suffering from a darkness that has stolen their light.  Shine your light!

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It’s been a while…an imperfect update!

First, I have to say, I sure have missed this place!  And it’s been great to hear from some of my readers checking in with me.  I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things around here.  So, let me update you…

My last post was back in May.  Since then, with three kiddos out of school and one mama in school, we’ve been swamped with summer fun and school work.  I started back to school after an almost twenty year vacation.  Over the summer, I was enrolled in our local community college for two classes.  What I failed to realize is that summer classes run on an 8-week schedule vs. the standard 16 week schedule which meant I had double the work so it was basically like taking a full load … that plus having three kids to entertain.  Thankfully, we managed without any major drama or boredom.  And I’m happy to report I made A’s in both my classes.  I’m registered for full-time in the fall :)

This fall, we’ll begin not only a new journey with me going to school full-time, but also with our oldest and youngest.  Our oldest son will be heading into high school – yes, freshman year!  He’s excited about it, for now.  Our middle son will be in 4th grade and is very much ready to get back into a routine.  Our youngest, the sweet baby girl, will be heading off to preschool.  I never did preschool with the boys, but since I’m going to school this year and with her having a late birthday and missing the cut-off for kindergarten, not only does it give me flexibility for school, but she’s so ready to be in a classroom setting with new friends and fun adventures.  Just hoping the hubby can keep up with us being all over the place!

Aside from school and summer fun, I’ve had a great deal of changes just with myself.  Back in March, this crazy notion to stop drinking Diet Coke came up one day when standing in the middle of my kitchen.  I don’t know if it was God telling me or what, but in that moment, as I went to refill my cup with my constant soda of choice, I knew I needed to opt for water instead…so, I did.  I haven’t had another drop of Diet Coke since (sorry to the Coca-Cola company for any loss in profits my sudden rebellion may have caused).  The next day, I started a journey of changing my eating habits, making better food choices and eating less.  That same day, I went for a walk.  That walk led to a habit that brings us to today.  Just 5 months later, I’ve lost over 45lbs.  Physically, I feel much better and I’ve enjoyed replacing my old clothes with new ones.  It’s definitely been a journey and I’m so grateful that God put that desire in me back in March.  Now, to keep it up!

Here’s a recent picture of us minus the 14 year old who was away on a mission trip to Morehead City, NC…
LateUpdate

On another note, mentally things have been quite the struggle.  Many of you probably gather that I’ve spent a lifetime struggling off and on with depression.  This year has been no exception.  The roller coaster of emotions, thoughts, feelings, ups, and downs, has been one wild ride.  It’s a battle but one I’m just gonna keep on fighting!  I have noticed when my eyes are focused on the world around me, things are much harder but when my eyes are focused on God, even though my circumstances may be the same, my outlook is much better.    Prayers in this area are greatly appreciated!

And last but not least, I have a techy tip/review for ya!  Most of you know I’m a gal who loves technology.  I’m a huge fan of all the new gadgets.  I’m pretty quick to learn my way around the latest and greatest.  With school starting back soon and me having a couple classes on campus, I was a bit leery of hauling my regular laptop to and fro with me each day.  Little funds to spare on new electronics had the hubby and I looking at 2-in-1′s and Chromebooks.  At the local super gadget store, we made our way around all the coolest compact options.  I went in knowing exactly what I wanted to be able to do with a tablet or laptop, what I’d need and what I didn’t need.  The prices on the smaller laptops, tablets, etc. were a little more than I wanted to pay but on the plus side, they offered the option of Microsoft Word programs.  I was unfamiliar with the Chromebooks for the most part but the price sure was right.  After several “geeks” discouraged the purchase of any Chromebooks, I was still undecided.  We finally found an employee that was knowledgeable with the specifics of the Chromebook and he was able to answer all my questions…

Chromebook

Can I edit Word documents?
Can I save documents in .docx?
Can I create documents with hanging indents and edit headers and footers?
Can I save to the hard drive or to a thumb drive?
Do I have to be connected to Wi-fi to use all the features?
Can I print from it?

The answers all came back positive for my needs and he also assured me I had 14 days to play with and make sure it would do everything I needed it to do and if it didn’t, I could bring it back, no questions asked.  That sealed the deal and we came home with a new addition to our family – a nice little Chromebook that will be accompanying me to college.

The pro’s…

It does everything I need it to do.  Several of the guys who tried to steer me away from the Chromebook said it was very limited because you can’t add programs, can’t do Word stuff, etc.  That’s all true.  You cannot add any outside software.  You also cannot add Microsoft Office.

But to correct them, you can add some things.  There is a Chrome Store which has items in it much like the Google Play Store.  You can add apps from there and use them.

One of the apps just happens to be Word Online.  Using this app, you can in fact type Word documents.  The biggest difference is that instead of it being an actual installed program, you’re using an app that runs off the Chrome internet browser.  There may be some limited features that are lost this way but it does everything I need it to do.  And, if I don’t want to use that, the Google Docs seems to be an okay alternative.

I can also save my documents as a .docx file which is what most of the college professors have requested.

I can print from it.  Setting it up to work on my cloud enabled printer was a breeze.  It took less than a minute to get that working!

It’s size is small and it’s lightweight – both appealing to me since I didn’t need another full-sized laptop.  I have a regular 15.6″ laptop that does everything and then some.  I didn’t need that made over.  I wanted something compact that would just get me by.  This is exactly that.

If you’re looking for something small to type on, play with social networks, a few games, blogging, etc., then this little guy is perfect and you can’t beat the price at less than $200.

The con’s…

For me and my needs, I haven’t found any yet.  For some, I would say the inability to add outside programs will be a drawback.  The inability to use other browsers, some games, loading Microsoft Office, etc. may be frustrating.  There are ways around those but if that’s what you’re looking for, then pass this little guy by.  And for the photographer in me, I have to say, this is not the machine for editing photos.  First, you can’t add Photoshop or Lightroom.  Second, it’s just not meaty enough for that.  If you’re serious about photo editing or photography, you’re probably not looking at these anyway – at least not for that :)

All in all, if you’re just looking for a small, easily portable companion for Facebook, email, music, browsing and maybe a little writing or blogging, this guy can’t be beat.  In fact, this little update is being brought to you directly from my new friend, the Chromebook!  (I did edit my photos on my main laptop, but saved them to the cloud and poof, they made it here!)

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With all that said, I hope life is treating you okay.  I look forward to bringing you more of my imperfectness soon and until then, may you find many blessings in your day!

xoxo,
Jen

 

We are blessed…

BrokenThingsBlessings

Recognizing blessings, especially in the storms of life, can seem nearly impossible.  Perhaps this comes easy for some of the more optimistic folks, but for me, the gray cloud that often times lingers over my head, also clouds my vision and ability to spot the blessings.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

My husband and I have faced some pretty difficult situations and decisions as parents recently.  We’ve dealt with things no parent wants to deal with.  We’ve doubted ourselves and the intentions of our children.  It’s worn us down.  Last Friday, it was all I could do to take the next breath.  I searched Scripture, trying to make sense of the things that were falling apart around me.  Nothing made sense.

Some things are just impossible to understand.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

We managed to stumble through, day by day.  Each day over this past week, brought new revelations and challenges of it’s own.  Each day, I fought the doubts and fears that have set up camp in my mind.  Determined to hang on to the last little ounce of hope I could, I searched for verses that spoke to where I was.  God used these verses to bring me through some of the most trying times.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

Keeping my focus on Him is the only explanation I have for surviving all I have.  Mountains have crumbled in front of me.  Oceans have swept over me.  Valleys have buried me.  And yet, even through the darkest, God has never abandoned me.  He has remained a constant, a source of peace and comfort.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  Psalm 46:1-3

“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 you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

We all face heartache, pain, trials, devastating circumstances.  We all experience loss, grief, fear, worry.  At times, the weight has been so heavy I even found myself questioning the worth in taking even one more breath.  That’s a pretty scary place to be.

Recent days have been filled with many emotions, so much hurt and pain, heartache and worry, anger and sadness, and yet the blessings are the lessons I have learned as a wife, mother, friend and child of God.

I learned many blessings have come from very difficult times…

There is wisdom in seeking out counsel and comfort.

Not everyone is capable of helping in every situation, nor should they have to, but we don’t have to walk this road alone either.  God places people in our lives to help through different situations and at different times.  Stopping long enough to consider the right people for the right situation has meant everything this week.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

We really do need others.  Not only have I had walls up with my husband, but I’ve had them up with everyone.  Learning to let others in has been a challenge throughout my entire life.  Sometimes, I felt that in order to let someone in, I had to share with them every dirty, ugly part of my life.  What I learned this week is I don’t have to share all of me, but I do need to share some of me.  Not too long ago, I would have argued that and said I don’t need anyone or anything.  I’ve spent most of my life stumbling through on my own.  Only, I was never really alone.  I see now, so clearly, all the places God carried me through.  And in recent months, I’ve questioned life many times.  I’ve questioned my purpose.  I’ve questioned my suffering and the suffering of those around me.  I’ve been lost.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  Ecclesiates 4:9-10

Communication is absolutely necessary in a marriage.  Neither my hubby or myself are big talkers, at least not with each other.  For him, it may be as simple as he’s a man and just doesn’t “need” to pour his heart out.  For me, it’s deeper than that.  It’s part of keeping my walls up to either protect myself or those around me.  It’s natural for me to push others away, even my husband.  Over the past few months, my walls with him had grown even higher than they already were.  My excuse … I didn’t want to burden him, worry him.  What I failed to realize is that he worries, whether I confide in him or not.  This week, we didn’t have a choice.  We had to talk things through to work together as parents.  Friends encouraged me to let him in and reminded me of where I stand in his eyes.  With that and all that transpired this week, the opportunity came to share with him where I am in my own personal journey of hurt and healing and he was able to better understand me and support me.  He needs that from me and I need that from him.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

Fear is devastating.  Fear can destroy a person.  Fear leads to irrational thoughts.  Fear cripples.  Fear is a very ugly thing.

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1

We will experience hard times.  We will  face devastating circumstances.  A few times, those circumstances nearly led me to an end and yet, here I sit, pouring my heart out to you.  You are not alone in your suffering.  Last Thursday evening, I thought I couldn’t bear another thing and Friday morning, my day began in disaster.  Was God trying to tell me I could handle more?  I don’t know.  It certainly was not what I wanted or thought I needed in that moment but the blessings have poured out from a situation that seemed hopeless.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

God will use this.  He will take every trial, every stumble, every last bit of imperfection in our lives and turn it into something beautiful.  Even when we cannot see or comprehend, He is still working for our good.

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.  Ecclesiates 3:11

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

He is worthy of praise.  He is mighty.  When all hope seems to fade away and you feel like you can’t breathe another breath, don’t lose sight of the one who’s willing to carry you through.  He just might be carrying you to some of your biggest blessings.

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. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

And since we’re talking about blessings, I hope you will take the time to enjoy this song from All Sons & Daughters, We Are Blessed.

 

A home is not enough…

HomeIsNotEnough

“Home is where the heart is”  Pliney, the Elder

“There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home.”  Rosalyn Carter

“There is something permanent, and something extremely profound, in owning a home.”  Kenny Guinn

“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”  Gaston Bachelard

There is an overwhelming abundance of quotes about how wonderful home is, how perfect and pretty, how home is family.  You could probably even rattle off ten home quotes of your own.  Is your home enough?

As a little girl, there was a fear of being at home.  Home is where I was hurt.  Home held a lifetime of memories of pain and abuse.  Home was unsafe, scary.  As a teenager, I lived with my grandparents in the basement of their home.  I had many memories of fun and happiness there, but the darkness of my life followed me there.  I dealt with depression, suicidal thoughts, self injury, drinking, etc.  My grandfather died in that home and one year later, my grandmother kicked me out of the home.  She passed away just a few months later.  I was homeless.  Taken in by friends, I found the security of a roof over my head, but in my heart, I had no idea what real security felt like.  I felt alone.  Abandoned.  Scared.  I ended up renting a tiny trailer and living on my own, in constant fear.  People joked about the fact that at any given time, that tiny tin box could be found lit up like a motel.

At twenty-two, my soon to be husband and I purchased and signed on our first home, just a month before our marriage.  It was a dream come true.  It was a cute, yet modest, three bedroom ranch.  For me, it represented a new start, protection, and a security that time and time again throughout my childhood, had been taken away from me.  It was a symbol of our love together, a family, a new life, one I so desperately needed.

Two years later, we found ourselves in over our heads with, a toddler, unable to pay all the bills due to me having left my full time career as a firefighter and settling for mediocre pay as a dialysis technician and suffering with a horribly dark depression.  We said goodbye to our sweet little home and moved into a church parsonage that we would rent for about six years.  The house was bigger so space wise, we had more than we needed.  It was nice enough, but it was never ours.  While there, depression continued to rob me of my joy, but much happiness came along with the addition of our second child after years of struggling with infertility.  At the end of that six years, the church we rented from was getting a new pastor and with that, we were given a month to find a new home.  We were in panic mode again.  We moved from our 2200 square foot rental home into a 900 square foot apartment, with two children.  The dog had to find a new home as well.

Fast forward about three years, more struggles with depression from a past that continues to haunt me and infertility along with just life in general.  The arrival of our third child in our tiny, two bedroom apartment, created a necessity for change.  Once again, we were faced with finding something else.  We rented a small three bedroom home outside of town.  At this point, or perhaps in the tight quarters of our tiny apartment, my perspective began to change.  I saw this cramped little place as a source of comfort and joy.  While my heart longed for a place of our own, we shared many wonderful times together, celebrating being a family.  That outlook started me on a new journey, one where I was able to really believe in this God I had cried out to and I began put my trust in Him.  Through this time, He taught me that I was somebody, that the house or the car (you can read about the car here) didn’t make the person, that He could use me no matter where I was or what circumstances I was faced with.  He filled me with a desire to grow closer to Him, soaking in His word, preparing me – for greater works?  Maybe.  For more storms?  Certainly.  What I gained from that time was irreplaceable.  I found my security in Him.

Through our experiences of losing homes and moving, my own insecurities grew.  I longed for a real home, one of our own.  I was envious of all the people who seemed so secure in homes of their own, with their seemingly perfect lives.  I ached to feel the stability of a home being ours, being forever.  I prayed.

In November, 2011, we made the move.  We had finally gotten to a point where we were able to buy our own home and signed the paperwork the week of Thanksgiving.  We were so excited about this new start.  Twelve years into our marriage, we were finally going to have the stability and security I had been waiting for.

Eight short months later, that security was once again shaken when our home was broken into.  I wrote about that here.  I spent the next months unable to sleep at night, afraid they would return, filled with many emotions and turmoil, nightmares resurfaced, but trusting that God would watch over us.  And He did.

Today, I can tell you, our security continues to be shattered in ways we could never have imagined.  Owning our home, making it ours, trying to live it with God at the center, and praying, has not made our lives pain free.  We have faced more hard times in the past couple years and many of them have been issues in our own home.  Some days, it’s all I can do just to breathe.  But through all of that, somehow, there is peace.  Where does that peace come from?  That peace comes from believing that God has something beautiful planned out of this darkness, that through all these trials, He is working on me, growing me and teaching me, that even in the midst of these storms, He’s never left me alone and He will not abandon me.  He is my fortress, my shield, my protector and my security.  Having a home is not enough.  An alarm system doesn’t necessarily prevent people from coming in.  Walls can’t comfort you in the middle of night when you’re faced with nightmares.  A roof doesn’t shelter you from the storms of life.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

What I have learned through a lifetime of being moved around, feeling unsafe in every home, losing any security I may have had in a home, is that a home is nothing without the security of Christ.  He is my security.  Each home had it’s own share of blessings but also chaos, difficulties, hurt and pain, some with loss and abuse.  Each home may have had moments of love and joy, but evil and worry still seeped through the cracks in the walls.  My security came when I allowed God in.  He didn’t take away the struggles.  He didn’t make our home suddenly perfect.  In fact, I can’t imagine things being more difficult than where we are in this moment, but my security is not in my home.  It is not in my circumstances.  It’s in trusting that He is with me through the struggle, that He will use the darkness and ugliness of my life, for something greater than I could ever imagine.  My security is in Him.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  Psalm 5:11

Where is your security?  Is it in your spouse?  Your children?  Your education?  Your job?  Your home?

All of those things will fail you, disappoint you, break you.  Only He can give you a true sense of security, if you let Him!

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1