Category Archives: Depression

A Raging River…

>>>>> Yes, this post is incredibly long…what do you expect when it’s been so long since I posted. Don’t click away. Bear with me, read it until the end. Please. <<<<<

2017 Raging River

The past few days have been quite overwhelming. Change is inevitable yet so often, difficult to accept. Loss is painful, excruciating. This sums it up…

Life.

Let’s say you’re on a journey. We each have a different path. Some have flowers and butterflies early on and some have briars and thorns. Maybe some have briars and thorns the whole way. Let’s say the briars and thorns are the hurt, pain, and trauma that stings, cuts, and scrapes like the briars. Then you make it to a river. It’s fierce. It’s scary. You know to get to the path on the other side, free from the briars and thorns, you’ve got to cross the raging waters. And let’s say therapy is the stones laid out before you. You just have to take the step. You make it to the first one, catch your balance, plan out your next step and prepare to move forward. Some stones may be slippery. You may twist your ankle. It’s not an easy crossing but you press on. You step to the next stone, getting closer and closer to the other side.

The let’s say grief gets in the way. Grief over loss, losing the stones. It stops you in your tracks. There aren’t anymore stones laid out for you to step across. All you see is raging waters. You feel the sting of cold water splashing against your scraped and scratched up legs. You feel lost and alone. You wonder if there is hope…but as you glance back at the stones you’ve crossed, you’re reminded there is hope. You found it a few stones back.

Where do you go from there?

Your journey halts. You’re stuck on that stone for who knows how long while the water crashes around you. It’s overwhelming. It’s painful. It’s scary. You beg for more stones. You cry out for stones from the deepest part of your heart. But the stones are gone. How do you get across. How do you reach the other side without drowning?

You know it will happen…you just don’t know how. You know it won’t be with those stones and that is where grief has settled in. Maybe you’ll fall a few times. Maybe you’ll get soaked but you’ve made it far enough to know the river won’t take you.

Where is your path leading you? Are you headed through flowers and butterflies or are you tangled in the briars? Are you safe on a stone or treading water just to breathe? Or have you crossed the river and reached the other side, with soft green grass, the shade and protection of a giant weeping willow tree, a cool, gentle breeze, and a place to rest, where you can look back and see just how far you’ve come?

I wrote that sometime last night. Words usually come easy for me but the ability to accurately explain my feelings, well, not so much. This seemed clear enough to create a visual of what I’ve been feeling.

Why all this? I do want to offer an explanation. I owe that to myself.

Abandonment.
Abuse.
The insecurity of home.
The lack of support, love, and nurturing.
A childhood lost.
A girl growing in a world alone, a world that has mostly been cruel.

If your own mother and father don’t love you, why would anyone else?

That is a question I’ve asked over and over again. A parent’s role in a child’s life involves love, nurturing, protection, direction, guidance, support, and so much more. Those are things that can’t be replaced by another person. It’s an ugly fact.

I’ve bounced from house to house, never really feeling home.

Abuse.
Foster care.
Grandparents.
Homeless.

I’ve been in and out of therapy since around age 11. At 15, I wanted nothing to do with the therapist the courts ordered me to see. I was stone cold hard. My walls were so high, no one could touch me. It was great. And it was lonely.

At 19, after losing the one person I knew without a doubt loved me, my Papa, a part of me died with him. He was the only person that had given me a reason to live all those years. He was the one person who taught me what real love looked like, how to be kind and respectful, and how to love others unconditionally.

At that point, life became careless. I was a firefighter. Back then, female firefighters were rare. I loved that. I loved being the tough girl. I loved the idea that I could step into a burning house, with flames all around me and knowing they couldn’t touch me. I embraced the idea that I would gladly give my life in order to save someone else. In fact, I wanted to.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

And today, twenty years later, I can say there have been many times that I ached to find home. Not a home this world can offer, but an eternal home where there is no more pain and suffering.

Admittedly, I’ve attempted to take my own life. Several times. And yet, here I am. I look around and see raging waters. But I also see the path continues. I’ve learned that somehow, I’ll find a way.

So, where I am today is in the midst of grief. They say being able to feel is a part of healing. Well, I must have done a lot of healing in the past few years because I’m definitely feeling this. It’s heavy. It feels like I’m choking. It feels like there are rocks in my lungs. It feels like I’m covered by a blanket waiting to be smothered. It’s incredible pain. I’ve never known pain like this because I was never able to feel like this.

Over the past four years, I have been seeing a therapist. She’s the last of a long list of attempts to break through my walls…and she did. No one else had been able to do that. Not because they couldn’t but because I couldn’t let them. I couldn’t trust. I could talk about my past and all the wrongs but I couldn’t feel. No one could knock down the walls that kept me safe from the pain of the world around me.

Kara did. I don’t know how she did. She says I did the work.

Therapy is an odd thing. My opinion of it has changed frequently and probably will continue to change. In many ways, it’s amazing. You have the opportunity to share anything without judgment. Without anger. Without being punished. Now, don’t get me wrong…that doesn’t come easy. It takes a long time to learn that it’s a relationship where it’s safe enough to trust. A LONG TIME! (for me anyway)

But when you find that person, the one who can really see you, the one who lets you know it’s okay to breathe, the one that reminds you, you’re not alone, the one that bears ALL your secrets, the one that has loved you in spite of all you’ve been, done, and are…when you find that one, it means the world to you.

Kara isn’t perfect. She’s not some magical creature with a wand that wipes away all the wrong of the world. Nope, she’s pretty normal. She’s just a regular human being who struggles like the rest of us but we clicked. She taught me to trust. That was something I’d never been able to do.

She taught me…

to trust – that taking the chance can be worth it.
to believe – to believe I am strong, worthy, lovable, wanted.
to seek hope – that even in the darkest moments, hope is there.
to love – to love myself, to see my worth, to know myself.
to dream – to imagine where I would be when I made it to the other side.
to embrace – to seek truth and embrace it.
to grow – that I didn’t have to be afraid of who I would become.
to change – to bring truth in to erase all the lies I’d believed.
to feel – that it would hurt like hell but it would be so worth it.

And that’s where I am. I am feeling. I am grieving. When my Papa died, back in 1997, I cried off and on for three days and didn’t speak to anyone. I felt dead inside. That was about all I could feel. I wanted to die with him. I was numb. I was lost. I was alone. I wasn’t able to grieve because I had no idea how to really feel anything other than empty.

Grief sucks! Plain and simple – it absolutely hurts like hell. Losing someone who has meant the world to you, by death or by the end of a relationship is incredibly hard.

Two days ago, Kara told me she’s leaving her position in a private counseling setting and heading into the school system. It’s what is best for her and her family. It wasn’t an easy choice, but one she had to make, none the less. I care greatly for her and want the best for her and her family…I just wish I could be a part of her best.

I was/am devastated. DEVASTATED.

This woman, the one who knocked down my walls, helped me learn to breathe, taught me to find hope, and to press on, to fight death and find life…she’s leaving me. And all I can think of is I knew this would happen. Everyone leaves.

A father who never cared enough to even meet his daughter.
A mother who chose the man who sexually abused me for years, rather than her own daughter.
Teachers who cared but couldn’t realistically move on to the next grade with you, every year.
Lawyers, advocates, foster parents, friends, houses, family, etc.
A grandma, who much like myself, bounced between emotions, never really being able to express unconditional love, but rather love based solely on conditions, and fits of rage and anger.
A Papa who meant the world to a little girl who had no one else, who had the hands of strength, the heart full of love and compassion, a presence of the only thing safe in the world.

Whether by death or by walking away, the people that have mattered most, who have cared most, who were supposed to love, protect, encourage, support, etc. – they all leave.

And that’s where I’m at.
Kara is leaving.

I know it’s not the same. I know she truly cared. She’s dedicated four years of her own life and time to helping me. She’s put in countless hours of watching me stumble over words, back track on progress, question everything she’s said, argue or debate her truths vs. my truths, and lately, she’s watched me cry.

For years, pretty much all my life, crying wasn’t an option. Crying wasn’t safe. Crying made things worse. Crying meant something was wrong. Crying meant you weren’t strong enough.

But Kara taught me it was okay to cry.
She taught me I was safe with her and it was safe to cry with her.

She never took advantage of my vulnerability and what I viewed as a weakness. She viewed it as strength. Progress, she would say.

I can’t tell you the exact day when I first cried with Kara. I can tell you it wasn’t that long ago. It’s only been within maybe the last year that I really felt like I was stepping across the stones that created a path to somewhere better. And she was walking with me. Holding my hand. Offering hugs, when I was able to ask.

You may wonder, why is it a loss? It’s not like she died and is gone forever.

But it is a loss. That’s where the ugly part of therapy comes in…

Kara always said the therapist/client relationship is like no other. It’s complicated. There are ethics and boundaries she has to adhere to for my own good, but they are incredibly difficult to accept and understand. You’d think just the fact you’ve spent so much time with one another, that would be enough, but it’s not. Ethics, boundaries and the design of the therapeutic relationship don’t leave a door open for anything when the relationship ends. It most definitely is a loss. It’s a death.

And that’s what I am grieving.

I am grieving the loss of the person who knows me better than anyone else in this world.
The person who has taught me what safe love looks like, what love really means.
Who has given up much of her own life in order to save mine.
The person I pray for and want the best for, yet ache to be a part of her best.
Like with my Papa, I am grieving the person who showed me I mattered, that I was loved, that I was wanted.

I have an amazing husband. He’s caring, patient (very, very patient), gentle, and understanding. For the most part, I’ve shut him out of my therapy life and my healing journey, mostly because I’m stubborn, and partly as some lame attempt to protect him from my own heavy baggage. It was safest for me to view the time I had with Kara, in her office, as the one place, the one person I could actually let see the real me. I treasured that time. I cherished it. And I learned over time that I didn’t have to carry it all with me when I wasn’t there. She was safe enough that I could leave it all with her and actually live life in the in between. There’s so much comfort in that.

I have three beautiful, smart, amazing kids. I adore them. They are great kids just like my husband is great. They are my biggest fans, my biggest source of support, and they are honest enough to be brutal when I wear something wacky!

As much as I love them, it’s not the same. Theirs is a relationship where they depend on me. They receive unconditional love and support from me and in return, they love me back. They look to me for comfort, protection, guidance, and so on. They need me. They come to me for hugs or to fix everything.

That’s what I’m missing. That’s what I’ve lost. There is no one on this earth that can fill that role. There is no one who has known me forever, who calls me theirs, who has done and would do anything for me, who has wiped away tears, picked me up when I fell, held my hand through the hard times, and taught me what a mother’s love is supposed to look like. Kara did that for me.

And honestly, I am so truly blessed. My home…my family…I have found in my church. It took me years to get to that point to but I believe all that time, God was preparing me, teaching me, growing me. And He’s given, and He’s taken away. I’d like to put in a direct request that He stop taking away but it seems when He takes away, He helps me find many other things/people to keep me moving forward.

I have some amazing people in my life. There are women who have walked this journey with me, who have been my allies, my support, my stones along side Kara. They’ve prayed for me. They’ve kept me accountable (sheesh!). They’ve guided me and taught me. And painfully, when I look at them, I see what wonderful mother’s they are to their children, how they pray constantly for them, how they love them with such a deep, genuine love. And I see how they have that with their own mothers, how they have those people that have always known them, always cared, and always called them theirs. I realize there is no perfect family. I realize it’s a really messed up world and every family has its issues. Still, it’s hard to be loved by these amazing ladies and know I will still never matter that much…so much that I would be first in their lives, that I would be right in line with their other children, that they have watched grow from the tiniest fingers and toes, picked up from falls, held when they were sick, ached with every ounce of their body when their children were hurting. That’s what I grieve. Even Kara couldn’t offer that.

But here I am.

The river might be raging but I can still see the other side. I’m determined to someday sit beneath that giant weeping willow tree, feel the warm sun bearing down on my face, the gentleness of the soft green grass below me, and the freedom to breathe.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

But for a moment, let me grieve. This is healing, right?

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Hidden Pain…

HiddenPain

Sadness.  Gloom.  Darkness.  Despair. 

Headaches.  Digestive Issues.  Sleep Problems.  Low Self Esteem.  Back or Muscle Aches.  Exhaustion, Fatigue, Lack of Energy.

Changes in Appetite.  Changes in Weight.  Chest Pain. 

These are just a handful of the things that can go along with depression.

Over 120 million people in the world suffer with depression.

Depression is real.

For most of my life, I have struggled off and on with depression.  There are times when I’m sure I wasn’t clinically diagnosed with depression, mostly because I tend to avoid everything, especially doctors, but there have been times when I was treated for depression.

It’s ugly.

It’s sometimes scary.

It’s lonely.

It affects everything in your life.

It’s often hidden.  It’s a problem that’s not always visible to those around us. 

I don’t know how it varies from one person to another and that’s not so much my point in this post.  What I want to stress is that sometimes, we as Christians, aren’t making things any easier for those suffering with depression.

We say well meaning phrases like…

“God will see you through this.”

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

“God will carry you through this.”

“This is just a season.”

“It’s in the past, live for today.”

“Don’t let it bother you.  God is on your side.”

That’s just a few of the phrases I’ve personally heard from people who care and love me but I’m here to say, those aren’t really that helpful.  While I may believe some of those and disagree with others, none of them offer validation for a depressed persons struggles or feelings.  Phrases like these only lead to more withdrawal, feelings of worthlessness.  Frankly, these kinds of comments just pave the way for a deeper depression.

We end up telling ourselves things like…

“You’re not worth anyone’s time.”

“They don’t care about your problems.”

“Yeah, get over it already.”

So, how can you help someone who’s feeling down? 

Is it okay and acceptable for Christians to have bad days?  Bad weeks?  Months?  Do we allow room for sadness, pain and suffering?

There are many things people face and we all have something.  Some are faced with horrible tragedies like the loss of a loved one.  Some may be fighting daily battles with diseases and disabilities.  Others may be facing extremely difficult times with finances due to job loss or other circumstances.  All of these can also lead to depression but the difference being, most of these are visible.  What about someone who’s suffering from depression because of a history that still haunts them?  What about the person who still mourns a loss from 20 years ago.  Or perhaps someone who’s struggling in their marriage, a wife who feels inadequate, a young person who feels lost in the world around them, an elderly neighbor who’s lonely.  There are many, many instances and life situations that can lead to depression.  Few of them are truly visible unless the person reaches out and most people suffering with depression tend to pull away rather than reach out.

On any given Sunday morning, our pastor calls out names of those in the hospital and suffering from different diseases and disabilities.  He goes on to pray for our hospital staff, emergency workers, law enforcement, etc.

Many times, I sit there and think about the broken hearted.  How often do we stop to pray for the broken hearted?  When do we take time to pray for the hidden pain?

Depression hurts.

Depression is lonely.

Depression can kill.

Depression can lead to withdrawal, self-injury, suicide.  Depression is not a pity party.  It’s an ache deep inside your heart.  It’s tears unable to flow or unable to stop pouring.  It’s a lump caught in your throat.  It’s anxiety and fear.  It an inability to focus.  It’s missing out on the important things in life – not by choice, but because there are underlying issues that we’ve faced.  It’s hard times and broken homes.  It’s a lifetime of hurt and heartache.  It’s loss after loss and mounds of life so heavy it feels we can’t carry it anymore.

Sure, it’s up to us as individuals to work on healing ourselves, no matter what our circumstances are but speaking from my own struggles, sometimes wanting to heal just isn’t enough.  While I welcome prayer as much as the next person and I most certainly appreciate prayer, sometimes the feelings can be so overwhelmingly lonely that we need a friend.  We need someone to break through the walls.  Someone to share all the pain with.  It’s a heavy load to bear and knowing that makes it all the more difficult to put on someone else but sometimes, just knowing another person cares means the world.

Unfortunately, many who face these dark times don’t ever get that chance.  They don’t give themselves a chance to reach out to others because they feel shame, because they feel unworthy, because they don’t want pity, because they’ve heard too many times, “just get over it.”

Please take the time to ask how others are doing and even when they can’t find the words, let them know they aren’t alone.

If you are someone who is struggling with depression, please, please know you are not alone.  As I said above, over 120 million people in the world understand.  There is help.  There is hope.  You may have to let down your walls and seek help for yourself, but you deserve it.  Don’t let someone tell you your pain isn’t real or that you should be over it.  Your pain is real and you deserve just as much love and concern as the next person.

Reach out!

Years ago, through my most difficult walk with depression, I had no hope.  As I have grown closer in my walk with the Lord, I can assure you my head knows all the right things, I know the right verses to read and the right prayers to say.  I know the right things to do and who to seek for help.  It’s my heart that stumbles.  I know the Lord will carry me through these times but the truth is, it doesn’t make it easy.  Knowing that doesn’t make the pain disappear.  That’s why it’s so important for us to encourage and embrace each other instead of dismissing someones pain as if they’re just wallowing in sorrow waiting for a pity party.

Matt Maher “Lord I Need You”  – This song is very near and dear to me right now.  Perhaps it’s just what you need to hear :)

 

 

Got Questions?

GotQuestions

Do you have questions?  Questions about the real possibility of a God?  Questions about trust, hope, peace?

Me too! 

I’ve always had questions and I’m guessing, I always will!

It’s seems so easy for some to say, “Oh, you just have to believe!” or “Have faith!” but for many of us, that’s just not comprehensible.  We live in a broken world and so many things don’t make sense.  Everyday we are faced with more death, more trauma, more heartache.  Everyday, we hear stories of unjust acts, theft, murder, war and more.

So how can we believe?  When there seems to be so much wrong, how can you believe there is a God, greater than anything, who would sit back and watch us suffer?

I don’t have any fancy words or pretty theological answers.  I can’t back up every question with the perfect Bible verse.  I can’t sit here and tell you that I have physical proof that my God exists.

What I can tell you is that my life has changed.

I can tell you my story, the story of a broken little girl who was abandoned, abused, called names, mistreated, hurt and alone.  I can tell you of a young girl who lived in darkness, who felt invisible and even when she thought she wanted to be seen, she couldn’t bare to let anyone in for fear of more hurt, who carried shame and guilt that wasn’t hers to carry, yet she embraced it.  It became who she was.  I can tell you of a teenager who was so angry with the world and the God she had heard about that she ran as far into her pit of darkness as she possibly could.  She hid from the world around her.  She refused to let anyone close, close enough to really know her.  No one could really see her or know her.  She silently wanted to die.  She engraved marks into her arms every time the least bit of hurt and pain started to emerge.  She shoved away the memories of her broken past.  She was consumed with nightmares, fear, worry.  She was dead to the world around her.

At some point, when there was nothing left, no pain left to feel, no love left to give.  When nothing but the thought of death seemed peaceful, she gave up.  She cried out to God and if there was really a God, this would be the point where she would know.  If there was something greater, this was the time she needed it.

I can’t tell you to just believe, but I can tell you that girl, who is now a woman, started believing.  That woman is me.  It didn’t happen instantly.  I fought for years against this thing called religion and even today, I think much of religion is all messed up.  What I can tell you is that I am changed.

That broken little girl who was lost in the darkness, afraid to live, felt no life in her, she’s alive!

As time passed, my world started changing.  Instead of every.single.day feeling like a chore just to get out of bed, I started waking up with a purpose.  It was small at first – as simple as brushing my hair and smiling at my son.  Then maybe it was making a phone call, reaching out just to say hey to someone.  Eventually, the bad days that had filled my world with darkness had a glimmer of light.

Today, I am ALIVE!  I am breathing.  I am hopeful.  I put my trust in something I can’t see, something I can’t really explain, something I can’t even be sure of but I know in my heart there is a Savior.  I know this because He saved me!

There are many stories I hope to share with you someday, stories of hope, peace, overcoming, forgiveness, life.  In the few short years since I made the choice to believe, my whole world has changed.  I have every reason to believe!

My heart aches for the lost.  I’ve been there.  I honestly have and I know where you are.  I know the questions that plague your mind.  I know the doubts that fill your heart.  Some of those questions will never have answers but you and I, we can have peace!

Most days, that’s enough :)  Some days, my mind is still filled with questions and occasionally, doubt still seeps in.  The difference is that my days are brighter and I am alive.  I truly feel alive.  I feel like my life finally has meaning and purpose. 

What’s holding you back?  What questions fill your mind? 

Check out this song by Natalie Grant “I’m Alive!”

“Who could speak, and send the demons back from where they came with just one Name?
What other heart would let itself be broken every time till He healed mine?
You. Only You could turn my darkness into dawn; running right into Your arms

Alive! Alive! Look what Mercy’s overcome; Death has lost and Love has won Alive! Alive!
Hallelujah, Risen Lord, the only One I fall before I am His because He is Alive.”

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Light in the Darkness…

LightinDarkness

“…If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”  Matthew 6:23

Yesterday, I touched a bit on perception and how the way we view things affects how they are.  When we learn to change the way we look at things, it can makes things more clear or we begin to see things more clearly.

When I read the verse above, the last portion really stood out.  The perception of darkness for me has always been pain, suffering, hopelessness, fear, worry, death and so on.  While it still carries those same meanings and feelings, I can see where my perception has changed somewhat.

When I finally decided I could no longer survive on my own, when I was at my breaking point, when it was either die or give it all to God, that was the moment I came out of the darkness.  Before then, even in my mind when I recall memories, everything is very dark.  The mood, the feelings, even the images I see in my mind – it’s all very dark.  After the point when I gave it all to God, the memories have a brightness to them.  There is simply a light in them.

Looking at things from a different perspective, “…If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”  Matt. 6:23

What that makes me think of is my suffering, all of my pain, all of the trauma I have experienced in my darkest moments – has now become my light.  Those are the areas where God can use me most.  By sharing my story, by comforting someone else who is or has felt the same feelings, by sharing love and compassion, I have a purpose.

It gives my suffering, my darkness a purpose.  And with that being said, then how great is that darkness!  If I can take the things that have been the most traumatic and painful and turn them into something beautiful – not because of what happened or what I experienced, but because of what God can do through me to shine a light in someone else, then how great is that darkness?!

There is so much power in our stories – the good and the bad.  So today, I want to encourage you to share your story.  Not just the pretty little pieces that make life look so grand.  Don’t be afraid to share the ugly, the difficult, the painful – your darkness.  It may be your darkness that can shine light on someone else!

My story of coming to Christ is powerful without the darkness, but how much grander is he if I can show you all the things he has brought through and out of before I even get to how he is using me?  How great is that darkness?!

I always considered my darkness to be my weakness but thanks to my new found perspective, I see it as my strength.  The things I have faced and overcome have become tools, areas that God can use me, where God can touch the lives of others through me.  There’s absolutely nothing small or weak about that.

I would never claim that my darkness was warranted, good or pleasing.  It was hell.  Pure hell.  It was pain and suffering.  I won’t minimize the agony I have been through or make light of the people who have hurt me.  That’s not what I’m saying.  The people who hurt me were wrong.  Plain and simple – wrong.  Nothing can change that and nothing can make that right.

What I am saying is that perception has changed how I look at the outcome.  I could take my darkness, my pain and my misery and stay in the darkness, continuing to suffer, punishing myself, or even bringing myself to another breaking point, without Christ, in death.  Or, I can choose to take all the ugly things about me, all the dirty little secrets and turn that darkness into light for someone else.  How great is that darkness?!

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The not so lovely truth about baggage…

I must admit, I’m a girl who loves bags!
Just ask anyone that knows me and they will tell you, I go through purses like babies go through diapers.  My husband would certainly agree that I have a slight huge obsession with bags.
The pic above is from my current stash of bags.  My collection has been purged many times over the years.  I have learned that I am very fond of a particular style and keep going back to that same style which is why I’ve hung on to most of these. 
On the left, there’s a blue & green flower print w/ Phil. 4:13 on it – that’s our church bag!  All the Bibles go in it as we head to church and I keep my current Bible study stuff in it.  It’s a nifty Thirty One utility tote ;)
Notice the bright yellow in the frontthat’s my hot new bag!  I snagged this beauty by Nine & Co. at JCPenney over the weekend.  Yes, I *had* to get the matching wallet because it’s also yellow and all this fabulous yellow will match the tiny huge order of more bags I have coming after a recent Thirty One party at our place.

– shameless plug:  be sure to visit my friend Kelly at the Thirty One links above to get your own awesome bags! –
{ Might I add, encouraging a bag party might not be the best idea for a girl who drools over bags (aka bag addict).  Perhaps an intervention might have been a better idea! *wink* }
So what’s my point in all this?
As much as I love bags, I don’t love baggage!
Baggage is defined as…
1. The trunks, bags, parcels, and suitcases in which one carries one’s belongings; luggage.
2. The movable equipment and supplies of an army.
3. Superfluous or burdensome practices, regulations, ideas, or traits.
Baggage is…
regret, disappointment, shame, guilt, anger, fear, anxiety, hate.
heavy.  it weighs us down.
tiring & exhausts us. it wears us out.
occupies too much of us, leaving too little for the important things.

Or as we know it, it’s all the crud we’ve stuffed away in our pockets (our hearts & minds), lugging it around with us every day, weighing us down, leading us to depression, wearing out our bodies, our minds, our spirit, attacking our hearts, our attitudes, and leaving us open to Satan’s attacks.

The baggage in my life has piled up about as quickly as my purse pile grows.  I’ve had to learn to let go of a lot of baggage – that is, give it to God!  He is capable of carrying all the things we drag around.  He can carry my baggage without worry, without anger, without resentment and all the while, He remains caring, loving and gentle.  I don’t have to worry about the strain I put on Him but the freedom it has given me is big huge! 

While I still struggle with my bag obsession, I am happily learning to let go of the baggage that weighs me down and keeps me from glorifying God.  
Hand your bags to God – He will gladly carry them!
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  Luke 18:27
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  Proverbs 3:5-6
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.  1 Peter 5:7
I am thankful for these gentle reminders that I don’t have to carry around a lot of baggage – God will carry it for me! 

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

Thoughts on the church…

Scary title?  I felt a bit of a tremble run through my veins as I typed it.  Could this provoke different responses?  Sure!

The past couple days, I have followed a blog that I found through a friend.  The blog shared thoughts on leaving the church as well as thoughts on staying in the church.  What I found more interesting than the blog itself were the multiple responses the blog had provoked.  There were responses of hate, anger and frustration.  There were also responses of encouragement, hope and trust.  People of all ages, denominations and titles shared their thoughts.  If you’re interested in following that yourself, you’ll find it here and here.

While reading through these responses, I thought of my own experiences in the church.  Growing up, my family wasn’t very consistent with attending church.  Sometimes we’d go regularly for a few months and then we’d slack off and it would be a special occasion like Easter or Christmas that we’d go.  As a young girl, it felt like it was really more about dressing pretty and sitting quietly than it was about knowing God.

I don’t know if this is typical for a Methodist church, but most of the folks in the Methodist church I grew up in were quiet frankly, old.  This coming from my 6-18 year old self who saw very little other than white hair and wrinkles as I sat in the sanctuary snuggled up to my grandpa while his mouth dropped open to let out a quiet snore.  Did he sleep through the services often?  Yep, from what I remember, that was a regular part of our Sunday morning worship.  I know I napped through the sermons regularly.  Did that mean my grandpa loved God any less?  NOPE!  Not at all, in fact, he was one of the most Godly men I have ever known.  There was more Christ-like actions and attitude in him than I have ever seen from any one person.  Do I agree with everything he did or believed?  Nope.  But here’s the thing – he grew up in a different time than I did.  His life and situations were different.  Things were accepted then that most certainly are not accepted now and vice versa – there are some things we accept now that they would most certainly not have accepted then.  Did he always make the right choices?  No.  But I saw in him, a man who lived for God, who loved God and who had the heart of Christ.  That was enough for me to see that a person could make mistakes and it didn’t mean that he loved God any less, it simply meant he was human and emphasized the perfectness of Jesus and only Jesus.

I once visited a church – I believe they claimed to be a Southern Baptist church but they were nothing like the Southern Baptist church I have been a member of for years now.  That particular church left me feeling afraid and uneasy about church and about God.  I was afraid the preacher was either going to lash out and kill us all or fall over dead from a massive heart attack.  I simply am not comfortable with the style of preaching he used and quickly knew that was not the church for me.

My husband grew up in our church.  He has many fond memories of youth activities and a relationship with God.  Is he a sinner?  Of course.  Did his going to church make him always choose the right path?  No, not at all.  We are all sinners and we will always mess things up and make mistakes.  I believe the key in overcoming our faults and shortcomings is our ability to be honest with ourselves and with God.  Can you openly admit your wrong?  Can you go to God and ask for forgiveness?  Can you forgive yourself?

As I said, my husband grew up in the church we go to.  I have been a member there since 2007 but have attended since we got married in 1999.  It has been our perfect church for many reasons over the years:

It’s where my husband grew up.
His family is there.
He knew everyone.
The pastor married us.
There are a lot of kids there.
It’s good socially for our kids.
There’s lots of young people.
There’s lots of people, period.
They offer a lot of activities.
They have a lot of classes to choose from.
They have a big Vacation Bible School.
My kids will have lots of friends.
I will have lots of friends.
Life will be perfect.

Those were my thoughts years ago.  I went to church because I married Tony and his family went there and I was expected to go there as well.  I went to church because our son could have lots of friends to play with and grow up with a large group of kids (remember, my old Methodist church and all the older folks?  There were only about 5 kids total in our whole church).  I went to church because the pastor had married us and I didn’t want to “look bad” because I wasn’t there.

I struggled with many things in the early years of our marriage.  I struggled with a very deep, dark depression.  I avoided everyone.  In fact, I didn’t come to church and often sent our son with my mother-in-law so that he could have everything our church would offer but I wanted none of it.  I didn’t *need* the church.  In my mind, I could love God just as much from the comfort of my home.  While that may be true, I wasn’t living it.  I wasn’t loving God just as much.  I wasn’t living for God.  I was consumed by my own self-pity and darkness.  No one knew me, sought me out or realized what kind of darkness I was struggling with.  Was that there fault?  Not really, but I guess it might have been nice if someone had noticed.  Maybe I didn’t even make that possible.  Where am I going with all this?

I was there for all the wrong reasons.  Did you figure that out by my list?  The sad thing is, I’m sure I wasn’t and am not alone.  I am most certain there are many, many people there for the wrong reasons and many of them, like me, don’t even realize they aren’t there for the right reasons.  It was like I was blind to what church was all about.  I couldn’t see past the glitz and glamor.  I couldn’t see beyond the idea of status quo.  I couldn’t get past my shame.  I couldn’t be honest about myself because I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted so I chose not to accept.

Until about a year ago, I was getting as much out of church as I did when I slept through it on the pew of the Methodist church I grew up in.  I might as well have been sleeping, but, I finally woke up.  Let me tell you, when God wakes you up, He really wakes you up.  I went from sleeping to totally on fire for God.

I am awake.
I am alive.
I am excited.
I am driven.
I am focused.
I am consumed.

The church – helped me get there.  I don’t know that there is any one, perfect church and certainly there are no perfect people in the church.  We all have our stories, our histories, our faults, our shortcomings, our strongholds, our weaknesses, etc.  but we also have our strengths and it’s the folks who chose to show their strengths and use them for God’s glory that helped me get to where I’m at.  Some folks, who were weak like me, were also part of the stepping stones in the path God laid before me.  He used other people to help wake me up.  Were they all perfect?  Nope!  Were some of them in church for the wrong reasons?  Most definitely!  Did that make them any less capable of impacting someone else?  No.

So, my point is, our actions and our beliefs are seen and heard whether our hearts are in the right place or not.  Sometimes, our faults can help others see a path they don’t want to go down.  We can learn from our own and others mistakes.  Other times, someone says just the right thing at the right time and a whole new perspective opens our eyes.  It’s when we choose not to be a part of it at all, that we are lost, or at least it was in my case.  The time I spent hiding from everyone was safe and comfortable but yet I was miserable and consumed with darkness, anger, fear, anxiety, etc.  The time I spent in the church was uncomfortable and has had many hurts, lots of drama, things I have had to experience not because I wanted to but because we are born sinners and because we make bad choices, we say the wrong things, we make mistakes and we are human.  Putting yourself into a place with people whom none of which are perfect is at some point, without a doubt, going to lead to hurt feelings, drama and chaos.

Through all of that, I have found God.  I didn’t find him at home, alone, in my safe, dark place.   I found him through people who chose to lead me, love me and even those who hurt me.

Perhaps, it was more that He found me – in His home, rather than in mine. 

Ephesians 1:18-23  18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.  
© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com