Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Deep Waters of Depression

I saw a woman engulfed by the roaring waves of the ocean. Her arms frantically moved as her head bobbed in and out of the water. She gasped for breath and wanted nothing more than to be on shore. People swam out to rescue her as others stood on the sand waiting for her to be pulled in.

In the people’s effort to help, they too were being pulled down and couldn’t reach her. The woman felt hopeless as she cried out to God. “God, why won’t you save me?” A few moments later a white life ring floated beside her. She grabbed it with every ounce of strength as she pulled her body through the hole. She heard God say: “Be still and know I am God.” At first, she wondered how she could be still when she was in the middle of this vast sea until she realized she didn’t have many options. There were no boats or life guards. Just her and God.  She laid her head back as a calmness swept over her. The very same waves that crashed on and almost swallowed her were the same ones that propelled her to the beach where she wanted to be all along. Though she felt God was ignoring her, it was in fact Him who had delivered her.

The deep waters this woman found herself in were those of depression.  Some battle it all their lives. Others go through it once or a handful of times. It can be a chemical imbalance or a trigger from a traumatic experience. No matter what the cause or how long or little it lasts, depression is very real. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, an estimated 16.1 million adults, that were over the age of 18 in the U.S., had at least one major depressive episode in that year.

The woman that appeared to be drowning is the same one I face in the mirror every day. From all outside appearances, I have it all together. A husband who adores me. Healthy children. A beautiful home.  There is nothing I need that God hasn’t provided and then some. So, why was I in the midst of such inner turmoil? I did everything I knew to do as a Christian. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t gain control of my thoughts to have the mind of Christ.

There is a fullness of joy in God’s presence. We have hope and faith in our salvation and eternal life and that sustains our joy. But, at times, we don’t always feel the joy. Due to the stigma that can be attached to depression, we hide our sadness, worry and anxiety in fear that we are lesser Christians. If we aren’t living up to the expectations others place on us, then we are obviously not doing something right. WRONG! We are all in a battle on this side of heaven and will be until we are called home. In a world full of darkness, it’s easy for our own lights to go out. 

When we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, there are practical steps we can take to remove some of it. Brick by brick.

  • Stay in prayer and be patient. The Lord delights to hear from His children but that doesn’t mean we always get relief or removal from our situations. The tests and trials we face are all refining us.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.     (Romans 12:12)
  • Read the Bible. God’s word not only gives us instruction but its healing words are like   balm for our wounded hearts and minds. Our faith comes from hearing, and hearing   through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17) Meditate and memorize scripture. When   the enemy’s lies begin to invade our thoughts the best way to fight them is with the       truth of His word.
  • Worship Him! Our God is worthy of every praise. Turn up the songs. Shout the name of Jesus. What better way to usher in the presence of Jesus?
  • Get involved in a small group. We all need a place to belong and people to help us       carry our load and share in our triumphs. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but     encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews:10:24-25)
  • Seek counsel from a medical professional. There is no shame in doctors, medications     and/or asking for help. I believe when we do, it can be one of the best aids on our path to healing.

If depression has affected you or a loved one in any capacity, know you are not alone. We don’t have to wear a fake smile and pretend everything is fine. What we must do is take the steps to get us to a more healthy place. 

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for creating me, even on the days when I wonder why. You are a compassionate God who keeps track of all my sorrows and have collected my tears in your bottle. Nothing that has or will happen hasn’t first passed through your hands. Help me to remember there are reasons for our trials and your plans are good. Forgive me when I take my eyes off you and help me fix my thoughts on what is true and praiseworthy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

In The Fire

"Take me with you," I whispered to my husband as he departed for a business trip a few days ago. Part of me was excited for him and the other part envious. I was jealous he got to venture to a new country, even though it was work related. "He's going to try new foods and see sites I never have while I look at the same four walls, listen to children bicker and figure out what to make for dinner again," I shamefully thought.

Let me rewind just a bit. My husband and I have been married a little over 3 months. 4 months ago I had a picture in my head of what our lives would look like. Visions of fields of wild flowers colored my imagination as we gleefully ran into the sunset. I guess a lifetime of Hallmark and Disney movies helped prompt those daydreams. But, real life has a way of waking us up very quickly. As soon as we married, the storms began to hit. So much so it seems all areas of our lives have been tested. From appliances repeatedly breaking to kid troubles to drama from exes to identity crisises. There are times we'll look at one another and jokingly say "we made it through another one" and times we'll tearfully say "how much more can we take."

Which brings me to this current business trip he is on. We'd been praying about it for weeks since we knew he was going to be leaving. Asking God to help things run smoothly but it's been anything but. One child got sick, followed by the second and then a third. Our microwave caught fire and we've been living out of a cooler for a month since our refrigerator's been broken. I went to pick up a sick kid from school and my car wouldn't start. And, as I type this, we still have two more days to go until he gets back home. This isn't a woe is me pity party or at least that's not my intention. What I want to convey are the lessons God is teaching me in a class I like to call - In The Fire 101.

This class is one we've all had at some point or another. Let me explain. Most of our days are spent around the campfire, so to speak. We're surrounded by family and friends. There's always some heat in the middle, also known as problems, but we tackle them and sit back down with our marshmallows until the heat gets too hot. Every so often, that fire starts to burn out of control when we are faced with too many issues all at once. We feel alone, swarmed by flames and smoke that threaten to spontaneously combust us. We learn at an early age to stop, drop and roll in a fire. However, God is teaching me to Stop, Drop and Grow.

What it seems I am constantly learning is to:

Stop filling my calendar with activities that I don't make time for Him.
Stop fixating on myself and my problems.
Stop thinking I am in control.


Drop to my knees and bask in God's presence.
Drop my selfishness and gaze on God. Then, help others.
Drop my pride and pick up the humility of knowing His plans are perfect no matter how much they hurt.

By doing these things, the Lord allows us to grow in our maturity and walk with Him. As we do so, we are able to brace ourselves in the blaze. We become stronger and so do our marriages. The relief comes when we realize God is with us in the fire just like He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who stood untouched by the heat in the fiery furnace. Jesus Christ is our balm when the sparks have grazed our skin. He breathes life and pieces us back together when all we feel is left are ashes.

No, life normally doesn't go as planned. This side of Heaven will always produce pain. But look around. Who has he placed beside you to help alleviate it? He's given me the greatest gift and answered prayer who is my husband. One thing I have quickly learned in our short marriage is it is far better to suffer with someone than to suffer alone.

A side note-God not only wants His children to come to Him when we are standing in the inferno but he wants a relationship all the time. Let us remember that the next time we are sitting around the campfire enjoying the warmth and telling stories. Hmm...I can't help but wonder if God likes marshmallows.?

Father in Heaven,
Thank you for the trials you send my way to keep me humble and constantly reaching for your hand. Help me to withstand them so I grow closer to you and more like you. Thank you for the smooth days that allow me to exhale and remind me of all I have to be grateful for. Thank you for the people you have sent to walk alongside me through life. Help me never to take them for granted.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Paralyzed by Busyness

The clock read 8:45 a.m. By then, the kids were dressed, had eaten breakfast and been taken to school. Two loads of laundry were done, Bible read, prayers sent and the grocery list written. I glanced at the empty coffee mug and knew I needed a double dose of Joe and Jesus. The bags under my eyes and frown upon my face were a telltale sign I needed to stop and slow down.

I'm not good at slow. It means I have more time to focus on all I need to be doing but it also points out what I've been ignoring. Busy work is unavoidable. We check off our to do's and before we know it, the day has slipped away from us. Doing so makes it easy to drown out God's whispers. For weeks I'd had the same prayer: "Lord, help me balance my time wisely so I can keep up with housework and homework and still do what I love-write."

I like keeping a tidy house. I enjoy making hot meals for my family (especially when they eat them) but to sit quietly before God as the pen flows on paper revitalizes me and brings a sense of fulfillment that can't be matched. To make time for something that brings gratification seems like it would be a no-brainer. Just add it on the calendar. However, oftentimes, I will put it on the back burner. Pretty soon that hot passion within will turn cold and leaves me with feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction.

Busy isn't bad unless it constantly overshadows what God want wants to do in and through us. I'm not saying He doesn't want us to cook and clean. One of the greatest ways to show our family Christ in the flesh is to serve them through these acts of love. But, when we have certain desires within, burdens that keep us up at night, messages to share through communicating the gospel then it is not enough to simply ask God for more time to accomplish these.  Proverbs 14:23 says all hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads to poverty.  We must be prepared to put in work to get it done and not let ourselves be paralyzed by busyness.

The routine, day in and day out schedules, though chaotic, are often easier because their familiar. It's the action steps we take behind our knee deep in tears prayers that are often hard and uncomfortable. We'll tell ourselves "someday I will pursue that dream." "I don't have enough time right now." "I'm not good/smart/young enough." Whatever excuse you can think of, I've said it. I've talked myself out of quitting numerous things and regret most of them. The tasks the Lord gives me that I continue to strive for are the ones I'm proud of. Whether they take 5 weeks or 5 years.

Those who have accepted Christ as their personal savior, have the power of the Holy Spirit burning inside of them. He has placed fires of desire in us and I believe He takes great delight when His children actively pursue Him so He can ignite those. Whether you are a nine to five employee who wants to stay at home with your little ones. Or, you stay at home but volunteer for so many things and you simply need a time of rest.  Maybe you want to take a few classes or start your own business.  Whatever it is, God is with you. It doesn't mean you won't stumble, but, if we don't become weary in doing good, we will reap a harvest if we don't give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Action steps:
Take time to learn about this man we call Jesus and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Talk to Him in prayer and when you do, allow every insecurity, fear, hurt, longing and dream to pour out. Ask Him to help you manage your time to be able to pursue all He has for you boldly.