Monday, August 21, 2017

The Ebb and Flow of Grief

August 7th: 12:21am

If there was an ocean out my back door I would walk right into it and let myself sink. The weight of this sadness would lead me straight to the depths and it would make no difference. For I am already there, in the depths of the darkness, in the pit of death surrounded only by the bones of those gone before me. I cannot feel the light within me. My arms are weak, my legs unstable. Piece by piece I shut down until what is left is just the shell of me. Consumed by fire I am just ash and dust. Yet I still have to walk, and breathe, and pretend that I am truly alive. But life is no longer in me. Nor hope or joy. I am but dry bones and I am forgotten. 

There have been a lot of days in this process when my journal has looked like the entry above. Strength in hard times is a many faceted thing and sometimes, it just isn't there. A lot of people have told me to feel whatever I feel in the moment, to let myself process. For me this means writing it down. I have always processed through writing, but I also want to remember the ebb and flow of this process of grief.

As it happens, in strong days we forget how our grief ever consumed us. On hard days we forget that we have ever felt strong. In seasons of loss, sadness, or hardship we simply have to be ok with experiencing both. 

The strong days are the ones in which God gives me rest. They come when I need them most. Just when I think I am about to under, when I have decided that I have no strength left and I just want to be left to die, God wakes me up with a day of strength.

Strong day journal entries sound more like this:

August 9th

It has been a dark battle against despair these last few days. Yesterday I felt defeated. My enemies had won, satan's lies were overwhelming, and I had nothing left. I had no fight within me. It felt like the darkest and most lonely ending. 

And then I went to sleep and God gave me joyful dreams. I don't remember what they were, but they made me smile. And I woke up to strength. 

I have rested my head against Aslan all day. This is a battle and it will continue, but for today there is a rest in the fighting. I have prayed for God's guidance, I have prayed for His help, and I have felt rest. The turmoil in me has been great these last few days. Sleepless nights, many many tears. But God has given me a chance to gear up. 

The battle against the evil one is not over. It will rage on. But just when I feel defeated, He gives me rest. He provides a chance to build up my arsenal and my weapons once again. 

He is good. He is so very good to me. He protects me. He lets me be challenged but when He sees me fall He says enough is enough. You will leave her alone for today. She will rest in hope and in My provision and love. You will not touch her. 

Sometimes I think hope is futile but it is not. Hope is not futile, it is not foolishness. It is what pushes us forward. It is the sword with which we fight. And I know that God's armies are fighting with me. I know that He will be victorious, even if that victory looks different than what I had in mind. 

Oh to rest against Him today. Oh to feel strong for just this moment. There will be hard days to come but He will again provide rest when I need it most. He always protects me, even if I still have to fight. And we do have to fight. God does not take us out of the battle. I don't know why. But I do know that even though we teeter on the edge of destruction, He does not let us fall. 


My dear reader, whatever you are going through, have grace for yourself in the depths of the ocean as well as in the shelter of our Savior. Know that He will not let you perish. Though you may feel a shell of your former self, He will not let you crumble. He will build you back up, slowly and piece by piece. He will not keep you from the fight, from the wounds, but when it becomes too much He will roar like a lion and for a moment you will be sheltered.

Believe that the good will come and be ready for the days that seem to bring you back down.

You will survive. This battle will not last forever.

Be strengthened.
Have patience with the ebb and flow of grief.

You are not alone. And there is so much grace.

Monday, August 7, 2017

To Share our Pain

I think that it is a stupid symptom of our society that we think we need to hide our pain from each other. We think that no one else wants to hear it or perhaps that they will not love us anymore if we show them. We think that their life is probably perfect.

That's ridiculous. 

God's love is shown in mighty ways when we trust each other with our pain. There is so much healing in vulnerability.

But it is not an easy task.

My confidence has been shaken. I apologize for everything. Anything that maybe I possibly did wrong at one point in time, I now apologize for. Because I feel bad. And I worry that I have done wrong by people that I love. Its a twisted symptom of the situation. I have lost my confidence. It is temporary but it is difficult.


I think of my life as a tapestry. It is made up of threads. "Time heals," they say. I believe that, but only because I believe that with time, more threads will be added to my story. What has happened in these last few months will always be a piece of me, but it is not the whole picture. Though it is painful, it can be woven together with the other threads of my life into something beautiful.

Imagine that. Pain becoming a part of something beautiful.

I like the sound of that.

My wise and wonderful friend just reminded me not to focus on the "better" but focus on the now. God is not waiting for me to be better. God is here now, in the middle of the pain. And my job is not to just get through each day hoping one morning I will wake up and feel fine. My job is to feel what I am feeling and seek God in that. For He is present and He is loving and He is totally ok with whatever I throw at Him. He is weaving my story and I can trust Him in the process.

Isn't that lovely? I like that it takes off the pressure of healing.

I know that one day things will get better. But I also know that this will be a long road.

So I will have grace for myself in the process.

And I will not hide my pain. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Current Thoughts on Hard Times

Here is the thing about pain: It's shitty.

There is no going about it and making it seem ok. It isn't. Pain and hurt and fear are unfortunately real parts of this world and they are hard to escape. I'm not pleased about my hard times right now, I am not "making the best of things" and I am processing daily what has happened. But here is what I know so far:

I get it. To the person who has cuts on their arms, I get it. To the person who thinks the only way out of the pain is death, I hear you. To the person who cannot get out of bed because it is too painful to face the day, I understand. When grief produces nausea so intense that you cannot eat for days even if you wanted to, I know what that is like. I feel you, I hear you, but there are so many reasons not to give up. For all of the bad there is so much good. For all of the sad moments, there are also beautiful ones. I may not have cuts or scars but I know how you feel.

Grief comes for all sorts of reasons and none of them are silly or unreasonable. Grief is weird, seriously, it is so weird. It makes no sense and it makes people do funny things. And as much as I hate this season I am in, I am grateful to understand pain. I am grateful to be able to pass on the knowledge I have and the comforts that have helped me because I know how it feels.

And goodness there is so much hope, guys. I'm in the midst of such a hard time, but I know that the pain (though it will always be a part of me) will not be like this forever. The key, I have found, is in finding your tribe. 

Whatever your sadness is, for whatever reason that your heart is breaking, you must find your tribe. I know losing someone important, even if you are just dating, can make you feel like you have been ripped in two. I know. And for some reason we want to retreat and not see anyone. But the only way to get through is to cling to those who love you.

And oh my, you are not alone. People will come out of the woodworks. Cling to the people that won't judge you when you send them texts that you don't think about first and that make you sound crazy. Cling to those who acknowledge your grief but also help you to find the steps forward. Breathe in the advice, the words, the notes of encouragement because that is who you are. You are not defined by what has happened to you. You are loved and cherished, even if someone has caused you sadness.

Cling to your tribe and you know what else? Believe what they say. Let them tell you the truths about yourself. Let them care for you, grieve with you, and see you at your worst. Your people are the ones who love you unconditionally. Let them hold you up.

Grief is the shittiest (not sure if that is a word but I like it). Pain sucks and I am so sorry that anyone else out there has felt loss or grief or just been stuck in hard times. It is not a good place to be. But I know that one day it will be ok again. I know that one day I will praise God for how He held my hand in the valley of the shadow of death. And I know that I will see His goodness in all of this.

There is hope and to anyone hurting, I hear you. 

*Thank you guys for being my tribe. I have felt so loved and it has made all the difference in this difficult season. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

What's Love Got to Do With It?

I have been thinking for the past few days about love. I always thought I understood what love is. This powerful word that we say so easily and so easily claim. I thought that I understood love, but recently I have questioned: what does love actually look like? What is love in action? What happens when I quit just saying the word and I start living a life of selfless love?

When I was single, I would try to gain the affections of some or another guy. My desire was not that they would let me love them, but that if I worked hard enough then they would love me back. It was a selfish desire, not a selfless one.

And the trend of my singleness, I believe, is common. We so easily get easily swayed into a selfish love without even realizing it. We do things to please the other person, hoping that it will in turn make them love us more. We serve our husband or wife in the name of love, but we are actually hoping to get something in return. It masks itself as true love, but really the motivation is for someone to love us back. 

This isn't necessarily a bad desire, that desire to be loved. It is innate in us. We all want to feel loved and we should all be loved. It is a desire, though, that is truthfully only fulfilled by accepting and relying fully upon God's love for us.

God's perfect love.

His love for us that is entirely selfless. He died for us while we spat at Him and hated Him. He created us, imperfect beings, and still loves us no matter how many times we reject Him, ignore Him, and scream at Him. God's perfect love is the only love that will satisfy that insatiable need in our souls to be loved.

But oh how quickly we ask our spouse to bear the burden of perfect love.

My husband will never make me feel perfectly loved, though he gets incredibly close. His love for me will always be imperfect, and if I am seeking to turn him into the perfect husband with a perfect love for me, I will always be disappointed. The love my soul seeks is never going to come from him. It can only come from my Savior.

That's another hard thing. When we have the earthly love of a husband or wife it is so easy to set God aside and convince ourselves that everything we ever needed should come from that person.

But that is not love. And that is not a fair thing to expect.

So how, then, do I love my husband well? What does that mean?

For me it means, changing my motivation. I should not love him for the love he can give me in return. I must love him because marriage is to be a portrait of God's love for us. I must love him without the motivation of what I will get in return. Because marriage isn't about what C can do for me, it is what I can do for him. It is loving him with a selfless love, asking nothing in return, giving forgiveness in abundance, and living in the peace that we can never fully fulfill each other but that we serve a God who can. And if we are both living that way, then the love that we feel will be incredible.

We all want to be loved, yes, but what if we stopped seeking that acceptance and started giving love first to everyone else around us? What a world that would be, where we would all chose to take care of each other first because we have been given the greatest love from our Father.

We love because HE first loved us. 

Gosh it is hard to do. It is hard to be selfless. It is hard to give up the habit of seeking love instead of serving it on a nice big joyful platter. My husband is incredible at the selfless love thing and I am a work in progress. But how nice to know that God never gives up on us. How nice that we can continue to learn and grow forever and ever.

Love. What does it mean to you? 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Truth about Ministry and Depression

*Disclaimer: This post was written one year ago, almost to the day. I did not post it then for fear that it was too vulnerable, but I feel like I need to post it now. Too many people give into depression and suicide because we don't talk about it. I hope that this experience will give someone else hope that they are not alone, and that maybe they will, like me, take steps towards healing. If you (whether I know you or not) ever need someone to talk to, please contact me. We need each other in this world, and no one should feel the depths of pain alone.*

Written: May 2016

I've debated on whether I write about this too much. I've debated that maybe I don't write about this enough. So if it sounds like you've read it before, feel free to move on. If not, stick around. Probably this post is more for me than you anyways.

To start with, I think there is this misconception that if you are single you can work more because you don't have a family. This is dumb. Just because you are single doesn't mean you shouldn't have boundaries. But I didn't realize this was dumb until I wasn't single anymore. For years my ministry and my work came first, no matter what. It came before vacations, time and visits with my family, and my own personal well-being. Once Cameron came along he actually had to tell me that I needed to love him more than I loved my job, and that was something I actually had to work at. It wasn't healthy, my friends.

So as we all know last year I struggled pretty strongly with anxiety and burnout. Years of ministry without boundaries will do that to a person. It made me unmotivated, not very nice, tired, and pretty sad and anxious all the time. As I transitioned to a more balanced life of ministry, the fallout from my years in non-stop ministry didn't just get fixed over night, as much as I would have hoped it could.

As God moved me, or forced me really, into transitioning to a more healthy work-life balance, the impact was rough. I was pulled pretty forcefully from my way of life and it was kind of like a bad breakup between me and my work. I won't sugarcoat things, though there is a lot that doesn't need to be said, but the combination of having to understand a new life paradigm and the heartbreak of being treated really badly by people that I trusted led me to a rough new chapter of being a missionary.

A side note before I go on: I have been reluctant to post this in fear that certain people will think it is overdramatic or exaggerated. But the truth is that I don't have to care what those people think. We don't put enough emphasis on the toll that ministering to human suffering can take. We think we should suck it up and be fine, but that isn't me. There is only so much rape, murder, abuse, and neglect that I can take before I break. We need proper counseling and places of rest for missionaries. Missionaries get so caught up in their work and their need to write newsletters and convince supporters to stick around, that they don't take care of themselves for fear that people will think they aren't working hard enough. That is also wrong, and it is something that we need to come to terms with, both as missionaries and as those who support them.

Anyways, for the last six months I have struggled heavily with what I now realize was depression. My depression took a toll on our marriage, as neither of us really understood it at the time. I would burst into uncontrollable tears, as if someone had died, at random moments and I would be unable to stop. I was unmotivated at work and at home, I was tired for no reason, and I was sad basically all the time. For my husband this was difficult to understand because he was working so hard to provide a good life for me. It made him feel like a failure, but that wasn't it. I couldn't explain why I was sad and I didn't want to be sad, I just was. And with each stab of injustice as I tried to do what I thought was right, the cycle would start all over again.

Throughout this last year of my ministry on the reservation there were multiple times I had the thought pass through my mind that the solution was really just to die. This thought crept back in about a month ago. It is a harsh and evil voice that tries to make you believe your life is worthless and it is really really scary. I never would have followed through with it thanks to the strength of the Lord within me, but it is a scary and convincing voice that says you might as well just be dead.

And hello, that's called depression.

Until one day I decided that this was the last time I was going to cry over what injustice had been played against me. It was the last time I let other people control my emotions, my marriage, and my life. It was time that I let God work the healing in me that I had been rejecting for so long. 

I will tell ya, it has been a hard 2 years and a hard 7 months of coming to terms with a lot of things. I can say with such joy though, that I finally feel really close to complete healing. I have been able to see so much progress within myself over the last 7 months as I slowly became me again. It feels weird to wake up happy, content, and not be anxious for days at a time, but I think I could get used to it!

Small things have helped, like joining the softball team I mentioned in my last post. It seems silly, but joining the team shows that I am no longer isolating myself in a world of ministry and work. I am branching out of my comfort zone, making new friendships, and settling into a new way of life. My marriage has gotten better and better as C has learned how to take care of me and as I have learned better coping skills and ways to find joy in my life. And my ministry, surprisingly to me, has not suffered. Just because I had to take a step back doesn't mean that everything fell into a big pit. My kids still call, we still hang out, we still laugh together and have sleepovers. They are just as important to me as ever, I have simply learned that I need some space and some boundaries, and that is ok.

Like I said in the beginning, this post is probably more for me to process than for you to read, but maybe it will help someone else out there. Working in ministry is hard and we want to pretend we have it all together, but it is ok if we don't. It is ok to take a step back for self care even if others don't understand.

And don't worry. You don't have to send me emails or stop me on the street to ask me if I am ok. I am great and I am healing and I feel better than ever. It is like a dark cloud has lifted and I find myself laughing again and feeling happy again. Its a good thing and I know it is just going to get better. God never left me and He never will, and I know He will heal my heart fully again.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Relentless Burden of Relaxation (sarcasm intended)

I spent last week laying on a beach in Mexico thanks to the extreme generosity of a good friend. It's ok to be jealous, it was pretty awesome. The funny thing was that even though we were in a little piece of paradise, Cameron and I could not figure out how to relax for the life of us.

You see, our vacations are generally active vacations. We pick places where we can hike every morning, or go to museums and do some sightseeing. This vacation, though, was different. In this location of Mexico there was absolutely nothing to do except lay on the beach, or lay by the pool, or read on the patio while overlooking the ocean. Yea, rough life.

So the first day Cameron and I did all of the obligatory laying around and reading and by the end of the day we were totally freaking out. "We might have to leave early," Cameron said. " I don't think I can do this for 4 more days."

"Yea, who knew that being lazy would be so difficult!!"

It was such a weird predicament, to have the opportunity to be leisurely, a luxury really, and have absolutely no idea what to do with it. 

We laid on the bed, overlooking the ocean, and deeply sighed. What a ridiculous problem to have.

The problem was an American one, but a problem nonetheless. We had accustomed ourselves to lives of such busyness that idleness was more foreign than the local Mexican grocery store. We had convinced ourselves that relaxation was bad, something to feel guilty about, and a waste of our precious time.

But as the week went on we started to give in. We read novels for hours, took afternoon naps, and walked down the beach looking for shells every afternoon. I swear that Cameron started to look younger as he left his stress behind and actually began to rest. We were rarely frustrated or angry, and we laughed. We laughed so much more than in our everyday existence.

What had changed? Cameron and I still talked with each other in the same ways, and the same problems and to-do lists still existed back at home, but we were calm. We were more easy-going. We were more apt to let the other person choose where we should eat dinner and we served each other better. All because we allowed ourselves some rest.

Funny enough, I came back to work today feeling so calm, even though the visions of the beach are only in my mind. The spirit of rest accompanied me to the office, and actually produced a more effective and productive employee. Rest seemed to enhance my normal life, even though our culture frowns upon it. And it made me think that maybe Millennials sometimes have the right idea. The media and the "real" adults chastise the Millennial generation for not holding down jobs, for wanting a more leisurely, retirement-like existence, in their twenties. But I think maybe this generation is grasping onto something that has been missing. Yes, we need to work hard. Yes, we need to do well at our jobs, seek a sustainable career, and be responsible.

But maybe, just maybe, we also need to relearn how to take times of rest. Maybe every now and then we need to let go of guilt, log out of our email, and spend some time reading a novel on a beach somewhere.

Add a piƱa colada in a real pineapple and I am thinking I might have found the recipe for success.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Flowing Words that will Not Be Stopped

I miss the words that used to flow like ocean waves from my fingertips. 
Like the tides they would present themselves. 
They were reliable, they were my lifeline. 
And then so much changed and I think I could barely figure out myself let alone the words to express it. 
I lost myself somewhere. 
I lost the words that were so precious to me and I curled up into the shell that I had created and decided that the world was bleak and I was better off cutting myself loose. 
To produce words would mean to process and I did not want to process. Processing can mean pain, and my little shell was comfortable and dark, but manageable. 
Processing was not manageable. 
So the words packed themselves into a box and decided not to bother me. Since I was rather snappy it was probably better for them anyways. 
But despite my resistance the words kept pressing against the tips of my fingers, begging to be written. Maybe my identity was a little bit lost, maybe my purpose uncertain and my ego hurt, but there were still words that wanted to be pushed into the sea. 
So I sat and I decided to let my soul move my fingers, no matter the result. 
To write, for me, is to live. 
The tides are moving and from this point forward they will not be stopped.