Why Depression Won’t Win: An Easter Reflection

I am a girl who feels she is not enough. Perfection seems like it should be possible and yet I fall short. I snap at my kids. I am jealous of other women. I am irritable, selfish, materialistic. I see my sin. I struggle with depression, shame, and fear. And I know I would be stuck in a spiral of hopelessness and darkness if it wasn’t for this one truth:

Jesus loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

 I MAY NOT BE GOOD ENOUGH, BUT I AM LOVED

Jesus saw in me a girl worth dying for. He saw me as a girl who can be redeemed.

In Him I am new. The old is gone, the new is here. I may still carry shame and unworthiness in my heart, but the cross and the empty tomb proclaim that I am valued and set free.

When I reflect on His undying love, I have hope. When I remember His promise of abundant life, joy creeps into my soul. When I begin to comprehend that the grave couldn’t hold Him and darkness couldn’t hide His light, I weep with relief. Because if He could withstand the darkness of death and rise in light, maybe He can bring unending light into my life.

Because of Him, I live.

Christ is risen, friends.

Blessed Easter.

-Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the

As a Christian Perfectionist, I feel like a failure (intro to my sermon)

A month ago I preached what has been called my “best sermon yet.” While it didn’t feel that awesome to me (I was tired and a bit uncertain) I do believe that God had something to say. Here is the introduction to the sermon. If you want to hear the whole thing, listen here or get it on iTunes here (11/9/14 “Clothe Yourself in Christ”).

During my sophomore year of high school, I woke up each morning at 5:30 in order to spend 30 minutes reading my Bible and praying before getting ready for school. During those times, the Spirit moved within me as God’s word began to impact my life as never before. I read about love, forgiveness, life. And as I struggled with depression for the first time, I experienced comfort and acceptance in God’s presence.

Those times were precious to me.

I desired my friends to experience this life and I’m sure I came across pushy and judgmental as I awkwardly told them they needed to read the Bible, too. But it came from this deep desire that they know God.

This season was sweet. And it was short. Summer vacation came and so did my late nights watching every episode of Wonder Years on Nick @ Nite and sleeping in. As I went on, still following Jesus, I felt pangs of guilt in my conscious that I should have been better at reading the Bible. The few times a week here and there were not good enough. I believed I was not doing well as a Christian. My youth group meetings, church services, and FCA meetings confirmed this. Read your Bible! Pray! And for 30 minutes. In the morning. Because that’s when Jesus did it. While it was still dark. Before everyone else got up.

If you check this off of your list, you will be ok.

And as I read scripture, I began to see that there were behaviors that would please God and those that God did not like so much. So, as I read, I tried to change. I would search for ways that I needed to change and try to learn how to be the girl God & others wanted me to be, on my own.

If you can hold your tongue, not swear, never drink alcohol, dress modestly, if you could just be perfect, sweet, humble, kind, quiet, then you will be acceptable as a Christian woman. Then you are good enough.

But I have a temper. I used to scream at my little sisters and smack them, hard, if they got in my way. When I was 15 or 16 I left a stinging hand print on my 7 year old sister’s back. I was horrified with my sin and vowed to never hit anyone again. I refrained from my sisters and have avoided spanking my children, terrified of the wrath inside of me.

And there’s this thought in me, if only I was better at following Jesus I would not have a temper. If only I just did more to follow Christ, then maybe I could have myself under control.

As humans, we tend to view ourselves as one of two ways. Either we work our butts off to prove to everyone that we are good enough, terrified of failure, constantly trying to perfect ourselves on our own. Or we feel that we are not good enough and give up trying to be, accepting that no one, not even God could love or help us. We are perfectionists, trying to “make it” on our own. Or we believe ourselves to be failures and give up before we even try.

Any one of the individuals on either side of the spectrum are desperate, whether we will admit it or not…

Listen here for more…

clothe in christ

Why I’m Grateful I Screw Up

The Way of Gratitude: Day 6 (originally posted here)way of gratitude (2)

Reading this, I remember why I’m naming our dog Gracie. Grace is amazing. In the full sense of that word.

Last night, I didn’t post about gratitude. I didn’t feel it. I was worn out from lots of housework, only to find that the hose from the washing machine fell to the floor during a load yesterday causing the laundry room to be soaking wet.

Not. Fun.

As I cleaned up the mess at 10:15 pm, I recited to myself, “Be grateful. You have a washer and dryer. Be grateful.” And I was for a moment, as I remembered walking up and down three flights of stairs to use machines across the courtyard from our apartment 7 years ago…

But I didn’t want to write about that.

I was feeling tired, whiny, and stressed when I went to bed.

And this morning… I woke up with a sense of guilt.

“I didn’t blog. I didn’t follow through on my commitment. I wasn’t grateful enough. I haven’t done enough to… to…” To do what? Oh that’s right, it comes down to this: “I haven’t done enough to please God.” Yup.

My entire life I feel I’ve been running around trying to do the right thing to make God happy. Because, maybe if I don’t sin, things would go well for me. Because maybe if I did things right, I would have his approval. Because maybe if  I was perfect on my own, he wouldn’t have had to die for me.

That is such a backwards expression of Christianity, yet it is one that is incredibly prevalent in a society that for years has used the church as a place to learn how to live moral lives. The Church is no longer a place to receive grace, but often a place to just receive a message on how to “do it better.” Completely focused on behavior. Not on the message of the cross.

What’s been forgotten is what Paul said to the Galatians who were backtracking to follow the Law instead of living in the New Covenant of Grace.

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4 TNIV)

Nothing we do is good enough. And, conversely, if we try to save ourselves by doing good things, we alienate ourselves from Christ and his grace.

To be a Christian is to believe that it is through Christ’s death, his sacrifice ALONE, that we are saved and to give up all attempts to be good enough. To be a Christian is to confess, “I cannot do it on my own. God, forgive me. Help me.” And to be a Christian is to receive God’s forgiveness.

But when we try to be good enough with our own striving, we are strapping the rules and regulations of the law back on our backs like backpacks full of bricks. We have in effect rejected Christ’s work on the cross when we try to be good enough.

My writing this blog or not, my “being the best I can be,” my efforts that eventually fail… these things are all covered by God’s love. That is true grace. Forgiveness when we fail and have nothing to offer.

My not blogging last night producing such feelings of guilt is obviously an overreaction, but I am grateful for that feeling, because I was reminded that what I do or don’t do won’t affect my standing with God. I am his child. Period.

What I do or don't do won't affect my

I am eternally grateful that I don’t have to strive to make it up. God has already forgiven me of anything wrong I could possibly do.

Yes, I’m grateful for Grace.

I hope I’ve made it clear why.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 TNIV)

What I Remember When I Feel I Don’t Have Enough

The Way of Gratitude: Day 4 (originally posted here)

This evening we went to Costco and stocked up. Apples, bread, pancake batter, mandarins oranges, pizza, sponges, toothbrushes… and on and on. So much so that I groaned a little as I paid for it all. I’m not sure how much we have left in our grocery budget this month. And tonight, I don’t really want to figure it out.

Each month I clip coupons, shop the sales, and am as smart as I can be with our budget, but so often it doesn’t seem like enough. And today, as I put our purchases away, I had the familiar internal dialogue. Is it enough? Were these the best purchases we could make? Will we get through the month? What should I spend the remaining $XX.XX on? Will we have enough produce? Yogurt? Chick peas? (Ben is insanely picky and strangely enough these are my go-tos) Will we have enough?

As I remembered this challenge God has for me, choose Gratefulness over complaining and worry, tears come to my eyes. Sometimes it is so hard. And money can be really discouraging.

But then I remember a well known Scripture that got me through the second half of my pregnancy with Ben, through the unsuccessful external version, through the c-section and the first months of his precious life: The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. (Psalm 23:1 NLT)

psalm 23-1

It became a breath prayer for me during that time. I repeated it often. During times of uncertainty, pain, stress, I remembered. The Lord is my shepherd. He is with me. He is my provider. The Lord of the galaxies who has infinite resources in his hands is my provider. In Him I have everything I need.

Recently, God taught me this in an undeniable way. We had been really struggling financially for months when I went to a conference where that message above was taught. I had never considered God that way before: Infinite resources. Desiring to care for us. I was challenged to trust in a way I never had before. After the conference, I asked for a very specific amount of money to come in through Tim’s business and my work the next month. At the end of the month, Tim texted me. We made that much exactly. Plus 84 cents. (update: I recently wrote about this here)

Incredible.

So, as I face the next couple of weeks, I look at the food on hand and trust that we do indeed have enough. To feed our kids, to keep them healthy, to keep them full, to be taken care of. We have enough.

And I am grateful.

Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

For the first time, I acknowledged my loss…

Day 8 of 31 Days of Connecting31 days of connecting

My journey of 31 days is taking a little turn. Over the next days – as many as it takes – I want to share my recent story with you. It started here, yesterday. Please start there. I pray that hearing my story of connecting – of REconnecting – will help you connect with God, others, and yourself.

In January 2013, I felt life was going really well. Ben was one, Jack was four, my depression was under control, I had excitement for Scum of the Earth Church and sensed that God was bringing something new to our community through a movement of prayer and worship.  I had hope of redemption and faith that God brings things around for the better – hope that I had been missing for a few years. At last God had reminded me that He brings joy to life, not just endurance.

So, when we held our first night of prayer and worship at Scum, I was filled with anticipation and expectation of what God would do.

The evening was beautiful as people came and saught the LORD. And God was moving. He was redeeming. He was encouraging. He was speaking. I was honored to be part of it and more confident than ever that this was where I was supposed to be.

Then one of our leaders asked my husband, Tim, and me to pray for his health. I prayed. Tim prayed. When we finished, he turned to Tim and told him how impactful his prayer was. That there was power in his hands.

He said nothing to me.

I felt myself fall to pieces. My confidence vanished. I was hurt that he didn’t recognize God’s work in me – I feared maybe God wasn’t working in me. I battled with my insecurity and shame until I finally told Tim, “I feel useless.”

Tim then wanted to ask that same leader we prayed for to pray for me. I was horrified and scared to discover where these feelings were coming from. Was I under spiritual attack?

But we asked the leader, and he prayed over me. Then he said the thing I least expected. He said that fear is often connected to grief. He told me I need to consider what I’ve lost in my life and how that has affected me and caused me to fear. My fear and insecurity was not an outside attack, but God was healing me by revealing my deep pain.

I was bewildered. I had never considered myself as needing to grieve. However, within 24 hours, I had a list of lost relationships; more than 20 individuals whose relationship with me had been severed in some way. From middle school friends to professional mentors. From relatives to peers. From best friends to boyfriends. Deaths. Illnesses. Moves. I had said goodbye to so many people and I felt the hurt of them all.

For the first time I acknowledged my loss.

And my pain.

I wrote in my journal:

Sometimes I fear no one loves me as deeply as I do them. That Tim could not be as crazy about me as I am about him. Or that friends don’t want my friendship. Or even, Lord, that I have to earn your favor… Now, being away from family, having few friends, or even close co-workers, I feel afraid of losing more, being rejected all over again…

I began to grieve.

day 8to be continued…

 

You Did Not Kill Jesus

Day 2 of 31 Days of Connecting

We are in church, worshiping, in awe and adoration of the Love God has for us when suddenly that line is there. There on the screen. And the condemnation and shame I felt as a Christian child, teenager, and young adult squeezes my throat, condemns my heart.

“Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held him there…

I was brought up with this theology. I’ve even preached it once. This idea that Christ had to die, because of me. That I put Christ on the cross. That I held the nail. That with each sin I commit Christ dies again.

For years I lived in the oppression of shame and humiliation. For years I was stained by my sin, not cleansed, because I was told it was my fault Jesus died.

So I tried to live my best so he would not have to die. I tried to be good enough so that He would not have to go to the cross.

But every year on Good Friday I was horrified by the guilt of placing Jesus on the cross.

Except… except the Bible never says that.

The Bible never says that we put Him there. The Bible never says that Jesus had to die. Sin did not hold him there. In fact, it is exactly the opposite.

Yes, it is true that sin condemns, but it does not condemn Jesus. It condemns us. The wages of sin is death – and we should die.

But God, in His great love for us, and desire to be connected to us, decided to intervene, to save us.

Jesus, in His love for us, took our sin on Himself[1] and gave himself for us.[2]

day 2

These words make me weep. I am finally free.

Yes. He chose to die. Because He loved us. And He wanted to rescue us. To heal us. To redeem us. To be with us. So that we might live a life of freedom in Christ, filled with the love of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and completely connected to Him.

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! –Romans 7:25

[1] 1 Peter 2:24

[2] Six times Paul writes that Christ “gave himself” for us. SIX! Gal 1:4, 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25; 1 Tim 2:6; Titus 2:14.

Loneliness

Today, I’m feeling lonely.

It’s not a loneliness caused by being alone, no, most often I’m surrounded by people and crave a moment to myself. Like, a moment to go to the bathroom alone without someone walking in or screaming at me from the other room. Or some time alone to  remember, “what was I about to do?”

No, today I am lonely and longing for deep friendship, good conversation, shared experiences, laughter, and perhaps a tear or two. Without children around is, of course, ideal.

Loneliness is something I have experienced most of my adult life. Over the past ten years, I have had wonderful friendships with mature, godly women, who have encouraged and loved me well. Yet, so often, things changed. Almost every one of them has moved away or had to limit their time. If they didn’t, then we did. Moved on with new jobs, new children, new neighborhoods… new friends.

I mourn.

It feels like I’m in something of a drought. I miss the women dearest to me, my mom, my sisters, my friends… I wonder if I will ever be close to them again. Will we move back to Minnesota to be near family, those natural relationships and people whom I love? I don’t know.

I ache.

 

I wrestle with feeling like, I should just be content with God’s love. God loves me, what more do I need?! He’s always here, right?

Well, yes, but I know that we were created for one another. God saw Adam, who was the only human being alive and said,  “It’s not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and He created Eve. Not just to be a spouse, but for companionship, for help, for fellowship.

God made us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6). We are to love and honor one another (Romans 12:10). Accept one another (Romans 15:7). Encourage one another (2 Corinthians 13:11). Pray for one another (Ephesians 5:18). Confess to one another (James 5:16) and forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32). We are to bring each other closer to God in our friendship (Ephesians 5:18-19).

You know, I have many acquaintances and friends who I see regularly. We talk, we laugh, but rarely do we do those things above. I want a friend like that so much. I am lonely for her.  I am praying for her. And I am trying to be her.

You know, at this moment, I am comforted, because if those things are so desirable in Scripture, then God wants me to have a friend like that, too. And, yeah, I believe He will answer my prayer. That though I’ve had to say goodbye to another friend, I will meet someone wonderful. And, in the meantime, I am comforted knowing that Jesus is closer to me than a sister.  He’s closer to me than I am to myself. He knows me. He loves me. He listens. He died for me. And He provides for my needs. Before these words hit the page, he knew them completely. He keeps me secure. Such knowledge is too wonderful to me, I cannot contain it.

Yes, I am comforted.

Thank you, Lord. May others experience your comfort and friendship. Thank you for listening. Please bring me my friend. Amen.