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

Why I Have a Dream

my boys

This is my family.

My boys and my cousin’s son, in their Christmas jammies, completely oblivious to the fact that 50 or 60 years ago this would not have been possible.

Unaware that hate between their races exists in the world.

Instead, they embrace each other. They love each other.

Last week, Jack came home from school talking about Martin Luther King Jr. With awe in his voice, he told me, “He changed the world.”

With the faith and simplicity of a child he came up with solutions for segregation – “he could have just taken the signs down!”

With great thought and contemplation he wondered why we don’t have African Americans in our school. (A largely hispanic/white neighborhood)

And with hope he says now, “The world is better because of Martin Luther King Jr.”

Yes, yes it is my son.

And inside I cry out – we still have so far to go!

But I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” 

Much of MLK’s dream has come true. Many have seen the changes take place. Others are still crying out for redemption. For justice. For peace.

Many of the problems in our world feel too big. The hatred. The oppression. The systemic disadvantages. The lack of compassion. Or help.

But this snapshot of my family brings me hope. This is the next generation of world changers. As Jack asks hard questions, “Why did they kill him?” I see his wheels turning. He is working out the problems, seeking solutions. He is already instituting change in the world in his love for his cousin.

I have a dream.

And I have hope.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 40:3-5

Why I didn’t wait until Christmas for this gift.

Candlelight flickers, twinkle lights shine, and the sliver of the moon suggests the sun it reflects.

Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

We choose to recognize that Light wins in a world of darkness as we adorn our houses, trees, and streets with glimmers of joy. For in celebration of advent we remember the anticipation of God’s people 2017 years ago (give or take) when

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

Light was coming.

In a time when kings killed children for fear of a successor overtaking his throne. When God was silent for 400 years. When a girl became pregnant before she was married and claimed no man had ever touched her.

Light was coming.

In a time when wars ravaged over land. When people groups were oppressed. When children were enslaved. When poverty was rampant.

Light was coming.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

I gave my kids a Christmas present early.

I could not wait for them to receive Light.

In God Made Light, through the words of Matthew Paul Turner and illustrations of Matthew Paul Mewhorter (yes, those are two different people), Light lives:

In flickers and flashes,
In spills and in splashes,
Shine began shining across nothing but blackness.

Light glared and glimmered.
It flared and sparked.
And wherever light shined,
Dark stopped being dark.

Captivated by the colors, the melody of the words, the message of the story, my son gasped and gripped his chest when he learned that God not only created light, but placed it inside him.

You are the light of the world.

Hope incarnate.

I adore this book and want to give it to everyone I know. But I cannot afford that. So, this Christmas, I am giving it to my nephew. Because I see the love of God residing in his bright eyes, his simple smile, his quiet spirit.

Maybe you see the Light in another’s eyes. Maybe someone you love needs to be encouraged. Maybe that someone is you. I encourage you to pick up a copy of God Made Light.

God made light.

And it’s inside of you.

God be with you.

Photo Sources: http://matthewpaulturner.com/2014/10/21/happens-11-publishers-say/

and http://matthewpaulturner.com/2014/10/30/story-behind-god-made-lights-artwork-4-interesting-details-illustrating-matthew-paul-turners-childrens-book/

I received nothing for this post. I just love this book and want it to be on your shelf.

How this Perfectionist is Picking Herself Up (Hint: It’s not on her own)

I am a perfectionist.

A perfectionist who doesn’t want to do anything wrong, fears others showing me my failures, and who is constantly aware of what I could do better. I am tempted to define myself by my behavior, my finished to do list, or my perfect children who eat, sleep, and produce according to my plan for them.

But I am not perfect, so my head rails against me to try harder while my heart is breaking under the pressure of the “Perfect Mama” facade I have so carefully crafted. And my children do not have the same plans that I do, so they continue to spit out their carrots, pop out of bed to talk about our furniture (“Is that your couch?” “Yes.” “Ok!”), and fight me on any order I try to create in our lives. The clash of my plans with theirs produces anger and frustration that only leaves us all in tears instead of changing anything.

Because shame never changes anything.

So when Jesus asked me to preach this week on my perfectionism, to admit my failures, and to point others to Him, I truthfully did not feel up to it. Days later when people are telling me it was my best sermon yet, I still do not feel up to it. I continue to identify myself not with Him, but with my own behaviors, works, accomplishments.

I need a reminder of who Christ says I am. Maybe you do to.

“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27)

In Christ we are “dead to sin, but alive to God.” (Romas 6:11)

There is no condemnation for those who are In Christ. (Rom 8:1)

In Christ we have been made holy. (Phil 1:1)

In Christ, we are sanctified (1 Cor 1:2),

In Christ we are made alive (1 Cor 15:22),

In Christ we are brought to fullness, completeness. (Col 2:10)

In Christ, we have freedom (Gal 2:4).

In Christ, we can stand firm. (2 Cor 1:21)

In Christ we are brought near to God by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:13)

In Christ, we are all children of God (Gal 3:26).

In Christ, we are forgiven (4:32)

In Christ, our hearts and minds are guarded by the peace of God (Phil 4:7)

In Christ we have peace (1 Peter 5:14),

In Christ we have faith, and love (1 Tim 1:14).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

-Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the

The Old is Gone.

The New Creation has come.

I am blown away by the truth that God has not abandoned me to my failures – real or perceived. That God is healing my hurts, pouring Himself into me, so that I can be made clean. That forgiveness is a daily possibility and that I can always begin again. And that I am always, in all things, clothed in Christ. He has never left me and will never leave me.

I know this is not my best writing, but this is not about me, today. This is about Jesus. And you. You who maybe need as much truth as I do. Let’s walk In Christ together, shall we?

Why I am Grateful for My Friends

Day 22 of 31 Days of Connecting 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

Day 22

I hold on tight to my friendships. It’s because I don’t have many of them. And that’s not because people don’t like me (as I once believed), but because I thrive with a few close friends.

My closest, dearest friends are those who encourage me towards love. The ones who teach me how to love, who love me, and reveal to me that I am lovable. They let me know when I am seeing myself poorly. They let me know when I am being overly harsh with a leader, my husband, or my kids. They listen.

I learn to love from them because they love well.

They don’t assume my circumstances are the same as theirs, but let me talk.

They let me feel my feelings, validating each and every one. But they point out the error in my beliefs when they are present. Because though my feelings are valid, the beliefs driving them often could stand for correction.

My friends don’t assume that their way is my way. They don’t tell me how to parent my kids, but encourage me as I figure out how it will work best for me on my own. They know I am not the same as them. They know my kids are not the same as theirs.

My friends have hurt my feelings. My true friends have let me tell them that and have apologized. And I am safe with them to confess my faults in the same way.

My friends let me cry. They don’t try to make me stop. They don’t tell me everything is okay when it isn’t. They let me feel. They pray for me. They stand by me.

My friends see me not for who I am, but for who God created me to be. They don’t give up on me, but allow me to stumble blindly as I reach out for the hope that was promised in Christ.

Yes, my friends love well.

To those who have been this for me, thank you for being my friend.

And though we may not live in the same city, state or even country, I hope to never stop meeting with you.

How God Cared for Me

Day 20 of 31 Days of Connecting

The other day, in a fit of exhaustion, I posted a link to my sermon on trusting God. I promised that part of my story (which starts here) is part of the sermon… and it is.

But since I know most people do not have 30+minutes to listen to a sermon, I will try to tell the next part of my story here. Now. For those of you who did listen, thank you! What an honor.

Now where was I…?

Oh yes, God taught me that He wanted a deeper relationship with me.

About a month after that conversation with God in my car, I was still grieving. I was still uncovering the hurt I had buried, the distrust I felt, and the fear I had. I was starting to see other misunderstandings of God, like:

I believed God was grading me.

I believed God expected me to be perfect.

I believed God was punishing us financially because of something I must have done.

Yeah… that last one sucked. It was incredibly painful. After all, I had given up everything to follow his call, Tim had taken a huge risk in starting his own business, and there we were, barely making ends meet. But the alternative to my understanding was that God wasn’t providing for us financially because He wanted us to suffer for Him. Or He just wouldn’t provide because He doesn’t.

All bad ideas. All gross misunderstandings of the God who gave himself for us.

But I didn’t see that then. I just saw our grocery lists, our small pay checks, and our unpaid bills.

In April I went to a conference for pastors in our denomination and through the keynote speaker, God broke through the lies I embraced.

Together we read 1 Peter 3:7 which states Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I know this verse by heart. I’ve sung it at summer camp, memorized it for youth group and heard it preached before.

But the preacher restated it: The God of the Universe has unlimited resources at his disposal, will you let him care for you?

Day 18

I felt my heart pounding in my chest as God called out to me. I realized how abandoned I felt by Him. How I thought He left us, financially. And the question rang out, “Will you let him care for you?” Followed by the fear in my heart: Would He care for me?

I went to my host home that evening praying and over the next several days I felt Love prompting me to trust Him. To ask Him for what I felt we needed and the promise that He would provide. I told my husband what God was prodding me to do and He said, “Good. Do it.”

How much do you need?

I thought… I hesitated…

$5,000?

Ok.

Really? Ok?! … $7,000?

Don’t push it.

I have never felt so sure in my life that God would answer my request. $5,000 sounded like a ton of money. I saw us catching up on our electrical and hospital bills. I saw the credit card being partially paid off. I saw myself breathing easily.

The next month came and went. I wasn’t sure how we did, financially. It felt good, but I didn’t take the time to check. I was too nervous! But then my husband texted me.

In May of 2013, our income added up to $5,000.84.

I couldn’t believe it. Numb with distrust, I thought surely that was a coincidence. But the more I considered the amount – the exactness of it – the almost to the penny answer to the prayer I had prayed – the more I was convinced it was God showing me He provides.

I can scrape and worry and count and stress and do all I can do to try to control things, but in the end He cares for me.

He cares for me.

We have not continued to receive $5,000.84 each month. In fact, many months we have been back at the bottom of the barrel, again being creative to get by. But you know what? I’m not afraid any more. God cares for me. He provides for me. He loves me.

I know that now.

I struggle trusting God with money, what do you struggle with entrusting to God? A relationship? Children? Career? An Illness? The God of the Universe desires to care for YOU. Will you let Him?

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. (Philippians 4:12-13)

31 days of connecting

Why are relationships so hard?

Day 1 of 31 Days of Connecting

The pain surrounds me.

I’ve yelled at my kids. I’ve yelled at my spouse. I’ve cried buckets of tears. My eyes are swollen. My sister called crying. My friends have called crying. We are all suffering, struggling, in pain and frustrated.

“Why are relationships so hard?”

I know it was not meant to be this way. God did not create us for envy, hate, strife, fear, or conflict. He created us for good. And it all was. But with the bite of that fruit, with that choice to pursue ourselves over love, we recreated the world.

One commentator states that after Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God did not arrive in the garden as one who is on a leisurely stroll playing an accidental game of hide and seek. Instead He came in a storm, with all of the furry and pain of a spouse who has been betrayed by his lover.[1] The world was no longer Eden, perfect. Perfection had been lost. Storms and separation were now the norm.

And we experience it every day.

Tremendously, God has not left the world there, but He immediately set about making things right again; working to reconnect the world. My kids’ bible calls it God’s Rescue Plan. In and through Jesus, we are being healed in our relationship with God. We are being healing in our relationship with ourselves (yes, ourselves). And we are being healing in our relationships with each other.day 1

There is hope. Healing is possible. Connection can happen.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18 NLT

[1] Jeffrey J. Niehaus, “In the Cool of the Day?” in Basics of Biblical Hebrew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 398-400.