Friday, January 28, 2011

Population: Us

If there's ever a way to get out of the muck and mire of depression, I say it is putting yourself in the middle of a circle of elderly people (preferably with Alzheimer's Disease) and read poetry to them and listen to their stories.

That is what I did today and not because I was just depressed (this is what January has done to me) but because I am part of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project - Wisconsin Director. I forget how good I feel after each "gig." Gary Mex Glazner, founder and poet/performer extraordinaire, enchanted me into being a part of this. I had worked with Alzheimer's residents at an assisted living home and had quit because I wore my heart on my sleeve and I just couldn't watch them suffer toward the end. Gary had this idea: go to different residential centers and read and PERFORM INTERACTIVELY classic poetry - poetry they might have known as a child or young adult. Often times, a few lines of Robert Burns, for example, might spur a memory. I remember one woman who knew many of the poems I read who said that when she had Rheumatic Fever at the age of seven she memorized poem after poem in a thick book in her bedroom.

Today was a less-than-great day, but I didn't have much to complain about health-wise, for a change. After work, I wanted to go straight home, but I had to go to this assisted living center for a gig. Dutifully, I went. God had plans for me.

There were around eight people sitting in the living room waiting for me. I introduced myself and found myself conversing more with them than I usually do (I always converse with them, but this time felt more leisurely) and I got to know them before I started the poetry. Usually, one or a few of the old-timers are dubious, eyeballing me: "Poetry? Really? Um, not for me, thanks," but all of these folks seemed joyful and excited to hear some poetry. So I started.

They were a lively bunch. They loved participating in the "action" poems, like "The Arrow and the Song" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (shooting the pretend arrows) and being "the wind" for the wintry poem, "Blow, blow thou winter winds." They whistled and howled and shushed. It was quite a performance.

A miracle was performed. I was called a "magic woman" by the nurse. I made a man sing. Let me explain.

Bill was a man slipping in and out of sleep during my gig. He'd pay attention when I would go around and ask individual questions. He was in the air force long ago, had a beautiful wife. He wasn't a talker. I was asking each of them what reminded them of winter (to compose an on-the-spot poem for them later) and after I got my answers, I heard a rich baritone begin: "O beautiful for spacious skies..."

Now Gary taught me that whenever someone breaks out in spontaneous song that I should go with him or her and see where it takes us. Well, I started singing along and soon the whole group was singing a spirited rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." The nurse who was filling medications looked at Bill, then at me, and said, "he never talks!" Her eyes were huge. "You are a magic woman."

More miracles happened: when asking them what the most beautiful thing they had ever seen was, none of them gave material answers, like "flowers," "my grandkids," or such answers as I usually hear. Instead, one woman pointed to me and said, "what you are doing." One woman said, "people helping each other." Another woman said, "my nurse."

And miracle of all miracles, one woman - Hazel - said, "that I'm able to know that I'm here."

Wow. Now isn't that poem/praiseworthy?

As I circled the group, shaking hands and thanking them for their time, they erupted in, "Come back soon!" and "we loved having you!"

And I intend on returning. Maybe in springtime and I'll read warm, flower-laden poetry. I pray that each of them are still there. In the meantime, I praise each of them, each individuals, each unique and special. I'm so grateful I was able to see such lights shine. I realized why I do this: so that I know it's not just me out there. I can do things that make a difference.

On the way home, driving across white expanses of farmland, I heard the song, "In My Own Little World" by Matthew West. The lyrics spoke to me.

What if there’s a bigger picture

what if I’m missing out

What if there’s a greater purpose

I could be living right now

outside my own little world

Today I got out of my own little world. Today we were "population: us."

Today, do something good for someone else.

Bless you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Where the Light is Like Darkness

Job described a sort of depression as

"a land as dark as darkness itself, as the shadow of death, without any order, where even the light is like darkness."
Job 30:26

I have been experiencing this for the whole of my life. This morning was a very difficult day. I have been been ill for three months with various illnesses and I felt overwhelmingly sick and unable to work today. I called in and depression overtook me. The avalanche started: I missed a friend that I had dreamed about which reminded me of loss which reminded me of Lauren, whom I miss terribly, which reminded me of my mother, whom I miss beyond measure. I was trapped.

I made a doctor appointment and drove the 45 minutes to town. Allergies. It's allergies. This flu-like feeling, the debilitating headaches, fever-feeling, body aches - it all has to do with allergies. To what, I don't know.

I drove home in as much as a numb daze as I drove there with. I felt empty yet full of emotional toxins. Something was happening. I reminded myself it was January; this time last year I entered a four-month-long debilitating depression. I tried to block out the destructive voices in my head.

The following song made a big impression on me as I drove; read the most relevant lyrics below.

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?

I came home and went to bed. Immediately, my sinuses became angry and a huge sinus headache came upon me. Husband came home and I helped him put dishes away. I walked into a cabinet door, whacked my forehead pretty hard, and started crying...and then couldn't stop. Again, the avalanche. I cried and cried. Wonderful Husband directed me into the comforting bedroom and just told me to cry it out. And I did. Oh, I did. He gave me a kleenex and saw a book lying on his nightstand: "The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage" by one of our favorite Christian writers, Stormie Omartian. There was a chapter all about depression, entitled "If Depression or Negative Emotions Spoil the Atmosphere." He said to close my eyes and listen to him read to me. He didn't know what it would say; he just hoped that, at the very least, his calming and reassuring voice would help me. Little did he know that the words of Omartian would leave an imprint on my soul that would enable me to reach outside my own bubble over to my husband and then up to the Lord and out of this mire of depression.

Omartian assured me that just because I was depressed did not and, I repeat, Not, out of God's reach or love. It did not make me "Unchristian" or, as some believe, "of the devil." Even though I felt disconnected from God, that did not mean He was disconnected from me. She wrote under what circumstances one would feel depressed and I could relate to many of them: overt sickness, loss of a friend, worry over finances, and grief.

Omartian uses 1 John1:5-6 to say how some people question one's born-again status if one is depressed and "walk[ing] in darkness." But she makes a marvelous argument:

The verses above have to do with the decision to walk in fellowship with darkness. Being depressed does not mean you are choosing to walk in depression. depression is something that you can have on you once you are a believer, but not in you. It can't possess you. It doesn't own you. The Holy Spirit is in you, not depression. (Omartian, p88)

For one such as myself who always associated my depression as being OF me, IN me, and BEING me ("Just accept who you are, you have depression...") it was liberating to read these words by Omartian. In, not of.

If anyone was depressed, it was David. His solution was to put his hope in God despite his awful despair. He realized that God did not abandon him and, although crying out in anguish at times, he also sang up to God in glorification.

I have a little glass cross (with colored shards inside) that I keep in my pocket (available at Family Christian Store for a little under $3.00) and I was holding onto it while Husband was reading. I don't know what made "it" lift...the "it" being the heavy blanket of depression, the storm that hung over me...if it was hearing verses of Scripture, or Omartian's own experience and words, or Husband's beautiful voice and hearing how much he loved me...but I felt better. I felt my body lessen its tension. I still had a horrible headache, but I felt "back again."

I opened my Bible and looked up the verse that Omartian quoted which made me take the most notice:

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.

Micah 7:8

I might have a chemical imbalance which assaults me during the winter months most often, but I know the Enemy also assaulted me, seeing me vulnerable. I am going to memorize this verse in Micah until I feel it radiating through every vein. I might feel depression again, but I don't want to feel that loneliness and separation from God.

Why do I share so much of my battle? I know someone out there reads this and struggles, too. Maybe not with depression, exactly, but perhaps with a disability of some sort. Any kind of self-defeating experience is something I want to save everyone from, if I could. My poetry chronicles my inner battles and turns them into something poetry aims to heal readers, if at all possible.

So if I have made even a small difference, I encourage you to sit back and realize that God loves you no matter what. I would love for you to leave me a comment or email me privately if that calls to you, but, more importantly, I want you to know who can heal you eternally.

It will get better. It has to. You were meant for more than this. So was I.

Bless you.

Monday, January 24, 2011


"I'm a servant to the One Most High," I decide to say every day before work.

This morning, I was feeling ungrateful, sick (flu), grumpy, crusty, and weepy.

I drove to work and muddled through my day with my clients (disabled people).

I drove home and listened to my favorite radio show, "Live the Promise," specifically, this podcast: Motives for Serving Christ, January 24th.

Before I get into the show, let me share details of an email I received this morning from my oldest friend. Sue and I have known each other since the third grade and have, gratefully, kept in touch. She is a devoted Christian, along with her husband. They do amazing work together. I am so proud to know them and excited to have "faith talks" with Sue. In this email, she shared with me encouragement that she had received from a blog entry of mine. Well, well, I was quite honored. She added that she had been having difficulty accepting her own physical disability and that it was getting worse.

Oh, my heart broke for her. I asked God, "why does someone so Christ-centered and devoted to You have to suffer so much? It doesn't seem fair.

I thought about other friends. My new friend, Tammy, who has lost two children to illnesses. She is the epitome of faithfulness, a servant of the Lord.

I could name other women - a becoming-famous writer, Ann Voskamp, who has the amazing book, "A Thousand Gifts" out right now, how she lost her sister at a young age - and more recently - this experience on her blog page. Such horror - and then such a miracle.

Why? Why do devoted women and men suffer so much?

As I drove home, listening to Susie Larson interviewing author and evangelist, Mark Brown, they spoke briefly about Christians and suffering. I believe this is an age-old question, since Christians have been persecuted from Day One and are still being persecuted today. The apostle, Paul, was persecuted physically, mentally, emotionally, yet he sent His Word on ahead of him.

...strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Acts 14:22

We must go through many hardships. Yes, indeed. Jesus told us that. Scripture tells us that. And I thought being a Christian was about peace, love, compassion, being happy, following Jesus...and yes, it is about that - but so much more. There is a balance that needs to be made. We live in a physical body which longs for the eternal - for Heaven. Jesus promises He will be with us while we are on this earth, even as we go through these hardships.

Can hardships unite us? You bet they do. Just look at the support groups listed in our local paper. People gather in droves seeking healing and companionship. And that is a good thing, in my opinion.

But we need to really know that Jesus is with us. He is His own support group. Support group of One. When it comes right down to it, we need no one else. It is good to have others to lean on, but you cannot lean on anyone in the same way you can lean on Jesus Christ.

I think back to the beginning of my day. I was sick. Tired. Sad. Grumpy. I think about Sue needing help to get out of bed. I think of Tammy looking at old pictures. I think of Ann Voskamp living through a life of strife to get to this point: this book that will be on the bestseller list and help so many people.

Maybe that is why I am so attracted to bearing my soul on these blogs ( and and this one). Some think I'm crazy for keeping so many blogs, that I am so "out there" on the internet.

It's who I am. I need to share my story. Whether it's how I came to Christ through a horrible act of sin or if it's about the loss of my mother and my healing journey afterward (which will be detailed in the poetry book, "The Sum of Our Burning" in 2012)... I need to share. I want to help people. I want to be a balm. I want to be a salve. I want to be an answered prayer. I want to be a blog entry that encourages someone. I want to be a piece of rock someone grips - and survives a fall.

I am a servant to the Most High God. Are you?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Goodbye: God as Musical Director

Prelude: This post will be best enjoyed if you read, then listen to each clip (really listening to the lyrics) and then continue on reading until you come to the next musical clip, etc. I put these song clips in here for a reason because this is how I experienced them. I wish you to have a similar soaring experience.
I wish to share a night of intense loss and redeeming hope. Quite ironically, or, perhaps divinely, a series of songs by Casting Crowns' album, "Lifesong" is a perfect background for this night, for this drive to Lauren's house.

Let me first tell you of the miracle of my 7-year-old's empathy. She gave me a card that read, "I hope thte you fell batr." I hope you feel better. Wasn't that what Jesus and his disciples were saying (I'm paraphrasing and imagining)? My brother, my sister, I hope that you feel better. Listen to the Word of God.

I took her card with me and started my thirty-minute drive to Lauren's apartment. I turned on Casting Crowns' "Lifesong" and listened to the first track. It made me feel determined and hopeful.

So may the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

It was a drive through dusk, the sun just beginning to grow weary of holding itself up. I could feel its apologies to me for providing the darkness I would later be enveloped in. Track two came on, "Praise You Through this Storm" and I got a pang in my chest. This was a painful song that transformed me into the song's narrator:

I was sure by now, God,
that You would have reached down

and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining

as the thunder rolls

I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away


I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

I sobbed and cried. I felt the loss. I recognized the desperate feeling from when Mom died. I tried to tell myself that Lauren wasn't dying; I would see her again, but my cellular memory knew this pain too well to listen to reason. I let myself cry while trying to safely drive.

Lauren and I met in January of 2001 at a support group. For what, it does not matter. The facilitator introduced us to each other, specifically, because she knew we were both writers. And sure enough, we bonded over writing. Therapy and writing. We both got jobs at an indie psychology bookstore and frequented the nearby Starbucks and Thai restaurant - both places where we gave each other prompts to write about. We'd have tea at the Thai place and tiny cucumber salads which were spicy and sweet.

That November, Lauren and I had grown close enough to decide to move to Madison together. It was in a different state, away from family. We had become each other's family, though - fast and furious - and we loved it. We were two peas in a nicely decorated pod. We went to open mic's together. I would sing a song (we preferred Tori Amos) and she'd do a "sign language dance" to it. Only she could make sign language into a dance. She got into home health care as a job and I worked at the local, hip, indie bookstore - the literary hub of the town.

I found that I leaned on Lauren to be many roles in my life. Sometimes my parent or my impetuous daughter who brought out the fun in me. Other times she'd be my conscious - warning me I was falling in love with someone too fast.

Soon into that time period, she met her husband-to-be. After I let my fingernails release her arm and my jealousy subsided, the three of us became good friends. Then the time came for Lauren and her love to move in together and I moved in with my then-boyfriend. I entered graduate school, Lauren and her man got married. All through that, though, Lauren and I remained the closest of confidants. I broke up with then-boyfriend and she supported me as only a true sister could.

I never knew the meaning of "best friend" until November 6th, 2006, when, at 1:30am, I called her sobbing, telling her Mom had died. She said she was on her way to me - a forty-minute ride, pregnant belly and all.

Learning to live without my mother, it was tempting to project that neediness onto Lauren and seek my mothering out from her, but she had healthy enough boundaries to prevent this. I was needy, though, and she provided me with great love and comfort.

When her daughter, A.B., was born, she called her my niece. I was so proud of that title. Here was this beautiful baby that I would get to watch grow up. I beamed at that knowledge.

A few years passed, Lauren lived with husband and baby in a nearby town. I met and married my beloved husband, inheriting three children, and suddenly, we both had families and less time to hang out on Saturday nights and watch "thirtysomething," for example.

This time of separating from each other, like two egg yokes separating into two distinct yellow blobs (not saying we were blobs) happened almost without me knowing. Lauren began to have trouble with her marriage and yet she was pregnant again. I had my own issues with being a new wife and stepmother. We stayed in touch, but roughly.

I began to feel her loss. She retreated to her own anxiety. She had so much to deal with. A failing marriage and a newborn: A.S. A beautiful baby girl, my second niece. Sadly, Lauren's husband walked out on them. He had turned into an unrecognizable man from when I knew him well.

Poor Lauren spiraled into anxiety and burdens beyond her capabilities. She had a household and her young kids to support, plus hold it together for them while her heart shattered. The decision to move to Texas with her girls was not an unexpected one, but it did punch me in the stomach when I thought about it selfishly. My Lauren, states away when she was always just right there.

I cried and cried, but I think it was over our initial friendship and closeness. The fact was, we had been living our own lives for a few years now. I made myself see the reality: Lauren would be going to a place where family could take care of her and her family. She would go back to school and all that was the best decision for her and her newly arranged family.

Still, now and then, I think selfishly. Lauren is a fixture I just always depended on, like a beautiful chandelier in my dining room that was always lit. I never thought the room would go dim.

The car ride seemed to take forever. Beautiful music played. Casting Crowns' "Prodigal" made me feel especially vulnerable. Read lyrics here and then listen to it. I always thought it interesting that the term "Daddy" would be used for God.

Help me get through the next few minutes...
that's just about as far ahead as I can look...

And just as I was crying out to God, as in the song, to "Daddy," I neared Lauren's home. The song, "And Now My Lifesong Sings" came on and I listened to the whole of it before I went inside.

I tried to soak my tears into my sleeve as I remembered the Bible verse from "To Praise You Through this Storm:"

I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
Psalm 121: 1-2

I went inside and stayed for around two hours while she finished up packing. Friends came and picked up their cats, Francis and Sophia. Three-year-old A.B. cried with such heartache, "I want my Francis" as he was carried out the door (the process was much more well-planned and nurturing than I am writing here). My heart broke as I held A.S. in my arms. This niece who I wouldn't see grow up day by day or week by week. Soon after, I cried again as I told Lauren that I had to say my goodbye. We went into the hallway and hugged.

"I can't do this," I sobbed into her shoulder, my knees buckling.

"Yes, you can," she whispered and hugged me tight.

We clutched onto each other until I tore away, feeling too intense a pain to fully feel in public. I said I just had to go and left, sputtering tears all the way to my car. Once inside, all I felt was every loss I ever experienced. I yearned for my parents, I yearned for Lauren, for her constant constantness, her familiarity, the language that only she and I spoke. I felt the beginning of a meltdown; pieces of my heart started to scatter, pieces of my sanity began to sink.

I turned on the radio and prayed to God to give me a song. Never doubt your prayers, your raw aching calls. This is what I got:

"He Will Carry Me" by Mark Schultz

I took great comfort in that song. I'd loved it already, but it took on new meaning. I drove to a remote spot down the block and parked. I let go of my pain and felt God's arms encircle me and take me up. The song and His embrace reassured me I would be okay. If I doubted, God (as interventional D.J.) played this next:

"Voice of Truth" by Casting Crowns

I drove home listening to any quiet voices in my mind. His echoed the song's: Do not be afraid.

I arrived home much faster, it seemed, than it took to drive in the other direction. My husband was there to hold and comfort me. And I needed him and was grateful he was there for me.
But as we prayed that night, I thanked God, especially, for coming to me in song. In the poetry of lyrics.

I knew I would be okay as long as I kept my faith, as long as I knew who the ultimate best friend was: He who calms fears and eases burdens.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light
Matthew 11:30

Goodbye for now, Lauren. I love you endlessly and infinitely. I will see you soon. When next I see you, you better have a tan.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday.

On Twitter (in Christian circles) Thursdays are Thankful Thursdays. I wish to participate. I need to count my blessings on such a day as this: sick at home, having to say goodbye to my best friend who is moving cross-country, dealing with an ill father, mourning a passed-on mother, PMS and PMDD, and my cat's illness, though she suddenly has improved and started eating again.

So that is what I will be thankful for first.

Lord, thank You for Callie eating again. She rests on my lap, almost so I can't type, but she is so slight nowadays, that I can wrap my arms around her tortoise-shell-colored fur and type alright, with her bouncing up and down every few keystrokes. Callie is my baby, that is to be sure. She curls her head in tight and digs her head under my hand and rests it there. I wonder, is it for warmth? Is she showing me that she loves me? I am so grateful for this cat whom I've had for nearly 11 years. Some pets (when you get really attached to them) are your family. My old cat was my sister because I grew up with her. Callie is my baby, in the truest way. She is the most loving, doting cat I've known. And the most beautiful.

Lord, thank You for coming into my life just two and a half months ago. I can't believe I lived a satisfactory life at all without You. How did I live? In depression, shame, fear, that's for sure. Now I walk in Your beauty, in my beauty, surrendering all those dark feelings to You and feeling my burden lighten. You are my Greatest Love and Best Friend.

Speaking of best friends, thank you, Lord, for Lauren. Though she moves cross-country in a few days and today is when we are saying our goodbyes, I treasure the ten years we have been attached at the hip. She has been my mother, my daughter, my sister, my guide, my mentor, my strength, my weakness, my conscience, and my love. I wish for her a beautiful new life in Texas. I'm grateful she is getting away from her toxic husband and raising her two young girls among family who love her with all their Southern might.

Lord, thank You for my husband. I've never known him the way that I do now with the help of You. You have brought us closer, so close that I could have never believed that such closeness was possible. Hubby is the best man I know and I mean that. He inspires me every day and I am all the better for being his wife.

Lord, thank You for my kids. This morning, I was on the couch with 4 and 7 year old, waiting for 12 year old to come upstairs and get ready to leave. The little ones were snuggling in my lap, giggling. I could smell her hair; I even treasured the little boy's stale breath against my cheek. The time lasted for only five minutes, but I took in every sensation.

Thank you, Lord, for the Christian blogs I am finding online with the help of BlogFrog and Twitter. It is exciting to connect with other women who find You as exciting as I do. Their words comfort and inspire me.

I am a blessed, blessed woman.

Bless you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


So I've joined this thing called BlogFrog (see the "recent visitors" tab up above?) It connects me with more people who are in that huge community. There are different "communities" with different topics. I'm in some Christian ones, some Stepmom ones, some Writing ones. So much to read now! How will I find time? Oh, somehow I think I will.

But ANYWAY, I encourage you to check out BlogFrog (see link under BlogFrog in beginning of post) and join because then you can visit here and I'll know it! Isn't that nice?

If you have a blog, you simply must join, in my personal opinion. I'm really excited about it.

End of endorsement. :)
Bless you!

(photo: Felixco, Inc)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Love Thy Enemy

I met with my stepfather the other evening. I arrived not knowing if I was going to be confrontational or forgiving and let everything go. As it was, I was somewhere in-between.

It was good to see him, though hard. He smelled like my mother. Not in a perfume way, but in a house way. I'm sure their house, which he now shares with his new wife (who was his ex-wife), still has that smell. It was hard to hug him.

"Hi Kiddo," he said.

We talked about mundane things for a while, and then I decided to approach the topic.

Where do we stand? I asked.

He explained how he felt, how his new/old wife felt, how he still missed my Mom, how he felt that he didn't have a place in my life now that she was gone.

I assured him that he did and that I wanted to have a relationship with him. After all, we've spent 29 years together. I'm 32 years old now. You do the math. It's been a long time.

We ended on a good note, and another embrace. I got into the car and drove the snowy road home.

I asked God to send me a song when I first turned on the radio and, indeed, He did:

"He Will Carry Me" by Mark Schultz

That night and the following day, a gentle love spread throughout my heart. I prayed hard. I prayed for my stepfather - for his pain, and I also prayed for his now-wife, "S," that she may find peace, herself. My stepfather told me she feels like an alien in that house that he and Mom built. I imagined her feeling like the new wife in "Rebecca" by Daphne DuMaurier, haunted by a dead woman and feeling like she could never measure up. I prayed that "S" feel more comfortable and, especially, that she realize that my mother does not hate her, does not wish her ill will, that my mother, in Heaven, wishes she and my stepfather a marriage full of peace and love.

"S" wants nothing to do with me, so my stepfather tells me. And that is fine. She hates my mother, however. Still, I pray for her.

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Matthew 5:44

Overall, it was a healing evening. I'm grateful for it. It was a balm for my wounded heart.

Bless you.

"A new song in my mouth"

January is proving to be very challenging. I suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) as well as severe depression. These past two months have been steady and inspiring. I haven't had a real dip since I began my faith walk.

However, yesterday I woke up and did not want to get out of bed. I knew PMDD was a factor. I could barely sit at the table for breakfast and get out the door for work. I was driving to work and heard my favorite song, "You Can Have Me" by Sidewalk Prophets (see previous post) and immediately started crying.

I had a vague idea of what to do now that I was a Christian. I pray, right? I began to pray to God: please don't let me fall so far as I usually do. Last January started a four-month stint of severe depression. I was afraid of what this January would bring, yet, at the same time, I knew that things would be different now that I had God in my life. But still... part of me remained scared and doubtful. Still, I prayed.

What else do I do? I thought. I cried. I opened my heart up to God and said: "I give myself to you."

I wanted to release my burden, but I didn't know how. I wished that pain could be a physical ball of string, for example, or something that I could actually hand to God. I could let go of this thing and feel the release and relief of it. I didn't know if I could abstractly let go of my pain and suffering.

I tried to anyway. I said: "Lord, I release my burden to you; please send your Holy Spirit down to comfort me and inspire me."

The song ended and I stopped crying. Minutes passed. I drove.

Soon, I noticed that I felt differently. I arrived at work and had a half hour to spend before I was to meet my clients. I felt excited because - wow! - I felt relief, even joy! God had worked his miracles on me!

To God, it was not a miracle. It was simply what He does. I'm sure He thought, "oh my child, just call out for me and I will be there."

And I had my doubts, I'm afraid to say. I thought, how important am I that God would hear and answer me?

Nonsense, I realize now. God has time for all of us. Even the newbies, like me. :)

The whole day became a miracle. I had time to pour over the Bible while waiting for clients. I had time to listen to my music in the car (I'm obsessed with contemporary Christian music now); I was just full of the holy spirit.

I loved interacting with my clients (people with disabilities) and my co-workers. I blessed each one and felt blessed by each one.

I must tell you. I did not think I could do this. More specifically, I didn't think God could do this - tackle my depression demons, I mean. I have been living with them since I was a little, little girl; I thought I was just too far-gone. I just had to accept my lot in life: suffering.

NO! I do not deserve to suffer. Jesus did that for me, for us, and it is an insult to Him to think that I need to. My inheritance is joy. To walk in faith. To be obedient and a servant of the Lord. My inheritance is to listen to God and do what pleases Him.

From dark to light, that day was a miracle. And all I had to do was ask.

"I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and the mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put trust in the Lord."
Psalm 40: 1-3

Bless you.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Poof

I've not been the best Christian lately. I say: "hey, I'm new. I'm not going to get it perfect all the time."

And then I say: "what am I talking about?" I mean, look Who I am talking about. You don't need to be perfect for God. The good thing about Christianity is that God loves you no matter what. Yes, even if you are not being the best Christian for a couple of days. Even if you feel disconnected and grumpy and snap at your kids for no reason - or any reason.

But let me return to feeling disconnected from God. I wrote about this at length in the previous entry. Well, not much has changed. And yet, everything has. In one single hour.

Husband and I had to drive the kids back to their biological mom's house for the week. I came down with a migraine and self-pity (not a good combo) so I stayed home and slept. Husband drove the three kids the 45-minute-or-so drive into the city and, because I wasn't there, the eldest, 12, could sit up front in the passenger seat. Looking back, I feel it was "meant to be" that I not be there so that husband and 12 year old could have the following exchange.

These kids are going through a hard time, especially our 12 year old. What, these aren't your kids, you ask? You've been calling them "my kids" this whole time. Well, no, I'm a stepmother, but I think of each child as my very own.

Unfortunately, God has other plans for our family these days. Custody trouble, 12 year old having to get involved in ways we don't want her to. The two little ones, 7 and 4, thinking that we are "the bad guys."

We have a beautiful family that I know God loves. Why this all is happening is beyond me. Sometimes I'm just speechless. And yet we pray and trust anyway.

Anyway, husband and 12 year old were talking about how nervous she was to return to her mother's home because Mother was going to grill her about details about her week with us, etc. Husband tried to allay her fears, but soon realized that he couldn't do much right then and there to soothe his daughter.

In his telling of this to me later, he said that had he thought, "I'm going to have a religious talk with my 12 year old daughter now," he would have stopped himself because he would have thought it would go in one ear and out the other. Granted, 12 year old is interested in God; we pray the Lord's Prayer with her every night she is with us. She hears us playing Christian radio all the time; she knows we have recently dove into the waters of Christianity with fervor, but she feels self-conscious at her awkward age and, at least when I have approached her about God and prayer, she has listened well and mumbled in agreement - not said anything at length. Which is fine.

But husband asked if it was okay if he said a prayer for her - right then and there - in the car. He said that he prays for her and her siblings every day and night. He told her how he and I pray every night and how he prays aloud when he rides into the city for work every morning. She said, yes, he could pray. He was looking at the road, so he did not know if she rolled her eyes or looked serious.

So for a good five minutes, he prayed. He prayed for 12 year old when things got scary for her to feel brave. I do not know all that was in that prayer, but I know it was heartfelt and wonderful - that's just the way he prays.

Husband has also struggled with a disconnect from God in the last few days. He told me, however, when he called upon Jesus and prayed for his daughter, the words just flowed. He felt connected to Him again.

And 12 year old realized that she was not helpless. Husband told her that in times of stress and fear, she, too, can pray. About anything.

I sat up in bed, listening to him telling me this story. I felt God at work. Husband said he felt God at work. He said that after he had spoken to ex-wife, he felt riled up and upset...but on the drive home, he prayed and felt calm and at peace. Sure enough, I noticed a difference in him as he talked to me then.

Husband told me that he realized that it was not God who was not answering him, it was him who wasn't letting God in. In husband's words, he said that it wasn't like God "went out and took a phone call" and became busy... it was that he - and maybe me, too - just stopped being intentional and seeking out God. We expected God to - poof - inspire us. Well, it doesn't always work like that. We need to remain open to the poof. And sometimes we have to be the poof.

In closing, let me leave you with a song and video that inspired me tonight. I heard the song, first, on the radio. It was a song I already liked: "O Praise Him" by the David Crowder Band. But the opening words, "turn your ears to Heaven," seemed to tap me on the shoulder. You know how songs do that? I looked it up on youtube in order to provide it for you and found this video. I won't spoil it for you, but please do watch the video. It is chilling and so moving.

The makers won't let me embed the song here, so click on this link.

Bless you over and over again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Growing Pains

I admit it. I feel disconnected from God today. I've had a very difficult day. Waking up late, getting the girls to school late, a hard work-day, an ex-wife causing traumatic drama, finding out my best friend is moving cross-country, husband having a nasty head cold and, while not his fault, being unavailable to me (he devoted most of the night to his tissue, which I totally understand and sympathize with), and a few other annoyances and sad things.

I don't know, exactly, what was the factor that caused me to feel disconnected from the Lord. I know I've felt guilty because I haven't been reading the Bible lately. I knew that made me feel less connected to Him. And while listening to Christian talk radio today, I heard a Pastor say how we have to read and immerse ourselves in Scripture - otherwise we'll feel off and wonky. I took that as a sign.

I came home and while waiting for dinner to be ready, I read some of the Bible. I've been jumping around a lot so I thought I'd go back to the Old Testament and pick up where I left chronologically, which was in Numbers. Boy is that one a bit dry. I didn't feel thirst for the Word. I grew restless. I wanted to read passages that spoke to me. That touched me. Where I knew God was talking to me right then. And it wasn't happening. I let my gaze wander to the stockings still hung by the chimney with care and realized we ought to take down our Christmas decorations soon. So much for reading.

I made dinner (a rare thing) and it turned out okay. It was sustenance; that's all I'll say about that. The kids went their separate ways afterward. The little ones colored and the 12 year old disappeared to her room to play her new computer game. Husband went downstairs to play his new computer game (12 year old and husband are very alike) and I hopped on the computer, all ready to write a Dove Chronicles blog entry about the radio program, Live the Promise, I heard today and how it affected me.

That was when I got the best friend's email. It took me by surprise. The plan was for her to move in March. That was going to be hard enough, but now in two weeks? Her husband left her and turned into quite an unsavory character. He left her with a three-year-old and a three-month-old and quite happy to leave them to her, quite ready to let go of them and have them move cross-country. Sickening.

I went downstairs to husband with my hands over my mouth, tears in my eyes. I told him about the email and he sat and held me while I cried. My heart was breaking. I felt great loss. I have not felt loss like that since Mom died four years ago. This best friend is more than a best friend. I can't even begin to describe our relationship. Granted, since she had children, it has changed. We've grown a little more distant and more involved with our own individual lives. But we still knew we had each other's backs.

Suffice it to say, I'm not ready to let her go.

God, I asked, are you testing me?

And then there's my poetry. Before I found God two months ago, I was a prolific poet who capitalized on her suffering in order to write darn good poetry. I've been published in international and national literary journals. I have one book of poetry out and am having a more comprehensive book of poetry (about my Mom's death) published by a major publisher in 2012.

But I've always written out of my pain. My modus operandi was turning suffering into something beautiful. I was a transformer of pain into great things. Award-winning poems. Ok, enough tooting my horn.

But like I said, since finding God two months ago, I have not felt that kind of pain and suffering ans so I have not written poetry since ... well, probably June or July. This is not just writer's block. This is a huge transformation of the spirit, a personality change, a shift in temperament. I no longer look at things with the eyes of one who suffers every day. I have the Lord. Thank God I don't suffer every day! I rebuke the devil and no longer let him rule my outlook.

Which is wonderful, right? Yes... but what is happening to my writing? Or what will happen to my writing? Will I turn to writing Christian poems? I have tried and they have come out horribly. Well, not up to my standards. Will I write poems that come from suffering but then come out of the dark and into the light with the help of the Lord? Am I that brave to publicly say, with my name beneath the title, that I write for the Lord? Is that what I've decided? I want to. A part of me does. And a part of me wants to write that darn good poetry again - that was fraught with pain and suffering and desperation and everything else uncomfortable that made readers both squirm in their seats and take a quick breath in out of awe and surprise.

I'm not questioning: will I continue to write? I know I will always be writing. I just now question what kind of writing. Where will my writing come from? What part of me? I feel God has some specific plans for me in that area and I don't know the answer yet.

Is it okay for me to miss my old poetry?

Is it okay for me to feel broken-hearted over my best friend moving cross-country if it is for her mental and emotional health? And her girls' health? She needs help, support, in raising those girls now that her husband has become such a lowly character. I know she needs to move there. A part of me just doesn't want her to.

I look at my present life and observe my friends. I have my husband, who is my best friend. I have my best friend who is moving. Those two people are the two most important people in my life besides my children. They are the most influential adults. And one is leaving. And, to be honest, I don't have any other friends. Oh, sure, I have people I talk to at work who are nice. But no one who lives in my town, except one woman and we are getting to know each other slowly. She is anything but Christian, but still a good person. But I know I won't be able to be spiritual with her. I long for a Christian friend. Husband and I pray every night to meet a couple at our church who we can befriend. Our church is mostly made up of an older congregation. The new Pastor (who started right when we started going there, so he's not new to us) and his wife are our age. We four are probably four out of eight people, total, who are our contemporaries. Don't get me wrong; I value older adults. I love that I have dozens of grandparents now. But husband and I have never had the chance to have another "couple" friend.

As I write all this, I feel like this is a time of transition. Of things being taken away and of waiting around for the next round of "things" to appear. I tell you, it's hard.

But trust in the Lord, right? That is hard right now.

We're having extreme financial difficulties right now. I hear on so many programs how we all should tithe and/or give money to our church or charities, etc., and how money comes back to you tenfold when you do. Now the goal of giving is not to get, per say, but I know what they mean. Everything must be surrendered to the Lord, even finances.

What do you do about that? Is it hard for you? Have you done it?

I feel like such a neophyte. Especially now when I need Him so much. And I have so much in my life that is in flux. Health, money, friendship, even marriage. I won't go into details, but my marriage is changing - for the better, mind you, but there are growing pains once in a while.

This is a long blog entry, isn't it. I'm sitting down with you and just sort of blabbering, aren't I. Perhaps I've shed a few tears and you've offered me a tissue. Thank you. Perhaps you've held my hand while I've talked or given me a hug. Thank you. You've helped.

Well, my eyes are puffy from tears. Husband is already in bed, probably sleeping. Kids are sleeping except 12 year old who I will check on before I go to bed.

I just want to tell you how grateful I am for you taking the time out to listen to me. For sitting on the couch or at the kitchen table or your desk and holding my hand and listening to me.

Maybe we can be friends, too.

Bless you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What My Heart Wishes For You

If my heart could talk, if my heart could play music, it would play this video non-stop throughout the New Year:

Here's to a grand 2011.

Bless you.

You Can Have Me

"You Can Have Me" by the Sidewalk Prophets -

the ultimate "surrendering to God" song. I'm listening to it a lot lately and it remains one of my favorite songs.

I want to be where you are
I'm running into your arms
And I will never look back
So Jesus here is my heart...

Jesus, I give my self to You.
Bless you.

Little Girl Lost


I spent the day "cleaning" out old trunks which hold memorabilia. Cleaning. Yeah, right. You know what I'm talking about. You get sucked into your past with looking through old journals, old pictures, old notes saved from fourth grade, your first diary at age seven, theatre programs, etc. I sat cross-legged sifting through all of this. I knew I would be whittling down very little. For some reason, I have this need to hold onto different parts of my past, namely my pain.

Let go, I hear you say. Let go, I hear Him say. I'm not holding onto it, per say; I mean, I'm able to rise out of the hole and do other things like fix some dinner and pet the cat (husband is working today), but I do admit that I get lost in my childhood and teenagehood. And as I looked, read, searched, I saw that my past was fraught with pain.

I read at age seven where I was so angry that I wanted to die. And that thread continued in each journal, up to last year. I looked at the "Me Books" I made out of photo albums: where I'd cut out inspiring and beautiful pictures, mostly from Victoria Magazine, and pair them with my poetry. I was 12-16 years old when I did this. The writing is... sad.

I felt so sad for that girl. I had no clue. I had no clue how much my life would be spent fighting the devil. I wouldn't even know it as him; I would call it depression, the Nasties, bipolar, doubt, desperation, suicidal idealization...

It all started out so long ago, when I was so young. So young! My soul cries out in tears. Why did I struggle so? Often at my own hand.

I have to take a step back, through the looking-glass mirror. I had to look at who I was today. What I had today, Who I had today.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.
Psalm 32:10

For now I have Christ. I have not felt loneliness since that November 6th day my eyes and heart were opened to the Lord. I have felt sad, but my sadness have not reached the desperate melancholia that it has the potential to reach.

This morning, for instance, found me lying in bed until quite late. My best friend had canceled our plans and that hurt me deeply and my husband was downstairs writing a long, important business letter. I dreaded the day because I was afraid of being alone in the house. I love my house, but I often don't like being alone.

After his email, husband came into the room where I had fallen back asleep (should I also mention I am physically sick?) and said in a firm voice, "honey, I am not going to let the devil get you today." He opened the blinds and lightened the room.

It's a process that's been done before, although not said like that. People have come into my life and said, "that's it! Get OUT of your funk!" but I have never really responded.

This time, I felt the love of my husband and his desire for me to beat this. Now that I understand the devil whispers doubtful and sinister things into my ear, it makes it easier to "get out of the funk." I could feel God pulling me gently out of bed, as gently as my husband was doing. I sat up and hugged him. He prayed for me, for my ability to climb out of the hole, to banish the devil away, to have a good, productive, enjoyable day.

Years ago, I would have succumbed to such a state. Stayed in bed and suffered.

Lord, I will not suffer any longer. Little Girl Lost is now Adult Woman Found. I know to suffer is to deny Your miracles, grace, and love.


I'm putting my past away in the trunks and I'm living out of my own heart now. I'm living out of the Bible; I'm living out of Christian radio talk shows; I'm living out of daily prayer with my husband and I'm living it out in church every Sunday.

I am so blessed to have come full circle and seen the error of my ways. I do not have to suffer.

I can soar.


Bless you.