When the Fog is Thicker than Normal

I have a history of depression.

Lately it’s been more of a current event.

Some people wonder what it means to have depression. How is it different from just a “normal” bad mood? Doesn’t everyone go through low points? Is it really a medical diagnosis? Sometimes I even ask myself these questions, even though I should know better. My brain knows how to internalize even the slightest hint of disapproval or questioning in another person’s eyes or tone of voice. Sometimes everything seems to point to the fact that “depression” is obviously just a fancy word that someone came up with to shut those of us up who can’t accept that we are really just melodramatic, overly sensitive and lazy.

When my sanity returns, I remember that I don’t have to win a philosophical argument on psychiatry or defend the vocabulary of mental illness to speak about my personal experience. And speaking up is important, not only for my own mental health, but because there are so many others out there who think they are alone and need to hear a word of encouragement and hope from a fellow sufferer.

Depression is a hard thing for me to open up about. I’ve been burned before for revealing too much. I’ve realized the hard way that some things are better shared with more private audiences than on a public forum. Even in a safe, private setting, I often struggle to summon the humility to discuss where I’m at openly and honestly. It all feels like something I should be over by now. It certainly wasn’t on my life roadmap to call the doctor complaining about fatigue and other symptoms I thought must be hormonal and have HIM be the one to suggest that perhaps we should switch my antidepressant. I mean, for years now, any adjustment to medication has been at MY suggestion, not the doctor’s. I thought I was the expert on this thing, but somehow, this time, I missed the key signs.

For me, the biggest clue should have been the apathy. Nothing is really that important when I get depressed. Lots of things start to slip because, you know, who cares. And then, all of a sudden, my normally manageable tendency to procrastinate turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy of never being good enough. I try to tell myself that I AM good enough even though a lot of my behavior is not really my best. Or that I’m not good enough, but it’s okay. I mean, that’s why we need Jesus, right? It’s okay to be perfectly imperfect, right?

These affirmations fall flat, because at the end of the day, things are not okay when you’re depressed. And coming out of depression requires you to admit that first.

Yes, I need Jesus. We all do. No, I’m not perfect, and I don’t have to be. But depression isn’t about making good or bad choices. Depression removes your power to choose and clouds your judgment. It becomes a fog that is impossible to see through without help.

Help for depression involves doctors and therapists, because mental illnesses really are medical conditions. I’m not sure there really is a “normal,” but I do know depression is more than just a bad mood. And while everyone may go through low points, and everyone certainly has her own burden in life, not everyone’s lows qualify as depression and not everyone’s burden is mental illness. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t mine, but it is.

Even though it can still creep up on me when I’m least expecting it, today I know I don’t have to walk through depression alone. God is with me always, even in my lowest points. Even when I doubt Him, He is there. I just have to keep trying to seek and strive for God in honest and real ways. Sometimes that means turning my prayers upside down.

Instead of asking to be filled with the knowledge that everything’s okay, sometimes I need to cry out to God that everything is NOT okay. This admission of powerlessness and acceptance is often exactly what I need to start to see God again through the fog. Sometimes I see Him through the people He puts in my life exactly when I need them. Other times, it’s through moments of clarity He gives me deep inside my soul. It is in those moments that I have come to realize that none of us are ever truly alone.

If you’re struggling with depression, know that there is a healthy way out. You are not alone. Things might not be okay right now, but you can still just put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing, no matter how hard that is. And trust me, I’m not going to suggest that the next right thing for you to do is to exercise! Even though that seems to be a popular recommendation for depression, for me, it usually has to start much, much smaller!

Like, with getting out of bed.

Sometimes it’s just getting one FOOT out of the bed. Maybe even just one TOE!! It might be brushing your teeth. Or taking a shower. Or making an appointment. Or reaching out and texting a friend. Or a million other baby steps that feel like they might as well be giant leaps between two mountains. Things might not be okay right now, but if you just keep trudging along, reaching out and looking up, things will be okay.

I have a history of depression. And lately it’s been more of a current event. But having depression also means I have a history of incredible spiritual awakening and renewal, and I’ve learned to be grateful for that. My depression can create a pretty thick fog in my little corner of the universe, but when I do see the light shining through, it is all the brighter in contrast to the darkness. No matter what, by God’s grace, the future looks bright.

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Humbled at McDonald’s in Canada

We are currently on vacation in my husband’s home country of Canada. And even though I’ve been here many times, there are still a few things that catch me off guard on every visit. For one thing, the Great Lakes are really, very great. How foolish I must have sounded when I asked my then-boyfriend if he had ever been to the beach, and then presumed to tell him it didn’t count because it wasn’t the ocean! The little island we went to on this trip had a sandy beach facing Lake Ontario. As I looked out at the endless water and watched the waves roll in, I was just as serene as I was last summer when we went to a “real” beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

This isn’t the only thing about Canada that humbles me. Every time I do the dishes here, I remember how most people do not have garbage disposals. It’s just not an appliance that has ever caught on here. People could afford them; they just don’t see the need. New homes don’t come with them installed. Apartments and townhouses don’t have them. But back when I was a know-it-all, twenty-something-year-old who discounted her boyfriend’s beach experiences, I also refused to accept the reality about garbage disposals and Canada. Surely, there was some sort of mistake, I thought. Maybe I just needed to say the right word – it’s “garburator” in Canadian, not “garbage disposal,” after all. And so, when I moved to Canada, I insisted we call every apartment complex remotely close to Toronto and ask if they had a unit for rent with a garburator. As you probably guessed, the answer was always the same. Flushing my cereal down the toilet and scraping plates into the trash weren’t totally new to me. I’d been to many countries before and even lived in France. I just had it in my head that the differences between Canada and the United States were not quite as big as this. As it turns out, the differences between our two incredible countries aren’t so big. Shockingly, a garbage disposal really isn’t an absolute necessity.

I’m not sure how something so small ended up becoming a catalyst for me to open my mind to new things and different ideas more readily, but it did. For years, if someone said something to me that seemed odd or different or unthinkable, I would just remember that life without a garbage disposal used to seem odd and different and unthinkable. Then I lived without one for three years and realized it wasn’t that big of a deal. My husband used to think it odd and different and unreasonable to insist, like I had, that a garburator hold the same level of importance as a refrigerator. Now that he has lived in the US for twelve years, he finds it odd and different and unreasonable for someone to live without one.

The truth is most things are only odd or different or unreasonable when they are foreign. Once you get closer, you see a bigger picture that almost always changes your perspective. You realize you’ve been looking through a mirror like the one on your car that says “objects are closer than they appear.” Life in Canada seemed so familiar I just assumed I fully understood it, but the truth is I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought. We make judgments all the time based on a warped view of the world. Things, or people, or races, or religions, seem just familiar enough that we think we can judge the differences we seem to perceive. But when we stop to listen to each other and imagine what it would be like to walk a mile in each other’s shoes, we see that so much lies beneath the surface.

Back to our visit in Canada, as always, we went to McDonald’s for lunch one day. Before we went, we talked about how McDonald’s is different in other countries. I didn’t want the kids to overreact when they saw, for example, that in Canada, apple slices still have skin on them. But just when I was patting myself on the back for how enlightened and open-minded I am, five dreaded words betrayed me. They just spilled out before I could do anything about it. It was like I was in slow motion. I recognized what was about to happen but could do nothing to stop it. I meant to ask the cashier what came with a happy meal. Or what kind of kids’ meals they had. Or if the happy meals came with a burger, fries and a side like in the United States. But, no, instead, I said “Do you have normal happy meals?”

I was embarrassed before I finished the question. How could I have asked if the happy meals were “normal”!? I cannot identify any part of me that thinks in any way that anything is less “normal” in Canada than in the US, and yet, those words came out of my mouth! Of course, I had to make it worse by explaining that we were from the States. As if the sweet teenager taking our order hadn’t figured that out. What a great way for me to reinforce stereotypes that Canadians have of Americans! Of course I would think our way of doing things is “normal” and everyone else’s is “abnormal,” right?

After I got over my embarrassment, I laughed and lightened up and realized (again) that we are all just flawed human beings. The best thing we can do is listen to each other respectfully and then cut each other some slack. I sure hope that cashier does not honestly think I am so arrogant that I really consider only my experience to be “normal.” I hope she gave me the benefit of the doubt and realized I was just thinking about what is “normal” to me and didn’t mean the question the way it sounded.

As a society, we are so often and easily offended by innocent words that are not meant to injure but just represent a different perspective.

Words matter.
But more than words, intentions matter.
And more than anything, grace matters.

We have to extend each other grace to blunder and bludgeon through each day, because we also must rely on grace. We are all imperfect creatures in need of God’s perfect love and the grace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Because of this amazing grace, I am often humbled but never humiliated. Even as an American in Canada!

(As it turns out, in Trenton, Ontario, a “normal” happy meal comes with only one side. You get fries or apples, but not both. Also, the fountain drink cup is significantly smaller than the one you would get if you were to order a “normal” happy meal from a McDonald’s in Plano, Texas.)

Confessions of a Sporadic Church Going Jesus Freak

I have a confession to make.

Until this past Sunday, I hadn’t been to church in a while. Like, since April.

I love God. I love Jesus. I pray many times every day. I just took an unplanned, extended leave of absence from church.

And that’s not even what I need to confess!

What I need to confess is that I really worry what you think about it.

Even though I have worked hard to shake this whole people-pleasing character defect, I still really feel the need to please you. And so, I have to come out publicly (or at least on this blog) about my sporadic church attendance. I need to risk your disapproval so I can remember I only need God’s approval.

It all started with Love Lives Here Plano – you may remember I had a mental breakdown via blog post about this (https://seeingthroughthefog.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/love-lives-here/).

Well, the event turned out beautifully. Don’t get me wrong. None of our difficulties magically disappeared. The biggest room in the building we rented, where we had originally planned to have our evening program, ended up closed off due to low attendance. And we still haven’t figured out how to fully reconcile the budget, although God has worked some pretty awesome miracles in that area.

The bottom line though is that Love Lives Here Plano was perfectly imperfect and just what it was supposed to be. Even though a few of the workshops had to be cancelled, those that did go on as planned exceeded expectations. One workshop leader even thanked me for allowing her to participate in such a special event. She made a point to tell me how amazed she was at the honesty and transparency in her small group. The attendees echoed the speaker and shared that the workshops had a deep impact on their lives. I wonder if I would have these kinds of observations if each workshop had 30-40 women instead of 10-15.

Despite an ad on a major radio station, our vendors did not see hundreds and hundreds of women, but they were all (well, almost all) happy to be there. About half way through my obligatory purchase and apology to each proprietor, I realized it really wasn’t necessary. They understood you don’t always get the turnout you expect, and they all made sales. Even if it wasn’t what they’d hoped for, when I got out of my own way, I saw that they really were happy to be there. Most of them made significant connections with other vendors and participants that have continued to thrive and contribute to their business and personal growth well past the event.

The evening program was honestly one of the highlights of my life. Around eighty-five women total came, fifteen with free tickets we gave to a local crisis center. Serving these women was an unexpected blessing. As the keynote speaker, I delivered a twenty-minute speech and then led the participants in an interactive activity where everyone wrote at least one thing she wanted to let go of on a paper heart. Each table then ripped up their paper hearts and taped them onto a large puzzle piece. Volunteers gathered the puzzle pieces, and we fit them together on a large poster board at the front of the room. The end result was a picture of a large heart with a cross in the middle – a powerful visual that showed that when we give God our hearts, even when they are in broken pieces, He uses them to create something more beautiful and incredible than we can imagine.

When I gave my speech, I had one of those moments when you feel like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. I knew it was good. I knew God was there. It was confirmed in my heart that speaking is one of my gifts. Afterwards, I got nothing but positive feedback – everyone said I was funny and had a good sense of timing. Many people came up to me in tears. Several of the aforementioned vendors, many of whom originally intended to come to Love Lives Here only to sell a product, were among the most moved. One woman just kept repeating the word “phenomenal.” I knew in that moment this would not be the last time I would stand up in front of a group and say similar words of encouragement, and I have already had the opportunity to speak part of the speech again.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with my break from church. Well, even though Love Lives Here came off beautifully, it still left me exhausted. And while that’s not an excuse to skip church, it is the first domino in a chain of events, emotions and thoughts that led me to where I am right now.

There were many things in my life that needed attention after being somewhat or a lot neglected while I had put on this event. I felt like I had been living a pretend life. Then, the week after the event, we got the call from my son’s teacher that turned our world upside down. All of a sudden, I went from event manager, public speaker and writer to mom of a “special needs” child. I thought this was God’s way of telling me to just let go of this dream. I couldn’t possibly have this extracurricular passion in addition to a full time job, marriage and children, especially now that one of those kids had to be carted around regularly to therapists and specialists. I couldn’t possibly spend time writing and speaking when clearly, I needed to spend any free time I had becoming an expert on neurological issues in children.

I now realize that God is so much bigger than I gave Him credit for. Of course, He would not put it in my heart to write and speak if I couldn’t somehow manage it along with everything else. In fact, He usually picks people who seem least able to do what He asks so that all the credit and glory goes to Him!

Nonetheless, for a while, I got lost. I fell into a depression that impacted more than just my church-going. If you read my blog regularly, you would have noticed there was a big gap in original posts between April and July.

I am excited to report that I went to church this past Sunday, and that I will be a regular attendee next year, as the Fifth Grade small group leader. I know that I belong in regular worship with a community of believers. We are not meant to do this thing called life and faith by ourselves. I have not been convicted that my sporadic church attendance qualifies as “sin,” but nonetheless I have asked for God’s forgiveness and am back in the habit. What God has convicted me of is that I really need to work on my continued obsession with how you perceive me. I was starting to feel like I had a dirty, little secret from my Christian friends, and I’ve learned the hard way that secrets are bad.

In closing, I really want to ask you to please not judge me, but well, that would just be perpetuating the problem. So please judge me all you want. I need to learn that your judgment is not what matters. I’m wearing a shirt I got at Love Lives Here that says “He Loves Me,” and that is all that matters.

From One “Good Mom” to Another

When my babies were born, I was one of those moms who just instantly felt comfortable. Instead of being crippled by worry about the baby or insecurity over my parenting skills, I was at total peace. Nobody was more surprised by my natural maternal instincts and calm demeanor than I was, especially considering how clueless I had been before. At my baby showers, it was actually comical how many gifts were met by my blank stare. Seriously though, why do so many things need to be warmed? Can I get a towel warmer for when I get out of the bath please?

As my kids grew older, my smugness and comfort with motherhood went out the window. All of a sudden, these babies that I knew how to take care of turned into actual people. They had their own personalities! They had their own thoughts. And those thoughts weren’t restricted to to “Give me your boob!” and “Change my diaper.” I know this, because they actually starting speaking their thoughts. OUT LOUD. I had NO idea how to even talk to these little creatures, let alone “raise” them, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

By the time my oldest started school, I was a hot mess as a mother. I questioned everything I did. I always thought I was somehow doing it wrong. I’d look at what all the other moms were doing and try to emulate them – all of them. If neighbor Suzy was using a behavior chart to mete out rewards, then we would get some poster board and create a behavior chart. If fellow room mom Cindy limited her children’s screen time, then we needed to limit screen time, and in the exact same way.

As you can imagine, it was quite impossible to do every single thing that every other mom around me was doing. It’s no wonder I was always falling short in my own mind and felt exhausted from all of the “mom guilt.”

A good friend of mine at the time had four children, ranging in age from five to fifteen. She was one of those “good moms” I was always trying to copy. When she came over with her kids and actually made them wait the recommended fifteen minutes after applying sunscreen (who knew?), a piece of me died inside because my kids were already swimming. Once again, that voice in my head told me this was just one more piece of evidence that I was a failure as a mom.

My perfect sunscreen-applying mentor challenged me to write about what I thought it meant to be a “good mom” as a way to work through my insecurity. I hand wrote out a first draft of my assignment, making sure I didn’t leave any behavior or attitude out. After all, this was going to become my playbook, or so I thought. I edited it, revised it, perfected it and admired it. I felt like I was back in middle school as I hand wrote the final version, like I was turning in a paper for an important grade. Then came the time to review the three-page single-spaced diatribe with Super Mom. I was so proud of myself, and I just knew she would be too! My essay describing a “good mom” was no doubt going to gain her approval as the perfect set of objectives.

I proudly read to her how “good moms” make sure their kids eat healthy, go to bed at a decent time, pray regularly and go to church. I explained that a “good mom” listens to her children, teaches them right from wrong and makes sure they bathe regularly. A “good mom” always sets a good example for her children, sets appropriate limits and helps them to become their best selves. She always sees the good in her children, never pushes too hard and is herself a “good” sister, daughter, Christian, wife, employee, member of society, and of course, she somehow manages to take care of herself as well. It took a while to get through it all.

When I was done, I looked up beaming, expecting my mentor to praise my efforts. I was seriously shocked to get an entirely different reception. All she said was “Wow. No wonder you never feel like you’re a good mom.” but the look on her face said it all. I did not get an “A” on this assignment after all. I had not hit the mark. My expectations of myself, even after I thought I had narrowed them down, were still way too high. I needed to scale back my definition of a “good mom” WAY more before I was even in the right ballpark. She suggested I think more in terms of the basic “essence” of what makes a good mom.

I was dumbfounded. How could I have so misunderstood the assignment? Isn’t it good that I got specific? What exactly did she have a problem with, I wanted to know. Isn’t it good to have high standards? Why shouldn’t I set the bar high for myself? Maybe instead of saying it was a description of a “good mom” I could just rename it to be my “ideal for parenting” and we could quit talking about it already.

But she wouldn’t drop it. When I argued, she argued back.

“You talk a lot about how one of the most important aspects of being a ‘good mom’ is leading your child to know God and specifically, the Christian faith. Does that mean that a Jewish mom is a ‘bad mom’?”

Well, no. Of course not. A Jewish, or Muslim, or Atheist for that matter, can still be a very good mom. I could think of examples of people I knew in all those categories immediately.

“What about the bathing thing? My youngest daughter absolutely detests baths, and I can’t remember the last time she got one. It seriously may have been a month. Does it make me a ‘bad mom’ that she doesn’t take a bath every night?”

This was really rather shocking to hear, but even with the knowledge that it may very well have been a month since one of her daughters had bathed, there was still no question in my mind that Super Mom actually was a super mom.

I thought about what it means to be a “good mom” some more. I prayed about it. I licked my wounds. I read The Glass Castle, a book that was recommended to me that tells a story of a far-from-perfect mom who ends up shaping her daughter into an incredible woman, because of both her weaknesses and her strengths. I thought about how the most “perfect” mom can end up with daughters who struggle with perfectionism their whole lives trying live up to her. And then, finally, one day, I realized Super Mom was right. I needed to seriously cut myself some slack.

And I was set free as a mom.

Here’s my new version of what it means to be a “good mom”:

  • Love unconditionally
  • Encourage your children to be themselves
  • Set limits
  • Teach
  • Try to be the best role model you can be
  • Trust your gut instincts
  • Know your children ultimately belong to God

This list was met with a very different reaction from my friend, but honestly, it didn’t even matter. I no longer cared what she thought. Through the journey, I had come into a new self-confidence that has yet to be shaken, even though it’s been several years since this exercise.

At the end of every day, if I can honestly look at the list above and say that I did my best trying to do those simple things, I know I am a good mom. No matter how many days it’s been since the last bath. No matter if we talked about God or prayed together. No matter when bed time ended up being. No matter how many cookies were eaten.

Even on days when the kids fall asleep in their clothes, without brushing their teeth, in my bed, after having swum immediately after applying sunscreen (gasp), I’m still a good mom.

Being a mom is hard. A lot of blogs have been written about how we all need to quit judging each other, but I think the real problem for most of us is how hard we are on ourselves.

If you’re struggling today with whether you’re a good mom, let me be the mom to help you simplify your expectations of yourself.

Do you love your child unconditionally, just as he or she is?

You’re a good mom.

Do you do your best to set limits and/or teach your child, even if things don’t always go exactly as planned?

You’re a good mom.

Are you trying your best and trusting your gut, even if it means doing something you swore you would never do before you had kids?

You’re a good mom.

We have so much less control than we often think we do. Let’s not spend the precious moments we have with our children worrying that we aren’t good enough. Today, I know I’m a good mom. Join me and let yourself off the hook too. You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

Love Lives Here

Worthless. That’s the only way I can think to describe the way I feel right now.

I know I’m not worthless. And that even if on some level, I AM worthless, it’s okay, because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only thing that gives me worth anyway.

That knowledge is not helping me right now.

I know it’s okay to feel this way sometimes. I am taking my own advice to write about where these feelings are coming from to help battle them!

Feelings of worthlessness are always tied to fear in my experience. Fear that I’m not good enough. That other people are going to be angry at me. That I have made horrible mistakes from which I cannot possibly recover. That I am unlovable and unlikeable and everything in between.

I keep reaching. And seeking. And striving. And praying.

I try to remember just how many times I’ve been here before. And how it always turned out okay. Not just okay, but better than I ever could have imagined. Why would it be any different this time?

Well, let’s see. For starters, I dove head first into planning an event based on ZERO knowledge or experience as an event organizer. I have never taken a marketing class, am totally uncomfortable pushing people to come to things, and did no market research to see how similar events fared in the area.

Nope, I just dove in.

I wasn’t alone, but I feel alone. I was the initiator. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for me. I brought it up. I suggested that we have this event in Plano. Sure, others dove in after me, but they wouldn’t have even though to dive in if I hadn’t done it first.

We rented an entire building and planned for thousands of women to show up to our event. We spent thousands of dollars. We got incredible workshop leaders, speakers and other talent to come perform. We printed and distributed thousands of flyers and post cards. We created a Facebook event and posted like crazy in it. When we noticed we weren’t getting the response we had hoped for, we doubled down and spent even more money to advertise on the radio.

As of right now, we have sold exactly 50 tickets to the event. 50.

I’ve talked through a new layout for the building given the low numbers. We are closing off the biggest room in the building, so we don’t look quite so foolish. But I still feel so foolish. Especially after I asked the event coordinator if she’d ever seen anyone in our situation, and she just point blank said no. Nice.

We’re trying to figure out how best to let the vendors know that we are not going to be anywhere close to the 1,000 women we had projected in our vendor information sheet. We don’t have too many vendors, so I guess that makes it a little better. A week ago, not having a lot of vendors was a major concern; now, it’s a bit of a bright spot. Hopefully the few we have won’t kill us.

As I stew in my self-pity over what a total idiot I am, it’s not helping that since the beginning of the year, we have had one mini-crisis after another. Both my husband’s and my work computers, and our home computer have completely crashed. Everyone has been sick, at least once. We’ve had a flat tire, major health issues with people close to us, and now, both our cars, our roof and our fence have major hail damage. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things.

You might think these things should not contribute to my feelings of inadequacy, but when I’m in the mood I’m in right now, I can find a reason why I’m responsible for just about everything. I hadn’t kept the virus software up-to-date on the home computer, which is why it failed. I obviously don’t make my kids wash their hands enough. Why else would they get sick so much? If our garage wasn’t such a disaster, we could have put both cars in the garage and avoided hail damage. Since I am without doubt, the biggest slob in our family, of course that is my fault. Today, the Monday of the week of the event, my car, which was totaled from hail damage but was at least drive-able, decided not to start.  Obviously, I shouldn’t have let it go past the inspection due date.

It’s all so very selfish when you think about it! As if it’s all about me!

I keep telling myself it’s NOT about ME, but the truth is if I am really going to be able to surrender my ego in all of this, I have to share where I am with others. Especially with other women. So if you are reading this, thank you for being part of my solution today. I need you. We need each other.

At the event I’m planning, I’m also speaking. I’m talking about how it’s okay to just be REAL and live a life that is completely exposed. I’m speaking about how we walk around hiding our vulnerabilities and fears from each other, but they end up coming out anyway, in ways we never intended. There’s a better way. And it starts with being real. And honest. And vulnerable. And authentic. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in weakness.” We cannot be afraid of showing our weakness, because His power is made PERFECT in weakness.

If I’m going to speak authentically at this event, I have to lay my current weakness out on the table now so I’m not a hypocrite.  While I’m still hopeful that in the next two days, we will sell hundreds of tickets, realistically, I have to accept that we may very well have only 60-100 women. And I have to share that an hour ago, when I started writing this, that prospect made me feel worthless. I knew I wasn’t worthless. And that even if on some level, I WAS, it was okay, because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only thing that gives me worth anyway. But that knowledge wasn’t helping.

What has helped is writing about my feelings and thinking about sharing them with you. I imagine what you will say and how you will encourage me. That you might tell me of a similar situation you were in and how it turned out better than you expected. That you might remind me that it’s not over yet. After all, since I’ve been writing this, a reporter called and said she was going to publish a story about the event on Thursday! God has worked bigger miracles than this before. I wouldn’t put it past Him to do a last-second surge just so we’d always know it was HIM and not US.

Maybe you will reassure me that it doesn’t matter who comes, or how many come, it’s about the women who are there. In the Old Testament, there is a story where God is willing to save an entire city if there is just one person worthy. And because of Jesus, we are all somehow worthy. That means he wouldn’t hesitate to spend thousands of dollars even if it was just to save one person. If He wouldn’t consider that wasteful or worthless, how preposterous that I would somehow think I know better!

I am now so excited about this event. I see now that it is going to be amazing no matter how many women show up. How foolish I have been! But not because I dove in too quickly. No, that was just being human. How foolish I have been to worry so much about how I look.

To be so afraid that I’m not good enough. That other people are going to be angry at me. That I have made horrible mistakes from which I cannot possibly recover. That I am unlovable and unlikeable and everything in between.

I am glad I kept reaching. And seeking. And striving. And praying. And sharing.

I’ve been here many times before. And it has always turned out okay. Not just okay, but better than I ever could have imagined. I know it won’t be any different this time.

 

 

Secret #3: Let Go

I recently posted two blog posts with “secrets” for seeking God. These were part of a six-part devotional series I contributed to The Sisterhood blog. Because the third “secret” consisted of content I had already published here, I decided not to re-post it. I can’t very well just skip to “Secret #4” though, can I? That would be cray-cray. So, I am writing something new on the topic of “Secret #3,” Letting Go. Considering that it has been a year or more since I wrote what was published on The Sisterhood blog, this is sorely needed for me.

I originally wrote about how we hold on so tightly to things in this life, when we should just view them like waves of the ocean. We would never hold onto water, right? My previous post compared God to the ocean. Even though the waves change, when we stand in the shoreline, the water constantly swirls at our feet. Like the ocean, God is constant, even if the mechanisms by which He delivers His love change. It all sounded so good and beautiful.

But honestly, lately, it’s just flowery language and a nice-sounding metaphor. Since I wrote that post, I have had to let go of some significant things. I can tell you right now that I didn’t smile and think to myself, “Oh, how lovely! This feels just like water flowing though my hands! At least I can still feel water. It’s a different wave, but it’s still water after all. I’m so relaxed and at peace, just like I am when I’m at the ocean.”

Yeah, no. It felt more like being at Antarctica.

What I’ve had to let go of this past year pales in comparison to what many others have been through, but here is my list:

  • One very close friendship
  • The fantasy that writing and speaking could quickly become a high-paying job
  • Unbelief that I didn’t even realize was there about who Jesus is
  • Thinking that I could get rid of my severe adult acne without prescriptions
  • Needing other people’s approval
  • Many other things that I cannot mention, because they involve stories that are not mine to tell

In each case, I cried, or I fought it, or I got mad, or I did all three. In many cases, I continue to struggle through the process of surrendering these things. If I was to picture myself at the beach dealing with these issues, I would picture myself standing there bawling. Or screaming. Maybe with my arms raised in defiance asking “Why me?”

I can see intellectually that I have also gained so much this year. I see that God is always there, no matter what. I have felt His love constantly throughout every experience I’ve had. But it doesn’t make letting go any less painful. Sometimes life just sucks. People walk away and it hurts. You dream big and try big and get rejected. You have painful cysts all over your face, and nothing you do seems to make a difference.

Of all the things I had to let go of this past year, there is one thing I let go of that WASN’T quite as hard as the others. This past summer, when I was at the beach, I read a book by Jennie Allen called “Anything.” She implored her readers to really dig deep to see if they were willing to do anything for God. The whole time I was reading it, I thought “Yep, that’s me. I’m all in.” But then, as I read story after story of people laying it all on the line, sometimes even losing their lives, for Jesus, it hit me that I wasn’t willing to do the same.

I was certainly willing to surrender everything, even when it felt like being in Antarctica, to God, but I wasn’t sure I was willing to give everything for Jesus. As odd as that may sound, considering I was and still am a Christian, I had to let go of my intellectual understanding of Jesus and replace it with a surrender to Him on a heart and soul level. When I did that, I felt a peace and relief I had not known before. All of a sudden, it all made sense. Everything I’d been saying and writing and speaking about – that it’s okay not to be perfect, that brokenness is beautiful, that God is in everything, that everything is okay right in this moment – it’s all because of Jesus and what He did on the cross.

In 2016, I face so many new things I have to let go of. Changes will surely happen at work, like they always do. Relationships will continue to evolve, like they always do. I am sure something will be lost that I can’t even imagine right now. Right this second, the biggest thing I need to remember to surrender is Love Lives Here Plano, the women’s event on April 9th that I am working with The Sisterhood to plan. We are hoping to have 1,000 women attend. This is proving to be more challenging than I ever expected. Event planners already had my respect, but they now get even more. I’ve had to let go of many things related to the event, including who I thought would help plan the event, what the content would be, and how the event would be funded. I have not always let go of these things with grace. I know there will be more in the days and weeks to come that will be different than what I am expecting, and I continue to pray and give the event and everything related to it to God, asking Him to use it all for His purposes.

In all fairness, planning the event has also proven to be more rewarding and fulfilling than I ever could have expected, and I know it is going to be a phenomenal event. It just isn’t always easy to let go and let God run the show. In fact, instead of comparing letting go to the ocean, I think I might start comparing it to physically ripping open my chest and giving God my heart. That is what it feels like sometimes to surrender. Like I’m tearing myself apart and open for something that I cannot see. I may have gone a bit too far in the other direction…. I do have a tendency to be over dramatic.

Maybe, instead of making any comparisons or analogies, I just need to let things be what they are. “It is what it is” used to be an expression that drove me crazy, but now it is one of my favorites.

It is what it is. People walk away and it hurts. Someone who has never planned an event tries to bring a women’s conference to her city, and it is harder than she expects. No matter what, God is always there, through all of it. And because of Jesus, it’s all okay.

I am also speaking at Love Lives Here… and I’m speaking about Jesus! If you had told me ten years ago that I would be writing and speaking about Jesus, I would not have believed you. Maybe I would be talking about “my faith,” or “God,” or “spirituality,” but definitely not “Jesus.” I had told myself for so long that I was called to share with others about God without talking too much about “Jesus,” because my message might go over their heads, but really, it was because of me. I thought you might not be comfortable with “Jesus,” but really I was the one who wasn’t comfortable.

When I started asking God, on a daily basis, to make Jesus real to me on a heart and soul level, He did. Letting go of my old conception of Jesus Christ was easy, because the reality of His love and forgiveness soon flooded into my heart. Sort of like a wave of the ocean.