God Is So Big: A Look at Psalm 139

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God Is So Big: A Look at Psalm 139

When I was a little girl, I loved to sing and dance. There are videotapes of me from around 1989-1990 in which I sing and dance to my favorite songs. I am teased, lovingly, by my family for these videos. You know – the cute little version of yourself that you can’t live down? So there’s this one particular video that has been quoted to me ad nauseum in which I go on a spree of theological depth, especially for a 3-year-old. I say something like, “God is so big. He’s so big, that you can’t even see him when you’re reading the bible!” Except that I’m a southern 3-year-old, so it actually sounds something like, “Gawd is sooo bee-ug! Hay’s sooo bee-ug, that yooo caint even say eem when yer readin’ the bah-bull!” But yeah, you get the idea, I’m adorable and three and I totally understand this crazy concept of God’s bigness.

When you’re little, it’s so easy to understand that something is unfathomably big, because everything’s big to you! I even remember the picture I had of God at this age – I would read the bible so I could know God, but I couldn’t see him because his bigness made it impossible. I pictured my little self holding my bible, and my little self only measured up to the ankle of God’s long Dumbledore robes. (Dumbledore didn’t exist yet at the time, but you know Dumbledore is how we all pictured God – tall, skinny, long-bearded, white-haired dude in white robes.) And my little self could look up, and I could see just a tiny bit of God – that portion of the white robes that wasn’t too gargantuan to see, but God himself held the world. I mean it’s actually kind of deep when you think about it, really. I think there’s a reason why Jesus praised the faith of a child.

This idea of a gargantuan God knowing me – it’s amazing, and beautiful, and easy to forget as an adult. I’m a well-educated big girl now, and it’s easy to think of myself as smart, thoughtful, and big. I’ve grown, but I’ve also puffed up. And this is why I love Psalm 139. David takes time in this song to sing about some earthly, poetic comparisons to God’s bigness, the exposure of my sinful puffed-upness, and the wonderful truth that my actual smallness doesn’t stop God from knowing every little thing about me.

Verses 1-6: Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me. This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.

God can see into the depths of my soul. He knows exactly what I’m doing and thinking. I love “you understand my thoughts from far away.” I think of the best friends I’ve ever had – you know, those friends who just understand me, and I never have to explain myself? And those friends who I can go a long time without talking to, and when we talk again, we just pick up right where we left off as if there hasn’t been any time at all? God just gets me. He knows what I mean when I talk. When I stray from his side and then repent and return, we pick up right where we left off. He knew me wherever I went. I also love “you are aware of all my ways.” I think about my husband in this one – he knows exactly how to load the dishwasher the way I like and that I prefer to run all laundry with cold water. He knows that I like the bed made so that I can slide into the covers every night and that the milk goes on the top shelf of the refrigerator and not the door. He knows that toilet paper goes over, not under (this one isn’t a preference, it’s just the difference between right and wrong, obviously). Ryan knows my ways. How much more does my God! He knows both my funny quirks and the depths of ugly I can reach. He knows. Before I talk, he knows what I’m going to say. He could finish my sentences. He can predict my instinctual responses to things. He knows. He encircles me – he hems me in, in NIV translation. I think of the Israelites being led by God with the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud. God is before me and behind me. He’s big enough to completely surround me, yet he can understand the smallest things about me. I can’t fathom this! Like David says, this extraordinary knowledge is above me, too lofty for me to reach. My wee brain just can’t get this. God is so big.

Verses 7-12: Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, Even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will become night” Even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you.

This idea of the enormity of God can be comforting, like it was from 3-year-old Mely. But also, it is totally overwhelming. When reading verse 7, I immediately think of Adam and Eve, right after the fall in Genesis 3:

Verses 8-10: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” 

Upon the exposure of his sinful soul, Adam’s instinct is to hide from God. It’s too much to fathom, and it hurts to think about – we can suddenly see just how “naked” we are, and it’s scary and embarrassing! We think that the darkness can hide us, so we hide. But God is the very light. Darkness flees, shadows fall back, and we are left completely bare, the camera’s exposure setting whacked way up, light seeping into every festering corner. God is light, and light exposes all. He sees into the darkness as if it is as bright as noon. We can’t run away from Him. We can’t hide or escape. This is both awful and wonderful. I’m embarrassed of the darkness in me, of how dirty and gross and dark my sin is, and how very different I am from His light. So I try to hide, which is silly. My darkness isn’t a surprise to God. It’s just like day to Him.

Verses 13-16: For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.

I. Love. This. Part. For so many reasons. For one, I am a mother, so I’ve literally felt a child (two children, actually) as they’ve formed in my womb. It is total magic to feel those fluttery kicks and dream of who that little creature will be. And as those little creatures grew in me, I had no idea, and I still have no idea, who they’ll become. Total magic. But God knows. He’s so big, yet He is intricate enough to form babies from nothing – remarkable, individual, totally unique creatures whose basic existence brings Him glory. Total and complete magic, you guys.

I also love this verse for myself. It’s easy (and natural) to feel insignificant when I begin to come to terms with the great vastness of God. But it’s just the opposite! How can I ever be insignificant if the God of the universe took the time to create me from my very guts? The Hebrew word for “inward parts” is actually the word for kidneys here. In ancient Hebrew culture, the kidneys were believed to be a metaphor for a person’s most inner self – soul, conscience, feelings. Kidneys are not easily accessible organs, or at least they certainly weren’t to ancient Jews, so they are a representation of the parts of us that people cannot easily see, but are innate to our existence and still totally visible to God. God took the time to create me all the way down to my soul. I am totally individual, totally planned, totally thought of. Your works are wonderful, God! I know that full well! 

God is the great Artist. He planned me when I was formless, and He knew already exactly who I would be, like a great sculptor picturing a masterpiece out of a lump of marble. It’s just way cool, like Hagrid playing a mouse-sized game of Operation and somehow executing it perfectly. Magic!

Verses 17-18 God, how difficult your thoughts are for me to comprehend; how vast their sum is! If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of sand; when I wake up, I am still with you. 

Not only is God vast, but so are His thoughts. This is where my puffed-upness comes to the forefront of my mind. I’m so smart, right? I understand stuff. I’m logical, and I have wisdom, right? This gets real for me, because one of my most sinful areas is my tendency to think I’m always right and I have all the answers. The truth, though, is that I just don’t get it. His thoughts are higher than mine. There is a whole level of truth and God-logic that I’ll never comprehend. I could sit there and count grains of sand. Or I think of Horton searching through 2,999,999 clovers to find the people of Whoville, and I realize that I’m just one tiny Who of thought among that enormous clover field of God-thoughts. How am I so small? And then how am I still important? And then, and then, how is He still with me, still seeking and searching me like Horton, never giving up on he Whos? Unfathomable.

Verses 19-22: God, if only you would kill the wicked – you bloodthirsty men, stay away from me – Who invoke you deceitfully. Your enemies swear by you, falsely. Lord, don’t I hate those who hate you, and detest those who rebel against you? I hate them with extreme hatred; I consider them my enemies.

This is probably the most confusing part of the psalm, as it is seemingly random. All this beautiful and encouraging talk about our worth is suddenly a stark contrast to this obviously hateful speech. But I think the hateful speech is here to make a grander point. David sees characteristics that he hates in his enemies: those who pray to God in deceit, for their own gain, those who swear by God but don’t really believe in Him, those who rebel against God. He acknowledges that these traits are evil, and he doesn’t want any part of them. After all this talk about God seeing him and his inability to escape God, God’s omniscience and omnipresence and omnipotence, David wants to plea with God to remove the parts of himself that mock God and reflect sin. This becomes clear at the conclusion of the chapter:

Verses 23-24: Search me, o God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.

David knows what God finds offensive: it’s our tendency to make ourselves as big as God. We idolize ourselves, pretending to pray to God when we think we know the answers ourselves and instead doing whatever we want, we speak as if we know God but don’t act in a way that reflects the humility that comes from understanding God’s greatness, and we go our own way instead of following God’s. David prays – after praising God and being in awe of His greatness – that he’ll never take God’s greatness for granted. He prays that God will adjust the parts of him that praise himself, so that he can focus his praise on the One who really deserves it.
God, you see me for exactly who I am, wonderfully made from guts to bones to skin to soul, planned and purposed by you for your glory. I’m so small, yet still so significant anyway. I’m worth something to you. Help me to see the things about myself that are sinful, and remove those things from me so that I can walk with you forever.

On Periods of Waiting

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On Periods of Waiting

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. -Proverbs 3:5-6

Have you heard that phrase – that obnoxious phrase – oh I hate it – “When God closes a door, he opens a window?” Man, I hate it.

I hate it because it is untrue and intended to comfort people. Don’t be comforted by stuff that isn’t true!!! That’s false comfort, and it doesn’t come from God. We are comforted by God, but if it is from Him, it has to be true. So here’s the truth:

“Sometimes God closes the doors. And He closes the windows. And you have to wait. And He’s still good.”

This whole concept of waiting is not new to me, and I bet it isn’t new to you either. We’re always waiting for something. One of my best friends has been waiting for almost a whole year for her house to finish being built. She’s made decision after decision after decision, dreaming and hoping and waiting and waiting for them to finish. She was finally able to move in, but they still aren’t done, so she’s still waiting a bit for those finishing touches. I have a very close friend who hasn’t been able to have any children, and she aches for that greatly. She is hoping and dreaming and waiting and waiting. My sister would love the chance to purchase a bigger home so that there is ample room for visitors, but it isn’t time yet, so she’s waiting. I am waiting for something, too, and I honestly just don’t get why it hasn’t happened for me yet. It makes totally logical sense for it to happen, and only good can come of it happening. So why hasn’t it happened yet? Will it ever happen?

This is what trusting God is.

It’s waiting and waiting forever for something you hope for, something exciting, something wonderful, depending on God to give it to you, and being content even though you don’t have it yet.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. -Psalm 13

I think one of the funniest things about the Christian life is patience. It’s this odd thing that we are so good at in some ways and so bad at in others. Like for example, I am so patient with kids, especially obnoxious ones. I can deal with them all day without ever losing it. I’ve had a lot of practice doing this, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it. And also, God has taught me that it is imperative to be patient with those kids, because they learn so much from my example of patience. But then I turn around in the very same day, and I get so frustrated that I don’t have the extra money to get new carpet in my living room right now. I mean, it is horrible, horrible carpet. Anyone will tell you how stained and gross it is. I bet my friends are grossed out to walk on it. It is just the worst. But we don’t have the extra money for it right now, so the answer is no. And I start to act like a baby toward God, like all whiny and obnoxious, and I go, “God! Why? Why can’t I just have new carpet? Why can’t I just have nice things? WHYYYYYYY? GRRRRRR.” This is a silly example, but a totally realistic one. Why is it so easy for me to trust God that my students need my patience but I can’t trust God to provide for me?

Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart.” -Psalm 27:14

Being the ever-loving musician that I am, I always come up with song lyrics first in these situations. I think of “God is God and I am not, I can only see a part of the picture he’s painting, God is God and I am man, I will never understand it all, for only God is God” by Steven Curtis Chapman, “When you don’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move, when you don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through, when you don’t give the answers when I cry out to you, I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you” by Lauren Daigle, “can’t imagine what the future holds, but I’ve already made my choice, and this is where I stand until He moves me on, and I will listen to His voice” by Twila Paris, “thy will be done, thy will be done, thy will be done” by Jesus in the bible and also Hillary Scott’s lyrics (this is an amazing song, oh my word).

I know what is true in these situations. I’m waiting for something because God’s timing is better than mine. He knows what He is doing, and I don’t. I can’t understand it, but I choose to wait for Him to tell me where to go. He has a better reason than I know. He sees the whole picture, but I only see part. So then I try to apply that knowledge, because I’m always the logical one. But God, it doesn’t make any sense that I’m not getting this thing that I want! Everything points to the fact that I should get it. Why isn’t it as clear to everyone else as it is to me? I mean, seriously, I’m a whiny baby. I’m like the two-year-old screaming over fruit snacks in the grocery store (is this anyone else’s normal life right now? Anyone?) because I can’t understand why I can’t immediately rip open all the boxes and have them right this minute!

So I think the key here is that I need to find some contentment. Trusting God is the same thing as contentment. We will never be content on our own, because we will always want more. We will always want to fill ourselves with something else. My heart is unsteady, always flitting and floating to whatever new thing brings it pleasure, always forgetting the greatest pleasure is complete and restful trust. And it seems that with trust comes the waiting. I live in this strange collision of waiting and living. I mean, after all, even Dumbledore knew, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” I’m waiting for these things that I’m hoping and praying for, but I’m trying to make sure I’m living the life Jesus wants to me to live at the same time.

I can’t help but think of Harry Potter in this. I mean, y’all know Harry Potter is my boy. But seriously, that Dumbledore quote above is from Philosopher’s Stone (that’s Sorcerer’s Stone for all you fake, half-hearted fan people)(okay, sorry, that was harsh) when Harry discovers the Mirror of Erised, which shows him his heart’s desire. The tragedy of Harry’s vision is that he seems himself surrounded by his family, all of whom have died. So Harry’s greatest dream, his absolute heart’s desire, is something that can never be. When I was like 11 and read this, I didn’t think anything of it really, except the normal 11-year-old “oh boy that’s sad, no wonder he wants to sit here and stare at this all the time.” But as an adult, this pierces my soul a whole new way. How many dreams are my heart’s desire than I can never have? Or, more importantly, from a faith standpoint, how many dreams are my heart’s desire that aren’t God’s heart’s desire for me? Am I sitting around waiting for something, staring into my own personal Mirror of Erised, wasting my life away because my dream isn’t something I can have? And then I next think of One Tree Hill (oh yeah, I’m a major fangirl), which doesn’t really teach Christian principles very much, but I remember this episode where Nathan decided to tell everyone that he point shaved in the playoffs even though it was going to cost him his basketball scholarship. He tells Haley something like, “The people I respect the most are those who got up and went on with their lives when their dreams were dead, and went out and found a new dream.” Nathan had accepted that he needed to do the right thing even if it resulted in losing his entire life’s dream. There is great strength in the willingness to do that.

I think about this for me and my life: what if I never get what I want? What if this perfectly logical thing that I greatly desire never happens for me? Will I be okay with that? Will I be able to trust God if He doesn’t move the mountain I want Him to move? Will I be okay if the answer to my fervent prayers is “no?”

My friend Ellie writes a blog, and she posted this meme on hers that said, “And if not, He is still good.” This is the key! While I’m waiting, I need to pray within God’s will.

“Your will be done, God. I want this very much, and it makes perfect sense that I should get it. But if not, You are still good. I trust you. I won’t waste my life hoping for a yes when I’ve gotten a clear no. I won’t harbor bitterness or resentment because of that no. You are good to me.”

I have this absolute favorite album. It’s “Fortunate Fall” by Audrey Assad. That chick can write some music, y’all. Seriously. This album gets me through my day. It is so full of subtle wisdom and amazing lines that I could meditate on all day long. So I’m going to close this gab-fest of semi-random thoughts with the lyrics to one of the songs:

I put all my hope in the truth of Your promise
And I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness
When I’m bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joyBecause You are good to me, good to me

I lift up my eyes to the hills where my help is found
Your voice fills the night – raise my head up to hear the sound
Though fires burn all around me I will praise You, my God
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

Your goodness and mercy shall follow me
All my life
I will trust in Your promise
cause you’re good. Good to me.

And all God’s people said…

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And all God’s people said…

This week has been awful for our country. Facebook makes it worse – we only see portions of people, and we forget that they are people. We find something they said to be absolutely horrible, or unforgivable, or we think that they aren’t the people we thought they were because they have some heinous opinion about something. This seems to be especially prevalent among my church peeps. I have seen many people this week who I respect as Christians posting things that I so strongly disagree with. And I know I ruffled a few feathers and caused some pearl clutching with my #blacklivesmatter post.

Some of these issues stream from the skewed versions of ourselves that we present on Facebook, a place where we can readily share opinions with our audience without quite as much of the accountability that takes place when you say something right to someone’s face. I always try to say things on Facebook that I would be willing to say in real life, but it’s hard to convey tone, too, so even those things can be misinterpreted.

And then I can go back in time in my mind, to the world before Facebook, or even texting for that matter, when my church, my Christian brothers and sisters, treated my family in a way that was undoubtedly anti-God. When I felt cast aside by the very people who were supposed to unconditionally love me, and I wasn’t supported even though the issue was completely unrelated to me. I was 15, and my church broke my heart. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand how Christians could be like this. And I didn’t want to be grouped with them. (Sometimes I still don’t.) But I loved my Jesus. It’s honestly a miracle to me – when I look back on sophomore year of high school – that I’m still a Christian. I’ve never denounced my God, somehow, by his grace, even though I hated his church, and his people. Clearly, this division in the church is not only related to Facebook or social media, because it was present even in 2002.

I expect division between non-Christians and Christians – we disagree on basic life things, so it makes sense that the tension there is palpable. Interestingly, though, we Christians have so much tension, too, because even though we agree on the most basic life thing, we can somehow still manage to disagree on, like, everything else. [Our sermon was about that this morning in church – finding the way of love when there are disagreements about the non-essentials of Christian life, learning how to love other Christians even when you disagree with them, and finding a place of unity with our love for Christ and for each other. It was a super good sermon, and totally applicable right now (as always, love my pastors!).]

Along this topic line, I find myself every week looking at my church family. Yes, I still go to church. I had to keep going as a high school kid since my dad was the Music Minister, and I mostly kept going in college (although I took a “finding-myself break” for a while there as most college kids do). I go to a big church now (a big, amazing, beautiful, wonderful church), and I probably know like 15% of the people who go there. I know all the people on the worship arts team, because that’s my place and home (hashtagworshiparts hashtagworshipchoir). And I know my similarly-aged pals with similarly-aged kiddos and similarly-aged lifestyles. But for the most part, I don’t really know the people. This could make it easy for them to just be “its” to me instead of people. There’s a disconnect there because there aren’t relationships. And part of me wants to fight that and try to get to know literally everyone who attends my church, but I know that’s unrealistic. I’m just not in a phase of life where that’s possible, and also you can honestly only cultivate so many meaningful relationships before everyone is just a casual acquaintance because you don’t have the time to deepen any of those friendships. The more realistic part of me knows to be loving and friendly and servant-minded, and the closer friendships will develop with the people God puts in my life over time.

It’s easier to love people when you don’t know them, I think. Once you have a chance to see how imperfect they are, it’s easier to dismiss them or find them disappointing. But when you haven’t met them yet, there’s an imaginary version of each person that you meet that you expect them to be like. I find myself looking at all the people and wondering about their stories and lives and families, and finding it so magical that we love the same Jesus and we’ll know each other someday for sure even though we’re adjacent strangers worshipping right now.

And that’s the magic of it all. That magic is so easy to forget when we get to know actual people – when we realize that the romanticized version of them that we made up in our own heads just isn’t true, or when we see how sinful they are (just like us). But the magic is still there – adjacent strangers worshipping are totally broken and messed up sinners who have recognized their all-powerful, ever-loving, wonderfully gracious God and stand together before him and worship.

Sometimes, I’m on the worship team, and I wear in-ear monitors so I can get a good mix of the band and voices. These are awesome, and a super cool piece of technology that I’m really grateful for. But with my ears in, I can’t hear the congregation. And then there are the weeks where I’m off – that was this week. And I get to sit in the congregation and look around. And again, we’re broken, sinful, adjacent strangers worshipping the same God. In the same family, brothers and sisters not even knowing each others’ names.

I love this.

I love it! I can’t get enough of this magic. There are billions of people who have lived and are living. There are billions who have known and know Jesus. Who come together across the entire globe to live for Him and worship Him and love Him. Who disagree on all kinds of theology and have different kinds of families and different problem sin areas and different strengths and different stories. And we all sing together, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord” or “in Christ alone, my hope is found.” And we all have the most important thing in common. It moves me to tears when I see the people around me worshipping our God. Like every week.

In our individualistic America, I think we forget that magic sometimes. There are a whole world of people who love the same Jesus I love, and have been moved by his message the same way I have. We are so different, yet so alike. He saved us all. We are broken and beautiful and we do the wrong things and we’re forgiven. We can embrace and accept and show compassion and love and tenderness and accountability because that’s what was shown to us by Christ. There is so much power in our ability to forgive, our magic to love people who we don’t even know.

So I encourage you, when you are feeling bitter and angry toward God’s church, who probably broke you in half like it did to me when I was 15, to come to church anyway and sing with them. Listen to the people next to you worshipping the same God, and know that He is doing for them what He is doing for you. Feel joyful and connected and at peace about this ugly, imperfect, broken church who is trying to figure out this whole Jesus-love magic.

This is how the world is supposed to know that we are His. We are one group, one body and we serve one King. And it seems like a whole lot of the time, in order to serve our King, we have to put aside our differences and focus on our similarity.

Bring us together, God! Help us to accept and love and forgive each other and hold each other accountable. Help us to show the world that we are yours because of how we love one another.

And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

 

Thirsty

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Thirsty

There was once a young girl who was placed in a desert. She was completely alone. She was hot. She started walking, hoping to get herself out of there, but she couldn’t figure out where she was going. She walked all through the day, north, following the pattern of the sun. It was very hot. Her feet were hurting. She was hungry and thirsty. But she didn’t see any sign of anything changing.

She started to dwell on how miserable the desert was, and she could only feel alone, and tired, and thirsty. She was so thirsty. The more she thought about how thirsty she was, the more thirsty she got. And as she began to feel cotton-mouthed, totally parched, completely dry, she started to get angry. Why was she here? Why was she alone? Why did it have to be so hot? Why couldn’t she have better shoes for this, or something to shade herself? If only she could have a drink.

Then she saw it – a stream, ahead of her. She thought if only she could get to the stream to get a drink, she’d have everything she ever needed. She would have enough. She could get through anything else, if only her thirst could be fulfilled. She put all of her energy, everything that she had, toward getting to that stream. And there she was, finally. And she drank and drank until she was full. The water was sweet and cold and so very fulfilling.

Still in the desert, but now with a source of water, she followed the path of the stream. When she felt overwhelmed, like she couldn’t go any further, she was able to take a drink. She was still tired, and somewhat hot, but she was no longer thirsty, and the fulfillment of her thirst was all she needed to keep going.

But following the path of the stream, the girl started to become angry again. Why was she here? Why was she alone? Why couldn’t she have better shoes for this, or something to shade herself? Even though the stream was enough – it was satisfying and fulfilling and more than enough to get her through – she found herself only able to think about what she still didn’t have. In her anger, she felt resentment toward the water. Why couldn’t the water grow a tree to provide her with shade, too? Why couldn’t the water bring a friend on a boat to rescue her? She started to hate the water, and out of spite, she stopped drinking and turned her back to it. Walking next to the water, she refused to drink any more. The sun beat down on her. She scowled. Her feet ached. She grumped, and huffed, and filled her mind and her heart with her misery. Her mouth started to get dry. And then, again, she was thirsty.

This time, she knew in the depths of her heart exactly what would fulfill her again, and she knew that it was right there next to her, but she was mad at the water for not doing enough, so she stubbornly didn’t want any part of it. So she ignored her aching thirst and kept going. She filled her mind with lies about the water. It didn’t taste very good anyway. It was warm. It’s not enough for me, so I don’t want it at all. And then she filled her mind with the desert. This is the worst place I’ve ever been. I’m so miserable here. I’m so alone, and it’s not even my fault. Why can’t I have shade? Why can’t this sand be easier to walk on? Why does the sun have to be so hot? Will it ever become night here, and cool? Will I ever have a friend with me? I will be stuck along this path forever, with no way out.

After a while of dwelling on the desert, the girl, though she was walking right next to the water, forgot that it was there. She ignored the dull, dry ache in her throat and thought about how awful everything was. After a long bit of walking, she was getting to the point where she couldn’t ignore it anymore. She was thirsty. She was so, so thirsty. If only there were some water. She remembered long ago when she had water, and it filled her up so well. She remembered how it felt, that it was everything she had needed. She remembered drinking it but still wanting other things. She realized how wrong she had been, and she wished she could go back to where she had been, where the water was so exciting, so refreshing, so fulfilling, so cooling, and just enough for her – exactly what she needed. Then she started to get angry again. She thought she’d never just be able to have everything that she wanted. Couldn’t there just be trees next to the water, so she could have shade and a drink? Couldn’t there be nice hiking shoes there, so her feet wouldn’t hurt so bad? I mean, how hard was that? She knew there had to be other people in the world who got the stream with the tree and the shoes. Why couldn’t she be one of those?

After a longer period, and thinking fully about how very miserable she was, the girl was so thirsty that she couldn’t stand it anymore. And all this time, the water was right next to her – cool, healing, delightful, fulfilling, enough – but she just couldn’t see it.


When I read this story, I just want to shout at the girl. OPEN YOUR EYES! The thing you need, the exact thing that gives you everything you need, is right in front of you! How are you so obtuse?

But I also feel for her. I mean, I am her, obviously. I know exactly what fulfills me. I know that Jesus is enough. I know He is all I need, and He is my joy. But I ignore that by dwelling on everything else that I think is going to make me happy until I forget that the Living Water is right there, next to me. And then I’m so thirsty for the Living Water, and I ache for the joy that it brought, in those sweet, precious moments when I realized exactly Who was enough for me. But He’s right there. I mean, He is RIGHT THERE. I am the girl who is walking along the desert, complaining about how thirsty she is, angry and bitter and sad and alone and depressed, with all the water I need within arms reach.

I think joy is a choice. Joy doesn’t mean that we aren’t in the desert anymore. It just means we choose to drink the water that is sitting right next to us instead of choosing to think about how miserable the desert is. This shift in attitude seems so cliche, but it’s really all we need because we already have the One we need.


The bible talks about this change of attitude when we know Christ.

When we know Jesus, we set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). We don’t conform any longer to the pattern of this world (such as our desire for stuff or comparing ourselves to other people or thinking that we are good enough to do things on our own), but instead we are transformed by the renewing of our minds – when our minds are set on Christ, they are renewed, just like being thirsty and then getting water – and then we can see more clearly what God wants us to do because we are in tune with His calling. We don’t have all those things of the earth blocking Him out anymore, because He renewed our minds (Romans 12:2). We are able to think about the blessings we have instead of all the terrible things going on – whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy things – those are what we dwell on (Philippians 4:8). And the verses before that (Philippians 4:6-7) shows us that when we prayerfully submit to God instead of choosing anxiousness, He renews our minds by granting us the peace that surpasses our understanding, which guards our hearts. In other words, when we are being fulfilled by that Living Water, God gives us the ability to dwell in Him and the fact that He is enough. We don’t have to be anxious anymore about stuff, and we don’t have to want anything else. Even when things don’t make any sense, and we should, according to regular people, be freaking out about them, God’s renewing of our minds gives us a peace that doesn’t make any sense to anybody else.

This peace is the contentment that I ache for. It’s the opposite of my thirst. And the beautiful thing is – I don’t even have to renew my own mind! I just have to choose to drink the water that is right there next to me, and the Holy Spirit does all the work.


As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42

 

 

Whole30 Day 1 Breakfast

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Whole30 Day 1 Breakfast

I’ve been having trouble lately with the blog, mostly because I’m having trouble in my spiritual life. I think we all have seasons where we are not actively seeking God like we were in the previous season. I’ve felt so empty and sad and alone for a couple of months. Part of this is my post-partum depression (hooray!), which is a daily battle. But some of it is just my choice – I’m choosing other things over spending time with God. Which is the dumbest thing to do and also the easiest thing to do.

Anyway, after a week of really low days, I decided it was time to make a life change. I also realized that I only have this year left to run a marathon in order to complete my By-the-Time-I’m-30 Bucket List, so I decided that the best way to combat depression and meet my goal was to start marathon training. Around the same time, Husband and I realized that we are lethargic and sleeping poorly and with my depression on top of that, we aren’t doing so great. So after prayerful consideration, we have committed to give a shot to this Whole30 nightmare thing.

My fears:

  • I am now going to have to cook 3 meals a day. I was previously cooking approximately 1/2 a meal per day on average.
  • This might be expensive if I’m not super smart.
  • The part of me that dreads having to be super smart (the part that knows I’ll have to be disciplined and routined and scheduled ) is very sad about this.

My joys:

  • Cooking is fun!
  • Eating delicious food is fun!
  • Eating delicious food that is healthy is extra fun – two for one special!
  • My body is going to react well to this, probably.
  • I have known for a while that I’m lactose intolerant and I avoid it because I HEART cheese, but this way I’ll have at least 30 recipes that don’t involve cheese and we’ll see if they are delicious enough to bear cutting it completely from my life.

Okay, enough yapping. Time for food.

Oh, but one more thing: I stink at taking food pictures. This isn’t a food blog. So excuse the ugly picture and trust that the food tastes delicious.


Turkey “Italian Sausage” Breakfast Meatloaf

Ingredients

1 T coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 1.2 lb package of Fit ‘N Active Ground Turkey (ALDI YALL)
2 eggs
1/2 cup almond flour (this is the weirdest, most difficult to find ingredient on the list, that’s for sure. If you aren’t whole30-ing it, just use regular flour or breadcrumbs)
1 T garlic powder
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp sage
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450.
Cook the onion in the coconut oil over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
Combine all ingredients into a large bowl. Smush with your hands, because FUN and because GROSS. Make into a loaf shape.
Prep a cookie sheet with oil. Put the loaf on the cookie sheet.
Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes.
(Fun fact: this is better if you make it the night before and then quickly fry up the slices the next morning for breakfast)

Fry eggs to go on top and YUM.

We ate grapes with ours because fruit is good for you.

 

Hope you enjoy!

Guerilla Grace

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Guerilla Grace

All right guys, I’m weighing in. God give me grace in my words. Yes, I meant to spell “guerilla” like that, because this kind of grace is rough and tough and unkempt and difficult, but beautifully successful when done well.
If you’re mad at that mom for her kid falling into the gorilla enclosure, I get it. She should have been watching him more carefully. There are a million tiny things that could have gone differently that would have yielded better results, or at least less heartbreaking results than a beloved gorilla’s death. But you really need to understand that the mom most certainly feels enough guilt on her own. We fret and freak and worry and blame ourselves for everything that ever happens to our kids, and we don’t need the entire world’s blame added to that. We spend some much time completely petrified, and that fear is often justified when our kids get into dangerous situations or don’t make the best choices. Trust me, her guilt is punishment enough, and there is no need to crucify her.

I’m very sad that anyone was put in a position where they felt the need to kill the gorilla Harambe. It is so, so sad, and infuriating, and sickening. But the situation was also an accident. Kids are sneaky and unpredictable and honestly very stupid at that age. Their brains haven’t developed enough to understand how to keep themselves out of danger. And moms get judged when kids that old are in strollers and when kids that old are on leashes or being worn. Or if they are on leashes or being worn or in strollers and are screaming, we get judged that we aren’t a good enough parent to keep our kid happy, so yeah, she was already going to be judged anyway. You can’t say “I would never have let that happen” because you can’t control everything and terrible accidents do happen. If nothing like this ever happened to your kid, it was your lucky stars, or the grace of God, or however you want to think of it. It wasn’t because you are a superior parent.

I am saddened by our society’s constant need to find someone to blame when something goes wrong. This was an accident. A million tiny things could have prevented it, but it happened. It still happened. And there is no point getting all worked up about what “should have been,” because what “should have been” isn’t what happened. What happened is what happened. And now let’s please extend some grace to a person who I’m sure is feeling worse by herself than even the whole world is trying to make her feel.

When Ellie was 10 months old, she fell down our entire flight of basement stairs because I left the door open when I went to change out laundry. It was horrifying – she completely flipped over 3 times like a rag doll and landed hard on her back. I held her and cried my eyes out for 30 minutes after I made sure she was okay. There was no gorilla to drag her around (whether playfully or violently) at the bottom, and there was no one watching to tell me a million times how horrible of a mom I was being. And I’m still sick to my stomach when I think about it. I could’ve, I should’ve, I would’ve – it doesn’t matter because it happened. 

We have to learn how to call an accident an accident, or a terrible dilemma a terrible dilemma, instead of finding the need to place the blame on someone. It wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t the zoo’s fault, it wasn’t Harambe’s fault. It happened.

Now Christians, remember how I said “crucify her” above? You know where that phrase comes from. Someone was already crucified, someone who never did anything wrong or worth crucifying. He did it for me – so that I don’t have to be blamed for all the terrible things that I do – not the accidents even, but the terrible things I do on purpose. The times when I choose myself over the needs of others. The times when I do or say the nasty thing instead of the kind thing. He died for me, and he died for you, and he died for that mom. So these words are especially for you if you are a Christian, because you’ve already come face to face with your sin and shame and chosen to accept the grace extended to you for no good reason other than love. So please consider choosing to extend that same grace to this woman that was freely lavished upon you. We can choose kindness and grace and love even in our sorrow. Kind of like what God did for us.

An Announcement 

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This is long, but I’m excited about the announcement that comes at the end of all the backstory so I hope you’ll suffer through and read the whole thing.

In spring of 2002, I stood among hundreds of girls in the Southern Division Regional Honor Choir in either Virginia or North Carolina (I can’t remember) and auditioned for a small ensemble of 16 singers for one of the pieces. Anton Armstrong kindly told me I had a lovely voice, and I would never be the same again. I was good at something, and I was hooked.In the spring of 2003, Moses Hogan was supposed to conduct the Mississippi All State Honor Choir, but he died just a few weeks before. We dedicated the concert to him, and there was such a presence of reverence and respect and awe and sadness in the room. So many adults were crying. There was something healing about the music that brought mourning people peace, and I was hooked.

In January of 2004, the Illinois All State Chorus sang the Finale from the Gondoliers, and we filled the room with joy. It was silliness and laughter and joy from music, and I was hooked.

In January of 2005, Edith Copley conducted the men in the Illinois All State Honors Chorus to sing The Awakening. I sat among those men, their voices surrounding me, as they sang, “Awake, awake my soul and sing! The time for praise has come. The silence of the night has passed, a new day has begun. Let music never die in me, forever let my spirit sing, wherever emptiness is found let there be joy and glorious sound! Awake, awake! Let music live! Let music live!” That was the moment. I clearly remember deciding in that moment that I was officially never going to stop with the whole choir thing. If I could just give anyone the experience that I’d had through choirs in high school, I would be a success, and in that attempt, I was going to go to college to pursue vocal music education.

I went to college and had even more amazing choral experiences. I was lucky and blessed and obsessed, like singing Praise to the Lord on the Great Wall of China. Then some things happened that resulted in a student teaching placement of only K-8 instead of high school, and I was pretty disappointed. But it turned out that elementary music was a really fun, different, challenging experience, and I really enjoyed it. But my dream of never giving up on the choir thing never disappeared. It was just swept under the rug in favor of my love for the littles and a budding romance with the love of my life. There was even a point where I was just so content where I was, and I didn’t even feel the need to move up to “meat and potatoes” music.

I learned so much teaching elementary school. Endless patience, unconditional love, a deep care and passion for young children are a few things. I was able to mature into a mom figure instead of feeling so very young. But my desire to dig deeper into music with older children never really left me.

In that light, I am beyond thrilled (and terrified and nervous and nauseated and joyful and quite a few other emotions) to tell you that I’ll be returning to teaching in the fall after a wonderful, restful year off to Riverton High School as the Vocal Music Director. And as if I’m not spoiled enough to see my 14-year-in-the-making dream come true, I’ll be teaching only 4 classes a day and home with my kiddos for the rest of the day, truly experiencing the best of both worlds. And to top it off, I get to be at the district where I’ve grown and learned so much. And as a cherry on top of even that, my freshmen will be the kids who were in fourth grade my first year at Riverton.

It may seem dramatic to you, but to me, it’s a miracle and an answer to a long-running, fervent prayer. To God be all the glory. Let music live!

Park Thoughts

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Park Thoughts

We’re on vacation in Clearwater, Florida, so I’ve been taking a break from writing. Today, we all (sister, her husband, her daughter, my husband, my kids, and me) went to a park near the little apartment where we are staying. It was a sweet, shaded place with age-appropriate jungle gyms for my very happy two-and-a-half year old Hurricane.

My daughter has been kind of sicky, so I was wearing her and resting with a portable fan while hubs played with Hurricane. I watched him interact with a little 3-year-old girl. He liked her. I was thinking about how he comes across and how he will come across to his peers as he grows up. So far, he’s just hilarious to me. I see his strengths – his thoughtfulness, his smarts, his tenderness, his silly silly silliness, his creativity, and his imagination. I see his weaknesses – inability to move on from his favorite tasks without a huge-screaming-end-of-the-world fit, difficulty expresses his feelings and what is hurting him, etc. I mean, he’s like the most normal 2-and-a-half year old on the earth. And I was just thinking, I know him. Like I know everything about him. I know him so, so well. I see exactly who he is, good and bad and ugly and beautiful. And I am overwhelmed with ridiculous, passionate, possessive, crazy love for him. I hope other people will see how fun and funny he is. I hope they’ll like him and love him and value him. I see his worth and his potential to be someone great, who can uniquely show the world God’s glory. Oh, what I hope for him!

I read this cute book with Hurricane before bed many nights, I Love You Through and Through. It says stuff like, “I love your inside, your outside, your happy side, your sad side, your silly side, your mad side…I love you through and through, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, too.” That book is so cute! That is how I feel about him – I know every part of him, and I love every part of him.

And then I realized, again, that God sees me the same way I see my son. He knows exactly who I am, and He has dreams for how I’ll bring Him glory. He knows my inside and my outside, my happy side and my sad side. He knows every bit of me, even the parts that he’s not excited about or proud of. He’s my Father! He’s my parent. Yet. Oh, the yet – it’s just so beautiful. Yet He loves me through and through, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, too.

I forget so often that someone loves me like that. I forget that someone sees my greatest awesomes and my most embarrassing lows, and still wants me the mostest and loves me the bestest. I’m so much like a toddler, too! I can’t quite be who I want to be or communicate what I want to say. But there’s nothing I can mess up that will make Him stop loving me. We make this so complicated to understand, but it’s so simple. Hurricane can throw the most epic, terrible, screamfest fit I’ve ever experienced, and it doesn’t change the way I love him one little bit. If I, in my sinful, decrepit, hopeless ways, can so easily love a writhing, wailing, squawking shell of a creature, surely the infinite God who made the universe can love me even better than that.

The love of God is greater far/Than tongue or pen can ever tell./It goes beyond the highest star/And reaches to the lowest hell.

The guilty pair, bowed down with care,/God gave His Son to win;/His erring child He reconciled/And pardoned from his sin.

When hoary time shall pass away,/And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;/When men who here refuse to pray,/On rocks and hills and mountains call;

God’s love, so sure, shall still endure,/All measureless and strong;/Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—/The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,/And were the skies of parchment made;/Were every stalk on earth a quill,/And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above/Would drain the ocean dry;/Nor could the scroll contain the whole,/Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!/How measureless and strong!/It shall forevermore endure—/The saints’ and angels’ song.

Dealing with Depression/Anxiety: Part 3

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Dealing with Depression/Anxiety: Part 3

I’ve been writing a mini blog series this week about my experience with Postpartum Depression. You can see the first two posts here and here.

Today I want to write about the hope that I’ve found as I’ve learned to depend on God to renew my mind. Please let me note here quickly that I am NOT saying that praying super hard is going to heal your depression. That is a bit asinine. What I am saying is that the Holy Spirit is powerful, and disciplined practice in God’s word and through prayer, with the added practice of filtering all thoughts through the “God lens,” as I call it, has made an incredible effect on my everyday life, and it has helped me figure out how to cope on a daily basis and fight and WIN over depression.

So you should know that I’m kind of a fighter. I’m a spitfire. I’m fiery. I’m passionate. I hear these things about myself a lot. Forever, I thought this was a negative side of my personality, but I’ve learned to embrace it and control it and bring it out only when needed. Turns out that its a really great benefit, because it makes me a risk-taker and brave and fearless. Sometimes.

When I realized I had depression, I did the whole thing where I snapped three times across the front of my body in a zigzag motion and I was all like “nah-uh! You are not going to win, son!” (Side note: I do this on a daily basis to my actual son. I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.) My instinct was to fight it. Like, DARN IT I WILL BE HAPPY IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO! Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. So my second instinct was to sink into a personal hole and fall off the face of the earth in the name of binge watching television. That also didn’t work. My third instinct was what should have been my first instinct – taking it to the Guy Who Saved Me and checking out if He could handle it. Turns out He can.

I grew up in church. And not just your regular churcher. I was the Minister of Music’s daughter. I was in various 90s children’s musicals, including Daniel, Darius, and Delion, Nic at Nite, Go, Go Jonah, and Levite Genes. I was in Mississippi state competitive Bible Drill (I can look up ANY verse in the WHOLE BIBLE in less than 10 seconds). I was in Awana (TRUTH…ON THE MARCH!). I was at church at 7am on Sunday mornings, 4 pm on Sunday nights, all night Wednesdays, hospital visitation on Tuesdays. I used to be in the balcony of Bowmar Avenue Baptist Church for youth musical rehearsals while my dad ran the show and my mom played the piano and I’d do their choreography and be jealous that I was only a kid still. Once in 5th grade, my talent at the Awana Campout talent show was to say the books of the bible in less than 20 seconds. I can still do it, too. There was one week in Awana in which I passed 35 seconds in one night because I wanted to finish my book before the end of the year. I grew up listening exclusively to Christian music like Point of Grace, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc. My favorites as a teeny kiddo were the Steve Green Hide ‘Em In Your Heart Songs. I was the queen of “somebody backed out of singing a special at the last second, can you pull something out of thin air to sing for the offertory please?” (thanks to my mom’s piano playing amazingness and my dad’s unlimited repertoire access.) Anyway, I think you get the idea that I was like ultimate kid church nerd over here.

There are, to this day, incredible benefits to this life that I had. One of those is the excessive amount of scripture I was forced to memorize as a child. To illustrate my point, I’ll give you a few off the top of my head that directly apply to what I’m saying right now. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Most of the Scripture that I still have easily memorized was seared into my brain (and heart) thanks to Steve Green. Shoutout to you, Steve Green! You rule.

And Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em In Your Heart Songs were the first step on my journey to recovery. My parents bought us the CDs for Christmas (you can get them here, and you should, because they are AWESOME no matter your age) for my kids. We have been playing them NON. STOP. These songs are intended for children, and they have typical 90s arrangements (including recorder and flute as featured instruments!). But that doesn’t matter, because guess what? The content is rock solid. I’d even say the content is sword-like. Because it is straight up Scripture, y’all. And you can’t get a better weapon than that.

The best thing about listening to a song that is word-for-word Scripture is that it gets stuck in your head. And the best thing about Scripture getting stuck in your head is that it is literally hidden in your heart, and it comes to mind when you need it.

This is the first way that God healed me.

My mind is a black hole. I think very, very quickly, constantly, never ending. You can probably tell from the high volume of words in my blog posts. My mind and Lorelai Gilmore’s mind are very similar, although I like to think that I generally have a better filter than her (not always, but generally). Because of this, I tend to spin out of control with negative thoughts. Whenever I’m presented with a worry or negative thought, it is like poison. It takes over my entire mind. It makes my heart race. It controls me and it overcomes me. And then I remember (and when I say “I remember,” what I really mean is that God, in all His glory, takes a moment to remind me who I am to Him):

“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think about such things. if anything (anything) is excellent (excellent), if anything is praiseworthy (praiseworthy), think about, think about, think about such things!”

“you knit me together in my mother’s womb, you knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you, I praise you, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I praise you, I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”

“there is a friend (there is a friend), a friend who sticks (a friend who sticks), closer than a brother! there is a friend (there is a friend), a friend who sticks (a friend who sticks), closer than a brother! an F-R-I-E-N-D who sticks closer than a B-R-O-T-H-E-R, closer than a brother!”

“when I am afraid, I will trust in you, I will trust in you, I will trust in you, when I am afraid I will trust in you, in God whose Word I praise. In God I trust, when I am afraid, in God I trust, in God whose Word I praise.”

“the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

“do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, do not be overcome by evil. with good, with good, overcome evil with good.”

“let us not grow weary while doing good, in due season we shall reap. let us not grow weary, while doing good, in due season we shall reap. if we don’t lose heart, if we don’t lose heart, in due season we shall reap, if we don’t lose heart, if we don’t lose heart, in due season we shall reap.”

and my FAVORITE:

“a joyful heart is good medicine, good medicine a joyful heart. a joyful heart is good medicine, a joyful heart is good. but a broken spirit dries up the bones, a broken spirit dries up the bones. a joyful heart is good medicine, good medicine a joyful heart. a joyful heart is good medicine, a joyful heart is good!”

I just did all those off the top of my head. They might not be word for word, and I may have mixed up a few words. But you guys, this is my biggest weapon! Think about that last one.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22.

I love this verse so. much. I think it is so cool that it says that a joyful heart is medicine. We tend to think that a joyful heart is something that just happens, like “oh, I’m feeling joyful today, yay!” But it isn’t. A joyful heart is a conscious choice. Just like I choose to take some Tylenol when I have a headache to dull the pain, a joyful heart is something I can choose to put on when I’m having a broken spirit that is drying up my bones. I can choose to dwell in the joy I have through God’s provision. Joy is not a feeling. It is a choice.

This truth has been astronomically life changing for me. I realized that joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness comes and goes like a quick rain. It can quench for a while, but then I’m waiting for more. But joy is, to quote my pastor Jeff, a quiet river. It is always right there, steadily moving, consistently full. It is water that flows from another place, not water I have to make up for myself. I just have to choose to walk over to it, acknowledge it, and drink from it. For me, drinking from it is a change in attitude. It is replacing my sour, poisonous depressive and anxious thoughts with the truth of Scripture. I repeat the Scripture over and over again to myself. It changes my mind. It renews it. It quenches it.

The kicker is that truth is not always happy. The truth is that God allows seasons of heartache for us. Some of our dreams don’t come true. Some people never see earthly prosper. Some people lose everything. Job did. But the truth is that God is there. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. There is nothing to fear, because I can trust in God whose word I praise. I don’t have to grow weary, because in due season I will reap (even if that season is not on this earth). I do not have to be overcome by evil, because I can overcome evil with good. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God is watching everything. He sees me. This is how we know what Love is, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. These things aren’t happy. They don’t make me go YAHOO. They don’t make me suddenly feel things. But they replace the emptiness with something full and powerful and eternally thirst-quenching.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Dealing with Depression/Anxiety: Part 2

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Dealing with Depression/Anxiety: Part 2

So yesterday I posted about what it feels like to have depression and anxiety. Today, I’m going to continue talking about depression and anxiety by discussing what HAS and HAS NOT worked in my treatment.

I noted at the bottom of my post yesterday that I’m a bit of a naturalist, and I don’t like the idea of chemicals entering my body if I can possibly avoid it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-medicine, and medicine really works for some people. I went on an anti-anxiety medicine about 6 years ago, and it made me act INSANE. So I decided to pursue other natural methods when I realized that I had postpartum depression about 2 months after Ellie was born last year. This is a discussion of some of those other methods I’ve used and how they have worked for me.

What Didn’t Work

The first thing that I always go to in dealing with emotional problems is television. You guys, seriously, I love television. I love it so, so much. I love studying the characters of shows, I love giggling at the ridiculous things they get themselves into, and most of all, I love escaping the pain or numbness of my actual world by delving wholeheartedly into their fictional ones. Some of my favorite TV shows, all of which I’ve watched entire series (or acceptable portions of the series, hello, One Tree Hill seasons 7-9 no thanks) multiple times, all have interesting characters with way worse problems than mine. Or way sillier problems. Which, you know, I think is the whole point of TV. The problem is this, though: I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I am addicted to television because it fills the void and gives me feelings when I have none. It is an actual addiction. I looked up symptoms of addiction, and I fit them.

Most of the symptoms of addiction that I found are related to substance abuse, but let’s assume that the substance is television instead of a drug or alcohol or medication. Some symptoms are:

-patient is unable to control the use of the substance, cannot stop taking it
-patient has physical and/or mood swings from withdrawal when not taking the substance, including cravings toward it, moodiness, bad temper, inability to focus on other tasks, feeling empty without it, frustrated about other things, angry, bitter, and resentful of anything that takes the patient away from the substance
-even if the patient knows that the substance is harming him or herself and/or his or her relationships, he or she still takes the substance
-patient makes social and/or recreational sacrifices in favor of using the substance
-patient feels the need for the substance in order to deal with problems
-an obsession with obtaining the substance
-the patient often knows that others notice and is embarrassed about the addiction, which results in secrecy and solitude while using the substance

I regularly do all of these things with TV shows. I sacrifice social and recreational time to secretly watch TV. I can’t stop myself from starting a new episode when one is over. I have mood swings and feel irritated when I want to watch the TV show but can’t because of other responsibilities. I find ways to watch the show while doing other tasks so that I don’t have to stop. I feel like I can’t deal with issues, so I escape by watching TV. I feel anxious when I don’t have Netflix available to me while waiting to do something. I know that I’m addicted to TV and I’m embarrassed at how bad it is, so I secretly watch the show when I’m away from others so they don’t know how often I’m watching it.

Fortunately, TV isn’t quite as damaging of an obsession as drugs and alcohol could be, and it is very unlikely that I’ll reach the point where I could overdose and literally die from watching too much TV, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not truly addicted to it. I read an article recently that discussed some research that points to the possibility that people with depression will often look for something to fill the emptiness they feel, so they are more likely to become addicted to things. While I’m not proud of my TV habit, I’m at least thankful that I didn’t look toward drugs and alcohol to fill that void (thanks, all those years of Red Ribbon Week!).

While it is a problem to sacrifice social relationships and time that needs to be spent on other things to binge watch a fictional television show, the real problem is that it doesn’t solve my depression issues. I escape for a while and feel better, but as soon as I stop watching TV and go on with my life, the empty weight comes back, and then I feel the need to watch TV to escape it again. It is a never ending cycle, and it doesn’t solve the problem.

If you are fighting depression and anxiety, is there something in your life that you are using to escape? It is probably not working. Consider that you might not be addicted to drugs or alcohol or an actual substance, but instead you might be addicted to something else. A game on your phone? TV, like me? Know from my experience that the false idols (that’s right, they are idols, because you are valuing them more than you value God’s calling for your life) are never going to fulfill you, and they are never going to make your depression and anxiety go away.

What Does Work

It’s going to sound super cliche, but God is what works. And that probably seems like a cop-out. And it probably seems really un-relatable and impractical. But seriously, a relationship with Christ is the answer. I’m going to talk about these in more detail in the final portion of my blog mini series, but I’m going to highlight them quickly here.

The answer to my depression – the tools and armor and weapons that have worked to fight my symptoms – are TRUTH and GRACE.

Truth

The best answer that I’ve found in dealing with depression has been getting down to the root of what is giving me the symptoms. For example, about 2 years ago, a friend of mine really upset me. I was very angry about what had happened, but I didn’t want to damage the relationship. My counselor and I talked about what had happened, and it was revealed to me that the root of the issue was that I felt disrespected by what had gone on. The truth was that I was upset because I felt like that friend didn’t value me or my ability to make responsible, adult decisions and valued herself more than me. Another time, I was having feelings of anxiety, and I couldn’t figure out why, but everything seemed overwhelming and my heart was nonstop racing. I traced back my train of thought until I remembered that I had briefly remembered a very scary and difficult thing that Husband and I had gone through several years before. When I figured out the truth of why I was having my anxiety, I was able to take control of it.

Again, I’m going to dive into this more tomorrow, but the biggest thing that helps in the Truth category is Scripture. Scripture is truth, and replacing whatever anxious or hopeless thoughts I’m having with Scripture works amazingly well. I’ll outline my train of Scripture thought tomorrow.

Grace

One of the big problems with my depression is that I feel unworthy, ugly, useless, pointless, and just not enough. And the truth is that I am those things. I am not worthy of all the blessings I have. I am proud and arrogant and full of myself. I think of myself first to the detriment of others. I can be hateful and rude. I think nasty, selfish, jealous things about other people all the time. I am truly depraved. This is called sin. And we all do it. And we’re all unworthy.

A lot of times I hear people say, “Don’t feel unworthy. You are enough.” This always frustrated me. I would think, But the whole point is that I am NOT enough! So saying that doesn’t help! Then I realized the truth of grace (oh snap, that’s putting both my weapons together!). The truth is that I really am unworthy. But God is the King of Grace. He loves me anyway. He wants to be with me even though I can be so nasty and selfish and proud and sinful and depraved. So he found a way for justice to be served by sacrificing his perfect, sinless, totally worthy Son in my place. Grace is that I got the gift that Jesus actually deserved. So the truth is not that I am enough. The truth is that Christ is enough. And that’s what Grace is. Oh boy, how beautiful. How incredibly, wonderfully, terribly beautiful.

When the Holy Spirit helps me to pair the truth of Scripture – the reality of who I am and the beauty of who God sees when he looks at me (that’s Jesus, y’all! He sees me like I’m his perfect, spotless Son!) with the amazing Grace that I just don’t deserve, my emptiness is filled with hope. And that renews my mind.

“Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

I think we so often look at this verse and think about changing from being bad, sinful Christians to good, doing-the-right-thing Christians. But I think this verse is so much more than that! The pattern of this world is emptiness and self-service. When my mind is renewed in God’s truth and grace, I can see what God has for me – I can see his good, pleasing, and perfect will in my life. I can see the good in my depression. I can see that going through this has given me a unique opportunity to share the experience with others and help them find His solution, too. And if I have to go through fire and get really burned in order to help other burn victims, then so be it.

Glory be to God.