I’ve been reading a lot more during this time home alone. Mostly I have been reading about the way God can completely change who we are, if we are willing to open that door. I know he has changed my heart, my thinking, and my desires in many unexpected ways. I know God has forgiven me in ways people never have. I know I have found peace in that forgiveness and a greater willingness to offer that same mercy and grace to others. It all started with God moving in my life when I opened myself to his ways over my ways.
It has been hard to get out of the house and I finally had to admit that I have been struggling with depression. I knew something was off when I no longer had interest in the things that delight me–mostly being around other people and taking those walks that I had committed to for this blog.
I know what depression feels like. I have experienced it before. I know many of you have too, or someone close to you has. For me,
- Depression isn’t just feeling a bit down. It is feeling like no matter what you do you can’t get up.
- Depression isn’t just feeling grief after the loss of a loved one. It is feeling as if life will never be whole again, and you don’t care. You just don’t care.
- Depression isn’t being tired and staying in bed. It is wanting desperately to get up and yet the best you can do is make it to the bathroom and back to your bed.
- Depression isn’t just skipping events to which you committed to attending. It is wanting so much to see people and yet being so sad that you can’t imagine getting dressed and putting on your happy face.
- Depression isn’t about feeing sad and overly emotional. It is sitting on the edge of the bed and crying and you don’t know why because all you did was wake up.
It can take some courage to recognize the symptoms and ask for help. Unlike other illnesses, there is a conflict between shame and pride associated with depression. Sometimes well meaning friends try to cheer you up and get you past a down period. Religious leaders are often ill-equipped to diagnose or treat depression. And the communities in which we live frequently don’t have the patience to support someone with a ‘hidden’ illness. And more often, our pride stops us from sharing with others that we are living with depression, even if we are undergoing counseling or taking medication.
My life is better this week. I have the support of my closest friends and family. I’m doing what I need to get better and each day I feel a little more like myself. And I finally got out the door and into nature. I have to take the steps back to normal living and make the most of my treatment plan to find my center again.
I was amazed by the simple beauty of the world just a mile away from my home. I found a touch of God out there as I walked with a friend and our dog. I found that my inner spirit was renewed in the midst of God’s creation.
I walked in gardens planted and felt a new being breaking through. The bright colors of flowers coming into bloom. The promise of second chances and renewed life.
Take the walk. Let the wonder of the world open your heart and lighten your journey into healing.
Sit. Rest. Be.
If you think something might not be quite right in our life, I encourage you to seek professional help–start with your family physician. Let people close to you know that you are grappling with depression so they can encourage you and walk in your recovery journey. Be brave enough to ask for prayer and to seek out spiritual healing and direction.
And remember to keep walking. One foot in front of the other. Out the door. Down the street. Around and over the rocky parts. Into the garden of new life.
Walking with the Light,
To say one is pro-woman and pro-life is contradictory to some. For me, it is a personal statement that I’m sure some of my readers will understand. I am someone who is committed to encouraging women to be all that God calls them to be. That could be a leader, a follower, a mother, wife, or singe woman.I believe that women have special gifts and talents which should be celebrated and strengthened.
I also believe that life begins at conception and that life should be cherished from that moment through death. I believe that life rests in the hands of a loving God and it is not up to man to determine when life should end. That also means that I am against the death penalty.
I am also a woman who has been held back by men in the workplace and in religious settings. I am a woman who has seen women promoted to equal standing with men, and I have heard stories of women who believe they were passed over for men. I understand that for many years men have made decisions on behalf of women and the tide is turning as women step into places of authority. I also believe that we must always consider the merit of the person and not the gender or lifestyle of an individual when making decisions about roles.
I am pro-life because I am one of those women who was bullied into obtaining an abortion. It was a matter of my marriage or our child and I made the wrong choice–in both cases. I have talked with many women who felt they had no option but to seek an abortion and have suffered their decision in silence. It has taken years for me to even tell the people closest to me about my own experience for fear of judgement, recrimination, shunning, or even hatred. Today I find when I am willing to share my story other women open up and share theirs. Together we grieve and heal. Every year I remember that dreadful day and I pray that in sharing my regret I can help other women struggling with their own choice to choose life.
So yes, we can be pro-woman and pro-life. We can support women when they find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy to choose life. We can direct them to resources and more importantly, we can commit to help them. This is especially needed for young single women who feel they have no other choice but to seek an abortion. We can reach out in love and compassion to women who made the choice to have an abortion. For some, we need to guide them to someone to pray with them for healing.
The one thing that leaves me disappointed today as men and women take to the streets of Washington DC to stand for life, are the few resources that actually come alongside a woman in need of financial and emotional assistance to care for her unborn and born child. We as a pro-life community need to do more than give lip service to our cause. This is the time to make a real difference in bonding together and committing to the actual care of women in pregnancy crisis. Adoption often is not a desired choice for many women and families, and therefore, we need to find a way to become less than mouthpieces and more like brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers, counselors, and guardians to these unborn children.
We as women MUST support other women in all the trials and joys of their life. To that end, if you are a woman who made the abortion choice and live in the northern Virginia area, please feel free to message me and I will gladly help you find healing and recovery. If you are pregnant and don’t know what to do- I am including some links below for you.I hope you will reach out to someone for help where needed.
God bless you brave women!!
Sanctity of Life Ministries, Fairfax, VA
Bethany Services in Fairfax, VA(including adoption)
JAFCO (Jewish Adoption and Foster Care)
All my life I have dealt with the language of men that was designed to belittle, devalue, and intimidate me. Most of my life it worked and left me feeling vulnerable and disadvantaged.
Most of the time it also opened the door to actual sexual harassment or aggressive behavior. As a person who experienced sexual abuse at a young age, I was ill-equipped to understand the difference between acceptable behavior and unwanted attention. I was so overwhelmed by the behavior of others that I wasn’t capable of pushing back or reporting it. This was true until I came to terms with my own behavior and made a personal change in my response.
So what did that negative behavior from others look like? There were teachers in school who openly held sexually charged discussions with impressionable teenage girls. There was my father who made comments about my size and used language that today we find deplorable. There was my brother who said I dressed like a whore. There was the friendly neighbor who took advantage of my vulnerability-grooming me with language and images.
There was the workplace that thrived on adulterous relationships and encouraged young women to have affairs with managers to be part of the ‘in crowd.’ There were bosses who made snide comments about my age, my appeal, and my sexuality as a single person. There was the time I witnessed women who fell prey to the sexual abuse of their management, lose their positions. At one point I was warned that I could be reprimanded if I accepted their advances without reporting these predators. As if we were responsible for their action! Ultimately there was the man in a leadership position who drove me to a nervous breakdown and into retirement to escape his advances because of the earlier warning.
There were the women at a church who shunned me and uninvited me as a single woman who ‘might’ entice their husbands into affairs–with no evidence that I was interested in there spouses. I learned that single women were a threat to marriages and avoided conversations with men in my new church. And finally there was the man in my ministry field whose attention caused me to leave and avoid a ministry into which I felt called.
These examples don’t begin to describe what it was like growing up in an environment in which these things were not only viewed as acceptable, they were encouraged behaviors. One way or another, an attractive woman was seen as fair game. At one point I even dyed my hair because I was told no one would take me seriously as a blond! And then there are the eating disorders- anorexia or over eating- to make me more attractive or to protect myself.
I could not change the men in my world. I could discover more about myself and learn a new way to react to these advances. Thankfully I had a great recovery program at The Meadows and a wonderful healing minister that brought change in my life.
I have my struggles. I’m still afraid to lose the weight and become ‘attractive’ again because I worry that I will trigger old patterns. More healing to be done there. However, I no longer accept behavior from men that includes sexually innuendo, inappropriate body language, or intimidating tactics. I stand up for myself and have passed that on to my daughter.
Change is hard.
- We begin with ourselves. We find an inner strength and the will to call out and push back when someone demeans us.
- We can see ourselves as the valuable women God created us to be.
- We can experience new life as persons of worth with the right to demand respect.
- We can call out negative behavior for what it is, stand against it, and stop running.
I encourage those of you who see yourself in my story to reach out to someone and tell your story. Ask for help to recover from abusive behavior. Step into a new life!
We don’t have to take the abhorrent behavior of others anymore.
The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. The Lord is my inheritance, therefore, I will hope in him. Lamentations 3: 22-23
Once again the media has exploded with the disturbing story of a sports figure and celebrity who has been overtaken by their addictions. The arrows of blame are flying at everyone whoever came into this person’s life as he too is blamed for being a weak person. And as the arrows of shame fly, so does the misunderstanding of what it is like to watch someone who is slowly killing themselves and the painful decisions that their loved ones must make if they hope to survive and keep on living.
The Lamar Odom saga is one that many of us live outside of the spotlight. We do it in our own circles and often without sharing our drama with those closest to us. These past few days I feel as if my healing scar has been ripped open again as I remember the frustration that I could not save my husband from his demons. Like Odom, he suffered a horrific childhood of abuse and at an early age was introduced to self-medication for his pain by his foster family and doctors. My husband, Dan, would live his life in and out of treatment programs, praying for relief. Unfortunately, he also suffered from bipolar disorder and even when he was clean and sober, he felt he was going crazy. He did things that made absolutely no sense to anyone—including him.
People would say to me all the time—if only he had Jesus he would change. If only he would commit to a program he would be ok. If only you were tougher on him. If only you weren’t so hard on him. If only…
You see friends, those of us living with the addict and mentally ill, we do all those things. We cry ourselves to sleep praying that God will deliver them. We become hopeful when they fall on their knees and accept the Lord into their lives. We celebrate when they agree to enter a long-term treatment program. We watch them count the days of sobriety and we think, “This is it.” We all do all that we can and yet sometimes the demon inside wins the battle here.
And sometimes, we let go and let God take over.
Letting go and watching what happens outside the protective boundaries of our homes can be almost as unbearable as struggling with them inside where no one sees the battle. This is when our faith is tested as we see them rise above only to slip away. AA talks about those who may never fully come clean and how we need to keep them in our prayers. Often those prayers are for deliverance—a deliverance that may only come with death. And that’s when the blame game really kicks into gear, as we see it being played out in social media today.
You see I lived this for many years. My husband lost his battle. I made tough decisions to protect myself and my daughter that few understood. We too had a legal separation that I sat on for several years hoping that I would never have to file the final papers. When Dan was hit by a car and left with severe brain damage, I had to go ahead and finalize our divorce so that he could receive long-term care. That didn’t mean it was over for me though. He was still my husband despite what some legal document declared. We still visited him in the nursing home. I was still his emergency contact. And when he died, I was still the wife that arranged for his funeral and led the family to say goodbye.
There were those in my family and in the recovery community that didn’t understand how I was still in the picture after all those years and after finalizing our divorce. Why hadn’t I walked away and pretended it never happened? Even at his funeral, my brother went around asking people why they were there for such a loser, a liar, a thief, and drug addict that had caused so much pain. You see, that is the gift of grace and mercy that my faith brought me. Many of us loved Dan and could see beyond the actions his drugs and mental illness led him to take. We could see the same man that God saw. We could weep, as I’m sure God did, at Dan’s pain and torment. We could love the man that was made in God’s image and who despite his deepest beliefs in that same God, just fell short. We could see our own imperfection and still love ourselves because we were willing to love Dan as Jesus loved the sick and mentally ill.
So as this story unfolds in the press, let us stop criticizing a woman who made choices to protect herself while still loving her husband. Let us pray for the family and friends who gather around a man they love for who they know he is. Let us pray for the man who hurt so much he could never find peace. And then let us open our eyes and our hearts to our own families and friends who are walking this same walk in everyday life. Let us reach out in understanding and compassion as their hearts are torn apart because their lives are being lived out in front of them, even if they suffer in silence. And let us keep trying to help the helpless and lost, just as Jesus did when he walked the streets.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.
This morning I woke with that same somber cloud of quiet sadness that has hung in the air every September 11th since 2001. I don’t know why, but going to bed last night I thought this morning would feel different from all the other years. Fourteen years has not changed anything. I still want to cry and I still have trouble believing what happened as I, and millions of others, relive the hours and days of that tragedy.
Funny the things I remember most, beyond watching the news unfold around me. I remember wondering if I should go to work only to get the call that we were evacuating to be safe. I wondered how to explain this to our daughter because we would have to tell her. The Pentagon was just a few miles away and well, everything was changed. We called friends and family to make sure they weren’t in the Pentagon that day and we called simply to say, “I love you.” I remember the silence that evening more than anything else. Living outside of Washington, DC the sky was always full of planes flying over and cars rushing between work and home and sports fields. Not that night. All we could hear were fighters flying over for our protection. That night we drove to churches to pray. We walked the streets in dark quietness because all the stores were closed. As a nation, we simply shut down.
In the days following we were changed people. We cried openly at work and in the grocery stores, and people placed their hands on our shoulder because they understood. We let people pull out in front of us and nodded in shared grief. We held onto our children and wondered if it was safe to let them continue to live. We were kind and gentle with each other as we processed what was happening in the places near to us. We came to understand that we had to get back up and live our lives to show the world and the people who wished us harm that we were stronger than them. We had to show we were a nation united and that together we would recover.
As you head out today under the cloud of such enormous loss, I pray that you will remember who we were for those few days after. We are still kind, compassionate, praying people. We can still set aside our political and religious bickering to find a way support each other. We can still let someone pull out in front of us and not blow our horn when someone doesn’t move as quickly as we think they should. We can still help our neighbor if they are struggling. We can still ask a stranger if they are ok. We can still gather together, hold hands, and pray for our country. We can rise up from the ashes of that day and honor the memories of 9/11 by being good to one another. Who knows, maybe today could begin anew a nation where we turn off the TV and turn to our families. Maybe today we will pick up the phone and check to make sure a friend is doing ok. Maybe tonight we will remember to say prayers with our kids and tell them how we love them. And maybe tomorrow we can carry on as if every day is the day after.
Dear Lord, out of the shadows of our grief and sadness may we find new hope and light. Lord, make us a people who care for one another, who help each other, and who pray for our nation. Lord help us to remember out of evil, good will prevail. Make us a people of compassion with giving hearts that change our neighborhoods and that brings renewed joy and hope for the future.
It isn’t always easy to look back on our lives and review the mistakes we have made that hurt others and that have hurt us. Twelve step programs calls that “taking our inventory.” At certain points in our lives it is necessary to take stock of how we have lived, especially if we want to move forward and become better people. For me, that takes God—it takes admitting to him that which he already knows and then seeking first his forgiveness and then asking that he change me. At some point, we also need to apologize to those we hurt, which can be the most difficult part, especially if the other person is unwilling to hear.
I have made some royal mistakes in my life. Some would say I have sinned in a big way and that too is true. There was damage left in my wake. I took the hurt I carried and inflicted it on others. I lived unaware for some many years, hiding and numbing my internal pain in any number of ways. I did that until I began to recover from my own pain and could better understand why I behaved the way I did. And still, today I look back with sadness as I realize that some may never recover from our damaged relationships. I am thankful to those of you who have found forgiveness in your heart. I know it was not easy and you so inspire me to trust that God can and will repair all things, if we trust him.
It is never too late to change. I believe that God gives us as many chances as we need to get it right. After all, Jesus did say something about forgiveness—70 times 7. His forgiveness is limitless. I know we as mere humans may not find it as easy to forgive; however, if we can begin by admitting our own faults to God and accept his forgiveness, we may also find peace. I may never have the chance to tell some people how sorry I am to have hurt them, how sorry I am that things became twisted, and how much I wish things were different. But I can change. The best possible thing we can do is seek forgiveness and then turn our lives around.
Be different today. Let go of the pain you carry. Seek forgiveness and freedom. Show yourself you are transformed by what you do next.
It is easy to get stuck in the past and to carry the heavy load of our hurts, our failures, and our struggles with us into the new day. They can become like old familiar friends that, in our minds, define who we are and how we live. We can even become dependent on these burdens we carry to see us through. Some become our addictions and our excuses for not moving forward. I can’t lose weight. Drinking makes me feel better. You don’t know what happened to me. No one understands what I have been through and why my life is so hard.
Have you said those things? Are these the things that are keeping you from experiencing joy today? Are you afraid of what your life might look like if you don’t’ have those friends with you anymore?
Did you know that you are God’s masterpiece? I used to scoff at that notion given my lifestyle. But Paul said that all of us screw up at some point in our lives and God still wants us in his life and he wants to give us a fresh start that will allow us to live lives of purposes. (Ephesians 2: 1-10) Even as God is calling us to walk with him and to change; we must be seeking him to escape from our past (Laminations 3). He is there, waiting for us to build a life-long relationship with him, one in which we will receive his gift of love and forgiveness and new empowerment to change. We can find our true selves in God’s love.
I do believe that a relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit is the “silver bullet” to healing. I know from personal experience that I needed the help of a gifted treatment program and gifted counselors to make the breakthroughs in my transformation. I also know that it was not until I was willing to see God smack dab in the middle of my life, that I found healing. I know that he wants a renewed life for me to live. I know that he has plans for my life. I know that I have purpose in sharing what he has done in my life. I know that I am no longer alone or abandoned—my relationship with Jesus brings me a sense of belonging and wholeness I never found in any man or woman.
What is keeping you stuck where you are today? What is keeping you from feeling joy? What first step can you take today that will bring you out of your pain and start you on a path of purpose? What is keeping you from saying, “yes” to freedom and new life? What is stopping you from first asking God to walk with you?
“You turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.” Psalm 30 New Living Translation
Painting by: https://donnalynyates.wordpress.com/
Are you a different person with your friends, your colleagues at work, and the people at church? How do does your personality change as you shift from environment to environment? Do you put on facades with friends so you fit in, doing things you wouldn’t do say if you were around church folk? Do you use language with them that you would never use in front of a pastor? Do you treat people at church nicer than you treat the people you encounter in the grocery store? Is the person at work a reflection of the person God wants you to be and whom you want to be?
When we are inspired to transform our lives we need to look at all aspects of our life. People will be watching to see if we really are who we say we are. The change in our character and our behaviors might not happen overnight; however, if we are committed to change, each day should bring us closer to who we desire to be. This journey of change is just that—a lifelong journey that hopefully draws us closer to the image of God in which we were created. It’s a committed journey of transformation inspired by the Holy Spirit.
What behaviors or personality traits are you hanging on to? For me it is my language. I grew up in a house where swearing, in multiple languages, was part of the vernacular. Those tapes of swear words are engrained in the recesses of my brain and try as I might, they still bubble out. Additionally, those words have become part of everyday American language, which reinforces my use of them. They are, however, not the same words I would use at church or around ministers, or people whom I respect.
As part of my acting out from the sexual abuse, I was an unashamed flirt. It got me in trouble. It was the way I had learned to communicate and often it was how I got my way. It was also how I ended up in damaging relationships and with a huge lack of self-respect. It took a while to realize what was happening and when I did, I sought help to change who I was and what I did. The Meadows turned my life around. It taught me to set boundaries and to respect those boundaries. Over the years I have found how to carry myself as a professional, capable, and respected woman. It has changed everything about who I am today. Transformation is a good thing!!
I want to be the same person on Sunday that I am the rest of the week. I need to commit this desire for change to prayer. I need to pay attention to what I say and work harder not to say the words my brain pops in my mouth. I have been working on this for many many months—ok let’s be honest—my friends would say years! I keep trying. I want this change. I want people to see I am a Christian by my actions and behavior.
There, I said it aloud. I am motivated to change this character flaw and I need your prayers to do it.
What areas in your life are you clinging to and refusing to let God change? What steps can you take to begin the transformation journey? What does the Bible say and how could that become your verse of inspiration? Find it, pray it, do it!
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1 The Message)
These days I am rather transparent about the life I have led and the choices I have made. I share my experiences because many of them, by the Grace of God, are now behind me. I share my secrets so that others might believe that God still loves them. I share my stories that others who struggle may know that a new life awaits them. I share my story so that others don’t make my mistakes, and if they have made similar mistakes, they know it is not the end. I share hope.
All too often those of us who come through the refining fire refuse to share our stories. I think it is selfish not to tell others how God has changed and redeemed your life. I also believe, that the secrets of our mistakes that we keep hidden, could be the stories that save lives. Yet, many still continue to hide behind some veil of shame refusing to tell others this wonderful thing God has done in their lives. Yes, there may be pain in talking about the past, however, that shared pain may just be what another needs to hear as they struggle with the choices in their lives.
Have you lived through an abusive relationship and are now on the other side living free from fear? Your story of courage and freedom may be what someone else needs to hear for their freedom and to save their life. Share your fears and how you were able to get away and are free to live with joy today.
Have you had an abortion and lived through the tears to finally find forgiveness. Would you do it differently today? Your story could save the life of a child today. Your story could help another woman avoid the pain and loss you experienced.
Did alcohol or drugs once control your life? Did you live with someone abusing alcohol or drugs? Have you found recovery and a new day? Get over anonymity! Share your healing story that another drunk or addict might ask to go to a meeting with you.
Were you once so far in debt or without money that you weren’t sure if you could feed your kids? Have you ever been without a home or a car? Are you out of debt and in control of your finances today? Let go of yesterday and share how you did it with someone like me. Teach us how to work a plan.
Is suicide a part of your family? Have you lost, or nearly, lost someone because of mental illness? Is depression something you have struggled with? Is there hope today that you never had before? Tell your life-giving story that someone who wants to die might live. Share so someone who has lost a loved one might come to understand and feel freedom from guilt. Save a life today.
I could go on with examples. We all have a story. Even those of deep life-long faith have a story. Let your testimony be real. Make what God has done in your life something you don’t think twice about sharing. Share your secrets—especially if you are drowning in your secret today. Reach out and share with someone you trust that they may walk with you. Don’t let your secrets destroy you.
Pass along the gift God has given to you. Multiply his mercy and grace. I encourage you to read The Parable of the Buried Treasure found in Matthew 25. Invest in others. Don’t be the one whose gift is lost.