Christianity, life

Living Loved

This has been an incredibly busy summer! My husband and I moved into a house (!!!) in July while it was over 100 degrees most days. The house is wonderful / moving in such intense heat was not. But all in all, it was a great summer and I feel very blessed to now be living in a bigger space while paying half as much as we previously were.

I feel like I’ve also learned a lot this summer. Not necessarily book knowledge – more like life experience. Know what I mean? For example, I learned that you don’t always get the apology you need from the person you need it from. Sometimes you just have to heal yourself without the satisfaction that they’re sorry for how they hurt you. I once heard forgiveness explained as something you do for yourself, not the other person, so that you don’t grow angry and bitter with resentment. And…I get that now. It’s true. You have to let things go and forgive people even when they don’t care if they hurt you – because you have to move on.

The other thing I’m in the process of learning is how to “live loved.” Ok, so let me back up a bit: I quit my job at the library halfway through the summer because I was just really struggling with a lot of things, one of them being the fact that I had such sparse hair from pulling so much that I was mortified by having to show up to work every day. (Run-on sentence! Sorry!) So I quit. I just…really needed the time and space to be able to breathe and put myself back together. One thing I knew I was missing down in my soul was being able to attend church (my schedule at the library conflicted with nearly every church service!) It’s not that I just love going to church, it’s just that the world is so evil and full of hate and suffering that I can only handle so much of it before I’m so weary and depressed, and going to church and remembering Who is in control and that I’m not alone – well, it really helps. Being reminded that I serve an Almighty Savior who loves me so much He died for me…it gives me the strength to go back out and face this crappy world again. So when I quit my job I was able to start going back to church regularly, and at that same time, the young women’s class I attend started a new study on a book by Lysa TerKeurst called Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely.

Wow. Did this woman speak directly to my heart or what?!?!?! It was as if she had read the pages of my journal and then written this book specifically for me. When she talked about her struggles with the feelings of rejection and how she’d blame herself for being less than good enough, I’d think, “Yeah, that’s my initial reaction, too,” and “Yup, I berate myself like that too, girl.”

There are so many powerful sections in that book – sections that just jumped out at me like, “Hey! Pay attention to this – it applies 100% to you!”

Basically, our value is not dependent on what other people think of us. We are not slaves to our past and the mistakes we’ve made, and we don’t have to keep reliving the rejection we’ve felt by people who have hurt us. We were each fearfully and wonderfully made by God and He loves us so fiercely, He died for us so we could be with Him – so we could have a relationship with Him! If that doesn’t mean we are valuable to Him, I don’t know what does. I mean, how amazing is it that the God of the universe looked at us with such love and compassion that He sacrificed Himself to be able to be with us? That’s insanely amazing!

Anyway, the major phrase TerKeurst repeats throughout her book is to “live loved.” She talks about how we should live our lives every day knowing God loves us and delights in us. We shouldn’t ever question our value because to God, we are priceless. We should never get hung up on feelings of failure, self-doubt, and rejection because the King of the universe adores us!

(My words don’t do the book and Lysa’s insights justice. Buy the book and read it for yourself – I promise you won’t be disappointed.)

I need to live loved. You need to live knowing how loved you are. The love God has for us is not based upon us, instead it is placed upon us. (I definitely stole that line from the book! And I’d give you the page number but my copy of the book is in the other room and I just don’t want to go get it…! I know – super lazy.) Meaning, it doesn’t matter how good we are or how much stuff we do for God, He loves us immeasurably either way. He loves us. He loves me. He loves you. We are cherished by the almighty God – so why should we ever give someone the power to make us feel rejected?

Goodness knows I struggle with this. Probably more than almost anything else. I think back on all the rejection I’ve faced in my life constantly, and with much sadness and regret. (And bitterness and resentment sometimes…) Guys who didn’t want to date me, friends who constantly left me out of the group, jobs I was passed over for, etc. Those rejections hurt deeply and I believed the lie that I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or smart enough. I believed it. But not anymore. It’s time to start believing the truth – that I am loved and cherished by God.

I feel like I’ve just said the same things over and over again in an attempt to drive the point home. But seriously, don’t believe the lies society feeds you – that you’re somehow lacking. You’re not. You’re exactly the way God made you, which is perfect.

It’s going to be a lot of work for me to change my way of thinking and my initial reaction to rejection, but I’m going to keep laying this down at Jesus’ feet over and over until the new perspective sticks. I don’t want to be a slave to the people who hurt me and rejected me in my past any longer! Do you? And maybe if we live like we are loved, we’ll start treating other people with more love as well…and that couldn’t hurt things, could it?

Live loved!

Christianity

What Do You Expect?

I used to read the news every day in order to keep up with current events.  I’d go to multiple sites to make sure I got a well-rounded view of things, usually starting with the BBC and then checking CNN and Fox as well.  But I don’t do that anymore because most of the news is so insanely depressing.  I know “that’s life,” but man – I just can’t handle it. Especially the stories of extreme animal abuse.  It just messes me up for the entire day and sometimes much longer.

Now I’m going to state the obvious:  There is so much bad crap in the world.  Famine, war, disease, violence, drugs, etc.  It’s horrible.  It seems like every day there’s another shooting somewhere in the United States or Europe and more bombings in the Middle East.  So…why?  Why are humans so incredibly cruel to each other?  Why can’t we all get along and play nice and enjoy worldwide peace and harmony?

Because we’ve taken God out of everything.  Kids are taught in school that we’ve all descended from monkeys.  That there’s nothing special about us – not really – because we’re basically just super-smart primates.  That there’s no life after death and we don’t have souls.  Think about the repercussions of that for a second.  Indoctrinating children with the idea that we’re just animals means there isn’t really any sanctity of life, so murder really isn’t that bad of a thing.  It’s not much worse than accidentally hitting a deer with your car.  And if there’s no God then there’s no judgement, which means there’s no reason for morality, truth, kindness, or anything else like that.  It’s just survival of the fittest.  Which means stealing, lying, cheating, breaking laws, and even murdering others, is acceptable if you’re just trying to survive or get ahead of the game.  And if there’s no God and no Heaven or Hell, there’s no hope.  Not really.  There’s nothing to look forward to and strive towards because after we die we’re just going to cease existing.  That idea is so terrifying to me, I have no idea how others can handle it.

And isn’t this mentality evident after reading just a handful of recent news stories?  Several days ago I read about an eight year old boy committing suicide after getting maliciously bullied at school.  I also read about a teenage girl microwaving her guinea pig.  Then of course there’s all of the recent Facebook Live murders, which have been nauseating to even read about.  How are people capable of such evil?  How can anyone think it’s ok to take someone else’s life?  Or even the life of an animal?

This world is so, so broken.  Without God, we are all broken.  It’s no wonder so many people are full of fear, anger, resentment, and despair, when they’ve been told God doesn’t exist and there’s no hope of anything better than this life.  God is a rock to cling to amidst the storms of life – and without God of course people are floundering and drowning.

I’ve heard many people say, “I don’t believe in God because if he exists, how could he let all these horrible things happen?”  And I understand that – I really do.  There is so much pain and darkness in the world and it makes sense to wonder why God doesn’t just fix it. However, what those people are failing to see is that the brokenness of this world is our fault, and that God has provided us all a way to survive life’s hardships and overcome them with His help.  And on top of that, He is going to fix everything at the end.  We just have to trust Him until then.

This conundrum really bothers me.  I want to fix the world and make everyone’s pain and suffering vanish.  I’m tired, so very tired, of seeing all the horrors on the news that just never seem to stop.  I know I’m going to sound like a naive child when I say this, but I just wish everyone could learn to trust God and work together to make the world bearable!  Why can’t people see how badly we’re failing at everything by taking God out of our lives?  I guess I’m speaking mainly about America since it’s where I live and what I’ve experienced, but I can see firsthand how this country has gone down the tubes as we’ve systematically weeded God and Christianity out of our culture.  If you put it on a chart, you’d be able to see the direct correlation between the dwindling morality (and success) of the U.S. and the attempt to expunge God from every aspect of our lives.  Once God’s gone, there are no rules.  And look at what a mess the United States is in right now!

It’s like watching a train wreck in slow-motion.  The answer to the world’s problems is God, and the world is looking for answers everywhere but there.

In a world headed for self-destruction / the answer is here / are we too blind to see it?           -For Today, “Break the Cycle”

Christianity, Trichotillomania

I Am Free

I was on Pinterest the other night, scrolling through pictures of cute little succulents, animals, and far away places, when a quote caught my eye.  It was Galatians 5:1, which says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

What Paul (who wrote Galatians) is saying is that Christ has freed us from the bondage of sin – we are no longer slaves to our mistakes because Jesus paid for all of them when He died on the cross.  Even after we get saved, we’re still going to mess up and make mistakes and sin, but we don’t have to worry about it because Jesus has already paid our ransom.  On top of that, we now have the Holy Spirit inside us to help us resist the temptation to sin in the first place!  Because of these things, we are truly free.

But I don’t live like I’m free.  I don’t know about you but I definitely carry the burden of my sins even though I no longer have to.  Not only do I feel enormously guilty for past mistakes, I also fall back into the same old cycles and habits I used to fall into.  With God, all things are possible – but I don’t live like they’re possible.  I live like I’m not strong enough to make it through the day, like I can’t carry my burdens anymore because they’re too heavy and I’m exhausted.  But God has made it so that I don’t have to carry all that crap around with me anymore!  I can live free of the sin that used to have a hold over me.

This last week has been incredibly difficult.  There have been a lot of changes at work (most of them negative), and there’s been family drama, and I’ve just been under a lot of stress.  Because of that, I started pulling out my hair.  At first it was just a little bit but it quickly escalated into obsessive pulling, standing in front of the sink for several hours at night just pulling, pulling, pulling uncontrollably like a broken robot stuck on the same task.  After a few nights of this, I had a bald spot the size of a golf ball on top of my head and it was really difficult to hide.  That made me panic and stress out so I pulled even more hair.  I felt like I was losing my mind!  I literally couldn’t even think about anything else except pulling hair.  My fingers were screaming at me to pull and pull and pull.  I had to do something…so I shaved my head.  And I cried watching my three-inch-long hair fall into the bathtub in little curling tufts.  Months of growing my hair back – gone.  And when I looked in the mirror, I was a different person.  I recognized that sad, pitiful, bald girl because I’ve spent a lot of time with her in the past.  But I missed the prettier, more normal-looking, and much happier me that I’d been five minutes prior.  I don’t know when I’m going to see her again.

And I thought about Galatians 5:1.  I’m not a prisoner to this stupid habit, or at least I don’t have to be.  My God can overcome anything which means I can overcome anything with His help…so why am I still living like this hair-pulling problem controls me?  Why am I letting it control me???  I can’t do that anymore – I have to take control back and kick this habit.

I believe with all my heart I was made for more than this.  I was made for more than spending my nights crying and pulling hair, and then spending my days feeling ugly and wishing I didn’t have to leave my house.  There has to be a way I can beat this with God’s help.  I honestly don’t know what else to do…I’ve tried everything I can think of to beat my Trich.  Therapy, fidget toys, wearing a hat, meditation, etc.  Everything.  But that can’t be it; I can’t give up.  I won’t roll over and take it because my God is a mighty God and He is capable of helping me beat this.  I believe that.

Christ has set me free.  I need to live like it.

Christianity, Depression

Can Christianity and Depression Coexist?

I’m a Christian.  I also have depression.  And trying to reconcile these two things in my life has been a journey down a road with many potholes, speed bumps, and crappy paving jobs.

In my experience, there is a stigma in many conservative Christian circles surrounding the idea of depression.  It’s thought that if you have your life right with God and are completely in line with His will for your life, then it’s nearly impossible not to be happy.  And if you’re depressed then you’re not trying hard enough – you need to adjust your attitude.  Or maybe there’s some kind of sin in your life keeping you from God and as soon as you get yourself “right” with God, you’ll be happy again and your depression will melt away like butter on pancakes.  In fact, I was even given a book by a well-meaning friend called Happiness Is A Choice.  (I must admit I didn’t even read the book because I was so upset by the title, so maybe there’s actually some really good advice in there… I don’t know!)

I don’t think I have to tell you how hurtful and damaging those views were to me while I was growing up and trying to figure out just what exactly was broken inside of me.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t a Christian because I was saved and I knew I was a beloved child of the King.  It wasn’t that hole I was trying to fill, but a different one.  And nearly all of the input I’d received had me convinced I was to blame because I wasn’t trying hard enough and that I had a bad attitude.  Someone even asked me once if I just wanted to be sad – if I enjoyed it.  Um…no.

Depression is different for everyone.  I’ve heard it described as a lack of emotion, just not feeling anything.  Mine isn’t quite like that.  Mine is a profound sadness that weighs me down, makes my bones feel heavy and my heart unbearably weary.  It makes me feel tired – mentally and physically.  I sleep and sleep and sleep and I wake up and I’m still tired.  I don’t want to face the day – I don’t have the energy or mental reserves for it.  I don’t do a lot of the things I actually enjoy doing such as painting and writing because my creativity just doesn’t come – almost like it’s blocked by a big, dumb ball of sadness.  Some days are worse than others, but even on my best days I still feel the ever-present tug of a sorrow so deep I can’t even really explain it or describe it.  As if no matter how good things get, there’s still so much more to be sad about.  As if I’m treading water for the moment but eventually the weight tied around my ankle is going to pull me down and drown me.  It makes me think about suicide all the time.  Not that I would ever actually kill myself!  But I think about it constantly and wonder what it would be like.  I think about what a relief it would be to just be done, you know?  To not have to worry about this life and all the trivial things we think are important anymore.  To not be burdened by all the suffering and pain and loss in the world.  To just rest and not have to think about things.

Being a teenager and being inconsolably sad all the time was rough.  I couldn’t explain it to my parents.  I thought it really was my fault and that I was a horrible person for just letting myself be sad.  I didn’t realize until I finally went to the doctor halfway through college that depression is a real thing with real, scientific evidence to back it up.  I wasn’t sad and depressed because I wanted to be, I was sad and depressed because my brain wasn’t creating enough serotonin.  I had a legitimate chemical imbalance.

I’ve been on anti-depressants since then and it’s really helped me to be able to function.  I still majorly struggle with depression, but I’m at least able to survive.  The things that felt impossible before I started taking medication now seem difficult but possible.

(I feel like I should add that I’m not encouraging anyone to start medication.  Anti-depressants are all different and come with varied side-effects, and what works for one person might not work for someone else.  That said, they can also be very helpful in managing depression.  If you think you need medication, talk to your doctor about it!)

Depression isn’t a choice and it’s not a symptom of a problem in your spiritual life.  It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.  While trying your best to have a good attitude and be content can go a long way in improving your mood, it’s not the only answer and it can’t magically make your depression disappear.  Obviously this is a complex issue because temporary happiness and true contentment are two different things (which is another post for another day!), and depression can affect either one or both of them…but I still believe it’s possible to have a great relationship with Christ and have depression at the same time.  We can be completely in line with God’s will for us and still suffer from the chemical imbalances in our imperfect bodies.  In addition to that, I also believe God is ok with us taking medication when we need it!  Christians take Tylenol for headaches all the time, so why should anti-depressants be any different?

I believe with all my heart that God hurts when we hurt and that He sees every tear we shed.  Rather than believing in a God who is disappointed in us when we’re depressed, I believe in a God who walks alongside us and helps us fight our battles.  With Him, all things are possible.  Surviving depression and thriving in spite of it is possible.

Deuteronomy 31:8  “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Psalm 42:11  “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.”

John 16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.