Grunge and Depression

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “there’s demons in the rock music” type of post… just some random reflections and what’s been rolling around in my head lately.

Just within this past week or so I have been coming to grips with the fact that I have depression.  I think I’ve always put my depression in the context of “overcoming” just because that’s how I’m wired.  I’m an INFJ and part of that I am always aggressively looking for ways to improve myself, including my mental health.

“Feeling sad?  Feeling down?  Nothing a good workout and chocolate protein shake can’t fix!!”

Recent events have brought it more clearly into focus.  I have depression.  I’ve probably had it since I was 13.  I usually manage it well enough through healthy coping mechanisms (and let’s face it, sometimes unhealthy ones).  I’m a sensitive person, I think and feel very deeply.  I naturally tend towards melancholy.  Out of all 4 of my siblings and I, I think it is safe to say we all struggle with some degree of depression and anxiety every single day.

There is certainly a genetic component as well as a very real spiritual one.  I do struggle with depression however I do still hear from God, I do still feel a great deal of happiness in my life- because of my relationship with Him and all the gifts he has showered down onto my life.

I can honestly say I don’t think I would have survived my depression without God breaking through into my life.  “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16

With the passing of Chris Cornell I can’t help but reflect on my past and the impact depression has had.  I was only a kid when the grunge movement was big but my older siblings were really into it.  When I got into my teenage years the angst and authenticity of the music really spoke to me.  My favorite band was Soundgarden…and then of course, Audioslave.

Chris Cornell was, like many artists, a sensitive soul that battled his own demons and dealt with depression.  We don’t know for sure if his death was a suicide, but it seems likely.  He likely fought the depression and the darkness the best he could, until he couldn’t.

I’ve gone through major crisis’ in my faith.  When I came to God I knew I had major issues, deep pain in my heart.  I knew I needed healing.  I knew I carried a shame around in my soul that tainted every part of my life.   I sought God with everything, I sought healing.  I prayed, I fasted, I wept…. for years.  Yet I still feel such angst in my soul.  I still wake up everyday and feel the need to prove my worth.  I still fight to keep the depression at bay.

I really don’t like offering up “untidy” blog posts.  I really like to post when I’m pumped up on a spiritual high with God and feel like I can offer inspiration.  Those times are true and genuine but they certainly don’t capture the whole story.

I feel like I want to be a little more real in my writing.  Because, well…there are no “successful Christian makeover!” stories, at least not in the sense that we get so healed and delivered that we live in a sort of spiritual reverie, immune to the flesh nature, with a perfect grin and perfect family until Kingdom come.

It just isn’t reality.

In being thrust into a caretaker care for my son, a lot of the self-medicating (or coping, tomato-tomato!) tactics I’ve used have been really messed with.  The things I use to prop myself up (don’t we all have them?) where suddenly taken or just not enough.  I’ve realized my motivation for serving God is actually very little when I am really hurting and my prayers seem to go nowhere.  “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Just today I was feeling down about something when I heard God speak to my heart about how He loves me.  He loves the “hot mess” me.  I remembered a time, when I was in my early 20’s and seriously depressed.  I couldn’t love myself and couldn’t imagine God could either.  I stopped praying.  I remember sitting on the dusty carpet in my bedroom near tears when this song came on the radio… https://youtu.be/Ek4I6BeMQIs

I just knew that song, at that moment, was for Me- from God.  I bawled and bawled.  It was a real moment in my life where his light burst forth into the deep darkness I found myself lost in.

I struggle with wanting to wrap everything up into a neat little Christian bow but I really can’t.  As my 8 year old was asking me why God has allowed him to go through these years of suffering, there really aren’t any easy answers.

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Copper the dog looks sad for Gabe too~

I think in this life the pain is real.  The hurts are real.  Especially the hurt we all carry around in our hearts.  So much of life seems random, chaotic even- but for the moments that the light of God breaks in.  Somehow we survive and come out a little softer, a little stronger.

It’s ok to be hurting.  It’s ok to have questions.  As long as those pangs and hurts ultimately lead us to our Healer, into a deeper relationship with Him, as he slowly unravels the hurts and shines his light into our deep darkness.   And if we take a detour, He will come and rescue us when we are ready.

Rebirth

It’s a bit gloomy here (spring is always dicey in Minnesota!) but there are undeniable signs of spring.  I can hear birds chirping right now and the sun is trying to peek out.  I have been so happy because I love spring so much.  The winter here is long, cold and dark.  It isn’t even just the weather though, it’s that spring is such a symbol of new life and rebirth.

Spring always brings fresh life spiritually as well.  I love Easter and all that it represents.  Ten years ago it was spring when I finally let God in and had the most joyful season of jubilee that I will forever be marked by.

My life is a bit crazier than usual at the moment.  I am in a full-time caregiver role to my son who is navigating red skin syndrome.  He is mostly bedridden.  His hands, wrists and legs are the hardest hit.  So much so that walking or even writing with a pencil is difficult, and at times impossible.   He is also struggling with insomnia so he is often very tired and cranky.

I know it is so imperative that I stay positive and joyful as his caregiver.  Positivity is HUGE in healing.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/owning-pink/201112/can-positive-thinking-help-you-heal  I need to create an atmosphere of positivity to help Gabe cope with his pain and frustration.  Also, I need to stay positive to cope with being thrust into a very intensive caregiver role.

I had been really struggling.  Big time.  I was just succumbing to the negativity in my circumstances.  It wasn’t just everything Gabe was going through.  We all got sick for a ridiculous amount of time, two rounds of back to back flu.  Plus my youngest acting out to get more attention (can’t blame her).  Plus family drama.  It was just a lot to deal with.  And when I feel like that I inevitably start getting angry with God.

God is good and loving and generous and all that.  But there are seasons where he really wants to mature us.  He wants us to seek his face, seek HIM, and not all the wonderful blessings he bestows.  We all get our “Job” moments.

I feel like I’ve gotten more than my fair share….but then I realize God had also bestowed such underserved favor and blessing on me as well.  I have SO much to be thankful for.  SO much.

I decided to really embrace joy and walk in trust and joy has been bubbling over.  I have been ecstatic.  I’ve been really happy.  Really.  It’s proof that we can be joyful and thrive in our faith even when circumstances are beyond difficult.

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Phil 4:4

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Gabe is doing pretty good at the moment.  I discovered a new very promising therapy for him, cannabinoid oil.  I had been applying it to his skin without much improvement but then I decided to give him a drop internally.  Wowza!  He showed a huge improvement.  He was happy and walking around and playing, which is kind of a miracle at this point.

Unfortunately I had already used most of the bottle on his skin so I ordered some more this morning.  If this process has taught me anything it is that we should look to natural cures and therapies that work with the body instead of against it.  Many people take steroids (which shut down the bodies inflammatory response) then when that stops working they get immunosuppressant drugs which shut down their immune system.  We were perscribed such immune-destroying drugs but I’m so glad we didn’t use them.

In closing, please know that there is a God in Heaven who loves you.  He created you.  He uses both the good and the hard things to get your attention, to make you look upward.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

 

 

Strength in Joy

This process of Gabe going through topical steroid withdrawal has been the hardest thing my husband and I have ever gone through.  A difficult and painful road, and made so much worse by the fact that the medical community refuses to acknowledge the scope of the problem (or even that it exists).

Trying to explain to Gabe’s school was difficult, what do you say?  My child can’t come to school because his skin is raw, peeling off, and he can barely move?   Is it his eczema?  No…. it’s steroid induced red skin syndrome.  Just try explaining that succintly.

The first fews days we were in total crisis mode.  Gabe was in very rough shape.  Now, thankfully, things have calmed down quite a bit though Gabe still deals with a lot of pain and suffering.  We still have to coax him into the bath because his skin is so raw it is sensitive to the slightest touch.  He wakes up in a literal pile of dead skin, as his skin is shedding faster than we can keep up with.  He still needs helps getting out of bed and getting into the tub.

But, like I said before- we have hope.  This condition is as simple (though agonizing) as letting the body heal from the steroids.

I pulled this picture from the ITSAN website…. donate

This little girl recovered.  Gabe will too.

In the midst of this storm though I have had an almost irrational joy and optimism.  I think this is what it feels like when God goes through the fire with you.  The flames are real but so is His peace.  He never lets go.  Even when we doubt and fear and blame him.

“This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

 

 

Of Trust

I saw the news about Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini yesterday.  To make a long story short- they were a Christian couple in ministry.  He was arrested for sharing the Gospel and held (and tortured) in Iran for 4 years.  His wife, Naghmeh, campaigned tirelessly for his release.  It was a big deal to the Christian evangelical community.  So he finally gets released and…she gets a restraining order against him basically as soon as he steps off the plane.  Turns out, there had been years of abuse behind the scenes.  A lot of the tireless work she had done for him had been under emotional coercion.

It is sad and disappointing, but not really all that shocking to me.

I’ve been stewing on this post for a long time.  A post about how we can’t put our trust in people.  Seeing this story really motivated me to write it.

I have my own story to share.  It’s a tale of a crazy ex step-dad.  We’ll call him C.P.

C.P. came into our lives when we really needed him.  My mom was losing her battle with alcoholism.  He was a recovering addict, bursting at the seems with charisma and passion for Jesus.  He shared his testimony with any and everyone and couldn’t talk about Jesus without tears.

He was instrumental in helping my mom get sober.  He took a real interest in my life.  We had great talks about God and he spoke some great things into my life.  I thought he was the mentor I had been hoping and praying for.

Sometime after they got married in a very rushed fashion, C.P. quit his good paying job to focus on writing a book about recovery.  Things started to get weird.  We found out he had been married like 5 times and that one wife had died under mysterious circumstances.

At this time I know God was really preparing my heart for the disappointment and chaos that was about to be unleashed.  God was whispering to my heart that I couldn’t put my trust in man, I could only ultimately look to him.

C.P. (ironically while writing his book about freedom from addiction) was abusing pills and became increasingly erratic.  A lot of horrible things happened but we’ll just say that it ended in divorce because my mom’s life was in danger.

C.P. released his book (which was really as garbled and erratic as his life) and started a new life at break neck speed.  Videos of him sharing his testimony at his new church surfaced within a couple months.

I want to make it clear that I have forgiven this man.  He was charging forward into life, leaving complete chaos and destruction in his wake- because he refused to look inward.  When things got hard he would blame everyone else and look for the next wife, the next church.  He couldn’t stop.  So instead of being still long enough to do an honest inventory and get the deep healing he needed, he just kept running.  He was running from the pain of his past and trying to numb the pain inside, but pain has a way of demanding to be dealt with.  We tend to continue to perpetuate that which we don’t face.

We tried to confront him at one point and he was pacing and sweating and ultimately took off because he couldn’t (wouldn’t) face the truth.  It was his life, in a nutshell.

It could have shipwrecked my faith but it didn’t.  It was such an important lesson to me.

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” Psalm 146:4

People can provide so much to us- love, encouragement, companionship…all that.  But people are going to fail.  People are going to let us down.  Churches and organizations too, because they are run by people.  Even the best of us still struggle daily with our fallen sin nature.  You show me someone living victoriously in Christ, and I can guarantee that person has struggles in the dark that they need to overcome (every.single.day.) to live that outwardly victorious life.

The danger in hitching our faith wagon to a person or organization is in that they could possibly go off the rails and take us with them into a ditch.

We can (and should!) go to church and look up to people further along in the faith than us.  But we need to be so careful to know that our faith is in God.  Not our church.  Not our Pastor.  Not our mentor.  Because God is the only one capable of being perfectly what we need him to be.  He is the only one who will never fail.

Not only that but when we put these ‘super-Christians’ on a pedestal we absolve ourselves of the call on our lives.  Like, “they have it goin’ on because there is special favor on their lives.  I could never be like that.”  The truth is that God does not show favoritism. Acts 10:34  If that person is rocking it in the faith department it’s because they have taken the steps to get there.  The invitation goes out to all.  It’s up to us to answer, and to what extant.

We can have it to.  You can be as close to God as you want to be.  You don’t have to settle for a second hand faith.  God wants to be real to you too, he wants to move as powerfully in your life as say a Beth Moore or John Bevere.  There are no favorites.  And that means when people we admire screw up royally, it doesn’t have to wreck out faith.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Hebrews 4:14

People change.  Circumstances change.  Our churches may change.  But…

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

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For the Joy

I realize I’ve blogged a lootttt on the topic of suffering.  I write from where I’m at.  I write what is on my heart and what God speaks to me.  I write because I feel called to (and heck, I like it) and to hopefully encourage people.  I’ve written a lot on hardship and I feel like it’s a good thing because people can relate.  I certainly don’t think we should (or need to) minimize our pain.

Suffering is an undeniable part of life.  If you are walking this Earth with feet of clay you are going to have to contend with pain and difficult trials.

But I believe that suffering has an expiration date.  We are not here to suffer.  We are here to enjoy intimacy with our God and live in victory and freedom.

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Romans 5:17

Suffering is always a means to an end.  The end being that God is glorified.

As I was getting ready for church yesterday I was thinking about the story of Lazarus.  Lazarus was a very close friend of Jesus.  Lazarus had two sisters that were very close with Jesus as well; Martha and Mary (who have their own story, but for another time).

Lazarus had gotten very sick.  A messenger ran to get Jesus.  Jesus waited 2 whole days before leaving to come see Lazarus, the text says he waited until he knew that Lazarus had died.

Martha and Mary are understandably upset.  When Jesus does show up, Martha runs out to meet him.  “Lord, if you had been here, he wouldn’t have died!”

Jesus looks deep into her eyes and makes this powerful statement, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

They were just hoping that Jesus would heal him.  Jesus had different plans.  He went to the grave, where he had been buried 4 days prior.  He comforts Mary and Martha and even weeps with them.  He knows our pain, because it’s his pain.

“Roll the stone away.”

“But Lord, there will be an awful smell…”

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they roll the stone away and Lazarus is raised from the grave.

I got to church and what was the pastor preaching on?  The story of Lazarus and how it relates to us.  It was a God-thing.  We brought our son up to have him prayed for after the service.  This morning he looked a good 50% better with most of the redness and swelling gone and months-old wounds showing signs of dramatic improvement.  We know he got a special touch from God and we are believing that he will receive complete healing.

We serve an awesome God.  rays-of-light-shining-throug-dark-c

There is a powerful message in this story.  We may suffer, yes.  But we know that at some point Jesus is going to come into our situation and command some stones to be rolled away.  When Jesus shows up, he brings life with him.  He is our healer.  He is 100% good.  He is 100% for us.

Ultimately, for us who believe, we will be completely healed.  We don’t know the time table, but we know the one who does.  Jesus triumphed completely over death and the grave.  One day, death will be swallowed up.

In life we will always have an element of suffering.  We live in a fallen World.  I have my own share of suffering, as do you.  But I also have so much joy.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

Suffering doesn’t get the final say.

 

Of Hope and Heroes

My thoughts for today are on the importance of hope.

I’ve blogged frequently about my son, Gabriel, and his eczema.  I actually don’t talk about it much in life, for whatever reason.  There just doesn’t seem to be a point. I think a lot of people were unaware of how serious he was until it spread up his neck.  His eyes have read rings around them and from his jaw down, he is almost completely covered in red, angry skin with areas of swelling and infected wounds and abscesses.

It’s really bad.

There is no “but”.  It just sucks.  It’s horrible.

He usually handles it so well.  Most mornings he wakes up tired and in pain and doesn’t want to go to school.  But he does so well.  I just got his report card and he is meeting or exceeding expectations in every area, in spite of his frequent exhaustion and pain.

Today everything came to a head.  He came home emotional and angry.  He was crying and screaming and kicking his closet doors.  I had to force my way into his room and I had the sense to just let him be angry.  To just be there with him.  I sat with him until he let me hold him.  I just held him until he was ok again.

I sit here with tears streaming down my face.  This is so hard.

I’ve said before there have been times where this thing brought me to the edge of myself in every way.  Times where I refused to pray anymore.  Times when I could only look at and treat his naked body with a glass or two of wine in my system.

It’s been brutal.

But I have been praying and seeking and finding God again.  He reminded me of a story, a testimony I heard many years ago.  It was a ‘strong man’ who came to the church we were attending.  His thing was feats of strength- rolling up frying pans and breaking wooden baseball bats.  He did his feats and then shared his story.  Growing up he had been chubby, asthmatic, and completely immobilized by anxiety.  The most impressive thing about this man was how unbelievably tender his heart was and how incredibly he was advancing God’s Kingdom.

I think of his story often and it gives me hope. 

Awhile ago I was talking with Gabe and the subject of the movie “Terminator” came up.  I outlined the plot and he wanted to know why the robot wanted to kill Sarah Connor.  “Well, I said he knew she was going to raise a hero.”  As I said those words I was overcome with emotion.  I saw Gabe as a future hero, that that’s why his life has been under so much attack.  I refuse to let the enemy have him.

I am going to raise a hero.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Your Song, His Song

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for a couple days.  Don’t feel bad for me because the song is pretty epic-ly awesome.  It’s 80’s, it’s melodramatic and not a bad song to have stuck in your head.

I think the only way to get it unstuck is just to go with it.  I found it on youtube and decided to play it to wake my husband from his sweet slumber this morning.  Two birds, one stone.

I sashayed into the bedroom and dramatically belted out, “Take…these broken wings!  And learn to fly again!”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1M80Z7zTjo  You’re welcome.

I think he appreciated it.

He’s used to this sort of thing because I love music and I love singing (and dancing) and my home is my stage.  I didn’t say I sing well but whatever I lack in talent I make up for in gusto.

Seriously though, music can touch us like nothing else.  I recently read the book “Finding God in the Ruins” by Matt Bays and he talks about the song, the music of our lives.  Jarrod Drawbaugh also speaks beautifully of letting out the song of our lives in this blog- http://www.infjwriters.com/dear-infj-advice-recently-deceased-philosopher-author/ and as a person of faith this got me thinking of how my song is inextricably connected with His song.

As a follower of Christ there have been many times where I’ve felt utterly defeated.  Times where; I fell hard into an old sin pattern.  I fell hard into depression.  I fell hard into feeling worthless.  As an INFJ, I see things very symbolically and the image I had of these times was that of being cast down into the dust while the enemy of my soul sneered triumphantly over me.  While he hurled insults and accusations.  Many of which had more than an element of truth to them.

But at times like that when I felt the darkness closing in, I would hear something else.  Quiet but unmistakable.  An ancient song, the kind that leaved you with goosebumps as it awakens pangs of hope and images of Heaven.

His song.

My song.

I think of the women caught in the act of adultery, recorded in the book of John, verse 8.  She had been humiliated and thrown into the dirt.  Surrounded by her accusers.  Too ashamed to lift her head.  I can imagine her accusers in breathless anticipation awaiting Jesus’ verdict, as their eyes darted from the woman to the Christ…The Bible says that Jesus stooped down and began to write in the dust.  Theologians argue about what he was writing and why.  But I wonder if maybe he was tracing out the lyrics to an ancient melody.  Maybe he hummed quietly a song that only that woman could hear.  The same fingers that set the stars in place wrote out this lowly women’s redemption. “He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support… You give me your shield of victory, and Your right hand sustains me; You stoop down to make me great.” Psalm 18:17-18 & 35

There are two voices, two messages we can listen to.  The ceaseless voice of the accuser or the quiet hum of God.  We can sing along with the voice of defeat or belt out the song of triumph.

I find in my own life that God is always speaking.  It is up to me to have my internal settings tuned to his frequency.  Whether I’m bopping through life to an upbeat 80’s tune (ah yiss) or immobilized in the dirt, God is always singing over my life.  He always has and He always will.

“He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

My God is the God that stoops down in the dirt with us, to lift our tear-stained faces.  This is the God that rejoices over us with singing.  This is the God that puts a song of hope in our hearts, a song unique to each and every one of us.

Woman Singing
Woman Singing 2003