Sunday, January 14, 2018

Parting Ways With People Pleasing

Hey Friend,

In pondering my word, "Embrace" for 2018, I realize that there are behaviors I have, but would like to change.  I want to embrace a new view of myself.

Confession time....I am a people-pleaser.  By that I mean that I will go to great lengths to please people - multiple people at the same time.  I do this for many reasons:  to keep the peace, to try to maintain people's happiness, to avoid alienation, because of my own insecurities.

I've realized that things have to change.  I think I took my goal of "modeling a servant's heart" too far and became a doormat of sorts.  I will put everyone and everything before myself, to my own detriment, and I believe that is not what God wants for me.

I am worthy too.  God wants me to stand up for myself as one of His children - counted equally among my brothers and sisters.

Matthew 6:24Amplified Bible (AMP)

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord].

Though this verse usually refers to either serving God or serving money, or idols, or selfish vices, it hit me that I cannot serve God and has to come first.  In trying so hard to please others, I was, in essence, placing more value on them than I was on the Lord....ouch!


1.  Pride:  I want people to like me.  It hurts my pride when people say disparaging things about me.  If someone doesn't like me or gets angry with me, I need to get over myself.  It also may be their problem and not mine to solve.

2.  Fear:  I have been abandoned in the past and I have a fear of people getting fed up with me and leaving.  I don't want anyone else in my life to leave, so I have bent over backwards to stay in their good graces, lest they get tired of my not meeting their needs and walk away.

3.  Insecurity:  I need to let go of what the world thinks of me and claim the truth that I am God's beloved daughter.  As long as things are okay between God and me, then I am okay.  The Bible even says that friends, family, and the world will forsake you, but God will NEVER leave you.

4.  Peacekeeping:  I don't like conflict and will do just about anything to keep the peace.

I really need to work on living my life to an audience of One!

So what's at stake?  If I keep trying to please others (and it is virtually impossible to please everyone) I wear myself down.  I become a detriment to myself.  I get so exhausted and often bitter about trying to keep everyone happy, that I become no good to anyone. 

God has a job for me to do in His Kingdom, but I can't do it well if I'm always worrying about what others might think. 

I don't want to lose my naturally loving and compassionate nature....that's how God created me.  But, I need to really ask myself, "Am I being a servant or am I being a doormat?"  Big difference.

Luke 16:13-15  “You cannot serve two masters at the same time. You will hate one master and love the other. Or you will be loyal to one and not care about the other."

 Exodus 20:3-6 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

Our God is a jealous God.  He will not tolerate our bowing down to others before we bow down to Him.  He also says this for my own good.  He knows that when I keep my priorities in order and love myself things will go better in my life.

The second part of the Greatest Commandment says to "love others AS you love yourself, not MORE than you love yourself."

God loves me, and He loves you too.  We are His beloved.  He delights over us with singing.  He would not want us to make ourselves virtual slaves to others and to keep trying to ensure their happiness.  That is up to them.  

I am not responsible for other's happiness.  That's between them and God.

If I sound like I'm preaching to myself....I am.  This is a message I really want to embrace this year.  I don't need to be mean, or nasty, or negative.  I can be pleasant, but firm in putting my foot down.  "No" is not a four-letter word.  

If you struggle with this too, will you join me in rethinking pleasing other people?  Is it time to part ways with people pleasing?

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you that I am "fearfully and wonderfully made."  Help me to claim this truth.  Enable me to remember that I, too, am a rightful heir to your thrown.  I am no better than, nor any less than others.  Give me sober judgment as I look at myself.  Let me serve others as Jesus served, but keep me from being a doormat that others know they can walk over.  This is not good for either of us.  Keep my eyes so focused on you that what the world thinks or believes becomes less and less in my mind's eye.  You alone are God and I will serve you first and foremost.  Ease my fears and insecurities and forgive my pride.  You are a good and loving Father and I will forever praise you.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Is this something you struggle with?  What is God saying to you today?  How have you fought against, or how have you overcome the urge to please others?  Will you share?

Be blessed......

Saturday, January 6, 2018

"Embrace" The Word For 2018

Hey Friend,

Here it "word" for 2018.....EMBRACE.

In 2018, I vow to embrace God
I want to embrace His great love for me
I want to squeeze His righteous right hand
Look deep into His eyes
to see the look that says, 
"You are mine, you are loved, and you are worthy."

In 2018, I want to embrace the journey
No matter where it takes me
I want to accept the good God has planned
For me along the way rather than
Try to take control
I want to follow rather than try to lead.

In 2018, I want to embrace life and living
I want to cuddle and hold my loved ones close
I want to hug the life out of every experience
God chooses to bring my way
I want every breath of His love and the love of others
To caress my cheek and leave me
Feeling breathless
I want to laugh and cry with friends
I want to weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice.

In 2018, I want to embrace my crazy
You heard me right, I want to embrace the uniquely
Individual, and sometimes quirky person
That God created me to be.
I want to sing and dance in my kitchen 
When no one is looking
And raise my arms in praise to Him who not only enables me,
But causes me to move by the power of His Holy Spirit.

In 2018, I want to embrace my creativity
I want to write of God's mystery
And explore every inch of His majestic creation
I don't want to overlook even the finest or smallest detail
I want to capture it and let the world know
How it points to His goodness.

In 2018, I want to embrace change
Oh how I love my rut and bristle at being forced
Outside my comfort zone
I am reminded that God always sends an angel ahead of me
To bring me to the place He has prepared
And in that, I take comfort.

In 2018, I want to embrace the pain,
the struggles, the trials, and the heat of the crucible
Because I know that it's only through
The hard that we truly draw near to Him and learn to
Rely and Depend upon Him.
Only when I am laid low
Will I dare to look up....

In 2018, I want to embrace His Word 
So that it would not just inhabit my brain but
Would infuse every part of me
Leave me wanting more.
I want to welcome it into my wanting heart
With open arms and ask it
To take up residence there.

I want to hold, to accept, to enthusiastically welcome, to hug and hold close, to affectionately draw to me, to linger long, to clasp and to welcome with open arms....Everything God Has For Me.

In 2018, I want to EMBRACE.....

This is my prayer....

10 With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: "God has set everything right between him and me!" 
11 Scripture reassures us, "No one who trusts God like this - heart and soul - will ever regret it." 

12 It's exactly the same no matter what a person's religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. (Romans 10:10-12) MSG

What about you?  What is your "word" for 2018?  If you don't have a "word", what is your prayer?  What is the deepest desire of your heart?  Would you dare to share?

Be blessed.....

Friday, December 29, 2017

Great Expectations

Hey Friend,

I read the book, "Great Expectations" in high school.  I remember the character, Pip.  Even though his hopes and expectations were continually dashed, he somehow persevered through it all.  Other characters became hardhearted, cruel, and bitter when their expectations and hopes didn't come to fruition. Their bitterness rubbed off on others and their expectations became tainted as well.

I find that expectations are a tricky....maybe even a dangerous thing.  I'm sorry to say this while all of you are making your New Year's resolutions and revising your "Bucket Lists".  More times than not, I have found that my expectations let me down.  For example:  When I expect my husband, when he comes home from work, to read my mind and my body language in order to ascertain that I've had a really hard day, and instead of taking me in his arms and whispering compassionately, "You, seem like you've had a rough day.  Why don't we go out for a bite to eat?", he pecks me on the lips, greets the dog, heads upstairs to change while calling down the stairs, "So, what's for dinner?"  Great, unmet, expectations.

I had envisioned that, at this stage in life, I would be an empty-nester with two fabulously well adjusted grown children and perhaps a grandchild or two.  I'd be snapping photos as I traveled to far away places and life would somehow be "easy".  Instead, in the past five years, I've had as many surgeries.  I've stared down cancer again.  Any small trips I took were dampened by pneumonia and then food poisoning.  My "children" have their fair share of adult problems, but I do have a sweet, though untrained, rescue grand-dog named Allen who thinks I'm the best thing since peanut butter.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  (Proverbs 16:9)

Granted, I've had to cancel more plans than I've been able to follow through with....But, God.  These surgeries were not on my "Bucket List", but literally not being able to walk for two months brought me into such a close and intimate relationship with God.  I couldn't "do" much, but I could be in His Word every day.  

I was able to not only read, but meditate on His Word, ask Him questions, explore my doubts, pray, and most of all just "BE" in His presence.  

I found that simply "being" instead of "doing" things enabled God to just delight in me and share with me His wisdom.  Focusing on "being" brought our hearts and minds together in such a way that took our relationship to a whole new level....a level that previously I had only dreamed about. 

After all, our main purpose in life is to be in relationship with God. This is why He created us....period.

My writing became richer and my faith grew enormously.  I lived out the scripture that says in the midst of our trials, His grace is, indeed, sufficient!

I haven't completely abandoned my "bucket list" nor my desire to lose 20 pounds, read more, take better care of myself including exercising and eating well, make plans I can actually follow through with, spend more time with the people I love.

But, I must say that I look to living more simply (ie: getting rid of stuff), delighting in the small and overlooked, enjoying where I am instead of wishing about where I'd like to be instead, being thankful for God's gifts I already have rather than looking for more.

I am concentrating on allowing God to set my course and asking for His enabling to be more open to the experiences He sets before me.

Yes, I will still make plans, but I don't place as many expectations on them.  Whatever happens, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can count on God to show up and be there for me.  That, in and of itself, is a pretty unbelievable gift.

Right now, I am simply enjoying being able to walk.  Not sure that would have been on my "bucket" list, but it certainly is sweet.  I walk slower these days, but that allows me more time to take in the beauty around me instead of rushing off to the next thing on my list.

I also take great encouragement that God used a lot of "senior citizens" to do some of the greatest works in the Bible.  Abraham and Sarah had long ago let go of the expectation of having a child, but look what God did in their very old age.  He met the desire of their hearts and it changed history. Sometimes we need to let go of our expectations in order for God to give us the very best.  And, the very best often looks very different than the expectations we once held so dear. 

Dear Heavenly Father,  I am so thankful that you give us more than we could ever ask or imagine.  Forgive me for limiting you with "my" expectations.  Help me to know that it is YOU that sets my course and has numbered my days before the world began.  Enable me to put my trust in you and look to you for what you would have me do.  Help me to not grow bitter when expectations are not met, but to persevere in your strength.  Help me to learn what you would have me learn from each and every experience.  More than anything, let being in close relationship with you be the first item on my bucket list this year.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What's on your "bucket list" or New Year's resolution list?  How does God's plan fit in with your plan?  Have you ever set your own course only to have unmet expectations?  Please share what you've learned in the comments...I'd love to hear!

Be blessed.....

Thursday, December 14, 2017

I Worship A God Who Continually Woos Us

Hey Friend,

I said I was going to take a break from blogging, but this post just came to me so distinctly and clearly that my mind wouldn't rest until I wrote it down.  So here I am to share what God shared with me in the midst and mystery of Advent.

My son has been distant lately.  It's not angry distant, or belligerent distant. As far as I know, we're okay, but I simply don't hear from him, nor does he respond to "Hey how are ya?" texts.  Christmas is approaching and I'm not sure what all this means.  I found myself thinking in my head....why would he be so distant from someone (me), who he knows, loves him to pieces?

The thought was no sooner out of my head, when I heard God whisper, "Now you have an inkling of how I feel..."  That hit me powerfully.  Here is God, who has loved us since before time began, who has given us every good gift we have, whose only real desire is to be in relationship with us, who loves us to pieces and makes himself available whenever we have a moment for Him, and what do we do?  We distance ourselves.  We claim we're too busy.  We get caught up in the world's hierarchy of importance.  We get lazy and binge watch Netflix or surf the web.  Meanwhile God is wondering....why are they so distant from me when they know I love them to pieces?

God gave me a glimpse into His world that morning.  Thankfully, though, He doesn't react in human terms.  This is the mystery of God.

The image that came to mind is of God wooing us.  Like a young lover woos the apple of his eye, God woos us.  He pursues; He lavishes attention; He's patient and continually goes after the prize.  The Bible resounds with the imagery of Jesus (part of the Godhead) being the groom, and we (his people, the church) being His beloved bride.  God is the groom who never stops loving.

In our world, if the lover woos and pursues but is continually put off or spurned, he eventually loses hope, maybe even gets angry, and gives up.  God is not like that.  He isn't put off. He doesn't get disheartened or angry....He just keeps pursuing and wooing us.  He does this even when we are downright nasty and ugly.

Our God is a covenant God - He makes promises and sticks to them.

Some theologians believe that The Ten Commandments were actually two duplicate stones (written by the very finger of God).  One copy for us, His intended, and a copy for Himself.

I admit that I've always thought of The Ten Commandments as more of a legal code than a covenant to love.  But, I love how Ann Voskamp talks about them... more like a whisper of God's love to us in her book, "The Greatest Gift": 

"The Ten Commandments are more than God saying, "Here is My Law for you" - they are God saying, "Here is My love for you."

"Here I take you to be Mine, to be my treasured possession - have  no other gods, no other lovers that woo you, that take your attention or affection but me.

Here, I give you My name, my very name to make you mine - do not use it in vain.

Here, I long to spend time with you, holy time for you and Me - set apart the Sabbath day as holy time for you and Me....."   (end)

The Ten Commandments are a command to a loving, covenant, relationship.

Could we follow ten commands?  No, we turned away, disobeyed, busied ourselves with other idols and ideologies....

So in the New Testament, God puts on flesh to reach out and woo in love again.  Who can resist a tiny, helpless, infant babe, with little rolls and creases in his skin?  With tiny fingers that grasp yours and rosy cherub cheeks that beg to be kissed.  Who could resist this love?  

The same love that grew to hang out with the prostitutes and tax collectors, who made the blind to see and the lame to walk.  He wooed with patience and gentleness and kindness in a world where there was none.  But, yet we still rejected Him.  He came to save and once again we turned our backs.

I am so glad I worship a God whose patience is long suffering and who continually woos us no matter what.

No matter what your past, He woos you.  No matter how far down the prodigal path you've gone, He stands at the gate waiting to run to you when you return.  No matter how angry you are with Him, His shoulders are big enough to handle it.  No matter how many times you spurn Him, turn you back on Him, ignore Him, or distance yourself from Him, He still pursues you with a furious love and continues to woo you. When you cry in despair, He cries with you and catches your tears.  Quite simply, He loves you!

Why??  Because He wants nothing more than to be in relationship with the wonderful creation (you) that He made...the one He designed and knew before the universe came into being.  That's why.  

This Christmas, I've thought of what I could give back to a God who continues to woo me and lavish His mercy and grace upon me.  I think the answer is pretty simple. I will give Him what He wants....a covenant and genuine relationship with me which includes time spent.  What will you give Him?

Dear Heavenly Father,  I thank you so much that throughout time you never gave up on us.  You continually extended your hand in love to us and we disobeyed and turned away from you.  You gave us your only Son, in flesh and blood, for us to be able to relate to, yet we spurned Him and yelled to crucify Him.  Blessed are you who are faithful to your covenants of love that you make with us.  You never ever give up on us.  You continue to woo us (me).  You continue to pursue and persevere in order that we might see that we are, indeed, the apple of your eye.  Help us to see the same value in ourselves that you place on us.  If you pursue us this persistently, then we must really be of great worth.  Help that message to sink in and help us to give you what YOU would really like to receive for Christmas....real relationship.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you believe that God continually woos you and pursues you with His love?  If not, why not?  Do you believe what the scriptures say about how much God loves you?  Do you believe that these words were written to YOU, not just to other people?  What can you give back to God this Christmas?  What might He be wanting from you?

Be blessed.....again I will say that I'm taking a break, but am open to what God has in mind. 

ps.  After publishing this post....I got a call from my son that very day and we got together.  Thank you for your prayers.....prayer works!

 May you have a blessed Christmas and joy in the knowledge that you are furiously and passionately loved.... Bev

Monday, December 4, 2017

Revisiting "Fire" Again

Hey Friend,

Many of us choose a "watch word" or "guide word" for the year.  In 2017, my word was "FIRE" - as in I wanted to be "on fire" for the Lord.  I was captivated by a quote by John Wesley:

"Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn." - John Wesley

It made me think about my I live with a passion - a love for Christ - that is so intense that people would say that I'm on fire for the Lord?  I guess that's up to you to decide...

Lately, however, I have been reading the book of Zechariah and a different mental picture of fire has really stuck with me.  Zechariah shares eight visions that he has in the night.  This is happening during a time in which he has returned to Jerusalem and they are rebuilding the temple and the walls around it.

The temple is not yet finished, nor have the walls around Jerusalem been rebuilt.  Zechariah is calling God's people to re-inhabit the holy city, but I'm sure you can understand their trepidation.  Since the walls had not been rebuilt, Jerusalem was a defenseless city.  The people had every reason to fear their enemies in surrounding regions.  

But, here is what the Lord says that creates such a mental image in my mind in Zechariah 2:5:

"The declaration of the Lord:  'I myself will be a wall of fire around it, and I will be the glory within it.'"

God assures them that He will be their protector.  He will build a wall of fire around the city and His glory will shine within it.

There are many areas in my life where I feel pretty vulnerable.  The enemy knows my Achilles heel and where I am wide open to attack. Like the people in Jerusalem, I feel like a sitting duck. The words of this scripture give me a prayer to pray when I am feeling so vulnerable....

"Lord, be a wall of fire around me today."

Interestingly enough, I started this year wanting to be on fire for the Lord.  I wanted the Holy Spirit to set me ablaze for the glory of God.  Fire brings light in the darkness.  It brings clarity and lights a path for those who can't see where they are going.  I had visions of me being the one on fire.

Fast forward a year and here I'm reading about fire again, only this time, it is the Lord who is the wall of fire.  

Fire also provides protection.  It provides a shield that the enemy cannot penetrate or extinguish.

My vulnerability makes me very aware that I need the fire that the Lord provides more than He needs the fire I provide.  I know that God takes a very personal interest in me.  His love for me is not just's fierce.  His grace and mercy for me are not sappy,, they are furious.  God is continually waging a battle for me in the heavenlies that is nothing short of ferocious. 

He wants me to not just be a conqueror (I am victorious one day, but someone else is victorious the next), but to be MORE THAN A CONQUEROR (I am victorious and no one, no how, no way can take the victory from me).  This means that nothing can take away my prize won in battle.  The prize I have is salvation and the sacrifice in the battle, fought on my behalf, is His Son.  That's intense.

If you ever question just how much God loves you and to what lengths he would go to protect you from your enemies and those who wish to harm you.  Read Psalm 18 where David is crying out to the Lord and read, with what intensity, the Lord responds.....

I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield[b] and the horn[c] of my salvation, my stronghold.....

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
    and the foundations of the mountains shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.

He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
    with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.[d]
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
    at the blast of breath from your nostrils....

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.
(Psalm 18: 1-2, 6-15, 16-19)

So what am I thinking after this year of "Fire"??  I'm thinking that ALL things are possible with God and apart from Him I can do nothing.  He chooses to set my heart and soul on fire for Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, but I must choose to continue to fuel and stoke the fire with the reading of, and meditating upon, His Word.  

It's not by my strength and not by my power that the fire burns brightly, but by the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord's fire will always burn more brightly than mine because He is God and I am not.  If there was ever any doubt about just how much God loves me (loves you), read this passage again.  If the enemy so much as touches a hair on my head he will awaken a fire breathing dragon that is jealous of the ones He loves.  He will protect me (you) with a wall of fire so great that our enemies and the enemy of our soul will cower at the sight.  

God will provide a fire so hot that no one will be able to pass through to harm me (you).  That's just how hot the fire of His love is for us.    

Dear Heavenly Father,  Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit that you have given me.  May you continually fan the flames of my heart so that others may see You when they look at me.  Even more than that, thank you for the fierce love you have for me that burns with an all consuming intensity.  Thank you for you grace and mercy that are furious in that nothing can stop them and they will never run out.  Thank you for your protection that is ferocious when anyone attempts to hurt me, your beloved child, in whom you delight.  Lord, work this truth deep into my soul so that I will never doubt for a moment your great, all consuming fire of love for me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you believe that God loves you with this kind of intensity?  What makes you doubt His love for you?  Have you ever thought of His great love, grace, and mercy for you as fierce?  furious?  ferocious? Do you ever pray for God to build a wall of fire around you?  Do you believe He will if you ask?

Be blessed.....

Between recuperating from surgery and then battling pneumonia, I'm kinda tired.  I think I'm going to take a couple of weeks off and prepare my heart for Christ's coming as well as spend some time with family.  I'll be back after Christmas.  In the meantime, I invite you to browse the Archives for some titles that pique your curiosity.  

May you have a blessed Advent season and a joyous Christmas knowing just how much you are loved....

Monday, November 27, 2017

Can Christians Truly Have Mental Illness?

Hey Friend,

I can vividly remember my dad asking me, "Are you still dwelling on that?" and then saying, "For Pete's sake give it a rest already."

When I would start a new job, even a simple job like working in a fast food place, I would get so anxious that I would literally get sick.  I was sure I was going to screw up.  

I intrinsically knew I looked at the world differently.  I didn't have as carefree an attitude that others seemed to have.  I was plagued with self doubt and was certain that anyone else, if placed in my shoes, would do a better job at managing life than I did.

During finals time in college, I would have to go home (about an hour and half away) to study.  I couldn't just focus on studying in the dorm with no other distractions during finals.  I wanted to jump out of my skin.  I had panic attacks.

Fast forward to my first child being born.  I couldn't wait for his/her arrival.  I loved this baby and was anticipating its coming....until she came and a dark cloud came in and settled over me.  Another friend, who gave birth around the same time I did, seemed to be enjoying motherhood.  I was a nervous wreck.  I had terrible thoughts like I wanted to give the baby back because I didn't like how I was feeling.  I wasn't the glowing happy mom that doted on this precious child the way others did.  Even writing this now, I feel horrid, ashamed, and embarrassed.  It's hard to think about, let alone write about it. 

I couldn't sleep even when my daughter slept.  I obsessively wrote down and tracked everything she did and when.  I couldn't go to bed at night without putting my hand on her chest and feeling her chest rise and fall.  I'd kiss her and exit the room, only to return seconds later to see if she was still breathing.  This process of checking her breathing, going back and forth, could last for hours. I feared she might die if I left her alone and didn't keep checking. 

I sank deeper into a sadness and despair at what my life had become and felt guilt and shame for not being more grateful for this gift that God had given me.  I would walk around the neighborhood in the wee hours when I couldn't sleep and one time I remember just running.  I was running and crying and I didn't know where I was running to, but I just wanted to run away.  I remember driving by myself and thinking I just wanted to turn and head into oncoming traffic so that someone would hit me and put me out of my misery.  What on earth was wrong with me?

I finally confided in my family doctor who said I was experiencing post-partum depression and as long as I didn't feel like I'd hurt the baby (which I didn't) that to just give it time and it would pass.  It was the "baby blues" and it was not unusual and given time I'd feel like myself again.

The trouble was that I didn't feel like myself again.  I did somewhat better, but I knew that I just didn't feel like I should. I loved and adored my daughter, but something bigger, greater was wrong.  

It wasn't until around my daughter's third birthday and potty training just about pushed me over the edge, that I was thankfully and mercifully diagnosed as having OCD (an anxiety disorder) and depression (a chemical imbalance in the brain).  

I started taking medicine (albeit with great hesitation) that worked on both the OCD anxiety and the depression.  It took awhile, but I began to feel like I could cope.  I wasn't as anxious about things - especially taking care of my daughter.  I didn't have that feeling like if someone said to me, "Could you pour me a bowl of cereal?"  It sounded like they were saying "Go climb Mt. Everest".  I began to feel joy return. 

I didn't like taking the medicine, however, because that meant I had to admit I had a mental illness.  Well meaning people told me that if I just read more scripture, or prayed harder, or had more faith then I wouldn't feel this way nor would I need to take medicine.  I was a Christian, after all, and medicine was a crutch.  

I felt flawed, less than, like my faith wasn't enough.  Surely, if I was just a better Christian I wouldn't be in this state.

These are the thoughts I wrestled with.  I remember going to a new dentist and having to check off medical history.  I would get to the part where it would list anxiety or depression and I'd have to check the little boxes.  Or sometimes it would say "mental illness".  That was the hardest part to check and then to have to list the medicines I was taking.  What would these people think of me?

Fast forward twenty five years and I now realize that Mental Illness is, just that, an illness!  It can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or by extreme circumstances (like what many of our returning vets experience).  Sometimes it's a combination of chemistry and experience. It's also genetic.  Many people self medicate with alcohol, drugs, etc. 

The truth's not my fault.  It's not your fault.  You have an illness.

If someone had diabetes, you wouldn't tell them they didn't need insulin, but just needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, think happy thoughts, mind over matter and they'd be fine.  Perhaps reading more scripture would alleviate the diabetic symptoms?  Sounds silly, right?  But, this is how we treat the mentally ill.

I am a cancer survivor.  Cancer, though terribly scary, was something I could wear like a badge of honor that I survived.  No one talks about surviving mental illness in these terms.  When I hear about someone committing suicide and others saying things like, "How could he or she be so selfish to do something like that?"  All I can say is that unless you've lived the pain and suffering of depression or anxiety or intense fear or all other symptoms of mental illness like mania, or rages wherein you feel like a monster, or multiple personalities, you have absolutely no idea the pain and suffering that a person endures.  It is so bad, and if left untreated, I can understand that a person could get to a point that they are in so much pain, that ending one's life is the only way to make this horrid, unbearable pain stop.

Mental illness is no respecter of persons.  

Most people would not peg me as the poster child for mental illness.  I was the captain of my cheer leading squad.  I graduated 8th in my class of nearly 800 students in high school.  I excelled in college.  I held leadership positions and sat on Homecoming court.  I was a choreographer in my dance ensemble.  I was a natural leader when I got out in the business world.  I love to write and have been published.

Mentally ill?  No, those are the homeless people begging for money on street corners, right?

I am the face of mental illness.  I know what it's like to wear the gray glasses and have the dark cloud come in and settle over you.  I know pulling the covers over my head and not being able to get out of bed for days at a time.  I know pain so intense that all I can do is let the Holy Spirit groan, "Jesus" on my behalf.

A wise counselor once gave me this analogy for people (especially Christians) who suffer from mental illness:

It's like you are on a football team. God is the Coach and the Bible is His playbook.  In order to benefit from the Coach you need to first be able to get to the field so that you can hear the Coach's instructions from the playbook and practice on the field and get the encouragement and discipline.

The only problem that you can't even get to the field.  You are stuck miles away in a pit so large and so deep that you can't possibly climb out of it by yourself.  You need medicine or counseling or both to even be able to get out of the pit, to get to the field, to sit at the feet of the Coach so that He can coach you from His playbook.  You need to be able to get to the field first.

I needed and still need medicine and counseling - hand in hand - to get me to, and keep me in, a healthy place.  The good news is that there is help and there is hope!!  There is treatment for mental illness.  It's still not a cure.  I have my episodes with OCD and depression, but I am able to function and cope in this world. I can experience joy and can find hope in scripture.

I've learned that stress, and lack of sleep and exercise, and poor diet can all contribute to a greater likelihood of returning symptoms.  I know coping techniques like distracting and holding the lies I hear in my head (from the enemy) up to scripture and if they don't match up with scripture, then I need to take those thoughts captive to Christ and let Him cast them far from me.  I can call on my faith now, because I was able, thanks to medicine and prayer, to get to the field.  

Mental illness is the thorn in my side (like what Paul had).  The Lord has not removed it, but I have learned that in it - as in all trials - His grace is sufficient.  He has never left nor forsaken me and He has been faithful to walk with me THROUGH the valleys and has not left me stuck there indefinitely.  

I believe that I have a compassion for others that I would NEVER have had it not been for what I have dealt with and continue to deal with.  I would NEVER have the close relationship that I do with Jesus had I not had to call out to Him from the utter depths of despair and to know He was still holding onto me even when I couldn't hold on to Him.  

So why do I say all this?  Two reasons.  One is to let the world know that God is faithful.  He knows the pain of the mentally ill and is close to the brokenhearted that deal with this illness.

Second, I would like to erase the stigma of mental illness.  One day, perhaps NFL teams will wear bright lime green cleats, gloves, and mouth guards to bring awareness to the one in four people who suffer from mental illness.  

One day we might talk with ease about bipolar, panic attacks, anorexia, OCD, depression, schizophrenia, etc.

I will leave you with my life verses from scripture:  (Psalm 40:1-3)  My prayer is that people will know my life story and that my life arrow will always point to Jesus who has been my hope and salvation through this cross that I/ and many along with me, bear.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

I strongly encourage you that if you have felt or experienced any of the symptoms I've mentioned, or any that fall under the list of symptoms for the disorders listed above, that you PLEASE seek medical advice and counseling.  There IS help and there IS hope!!  We just need to talk more about it.  Take it from one who's been there....

Be blessed....

Do you suffer from mental illness?  If so, what would you like others to know?  If you don't suffer, how could you be of encouragement to someone who does?  What comes to your mind when the subject of mental illness is brought up?  Do you believe it's an illness vs. a flaw or lack of faith?  Let's get the discussion started....

ps.  Please grant me some grace if I don't respond right away or get around to your blog if you're a writer.  Just came from the doctor and it seems that I have pneumonia.  Prayers for healing welcomed.  Heading to bed.....