Originally posted on Being Young and Married:
Depression and anxiety. The ceaseless beating created by the hormones of my own body. Internal bruises. There are no rashes, fevers, or discernible symptoms for your eyes to uphold. There are no assaulters prowling towards me with bloodcurdling weapons of slaughter. It is me who is my enemy. Me who beats me up. Me who opens the door for the monsters I’ve created. Depression is a sadistic prison where I am both the prisoner and the jailer. Anxiety is being followed by a ruthless voice that knows all my insecurities. That voice is mine. I have a chemical imbalance. I didn’t ask for it, just like the suffering child at Riley didn’t ask for cancer. Sometimes we’re dealt a hand we weren’t prepared for. But it’s not the hand we’re dealt, it’s how we play it.
I could lay down; throw up my white flag with a quivering hand. I…
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Man alive! If all Christians focused on being filled with the Holy Spirit and less on trivial matters like what day we should worship, the kind of worship music we should use, drums vs. no drums, who gets to be in charge, who sings the next special song, the color of the carpet, etc., the church general would be much better off. But instead, we have inward fighting over what the scriptures calls “foolish controversies” (Titus 3:9). Don’t get me wrong, blatant theological errors should be corrected, but trivial foolishness is NOT necessary for the building up of God’s people or His kingdom. I challenge you to join forces, link arms, stick together. Put aside, and avoid, petty arguments, jealous behaviors, and foolish, unprofitable, worthless arguments. Instead, labor together in the work that God is doing, and build the kingdom.
Titus 3:1-11 NIV
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
“I’m a 15th generation practicing pagan, and proud of it.” Her southern accent was thick as molasses. Her words dripped off her tongue like honey off the comb. Her box-blonde hair was fashioned in a bushy updo, and her makeup was as flashy and vibrant as her personality. She stood over us with one hand on her hip and the other clutching a fresh pot of bitter coffee. There was evidence of a grin forming in the upper righthand corner of her mouth. But there was also a soft kindness in her eyes. She seemed to invite questions with her open stance, and brazenly locked eyes with each of us, almost daring us to speak.
I was taken back by her honest statement. Fifteen generations of pagans? Practicing pagans? Is that really a thing? My questions turned to mourning the previous generations of proud, practicing non-believers, who lived before her and, who most likely, are lost for all eternity. I began to think about how many souls that might be. I’m guessing it would be a large number. After all, she told us she was one of eleven children, and all of them are practicing pagans.
As we sat in the diner conversing with her between bites, she shared with us that her youngest brother had just been killed in a motorcycle accident two weeks prior. A young man in a pickup truck, a friend of the family, pulled out in from of him. A total accident. Neither one of them saw it coming. They didn’t even have time to react. And in the blink of an eye he was gone. Forever.
As I listened to her story I could see the sorrow on her face and hear the pain in her cracking voice, and my heart broke. Her baby brother is gone. There’s no hope of seeing him again. There won’t be a family reunion at the pearly gates. No trumpets sounding the homecoming of a believer. Just gone. Forever.
As our conversation with this 15th generation practicing pagan progressed, I was reminded that there is no better time to share the love of Christ than now. Waiting is a fools game. Waiting for what? The right time? The courage? For someone else to do it? The time is now. The waitress… The store clerk… The stranger… Your best friend… could be gone in the blink of an eye and lost for eternity. The time is now. Don’t wait. The right time will never come, and you can always pray for courage. I have.
So, what happened to the waitress? After a few more coffee refills, friendly conversation and some well-received words of comfort, she graciously obliged to letting us pray for her, her grieving family and the young man in the truck who survived the horrific accident. We also asked her if the local pastor (we were passing through town) could visit her at work. She smiled mischievously and said, “Let him come. I’m ready for him.” I’m praying the pastor and his wife will have an incredible story to tell very soon about how a 15th generation practicing pagan, “and proud of it”, found an authentic relationship with Jesus and an entire family was changed for generations to come.
5 years ago today a little boy arrived in our home through the foster care system. His charming personality, warm heart and bright smile won us over immediately. As we sat in Dairy Queen having an in-depth conversation about living in our home and what that would mean for his future, Nathan asked if we would be open to adopting him, but only “if we really wanted him”. We were moved to tears. Our compassion for this little life sitting across the table from us was overwhelming. We knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was going to be our son and that God had navigated our steps towards him.
We were so thrilled to finally have a child…our first child. (Someday I will detail our struggle with infertility & adoption. But, not today.) The adoption process was smooth and nearly painless; for us, not Nathan. Being adopted is both a special and torrential time for a child who’s been in the foster care system. It’s the end of one life, and the beginning of a new life.
As a family, we try to make sure that this day, July 8, is a special day. Today we remember how God answered two prayers on this day: Nathan’s prayer for a new family, and our prayer for a child.
We love you, Nathan!
Love, Mom & Dad
let our faith move the mountains
as we fall at your feet & worship you
let our lives be filled with passion
as we try to make it through
this weary life
let our hearts be filled with laughter
as we seek your face & follow you
let our lives be filled with love, just like yours
as we surrender to your will
make me like you, oh Lord
help me see like you
and love like you
make me like you, oh Lord
help me speak like you
Several years ago my husband, Chris, and I were told we would never have biological children. That’s a long story….(a future blog entry) Then we were blessed by foster care, adopted our son, Nathan; my miracle boy. We had a foster daughter, Raechell, and her son, Izaiah, whom we love completely. And then we found out I was pregnant with our daughter, Annabella. God was blessing us with four miracles. After all the waiting and praying… it was finally happening; our little family was growing.
Two weeks after my daughter was born via C-section I began to hemorrhage. I remember, vividly, sitting in the bathroom trying to weep quietly, afraid of waking up my newborn daughter. The pain in my back and abdomen were excruciating. I was exhausted. After all it was 2 AM. I was confused. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. I cried out for my husband, who came rushing into what looked like a murder scene in our bathroom. He immediately went into emergency mode. He packed up the diaper bag and was able get our newborn baby into her car seat without waking her. Raechell was asked to watch the other kids in the house, who were all still asleep. Chris carried me and the baby to the van, and we sped off to the hospital.
By the time we arrived at the hospital I had lost a lot of blood, and was still hemorrhaging. At this point things get a little foggy. My memories are shrouded in a white light. I remember specific moments, but not the entire event. I recall the doctors (3 of them) coming into my room to perform a checkup. My mom and dad arrived looking calm, but frazzled. I was laying on a gurney, crying out from the pain and reaching for my mom. My body was convulsing uncontrollably. I was shaking so badly that my husband had to hold me down, so the doctors could perform their checkup. My mouth was dry, my back was arched from the pain and my head was spinning. I could hear my parents talking about how pale I looked, “you can’t even tell she has freckles.” I was sweating, and freezing. My mom kept stroking my hair and my arms, telling me everything was going to be ok, and whispering prayers. My dad sat next to my bed with one hand on my leg, praying silently, his face in his other hand. My poor husband was pacing the room, asking every question he could think of. I could tell he was in panic mode. Annabella slept in her car seat.
It took the doctors very little time to decide something was seriously wrong and that I would need emergency surgery. I clearly remember the looks on their faces. I remember thinking “Oh God! It’s bad.”
As they were wheeling me out of the room I began rambling off my To-Do list for the day: “I can’t have surgery. How is Raechell going to get to school? Rae can’t miss class. How will everyone get where they’re supposed to be if I don’t take them? I left laundry in the washer. I was going to clean the house today. What about the baby? How is she going to eat? Who’s going to take care of her? She needs to be fed. It’s about that time. Nathan needs help on his project. It’s due Monday. The materials are in the van…..” My mom and dad were weeping through their smiles, trying to look brave. My mom was trying to reassure me, “Everything will be ok. Don’t worry about all that right now. We got it covered.” I turned to look at my husband. His eyes were huge. He looked frantic. My heart ached for him. I tried muttering how much I loved him and tried to tell him that I would be fine, but no sound would come out. He kissed me on the forehead, told me he loved me and they whisked me away.
By the time I arrived in the pre-op room I wasn’t able to make a coherent sentence. I tried asking the nurses questions. My mumbling was . I tried telling the nurse I wasn’t in pain anymore so we don’t need to have surgery, but then realized I was still convulsing uncontrollably. My brain was all fog. I could see the clock on the wall and the white ceiling. It was so cold. My mind was racing… “I can’t die… my husband won’t be able to handle it…please God!… with a newborn baby… and the kids…. he can’t handle it… what will happen to them?… But if this is it, I’m ready to go.”… and then… nothing.
My emergency surgery, Dilation and Curettage (D&C), was supposed to be 45 minutes. It turned into 4 hours! My husband, mother and father sat in a waiting room for 4 hours, waiting. No one ever came out to give them an update. Not once!
I’m not exactly sure how long I was gone. Seconds, maybe minutes. However, I coded and paddles were used. The words “very rare complication” were used when the doctors explained I needed a complete transfusion. They estimated that I lost about 3 pints of blood before I arrived at the hospital, and another 4 pints during the surgery. The human body only holds 10 pints (or units). I was classified a Class IV Hemorrhage: a loss of 40% or greater and is considered the maximum amount of blood that an adult can lose before the body can no longer compensate. The body can no longer keep up with the blood loss and the person is in serious trouble. Without very fast help the person will die. And I did.
But, thank you, Jesus, I did not stay dead!
I spent several days in the hospital and eventually went home. However, I was right back in the hospital two weeks later, hemorrhaging again. I was diagnosed with placenta accreta.
As a result, a decision was made for me. I had a partial hysterectomy. Ultimately the decision was the best choice for my health; although it took me a long time to see it that way. At that time, I would have done, said, sacrificed anything to maintain the ability to have more children. However, the doctor and my husband thought it would be best if I had a hysterectomy.
The following two years would be the two hardest years of our marriage and my life. The toll that the medical procedures (3 surgeries in 4 weeks: C-section, D&C, partial hysterectomy), the hemorrhaging, the complete transfusion that I had to have done; all of that damaged my body, my spirit, my heart, my mind, my faith and my marriage. It changed me forever. I spent two years trying not to be bitter and angry, and failed miserably. I kept replaying it in my mind: If only I had gone to the hospital sooner. If only I had been coherent enough to make medical decisions for myself. If only… If only… There had to be another way.
I went to counseling, took anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills, and sleep aids. (all prescribed) I wrote songs about depression and finding God in the midst of pain. I journaled, a lot. I questioned God. I questioned my husband. I questioned myself. My faith was tested. I doubted everything and everyone. Our marriage endured a brutal time. The important thing to keep in mind is that we went though it, together. We made it to the other side. Neither one of us left or “checked out”, physically or mentally. My wonderful husband persevered through my anger, and continued to love me, support me. He never stopped loving me. He stood by my side. Grieved with me. Loved me. Never left.
Today, and every day, I am grateful. God’s endless mercies, patience and love for me still amaze me. He blessed me with my husband and all of my children. They are all my miracles, my blessings, my life. God used the circumstances surrounding the birth of my youngest child to change me forever; He taught me through dying that life is fragile and valuable. I will not take it for granted.
Perhaps I’m alone in this feeling; so overwhelmed by all of life’s pressures that have gradually stacked up, one right on top of the other, that I begin to crack a little. Each situation more confounding than the last, the load becomes unbearable and I feel like I’ll burst at the seams. I suspect I’m not alone. But, too often I feel alone. Carrying the burdens of life on my scrawny shoulders, trying to “hold it together”, and failing miserably. My husband will be the first to tell you that I take on too much, I worry too much, and I allow it to affect me too much. He’s right. But, ‘shhhhh’ don’t tell him. I will never concede!
The truth is I get stressed. Really stressed. One way I keep my sanity intact is to journal. (and coffee) A journal is a very intimate, private, detailed attempt at getting one’s feelings and thoughts out on paper. I’m told that journaling can be very beneficial. Long story short, writing out your thoughts can clarify your thoughts and feelings, you’ll get to know yourself better, reduce stress, solve problems more effectively, resolve disagreements with others, and a few more.
I’m guessing at one point in your life someone, probably a counselor, pastor or friend, has recommended that you write your thoughts out, or start a journal. You probably thought, “Great. One more thing to do. Let me just add that to the laundry list of stressors in my life”. Or, if you’re like me, I don’t want anyone to stumble across my journal (the keeper of my darkest thoughts)…it would be too humiliating. However, I’ve found that ‘getting it out’ is incredibly beneficial for me, my family, my marriage and my ministry. I find that if I don’t ‘get it out’ on paper, it comes out of my mouth, and often at the most inopportune times. I’ve also been told that I wear my emotions on my face. (I suffer from Resting Hostile Face) So, there’s no denying how frustrated I am at the world. All you have to do is look at me.
I wear many hats in my life: wife, mother, minister, singer, song writer, author, speaker. My life gets incredibly stressful. Dealing with people can often lead to a psychological crack in the armor, metaphorically speaking, and a mental breakdown, literally speaking. It’s important to take care of yourself, regardless of what hats you wear. As a woman I feel a great need to make sure everything and everyone is taken care of, and it’s all running smoothly. If it’s not, I take this as a personal failure and do everything in my power to FIX it. Of course, I know that I can’t fix everything. Blah, Blah, Blah. The logical part of my brain knows the limitations set on me by my humanity. But, my emotional side says “Go all in. Never Die. Never Surrender. Do whatever it takes. Sacrifice yourself for the good of all.” I know it sounds manic, but it makes sense to me. Besides, you’ve never experienced this, right?
I’m about to do something incredibly dangerous, taboo, social media suicide: I’m going to share an excerpt from my personal journal. I’m hoping that you’ll have some mercy on me. Nobody is perfect. We all have doubt. We all falter. This was a bad day for me. The purpose in sharing this very personal insight into my life is not to get attention, pity or prayers (although prayers would be appreciated), but to shed some light on the inner thoughts of an overstressed, manic, slightly deranged mother doing her best to hold it together when her world is caving in around her. And to show you…you are not alone.
April 24, 2015
I am incredibly distracted. I’m trying to listen to the speaker, but my mind is racing. The stress that waits for me at home is in the forefront of my mind. All I can think about is home…It’s all screwed up…Why me? I’m tired. I hate this. Everything is going wrong. Why can’t anything go right? How do I fix this? My poor family. This sucks.
Why is it so hard? I’m trying to be okay. “Put a smile on, Selena, people are looking to you. You’re not allowed to give up. Too many people are relying on you. If you take a break, the whole thing will fall apart and you’ll have to step in and fix it all, again. Just pretend. You’re ok. Don’t stop. Keep going. It’s all up to you. If you fail it will all collapse. Everything you’ve done, all your work, all your time, everything, will be for nothing.”
I hate this. What a waste. Where is God’s glory in all of this? I’m trying to have faith and trust that everything will work out for good. But, it’s too hard. It’s too big. It’s outside my control. My life is too complicated. My thoughts are too irrational, hateful, full of anger and bitterness. How can any of this be beneficial?
I can feel the pain in my head and heart so vividly. It’s like a wave of hot water swashing back and forth, creating confusion, anger, nausea and irreparable suffering. The wave of emotions rises up, but I hold back the tears. I’m supposed to be strong. A pillar for others to lean on and look up to; and pillars don’t waver. They don’t fall. They don’t get a day off. They are required to stand, regardless of how they feel. No weakness allowed. And certainly no tears.
So, what am I to do?
I’ll stand tall, with a smile.
I’ll say, “You can lean on me.”
I’ll tremble from the pain and hurts.
But I will not fall.
And I will not cry.
Again, you are not alone. If you’re feeling overstressed, manic, slightly deranged, it’s ok. We have all been there at one point. Ask for help. There’s no shame in admitting that the ideal life you’ve created in your head doesn’t exist and you need help trying to hold it together. If it’s already shattered, ask for help in putting it back together. Do not try to carry the burden on your own. Don’t try to be The Fixer in everyone’s life. You know who you are…..”I’m the fixer in the family. I’m the one who fixes everything”. Don’t. Open up and be honest with yourself. You can’t do everything for everyone. Even though you desire to be that person, you can’t. Seek help. Look to God for the strength, guidance, peace and joy you need, and ask Him to bring people into your life that can help you carry the load. It will not get better over night. It will not be easy. It will be hard. It will require prayer and sacrifice. You will have to be a warrior for your family, fighting the good fight day and night. But, I promise you this: it will be okay and you do not have to do it alone.