As the new year approaches, it’s customary to reflect on your life and look to the future, setting goals about how you want to live the next year. I don’t know about you, but each year setting goals only gets me so far. I have great ideas about what I want to accomplish, but in...
Grief is a peculiar process that life takes us through when we lose someone or something in our lives. It can be through death, divorce, addiction, separation or even choice. We could grieve the loss of a loved one or a job, unmet expectations, or unfulfilled goals and dreams. Thankfully, God is...
‘The weight of the world on your shoulders’ might seem like a cliché phrase, but if we're honest, we've all felt that weight. Whether you're a business executive with 30 employees under you making decisions every day that could make or break company sales numbers; a mother...
I’ve had the unfortunate experience of living life with this inescapable feeling of being alone. God in the beginning of the Bible recognized that, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18 Early on in my life, my mother and father divorced, and my father was my...
We’ve all been there. You’re in a place where you are quite content and happy; then suddenly God tugs at your heart that it’s time to go somewhere else. At first it feels heartbreaking, you’re doing something good and something worth doing and yet you need to let it...
I love the idea that church being more than sitting in a service on Sunday and I love that we are being challenged to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community so that people can hear and see the message of Jesus’ love. But sometimes the thought of trying to help people in need can...
I had a significant growth spurt when I was about 12 or 13. Specifically, I remember going through the growth spurt because I can remember a significant amount of pain from growing. When I would lay down at night, my legs would ache, but there was nothing I could do. It was downright awful, yet...
It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. If that is true, then expectations are the root of all heartache. Whether they are unmet, unrealistic, or ungodly, they can break a heart fixed on how things appear and on what others think. Forgetting that the only expectations that matter...
If you look in my jewelry armoire you will find a several cross necklaces. Within that grouping, the crosses vary in size and shape. However there is one special cross. It is small simple silver cross with a thin delicate chain. It means so much more to me than just representing the...
Picture this; Sunday morning, people fill the seats, Waiting on the pastor’s words of happiness and peace. But, instead of a message that brings meaning to their lives, The words coming at them today are somewhat a surprise - Words that remind them of greatness; of something...
Typically, when a man and a woman get married, there are only two lives that are being joined together in holy matrimony. It is a challenging and daunting task to weave two separate lives intimately into one, but it is rewarding as a couple begins to learn and grow together.
The Bible says, Genesis 2:20b-24, “But, for Adam no suitable helper was found. So, the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
It is after there has been a time of getting to know each other and how to navigate life as a couple that children are conceived and brought into the family. Transitioning to parents from newlyweds is not an easy adjustment.
But, when a man and a woman get married and bring their own children into the holy union, it is even more complicated. Not only must the husband and wife learn how to become one as a couple, but they must learn their new roles as stepparents and co-parents. Many times, along with those new relationships comes a new home, possibly in a new state. Not only is the marriage new, but parenting is brand new in an unfamiliar place. This exciting time in the newlyweds’ lives can become overwhelming, stressful and uncertain. Thankfully, God’s hand is always in His plans and He can bring peace and blessings in the chaos.
I once read in Reader’s Digest that there are ten occurrences in your life that can cause overwhelming stress - death of a family member, marriage, pregnancy, illness, job change, incarceration, new home, strained friendships, success, and moving – and they recommend to avoid having more than two happen in a year’s time. I wish I read that when I was younger. Within five months, I got married, quit my job as a teacher to become a stay at home mom and moved into a new home 1300 miles away from the only place I had ever lived in 27 years. And 12 months later, I was pregnant. Talk about stress. I was in the stress Olympics!
When Rick and I met online in 1999, it wasn’t as popular as it is today to meet strangers on the internet. The unknown of chatrooms and IM-ing was a bit scary. But, living 1300 miles away from each other, being single parents with jobs and responsibilities and only having email, IM-ing and phone calls to communicate allowed us to get to know each other more intimately. We sent pictures and cards but did not get to see each other until seven months after we first met online. Rick hadn’t planned on proposing that whirlwind weekend we spent in Maryland and Texas meeting each other’s families and friends, but we got engaged and were married five months later. For two 20-somethings, it was an amazingly crazy and exciting time. For our children, it was amazing, crazy, exciting and life changing.
My son prayed daily for nine years for a Daddy and siblings. He desperately wanted a family. When I spoke to him about Rick after we had been talking for three months, he was excited. He loved talking to him about football and Texas. He was thrilled about the idea of being a big brother to Rick’s daughter and son. Before Rick proposed, he spoke with my son to get his permission to marry me and permission was given gladly. He asked if he could call Rick “Dad” once we were married and could not wait to move to Texas.
Rick’s daughter and son had gone through the divorce better than most nine and five-year olds. They adjusted well to moving in with his parents while he adjusted to being a single parent and seeing their mother two weekends a month and during the summer. They both expressed the desire to have a family again and were cautiously happy when we were introduced. They were eager to have another sibling, a new house and a mother who lived with them full time. Requests to call me “Mom” came after our engagement was announced and we started writing letters and talking on the weekends they were home.
When we all got to see each other in person, it was like being back home, with family, not like being in the same place for the first time. It only took a few minutes for the children to be in the back seat of the car together before they started bickering like siblings, falling asleep on each other on the hour ride from the airport. They giggled in the bedroom as they fell asleep and spent the next two days playing and enjoying getting to know each other.
But, after the wedding, honeymoon and four-day road trip moving our lives from Maryland to Texas, it was evident that navigating this new life together was going to be messy, complicated and hard. Each of us had a new place to fit into that didn’t always make sense or feel right.
I was trying to figure out how to be the perfect wife and mother. It was a big adjustment to go from single mom of one to married mom of three. Having a husband was wonderful, but after taking care of the children all day, I found myself exhausted and struggled finding time to spend with Rick before heading to bed. We were a busy family with school, sports, church and family gatherings. Rick was busy with a new promotion, but was at every practice and dance event, helped lead the children’s ministry at church and co-hosted many family get togethers. There was also the dynamic of being so far away from my family and my son’s biological father while trying to figure out how to include Rick’s ex wife and her family into the children’s lives.
It was a delicate balance that we did not always get right. If we didn’t have his children for the weekend and Rick was working, I made sure I spent extra time with my son who was adjusting to a huge move and a different family dynamic. If Rick wasn’t working, we would spend time with my son, but also carve out time for a date night. During Christmas break and the summertime while the children were spending time with their other parents, we made sure to take trips and do things to strengthen our relationship as husband and wife. It was challenging to do that when we were with the children 24/7, so we enjoyed the breaks.
We also experienced challenges in parenting since our children were 9, 9 and 5 when we got married. We had different parenting styles and it was very evident as we tried to figure out how to discipline and train children who already had established ways that they best reacted to discipline and training. We thought we talked a lot about how we would raise them and any future children, but we found ourselves disagreeing especially when it came to our own children. I had way more grace for my son than for my stepchildren. My son rebelled if disciplined in public, responding better to quiet and private rebuking. All Rick had to do was raise his voice to his daughter and she was repentant. The 5-year-old just needed a swat to get back in line. But as we disciplined them differently, we received flak from family members and the exes. It was difficult to establish rules for our home when those rules were not the same at their other houses or when with other family. Rick and I started to look at each other as enemies instead of partners and it was easy to be resentful or frustrated.
We had to have hard conversations about what our motives were in our discipline for each of the children. We spent hours in prayer and in counseling with our pastor. We searched God’s Word during our devotional times as a couple and privately. We apologized when we got it wrong and rejoiced when we got things right. We were a united front when questioned by family members and biological parents. And we modeled Biblical parenting to the children.
God was gracious in our growing pains. As we followed godly principles in child rearing and our marriage, we had peace in our home and in our marriage. Even though there is great wisdom behind God’s design for marriage to come first then children, His mercy and guidance allowed us to become a family. And as we added more children, we continue to seek God as we parent two unique children who are growing into incredible, responsible, creative young adults.
Depression. Do you have it? I do.
It’s spreading like a virus in our society. It is no respecter of person, or position, title, gender, income, or opinion. It takes hold of a person and darkens their eyes so they can’t see anything but despair. Sometimes it’s circumstantial, and other times it’s biological.
And I haven’t escaped its grip.
It has been a really tough season in my life. And there’s a real possibility that I’ve been dealing with depression for longer than I previously knew. Then with the holidays just passing, life hasn’t been any easier.
For me, depression steals away happiness and joy, replacing it with hopelessness. It’s dark and scary. Others like myself, live with “walking” depression which means that I carry a heavy mental and emotional burden that triggers here and there while I’m at work, driving home, doing homework, and spending time with friends.
Then it strikes. It’s like swimming with weights on your ankles and treading water where you feel like you’re on the edge of drowning, struggling to breathe and survive let alone swim. It doesn’t take much of that to bring me down and make me feel isolated, even if I’m not.
Most of all, it’s exhausting.
When you follow Jesus, depression gets even trickier. It messes with what you thought you have always known, and it makes you doubt what God is able to do.
Here’s what I mean:
- I know that God has a plan for my prosperity (Jeremiah 29:11), but it’s not going to look the way you’d expect.
- I know that God gave us the ultimate gift, but people in my life are going to be selfish and inconsiderate.
- I know God loves me, but these broken relationships aren’t healing.
- I know God won’t let me fall, but that doesn’t protect me from facing some really hard challenges.
Do you see the trend? God gives us so much, and yet depression can rob you of everything good in your life. I don’t have the perfect outlook on everything, but reframing the situation is starting to give me a new mentality. It might help you too, if we can embrace it.
- God has a plan for our prosperity, and today, we are one day closer.
- God gave us the ultimate gift, and today, our gift from God included waking up with breath in my lungs.
- God loves us, and the friends around us right now have been chosen specifically for our benefit.
- God won’t let us fall, and He is with us always, even today.
Personally, I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” solution to depression. Just like there is also no fixed way to serve the Lord. Paul in the Bible talks about different gifts and using them to the glory of the Lord. I’m learning that being a “good” Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that I am working in a church building. Likewise, people living with depression have different levels of depression that shows up in different ways. Fighting the depression also looks different for different people.
The one idea that God has been pouring into my heart is this idea of “today”.
It’s not too hard to look at my life and circumstances to think the worst and instantly become depressed. Then I remember that the situation looks the way it does only today. And what happens tomorrow? Today, I’m depressed. It’s hard to get out of bed. It’s hard to work on projects, schoolwork, chores, and finishing tasks. But tomorrow is a new day, and there is a hope that something will change. If nothing else, I am certainly closer to seeing something change.
This hope for a better day is strengthened by Bible. Romans 5:5 says, “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
That’s what realizing this idea of today means to me. It means that I can hang on for tomorrow. I can go on living to see something happen that can change circumstances because God has given us the Holy Spirit.
Depression today? Yeah. Hope for tomorrow? Even more so.
My husband is retiring from the military after 32 years of active duty service. This is a big step for both of us. He hasn’t had to apply for a job since he was in high school. And since we’ve been married, he has always known what he was going to do and when he would get promotions. We haven’t really had to worry about our future. Until now.
As for me, I’m a “recovering” control freak, which is a weird trait for a military spouse. But when things get stressful or uncertain, I default to, “If I can control all the things about this, then everything will be okay.” So, in this journey of my husband transitioning out of the military and into his next position as he continues his career, I have been trying to control freak it. Every day I was trying to gain control of the unknown by asking him if he took this step, or called that person. And I could tell I was stressing him out.
I finally decided that I needed to talk with God about it. I remember the day well. “Lord,” I said, “he is just not doing the things he said he wanted to do. He is stressed out and this is new territory for us. But God…what if he doesn’t get a job after he retires?”
Immediately I felt the Spirit say, “Do you think I can’t take care of you?”
I don’t always get immediate answers from God when I pray. Sometimes I don’t get answers at all. But I have found that when I am earnestly seeking him, or if my thinking needs to be straightened out, sometimes I will feel an answer from him like I did that day.
When I felt that answer, I took a sharp breath in. Yes! I thought. That’s right! God will take care of us now, just like he has taken care of us for all these years.
At that moment, my worry and angst disappeared. I no longer had to ask every day if my husband was taking care of things. Instead, I prayed each day, lifting my husband up in prayer. And instead of pointing out what my husband was or was not doing, I was able to talk about what God was teaching me; that he is still in control and has a good plan for us. We started agreeing that we just needed to look for what God was doing and follow his lead.
We still don’t know what my husband will be doing after his retirement. But we do know that God has been showing us some potential paths. We know that he has a specific plan for us. And we know that God will reveal that plan to us as we follow his lead, pray, and stay in relationship with him.
Now I am constantly reminded to live the truth of Isaiah 30:21, Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” I don’t have to know the path forward because I’m listening to the one who is showing me where to walk. He knows the way forward, and I trust him to show me.
After the holidays, I’m finding our home is filled with stuff. There are piles of new things and the boxes they came in. On top of that, we also have a little baby girl arriving soon. There's so much to get and so much to do! This leads to my wife and I planning how we will get rid of the mess, how to organize the chaos, and find some peace again.
My mind doesn't feel all that different from how my home looks. I find myself in a season of transition and cannot help but think about how things will be changing soon and although we try to plan for it, there will always be something to get, or to clean up, or…who knows. These thoughts turn into worries that are all bouncing around in my head like an old computer screen saver.
In the same way we are trying to tame the mess in the house, I’m learning I need the wisdom to discern how to address my concerns and worries. I need to decide which ones I need to learn to live with, with the understanding that our Father is taking care of them.
I find encouragement in the close of 1 Peter where he wrote to the early persecuted church, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
I find peace in this not because I can make everything right (there's always a new mess or a worry popping up), but through the knowledge that everything has been made right in Jesus Christ. I find peace in knowing that even if I do not know the path that I should be taking, God does. And Jesus has showed me who I should strive to be in every area of my life.
If you are like me at the start of 2019, trying to take the first steps towards finding peace after a hectic holiday season, I suggest a shift in focus from what we could do to what has already been done.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 5:8-11
Comfort is a great thing. No one wants to sit on an uncomfortable couch, we all want our home to be a comfortable place, and no one wants to wear an itchy sweater. Everyone wants to be comfortable. Comfort means being relaxed, being more yourself, and feeling secure. Comfort is perfectly fine and great in the physical aspects of life, clothes, furniture, and homes, but maybe that’s it. Maybe comfort isn’t supposed to go beyond physical things. Maybe it isn’t meant for how we live our life.
Since I’ve been married I’ve always felt like God was pulling my husband and I away from wherever we were comfortable. We moved 1600 miles away from all friends and family, and the place we were both comfortable and had always called home. We lived in a small apartment that just never really felt like home. My husband was in graduate school working as a grad assistant making very little so we had the smallest, and tightest budget ever--which wasn’t always comfortable to work with.
Then we finally started to get into a rhythm of that life and make what we felt was a great plan for the future, God made us uncomfortable again. My husband didn’t get into the PhD program like we had always planned he would. That meant we had about 6 months to find him a job before the university stopped paying him, and that was very scary and uncomfortable. Then he found a job, a great job and loved it, and after his second week there we found out I was pregnant.
The last 12 months of our lives have pushed us out of our comfort zones of being in control and feeling like we get any say in our future plans. Every day and each month all we could do was make a small plan for the weekly future, and honestly God has blessed us more in this season than I could have ever dreamed of.
This has made me realize that sometimes God calls us to be uncomfortable. Great things don’t happen when you are cozy in your comfort zone. Esther from the Bible is a great example of this (her story is recorded in the Book of Esther in the Old Testament). She was an orphan living with her uncle in a foreign city which I’m sure wasn’t the most comfortable place to be. Then suddenly she’s chosen by the King to be his new Queen just as one of the kings nobles wanted to destroys the Jews, Esther’s people. Esther’s uncle persuades her to use her new position close to the king to try and save her people; again, I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that was. She’s super young, newly married to a king and now she needs to try and persuade him against one of his highest nobles. She did it though, and ultimately the Jews were saved because Esther went where God needed her. She went where she was uncomfortable, and that is where God can do the best things.