Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas This Year

Christmas is different this year.

I'm in an empty apartment, single and away from my family. What a strange feeling to have this time of year.

My heart aches a little bit. How hard it is to live without a sense of belonging anywhere! The more time I spend with my parents and siblings, the more I long for that in my own life - my own family - to begin.

But not this year. This year, it's just me. And while it's not a feeling I like, it's one I want to remember.

Because if I don't know loneliness, how will I remember the lonely people around me?

And if I don't know hurt, how will I reach the hurt of those I know?

And if I can't feel empty, how will I know what it is to be filled?

So I want to stop feeling these, but I don't want to forget them.

Because one year, it'll be me, plus. And I need to find someone who is alone and show them my heart, the heart that remembers.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Single Life and God

I read this blog post yesterday and have been thinking about it ever since.

Everyone I talk to has something different to say about my life right now - particularly, being single and yet longing for marriage and family.

"Focus less on finding the right person, and more on becoming the right person."

"You have to be fully content in your relationship with God before He is going to bring another relationship into your life."

"You are still so young - only 21 - and there are so many good guys out there! You just haven't met them yet."

"A life of singleness doesn't mean that God is holding out on you, or keeping you away from His best for you."

I am torn. Part of me wants to fully embrace the attitude of the blogger. I long to be freed from the idea of waiting, to live life fully and contentedly now. I definitely do not want my relationship with God to be dependent on Him delivering a Godly husband to me on a silver platter. I do believe in "a God who provides, loves and gives infinite purpose even to our singleness." 

But the other part of me looks inside and sees an entire bundle of desires, skills, and talents that line up with being a wife and a mother. Desires that seem to come from this God I serve. And I am lost about what to do with those.

Do I set them away in a tiny corner of my heart, hoping they will still be there when the time comes?

Do I toss them in the trash, pretend they never existed, and put on the brave face of celibacy?

Am I allowed to acknowledge them while I'm still single - or more importantly, in front of other people?

Or do I have to continue guiltily hiding these desires? Feeling like hanging onto them means that I am not Christian enough?

The only conclusion I have come to is that to focus on God is everything. It's like the reading a book or watching a TV show or movie. I have let myself get drawn into the story, follow the characters intently, wait for the plot to unfold. I hate trying to "guess" the end, or even worse - reading the last chapter first!

Basically, I have to trust the Author of the story of my life. I have to live this day, this page, right now. I have to see how the desires and passion He has given me play a part in my life today. If (when) I do dream about the future, I need to remember that there are so many possible endings to this story. That means I dream big.

And yes, I can allow myself to dream of a marriage for the Kingdom, where my husband and I work as a team every day for God. I can also dream of being single and moving to Africa, working to be a mother to many, many orphans. My dreams can still include things like a career change, moving every year to a new city, starting a NGO, adopting or fostering, raising children who love Jesus, learning to love sacrificially.

And when I dream, I have to give it to Jesus - the bundle of overwhelming desire for marriage and a family and the longing that brings me to tears.

What does it mean that I "give it to Jesus"? It means that everyday, I come to Him and say "Jesus, I want a husband. I want children of my own. I know I could do it, and do it well. I know that you have given me a heart for this. But today, that doesn't seem to mean anything. What should I do?"

Some days, this conversation leads to me seeing how my desires are being filled by Him. Other days, it leaves me feeling like He is not enough for everything I want.

But always, it humbles me and brings me to His feet to learn and grow closer to Him. And what more could I ask for?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Here for Now

I'm cozied up in an old easy chair, covered with my favorite blanket and listening to some soothing hymns. Life has changed the past couple months, and I am still trying to sit and soak in all the newness. I found a job on an OB/GYN floor in Springfield, Missouri, and I am working 8-hour shifts, 5 days a week as an RN. It felt like I'd never get here, and every day at work, I find that what nurses told me was true - the first year of nursing makes you feel like you learned nothing in school and you are starting entirely over! But I have wonderful, experienced nurses that I am working alongside and they have been encouraging and helpful every step of the way. I love working with patients of all ages - literally, 1 day old through those at the end of their lives - and have learned as much from them as anyone else.

My life isn't very full aside from work. Andy, my oldest brother, married his beautiful bride last weekend. It was a perfect wedding, full of God and His great plan for their lives together. Family and friends gathered and I truly enjoyed every moment. It made me really look forward to the day I find a man who makes me think, "I could serve God's kingdom better as this man's teammate than I could alone."

But for today, it's just me and the Lord, and I am straining my eager ears each day to listen for where He may want me next. While I like Springfield, the 2 months of working in a hospital have really made me realize that my heart is with the health of communities and families. I want to work in a setting that allows me to be with patients for months, years at a time, rather than just 8 hours, or maybe a couple days if I'm lucky. I've been reading about midwifery and as soon as I'm off the extra hours of work brought on by orientation, I plan to start researching different developing countries and mission organizations. It will be a big step, but part of life being "just me" right now means less responsibility - I don't have to worry about uprooting a family or making my decisions with the life plans of another person to consider. What a blessing - lonely some days, but mostly just refreshing and freeing. I want to cherish these days.

My soul longs to be a mother. Working with new moms and having friends who are just beginning their families makes the ache so strong some days. And yet, that energy and fire in my heart can be used in so many ways - I would appreciate your prayers for humility in my life. I want to be ready for when God brings the next thing and I want to fully live what He has given me now. When my pride gets in the way, I think I have a better plan and I strain and pull for what I want. Pray that I would be able to daily bow before the Lord and ask Him what He wants - for tomorrow, next year, and the next 10 years, but also for today.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Where am I going next?
It's a good question for right now, especially while I'm in the process of navigating the mental gynmasitcs of job hunting, interviewing, applying, etc. I find myself using all those classic words from grade school - what, where, when, why, how. . . Today, the where is on my mind. Home is something I hold in high regard - I long to know where that will be so that I can start dreaming and planning and making connections. I want to go - even if the job is mundane and the town/city is a snooze. I'm ready for adventure in life and moving will certainly be that.

And so, without knowing the where, I find myself bemoaning life, feeling lost and directionless. "I don't know where I'm going" - it's a scary phrase. Tonight though, I recall that this world is not my home. Those verses in Scripture have always been a comfort to me, especially as I battle dark days on earth and today I am reminded of that comfort. I am going to Heaven. . . and how I get there has also been determined. That is one journey I don't have to worry about. And if that is the most important trip of all. . . and it's already figured out. . . then I have no worries. A great deal of unknown still lingers. As does my Savior. Linger a while longer.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Things I Want to Do

When I graduate. I might have more time with my life. I want to do things.
  • Learn to play an instrument - piano, guitar?
  • Read about Economics so I can better understand issues of health and poverty around the world
  • Study for the NCLEX-RN
  • Make a t-shirt quilt
  • Finish my travel quilt
  • Refinish/paint some of my furniture - my dresser, end table, coffee table, bed frame, and kitchen chairs/table
  • Gather all my apartment decorations together, get rid of things that don't "go" or I don't need, and determine what my style is
  • Sew. Sew, sew, sew. 
  • Learn about gardening, help with our family garden, and plan ways I can grow herbs in a future apartment
  • Find a job.
  • Make a list of my favorite books or books I recommend to others. Make a list of books-to-read. Read.
  •  Look at least one news article each day.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Suicide and Hope

Taking a short break from homework to blog about something I saw on facebook (one of the few times going to facebook actually has resulted in deeper thinking and understanding about a real life issue for me and not simply wasted time!).

Apparently Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor at Saddleback Church in California, had a 27-year-old son who committed suicide on Friday night. After searching out some news stories for more information, I was touched and encouraged by the sensitivity of the reports and the way that Pastor Warren seems to be dealing with this. This son struggled with mental illness his entire life, a deep depression that did not go away even after years of treatment at the hands of the best physicians and psychiatrists in America, medications, counseling, and prayer.

Initially, this terrifies me. In my struggle with depression, I have often been encouraged by the well-meaning friend or family member that "this won't last forever" or "you will feel better and you just need to hold out until then." While this is the case in most situations of depression, it doesn't seem to have been for this young man. When I hear about years and years of trying and finding nothing to help, it makes me wonder if that may be my lot too. Granted, I have already found such healing and relief from the worst of my depression and pray that this will be the case from here on out.

More than scaring me however, it breaks my heart. Because I know so well what it is like to struggle through depression as a Christian. Pastor Warren said that several years back, he remembers his son say, "Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?" I have spoken those same words to my dad, more than once. Days upon weeks upon months of gut-wrenching, heart-shattering, unbearable pain, walking around like a zombie, numbed and unable to stop the flow of tears. . . it soon becomes clear that anything would be preferable to living life like this - and when death means perfect bliss and intimacy with God in heaven for eternity, of course that sounds more appealing!

The apostle Paul speaks to this in Philippians 1:23-24, when he says, "I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." The "necessary for you" is the part that seems so impossible when living a life marked by depression - how can I be beneficial to anyone? How does my time on earth bring life or joy or meaning to anyone else? I feel like I'm just taking up space and I cannot see purpose or meaning in my own life, much less live in a way that helps others to find it in theirs. My pain is not worth whatever help I might be to someone else down the road.

And I don't have an answer to these thoughts or questions. When a mind is clouded by depression, there is no reasoning that will help that person to make sense of life or continuing to choose to live. I get that. But today, I speak as one whose mind isn't muddied by these thoughts. And I can say that these past few months, I have had glimpses of meaning. Slivers of light that point out ways my life might make a difference. Areas I may be "necessary" for others. Having to daily make the choice to live is not an easy task. I don't fault those who wake up one day and can no longer make that choice.

But today, I am. I choose to live.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Death and Easter

Today I was reading from Matthew when Jesus urges his disciples to "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me." [ch. 16]  This happens shortly after Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah who they have been waiting for. Oh, and Jesus decides that these 12 closest to him are ready to hear that he will be brutally killed by the leaders of their community. nbd.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and while my vision is more like 20/200, even I can look back at this conversation and think, "Oh, this is in reference to the fact that Jesus will die on a cross. He had to carry it himself, so he's telling the disciples that following him requires them to also experience some level of self-sacrifice, pain, denial, and suffering." But today, I realized that the disciples didn't know that. Sure, Jesus had started talking about his death - but did they already know how it would go down? Not from what we're told of the conversations.

So. This radical, wonderful man they have been following through the countryside. Watching him heal and perform miracles. The occasional zinger to the authority figures in the community. Loving and befriending the common man. Sending the disciples out into villages with power. Suddenly is telling them that he's going to die, and he expects them to follow. "Whoever loses his life for me will find it."

Uh, Jesus? I joined this bandwagon because of the cool miracles and awesome perks of being on the road, barefoot and carefree and loving people. . . . but dying? Really. Doesn't sound like something I'm quite ready for yet. Can I just do the first part, the thing you said about denying myself? That sounds manageable right now. Maybe denying my need for facebook for a couple weeks. I think I can do that. You know what, let me take a couple weeks to pray about this whole "cross" situation. I'll get back to ya.

Carrying a cross. It involves humiliation. Being made fun of by everyone, put on display for all your friends and neighbors to see. Searing pain and physical strain. Embarrassment. Shame. Nakedness. Sweat. Blood. Eventually, death. Because you aren't just carrying a cross - you're carrying your cross. So we've gotta die. I don't see a way out of it.

Death precedes life. It's backwards from how we usually think about it. The newborn child, precious little Easter chick, green grass beginning to poke through the brown Missouri mud. Beginnings of life, and death doesn't happen until way down the road, at least we hope. And yet, Jesus says, DIE FIRST. Then, you'll get to "find" your life. Terrifying. Unknown. Regrets. These are things we experience in death.

But the best is yet to come.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Life, as it Were

Hello, March.
The birds are beginning to chirp in the mornings, and daylight savings has helped the sun hang in the sky a bit longer each day. Spring is almost here. Spring. New beginnings and life, a fresh start.

And May, specifically May 11th, is right around the corner. That is the day I graduate and head off into the great unknown of the future.

But first, let's look back a little. Three years ago this week was when I first came face-to-face with y diagnosis of Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Since December 19th, 2011, this diagnosis has worked a number on my  life. Today, it's still something I square off with on at least a weekly basis. I have learned a great deal about it, and like any disease, have discovered what symptoms and signs to be on the lookout for that may indicate a relapse. However, although I have developed a deeper understanding of this, I always face difficulty in explaining it to others.

This afternoon, in the midst of some really difficult feelings and thoughts, I came up with a rough analogy of what life looks like for me right now. Imagine walking along a smooth, sandy beach. To your left is the ocean, vast and unpredictable, with waves towering and crashing on the coast. The water creeps up the sand, tides changing throughout the days and months. As I walk, my toes sink into the sand - the sun shines, breezes blow, and life is lovely.

For those individuals without depression, they are far enough up the beach that the waves don't reach them, and that is for the best, because the water represents the difficulties of life. Occasionally, they may get splashed by a high tide, and scurry up a little further on the shore. Sometimes, a surprise rip tide may pull them in, and they may end up far, far out at sea - but always, they are able to find their footing, stagger up onto the beach, and learn to move away from those waves. I can live this life too, and I have found that I am most effectively able to walk in this way when I am on medication and in counseling, treating the chemicals in my brain that make this life so difficult.

But then, there is life without treatment. And for a variety of reasons, I have experienced this sporadically throughout the past 3 years. Life with depression is like walking in the wet sand and not having the ability to move up to dry sand. Each wave that creeps up the coast represents a trigger or stressor that has the potential to stimulate a depressive response in my brain. The water that used to be simply a beautiful, unpredictable, and powerful force I could see at a distance suddenly becomes a force I grapple with daily. And I can resist some waves, but it's just not the same as when I'm walking on dry sand. I get pulled out to sea and sometimes spend days and weeks there, worn down by the waves and wind. When I make it back to shore, I am exhausted and more easily drawn in by the next one.

My only solace and hope for this unknown future before me, and the only way I can make sense of these years of being beaten down by waves is that there is a lifeguard. Sometimes, it feels like he is just sitting up at the lifeguard tower, watching but doing nothing. Other times though, I know he's walking with me. That he has rescued me from the waves before something worse happened. Each day, he's helping me learn what it looks like to continue walking forward, even when pulled out to sea. And there are days in which we just sit down on the beach. I say, "I can't go on" and he tells me "I know." We bury our toes in the sand. Let the water drip through our fingers. Rest my weary soul.

Now I stand. Move forward again. I don't know if I'm on dry or wet sand, and I can not say when the next wave will hit. 
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31, 6