Posts Tagged With: scripture

In honor of: Suicide Prevention Week

Image       July 2007 there was a young woman, 20 years old, sitting at a desk in her studio apartment, writing a goodbye letter in an attempt to explain to the world what she was going to do next, though she knew no one could understand. No one ever understood. She knew what people say about suicide, that it’s “selfish.” The problem was, in her situation, staying was selfish. She was a waste of time, space, energy, a waste of her parents’ money… their life savings wasted on eating disorder treatment that wasn’t working. Nothing was working. She was a burden on everyone she ever came into contact with. Even if they wouldn’t admit it, this would improve life for everyone. And as for this girl, life was so unbearable, the pain was unbearable. It consumed her and wouldn’t stop, she had to make the pain go away. 

She wasn’t thinking about the future because she couldn’t see one. Couldn’t see anything past the pain. She didn’t feel loved, because she had this understanding deep down that she was unloveable. Somewhere along the line, those lies had taken root inside and consumed her, and her self-worth was stolen.

76 pills of Xanax later, as she began to reach for more pills, one thought prevailed, pushing through the pain. Her horse. Chance, the love of her life. What would happen to Chance when she was gone? She quickly grabbed the pen to add to her letter, fighting the brick wall of unconsciousness closing in, but she didn’t know what to add, how to possibly ensure Chance is taken care of. Not even a full minute later, she was asleep.

depression

from scientificamerican.com

That girl was me. I am incredibly blessed to have woken up from that experience a couple days later with nothing wrong with me, at least not physically. It wasn’t my first overdose, and it wouldn’t be the last. But I think it was the only one where I really wanted to die, as opposed to wanting a “break” with a blanket of indifference toward life, not that that’s much better.

There is a huge stigma in our world surrounding mental illness, depression, suicide. It’s uncomfortable. We don’t really understand it and we don’t want to. To healthy people, these things are so foreign, and we have no desire to bridge the chasm between “healthy” and “sick.” Unless we know someone personally struggling, or we are struggling ourselves, this issue is out of sight and out of mind. Well today I’m calling out the elephant in the room, and suggesting that if we stop looking away, and instead turn to look at each other, that maybe less people will feel alone, feel like they don’t belong.

Unfortunately even with community, even with relationships, a lot of times those in pain can’t see the love they are offered, as if it’s on the other side of an impermeable glass wall, out of reach.  There is sickness there, for someone to be in so dark a place they are ready to take their own life. But being sick, doesn’t make them weak, or crazy, it’s just part of the human condition, part of a fallen world.

In this fallen world, like Donald MIller acknowledges in Blue Like Jazz, we are called to hold our palms against the cracks of this broken world to stop the bleeding.

Instead of avoiding pain, we need to face it. Instead of writing off the “crazy,” we must empathize with their humanity. Instead of indulging the tunnel vision of our own lives, we must take our blinders off and follow the footsteps we were created to walk out: to love and be loved, to live in community and relationships, and to offer hope and healing to the broken.

Jesus came for the brokenhearted, for the sick, for the hurting.

Approx. 38,000 people die each year from suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death.

Someone dies from suicide approx. every 13 minutes. 

It is believed that there are 25 attempts for every successful suicide.

Every day there are over 5,400 attempts by teenagers.

I found my way out of the darkness, to the light. I found healing and redemption through developing a personal relationship with God and fought by speaking truth and His promises over my life. Even when I felt the weight of the cloud around me, and I didn’t believe a word I was saying, I spoke outloud:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Psalm 139:14

He who is in me, is greater than he who is in the world.    1 John 4:4

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

No weapon formed against me shall prosper.  Isaiah 54:17

She is more precious than rubies and pearls. Proverbs 3:15

I declared the armor of God over me; Ephesians 6:10-18:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I felt that Satan’s hold on me and his demons whispering lies in my ear, were weakened by speaking God’s word out loud and by demanding them to leave in Jesus’ name.

Some tools for fighting the dark:

Well, for one, a lot of therapy, over a handful of hospitalizations, anti-depressants and other psychotropic medications….. but those things wouldn’t sustain me forever. Eventually I’d need to learn how to find the light on my own.

Opposite to Emotion is a DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) tool that suggests you do the exact opposite of what you are feeling. If I wanted to lay in bed and wallow in my misery all day, I had to force myself to get up and get dressed and find something to do. In order for this to work I had to find hobbies and things I enjoyed. For years I had no idea what I enjoyed, so this took some investigating, but I found I enjoyed doing art and crafts, and creating things. I enjoyed writing and reading. I enjoyed being with animals, my dogs and my horses, and riding. Even filling in the pages of a coloring book was a way to do something, anything other than sleep all day.

I found when I forced myself to go outside, let the sun and vitamin D soak in my skin, and get some fresh air, I would feel better. It may just be taking a walk by myself, walking my dogs, riding one of my horses, or just driving somewhere to get myself out of the house. I even moved halfway across the country to get away from the cold winters of the Midwest that triggered depression and wanting to stay inside curled under blankets all day.

A CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) idea is challenging your thoughts. Thoughts lead to feelings lead to actions, all are connected. If you can change one, you change them all. Changing my thoughts was hard, and didn’t come easy. But I learned to identify negative thoughts, and false lies about myself and my life, and stop them in their tracks, challenge them, change them. Changing a negative thought to a positive thought led to positive feelings which led to positive behaviors.

I learned that the act of smiling reduces stress and releases endorphins. So I started forcing myself to smile, even when I felt like hell on the inside. And guess what? Eventually I wasn’t just faking it, it became real.

I learned to make peace with my past and forgive. Forgive others, but mostly myself. I learned to let go and stop worrying so much and surrender to God and let him take the wheel in my life. I learned to accept that I’m human and make mistakes but it’s all part of life and can learn from them and move on rather than beating myself up and berating myself for them. I learned that if I would just get out of my own way, nothing could stop me. And most of all, I learned that I was a child of God. I was precious. I was worthy. I was not alone. I was loved.

Today, 6 years later, I am happy. I am free. And I look forward to my future with a joy that cannot be contained. I’m genuinely excited to find out what comes next. I am still human, and that means I still have moments, or days, where I feel down or sad, where I have doubts. But now, that’s just normal, and I am very aware of the enemy’s attacks and when Satan is trying to drag me down. I can feel that weight sort of cloud around me. But the difference is, it doesn’t latch on. It has no claim over me anymore. And I have people in my life who love me and anchor me if I feel overwhelmed. I still get overwhelmed, I don’t handle stress or confrontation well. But this is all part of learning, part of living, part of my journey.

You are not alone. You are loved. You are irreplaceable. You are worthy. You are enough. There is hope. There is always hope. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Advertisements
Categories: Mental Health and Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jeremiah 29:11

Image

picture by Sandra Parlow

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

What an incredible promise. A promise from our Father, that he has plans for us. That he doesn’t just stand back and watch and whatever we make of our lives then so be it, no, he actually has a plan, a purpose for each of us. He has created each one of us for a purpose and he wants to prosper us and give us hope.

I can be a little dramatic sometimes, a dreamer, a sap, a mushpot…whatever you can call it at the time. Sometimes I get in these moods where I’m frustrated where I’m at. I want more. I want to  trade in my job where I go through the motions and the only purpose to go each day is to make money, for a job where I make a difference, where I can impact people’s lives, provide inspiration and hope to others. And I feel hopeless and impatient and desperately want to see the road ahead leading me to this place but I just, don’t see it. I get worried that I will live a life of no influence. When I get like this God usually comes along and finds a way to remind me to have faith. Some reminders are very subtle and if I am not looking for the message, I’ll miss it. Others smack me right in the face. Each time my Father knows exactly what I need to find hope again.

God knows the significance Jeremiah 29:11 has for me, he is the one that chose this passage as the first verse that would truly touch my heart. In October of 2005 as I sat on a bench in the chapel at Remuda Ranch, out in the desert outside the town of Wickenburg, AZ, having arrived a week earlier for treatment for an eating disorder, I looked up at a picture sitting on the wall and for the first time read what it said. This verse was written across it with a picture of an eagle or dove or something I don’t remember, for that part didn’t matter. Reading that verse for the first time broke something in me. Broke something in a good way. Like the first stone crumbling away from a dam. A dam strong and unforgiving, not letting any little thing pass through. That stone crumbled away and light had been waiting for the opportunity, an opening to shine through.

It was a foreign concept to me then, that God could possible have a plan, a purpose for my life. That he could possibly want to give me hope for the future. I was 18 years old at this time and couldn’t imagine making it to my 21st birthday. I never dared to imagine that God, the creator of the earth, sun, stars and sky, ever planned anything personally for my little old life. And now, whenever I feel a loss of direction, or a bit of frustration or monotony in my day to day, my Father usually finds a way to bring me back to Jeremiah 29:11. And he has a way of making it feel like that verse was written just for me.

As silly as it seems, my little frustration with my jobs and what I’m doing versus what the dream may be… As insignificant as my little feelings are in the grand scheme of things, in the grand scheme of the world- war, poverty, natural disasters and tragedy… somehow God still cares about the smallest discouragement in my heart. It’s amazing. A couple days ago this frustration visited me. It started late morning. I didn’t want to be at work. I don’t want to be working two jobs. I was frustrated and felt like I was wasting my time. These thoughts infected my mood into the early evening, where God planted Jeremiah 29:11 in the heart of a nice couple who came out to eat and who I was fortunate enough to serve that day. At the end of a busy rush, my mind scrambled, fresh with chaos, this table had left and I went to pick up the check off the empty table and right on top was a business card for a Christian bookstore with a note on the back. My name, saying, “you did great!” and “thank you” and “Jer 29:11” with the man and woman’s names at the bottom.

I could feel a wetness in my eyes as I stood there and froze for a few seconds. Here it is again. A reminder. I spent my day being ungrateful, wallowing in disappointment and self pity, instead of counting my blessings and being grateful for the immense grace and goodness God has provided me, and yet he still gave me that gift. He used that couple, Tom and Cherie, to give me that gift. Those words. That promise. Those people have no idea how much that meant to me, or maybe they were in on it more than I think.

Nevertheless, it’s the verse that always comes back. He had a plan then, in the little room in the middle of the Arizona desert, and he has one now. I may be more interested in microwaving, but God is into marinating. And the promise is that he is still marinating me today. He has brought me this far, all he asks is to have a little faith that he will continue the process. He promises that when he begins a good work in us he will see it out to the day of completion. All we have to do is put our life in his hands and trust.

I don’t believe God puts dreams in our hearts if we don’t have the tools to carry them out. I don’t think he ever wants to leave us stagnant. I think he loves us too much to ever leave us the way we are. But maybe sometimes we have to marinate for a while, we have to strengthen our muscles and do things we don’t always want to do. Grow in spiritual strength and mental and emotional strength, in discipline. Learn the lessons presented to us along the way.

     When Chris Tomlin sings, “where you go, I’ll go, where you stay, I’ll stay, when you move, I’ll move, I will follow…” there isn’t a clause in fine print at the bottom specifying that we will go and stay and move when we feel like God is moving fast enough or only when we can see the point or the bigger picture. Sometimes it’s easy to forget all this. Sometimes I forget. But thankfully, when I do, God is always there to remind me… that he is with me. He hasn’t gone anywhere. There are two sets of footprints in the sand. Image

Categories: Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

By their fruit you will recognize them

Matthew 7:15-23 – A Tree and Its Fruit

 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. THUS, BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prosphesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “

WHAT KIND OF FRUIT ARE YOU PRODUCING?

I’m sitting here at my kitchen table, a delicious chicken caesar pita filling my tummy, dogs at my feet, with Casting Crowns in the speakers, “Lord this time, I’ll make it right, here at the altar I lay my life. Your kingdom come but my will was done…. This time, Jesus, how can I be sure, I will not lose my follow through between the altar and the door?”

There is a reason the saying, “actions speak louder than words” is such a popular phrase. It’s because it’s easy to say something, to give advice to another, to recommend an option or path, but it’s much harder to follow through with those very things you say. It’s not easy, and it wasn’t meant to be. It’s supposed to be hard and we are warned as Christians that it WILL be hard. I think it’s common to lose our follow through between the altar and the door, and I have been convicted of doing this myself. What good are my words, if my actions don’t follow? What good am I as a disciple of Christ, spreading the gospel, if I don’t follow through? Will anyone believe me? Can they? Can others take me seriously if I proclaim to abandon my life to God’s will, but continue to do things my way? What message am I giving to my brothers and sisters in Christ about what it means to be one?

We cannot say with our mouth we love Jesus, while in between words putting harmful things into that same mouth. Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. It does not belong to us, but was bought at a price, a very high price, by our Savior. We cannot acknowledge this and still immerse our bodies and minds in drunkenness. Yes, even Jesus drank wine, and the Bible does not say drinking in itself is a sin, but drunkenness is. Getting hammered every night, to the sloppy point of sending drunken text messages and barely remembering what happened in the morning, is not respectful of our temple. Cigarettes, drugs…

….lies, judgmental words, lofty glances, gossip, hatred, hypocrisy, teasing, etc. Yes, when He let Himself be nailed to a blood soaked cross heavy laden with our sin, he bridged the gap between humanity and Himself, he provided us a way out, a way to be forgiven. If we ask forgiveness, it is done. As he said, “It is finished,” then he hung his head and died. But for one, if we use that as a get-out-of-hell-free card, and then continue to live life our way, do our own will, isn’t it moot? Do we become the “evildoers” Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7:23, as He sends them away? And for two, is that really how we thank our Creator/Redeemer/Healer/Savior/Father?

I hope not.

Yes, we are all human. We fall. A lot. And our Father catches us, as fathers do. But just because we are human and have the tendency to fall, doesn’t mean it’s okay to decide to stay on the ground. He loves us just as we are, yes, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way. And we shouldn’t want to! If we love Him as we say we do, then let us daily strive to better ourselves, to grow towards Him, to let His light fill us from the inside out. If we truly love Him, let us offer our hands and feet, our hearts, our wills and lives.

Is it worth it, to gain the whole world, and lose your soul?

Do others look at you and recognize you as a disciple of Christ because of your fruit?

What fruit are you producing today?

 

Categories: Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment