Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Rescue

The darkness has swallowed me again.

I sit in the gloom trying to remember the look of sunshine, but the memory does not come. Shadows, deep and unrelenting, entomb me with the tenacity of a tiger holding onto its prey.

I die here, a little each day, my soul leaking hope like a severed vein. I try to stand, to seek an escape, but weakness has overcome me. The night will not let me go.

No one can find me here, among the tombs, even if they cared to. Dread's grip is far too strong so I surrender to the monster's whim. Even unconsciousness will not come.

I awaken to a pin prick of light above me. Is it real or just a dream? A breath of air breaks the heat and stillness of this place. My prison walls tremble with the faint sound of thunder. I will drown in this place if it rains! I clutch at stones around me.

A drop of moisture stings my face.

I close my eyes against the inevitable, knowing there is nothing I can do.

I am startled by the taste of salt upon my lips. The rain that pounds me tastes like tears.

I open my eyes to see the face of God looking down at me, His eyes filled with mercy and love.

He disappears for a moment as he sets something down beside me. It is a ladder with which I can make an escape. Light shines down sweetly upon me as I slowly grab at the wood there.

No, it is not a ladder...but a cross, battered and worn and stained with blood.

I cling to the cross and weep tears of joy as He lifts me from oblivion into the light.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Curse of Shame

I've been thinking a lot about shame. Shame is a terrible thing yet it is so prevalent in the human race. Adam and Eve felt shame after they ate of the fruit and found themselves naked. They hid from God and covered themselves with whatever they could find.

Shame causes us to hide, to isolate, to keep secrets. Shame makes us feel unworthy of love. It makes us feel if the world only knew our secrets that it would never accept us.

There is an old recovery adage that says, "We are only as sick as the secrets we keep." That is so true.

So much shame is put on us as young children. Parents have been heard to say to their children, "Shame on you!" What a horrible curse that is.

If we are survivors of abuse, we carry mountains of shame. We are often told by our abusers that what they are doing is our fault. Nothing could be further from the truth. The dreadful things that happen to us as children are never our fault. NEVER! No matter what others have told you! You were an innocent victim of some sick human being's heinous behavior. Nothing you did brought these things about. NOTHING!

Jesus doesn't want us to be ashamed. Psalm 34:5 says, "Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame."

We need to let go of our shame and let it fall away.

If this message has touched this.

Get into the shower and let the water wash the shame from your life. Rinse off that ugly curse and watch it go down the drain. Let your tears wash your eyes that you no longer see yourself or your life through shame. Let the water wash your ears, your mouth, your heart that you no longer hear or speak through shame. Pray that Jesus would anoint you to see things as He does, through perfect love, through adoration, through gladness and joy.

You can be free! Free to live life as Jesus intended.

If there is a church near you that has a Cleansing Stream Ministry, I highly recommend going through the seminar and the retreat that follows. These types of things are dealt with allowing you to be free from the bondage of shame.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Watching someone you love struggle with depression is difficult. It is never easy to see a loved one in pain whether it be physical or emotional. In fact, I have come to believe that there is no pain like emotional pain. I know that losing an arm is painful. But coping with mental pain is so much harder. I'm not sure why.

Scientists tell us that depression has a genetic component. That is very obvious in my family. Fifteen people in my mother's family have committed suicide. Though many of them occurred in Germany during the war, others were more recent. My father's family also suffered from depression but chose to medicate themselves with alcohol. Most died early from liver disease, malnourishment and cancers associated with alcohol abuse. It almost seemed inevitable that my daughters and I would battle depression in our lives.

It is hard enough to deal with your own depression without worrying about your children's mental health as well. It is my hope that, because of my honesty and openness about this subject, it will be easier for my girls to recognize the signs and get help should they need it. If that is the case, then my years of struggling with depression will be of worth. It is true that God always uses our troubles to minister to others. The Bible tells us that "we are to comfort others with the comfort that we have been given." That is exactly what I want to do.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Each Day a Gift

I think back on the many years of my life that I wasted before coming to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. But on that day in September of 1997 things changed. I had a reason to go on. I had a reason to be hopeful. I stand on His word that, "He will restore the years that the locust have eaten!" And each day since then, He has continually, steadfastly, meticulously, begun to restore those years. For this I am so grateful.

We do not know the day of our passing. He does not tell us that. But He does tell us that each of the days He has given us is important. It is a gift. A gift wrapped in a bright and shiny package just waiting to be torn into. I want to remember that today. That God has given me this day to fullfill His purposes for my life. I don't want to miss any chance He gives me to love my fellow humans. To help them on their paths through life. I want to be a like a city on a hill. One which stands as a beacon to others, that there is hope. That there is life after alcoholism, or abuse, or molestation.

There is someone who loves you more than His own life. Someone who knows you, even the dark hideous places of your soul and adores you anyway. He is your perfect husband, your loving father, a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He loves you, my friend. He loves you so much....He misses you and longs for you. He weeps for you each and every day. He stands at the window waiting for your return, like a worried parent awaits a child who has missed his curfew. He looks out at the driveway waiting. Pushing the curtain aside to get a better view. Longing to see your face come through the door, safe at last.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It is three minutes into Valentine's Day and I am feeling low. It's been more years than I would like to admit since I have been in a romantic relationship with someone so this day always leaves me feeling empty. There are countless folks that are single and looking for love, many via the internet. There are hundreds and hundreds of dating sites, many that are free. But for me, I will wait on God's perfect timing and on His perfect choice for me. Maybe I will be single for the remainder of my life. That is a depressing thought, but I have to trust that God has my best interests in mind.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Learning To Live With Less

When I’ve felt down in the past, I often would compare my situation to that of others that I know. Because I have so many years of experience with all types of animals, I am often asked to care for other people’s animals while they are away from home.

Many of these folks are very successful in business and have several homes. All of them are beautifully build and decorated. They often have the latest technology such as automatic sliding glass door openers, in home theatres, gigantic sound systems etc. They drive the most expensive automobiles and have the most powerful computer systems. They have everything a person could ever want as far as “things’ are concerned. By the world’s standards, these people have “made it!”

By comparison, my humble home and older car say, I “haven’t.” If I let that kind of thought spend too much time in my head I will soon be in a world of trouble. In fact, last year I was asked to spend a week at one such home caring for their animals. It was a delightful week exercising the dogs in the heated pool, cooking my meals in their state of the art kitchen, and enjoying the fruits of their success.

Upon coming home after that week I was very dissatisfied with my life. I spent the next couple of weeks irritable and touchy hardly speaking to anyone. I was deep in thought. I had come to the realization that I was a failure. The only thing I could do about it was really work hard, now to make up for lost time.

At the time I was working for a veterinary clinic not too far from home. I loved the work there caring for the patients and their owners. I had many occasions to pray with the families of very ill pets and had seen God move in mighty ways. But then I lost my focus. I became sidetracked, thinking more about how I could increase my income than how I might increase God’s kingdom.

Months went by and I worked harder and longer, doing more than my body could tolerate until one Friday morning almost a year later I awoke feeling very dizzy. When I attempted to get out of bed I found I had lost my balance. After the usual morning cup of tea I realized that my right eye wouldn’t focus clearly and the right side of my face was numb. My right arm and hand were also numb. I went to work anyway, though a sensible person would have gone to the hospital.

Things did not improve throughout the day. In fact, I now noticed that I was having problems speaking and I was unable to come up with common words that I wanted to use. Some words just ceased to make any sense at all. Numbers and dates were all a jumble. I became very concerned and spoke to the veterinarian that I worked for who offered that I had simply pinched a nerve in my neck.

I stayed through the day and when I got home after work I barely made it through the door before I was fast asleep. I spent the weekend in a deep coma-like sleep waking only to go to the bathroom. I ate nothing as I had lost my appetite and I found that I never heard the phone ringing though it was right next to the bed.

Monday morning, there was no improvement and I called my doctor’s office. The receptionist told me that it was probably Bell’s Palsy and made an appointment for me in 12 days.

By the following morning there was still no improvement and I became frightened. My oldest daughter is a nurse who works for a family practitioner 40 miles from my home. I drove to her office and sat there, wild eyed and trembling. They sent me for testing which revealed that my hard work had earned me a stroke at 46 years old. For all the work I wasn’t any more successful and I wasn’t really much better off financially. Instead I was having difficulty holding a pencil and now the right side of my face hung. The doctor forced me to quit my job, putting me in a worse situation than I was before I became dissatisfied with my life.

There is a reason that one of the Ten Commandments tells us not to covet anything that belongs to our neighbors. God doesn’t want us to have what they have. He wants us to have what is for us. His plan for our lives is perfect and he knows what will ultimately give us the greatest fulfillment. He is a good and loving Father that wants only the best for his children.

The Bible tells us that we being evil know how to give our children good gifts. How much more would he give us good gifts being perfect and knowing us in such an intimate way.

Paul tells us that he learned to be content in all things. (Phil 4:11) He had to learn this, it did not come naturally to him. But if he could do it, so can we. With God all things are possible.

Philipians 4:11-13 reads…Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am in to be content. I know how to be abased (to live humbly). I know how to abound (to live prosperously) Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

It is by divine hand that these verses would be together. Most of us would need a lot of help learning to be content when in need. I know I do. All I can say is that I thank the Lord for the stroke. Though it was frightening, I went through a whirlwind of emotions, I am now fully recovered and working on my dream…to write a book. God knows best…always. I am so grateful that my heavenly Father loves me so much that He doesn’t give me everything that I want.

As a postscript I wrote that during the writing of this I was thinking too of our precious Lord walking through his life on earth with nothing but the clothes on his back. He didn’t own a house and the only time we see in the scriptures Jesus riding a donkey, it was borrowed. He knew best to keep himself unencumbered.

As frail humans we want so much. A better car, a bigger house, designer clothes. It’s our nature to want things. But those things can change from being owned by us to us being owned by them.

Jesus was free to move about as the Father directed him. This would not have been easy with a huge mortgage and the payment on an expensive sports car. He wanted to keep things simple. He tells us that there’s a cost to discipleship. He said that the foxes have holes and the birds have nests but the son of man had no place to lay his head. Isn’t it interesting that God gave his creations the things they needed, but denied those things to himself. That’s humility.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Finding Help

Sometimes I just feel hollow…like something is missing inside me…deep inside me…in the dark recesses of my soul. I want to cry out, maybe bay at the moon, howl like the last of the wild wolves searching for its kind. I feel like that tonight.

I can’t say what causes this feeling. Nothing out of the ordinary happened today. Things went well for the most part. But still there is this awful ache. Like something within me is broken and I might just die before they figure out what it is. I almost feel like I’ve sprung a leak and my essence is slowly being absorbed by my surroundings. One day they will find just an empty shell with nothing inside. And that will be the end of me.

Why does this feeling come and go? Why can one day be good and precious and wondrous and the next be without meaning? What happens in the meantime? Does some evil spell fall upon me? Or am I feeling the pain of a thousand starving children? Am I an unlikely spectator of a murder most foul? Or perhaps I have given just a little more than I received lately and the tank has run dry?

I hate to feel this way yet it is a familiar thing. I remember feeling this way so many times even when I was very young. Then I wondered if I had suddenly been plucked from my world and plopped in another. That I had been dropped into this place in the middle of a life without introduction or purpose. Everyone else seemed to function fine as though they had been there forever. But to me it was like I was a newcomer…not knowing the rules or the game we were playing. Everyone else seemed to get it, though, I was the only one who didn’t. It’s a terrible way to feel as a child…never feeling safe…or wanted…or part of something.

These are common things for people who suffer with depression. It is a horrible affliction. In fact, I don’t think there is one more painful to endure. It is so hard that many people do not endure it but choose to end it in the only way they know how…to kill themselves.

I have thought of this many times through the years when the pain became more than I could stand. When I was held in the grip of something so unmerciful and so powerful, only the idea of death could bring about relief.

I thank our loving heavenly Father for my children. Without them in my life I would have surely succumbed to this torturous ailment, forcing my hand. But regardless of my personal pain, I could not bring it upon my children by ending my life. Though death would perhaps end my pain, it would bring about pain to my children. So, I endured. I found another way to stop the suffering.

I will always remember that day. The weeks prior were one blur of misery. I could muster the strength to get my kids up and ready for school. As they tottered off to the bus stop I would drag myself to my bed and bury myself in the covers. There I would stay until just before the bus returned. I would make them dinner then weep myself to sleep. Then the next day it would start all over again. The days dragged on…until one day my oldest daughter said to me, “Mommy, why do you cry all the time?”

Through the eyes of a child I found truth.

I determined the next day if I felt no better to call someone for help.

The sun rose on that balmy day in September, 1991. The kids bounced onto the school bus as I lovingly watched. When I got back in the house I planned to take a shower and when I was done if I felt no better I would make the call.

The hot water caressed me like a gentle hand but my tears were mingled with the bubbles that swirled to the drain. Would I ever feel any different? Was it possible to cry yourself to death…to weep so many tears that I would just turn inside out and die? When my shower was over I knew it was time so I pulled out the phone book and looked for help. Somehow in my depressive fog I found the number of an in-patient wing of a nearby hospital. I dialed the number waiting for someone to answer.

A gentle male voice greeted me. I fumbled with a greeting then hesitated not knowing what to say. Finally, a simple question sprung from my lips.

“What are the symptoms of depression?” I asked, not wanting to know the answer.

The gentle voice began to give me a list. When he spoke the first two, I broke into tears, completely undone. He asked me kindly if I needed a ride to the hospital. I told him I could get there under my own steam. He gave me the directions and told me he would be waiting.

I made it to the emergency room leaving my name with the receptionist. What happened after that is unclear. Someone told me to go home, pack a bag, make arrangements for my kids and my animals because I would be admitted and would spend at least a week in the hospital.

I drove myself home, called my mother who came immediately to help. She would take my youngest daughter. My oldest chose to go back to my ex-boyfriend. I left a terrible mess for my mom to deal with. I ran an animal shelter on the property and there were quite a few mouths to feed.

When all was done we made our way back to the hospital where I sat in the waiting room for 7 hours before being admitted. While I sat I watched patient after patient stream into the emergency room, get treatment then go out again. I don’t know why I stayed through that hellish wait. Anyone else would have left in a snit. But I guess I just knew that this was something I needed to do…no matter what it took to get there.

Finally, I made it upstairs where I was given a comfortable room with two beds. The other was occupied by a young girl who was very pregnant. She greeted me with a nod and a knowing look. It was clear she knew what I was going through. She discreetly left the room as the psych nurse helped me go through my things taking anything that someone could use to harm themselves.

I would spend a month in that place. They started me on medication, gave me group therapy, ran blood work to rule out physical causes, and saw a psychiatrist.

There is a sigma attached to psychiatric units. Old movies show them as scary places where people are held like prisoners, bound in beds and chairs with straight jackets, given shock treatments without their permission and tortured by cruel, hateful staff. Once they are admitted they will never be released, living their lives out in dark cage-like rooms. But nothing could be further from the truth.

This unit was light and cheerful with warm and caring doctors, nurses and social workers. No one was bound and no hellish cries were heard from some far away place. Instead, patients were given free rein to sleep, or spend time in peaceful contemplation in their rooms, or if feeling more social, could join the others in a brightly lit common room with tv, games, crafts and snacks. Meals were tasty and always served on time. Certain times were blocked out for group therapy, doctor’s visits, family nights and educational classes on appropriate topics. We were even given several breaks throughout the day to go outside either to play a game of some kind or just sit and bask in the healing sunlight.

Oddly enough, I felt at home in this place. I was surrounded by people who were just like me…felt the same things I did, struggled with the same things I did and dealt with similar family woes. There was a strange camaraderie. We felt protective of each other as we learned of their problems often identical to ours. When we watched some abuses toward a fellow patient we would support and encourage them. Being in there was like being in a womb…warm and protected…the outside world with its stress and strain was cut off from us. It was a great place to get well.

Of course no matter how badly we fought it, we would eventually be forced back to the worlds we had come from…back to the life that seemed so unmanageable. It was frightening to think of going back to overdue bills, family trials, bad relationships and crummy jobs…all the things that had driven us there in the first place. Though we leave this place on our own, we would no longer have to deal with our lives alone. We would take with us a psychiatrist we had come to know and trust while hospitalized. We would have the help of medication that would help balance the chemicals in our brains. And we would have a social worker who would keep in touch with us and lead us to the resources we would need in the future. One of the best things we would take with us was the courage we gained from finding out that we are not alone in our pain. We are not crazy!