The Broken Sky

I started writing today’s post last week. I wasn’t making a whole lot of sense to myself through the writing so I stopped. The trauma of the week was too much to form a coherent thought. The threads in my mind were fraying, and I didn’t know what to do. Finally, it came to me. I was supposed to start speaking about mental illness. Giving a voice to those who were voiceless. I started writing a series of what I call uncomfortable posts on Facebook. I received some support on my posts for which I am very grateful. I also received some blowback stating, in not so many words, that I was selfish. I thought about it. Yes, I do have a mental illness, an illness that society says I should be ashamed of. But, many other people do too, and they are ostracized in the world and in the Christian community. Sad, isn’t it? We can’t get support in the places we should be able to count on it because we are afraid of stigma or the wrong people knowing. So, today, I thought I would share some anecdotal evidence (Nothing medical, I promise. I’m not qualified.) of how mental illness affects me and other people like me.

This topic is starting to become a passion for me. To use my writing to inject light into the darkness. In one of my writing emails last week, the author said that writing didn’t truly become good until you discovered what your passion was. Maybe, this is mine. Anyway, as we are entering our third week of quarantine, I’ve realized that my sky is broken and my routine is shattered. In case you didn’t know, people who suffer from mental illnesses thrive on a routine, me included. It keeps the voices at bay and enables us to be functioning members of society. Think you don’t know someone with a mental illness? Think again. It’s more common than you might think.

So, as I said, things are broken right now. I’ve done my best to establish a new routine–physical fitness, spiritual study, writing, reading, and household tasks, but there’s one missing component–community. There’s no one around to encourage progress. And that makes the voices stronger. The voices that say I’m not good enough, that say no one wants me around, and that say it’s useless to even try and fight. I say that’s hogwash. But, first, you have to know your enemy and to do that, you have to be able to speak of your enemy. That’s where we fail as a society, and that’s where we fail as a church. People who are struggling with our new normal shouldn’t be bullied into bucking up or not speaking out. Being able to talk about a broken sky might be the difference between life or the end of life. If you’re one of the bullies, do you want that on your conscience? Or do you truly not care? If that is so, I feel sorry for you.

I’ve got one more thing I want to mention. Many of us who suffer from mental illness take medication, sometimes more than one. The medication mutes the symptoms, but never totally takes the voices away, takes the urge to sleep all day away, or takes the urge to not care away. It’s something¬† I will have to deal with for the rest of my life however long that might be.

I pray for those who have the coronavirus, those who are working in essential jobs, and those who have other physical ailments. Would you do me the courtesy of praying for those of us who have mental illnesses and those who are dealing with their own broken sky during this confusing time? Thank you, and God bless you!

I Thought I was an Introvert and Other Random Thoughts During Quarantine

When we went under quarantine just a few days ago, I was almost giddy with excitement. As an introvert, I have always treasured the time I’ve had alone–even from my family. There’s just something about being alone with my thoughts and not having to answer questions or have conversations.¬† In addition, I was anticipating more time to read and more time to write–two of my favorite things in the whole world. But, now we’re on Day 6 with no end in sight. (I know many of you have been under quarantine for far longer, and I don’t mean to minimize anything that has happened to anyone.) I just want to use this gift God has given me to process what has happened in our world.

So, it’s Day 6 for me. The first question someone might ask is when I am counting from. I am counting from the day I heard we weren’t going to have church services or classes for two weeks. That caught my attention and caused me to listen to the news more carefully. Worship, and being able to see my Christian brothers and sisters, has always been the highlight of my week.

It’s part of my routine, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t like your routine being disrupted. But, disrupted it was. I’ve had a lot of time to think and to read and write over the last few days. Words have spilled out of me, and I’ve been able to immerse myself in fictional worlds when the real world has gotten to be too much. I’ve also prayed and talked to God a lot. Prayed for patience when I’ve been tempted to say something I shouldn’t. Prayed for the courage to endure. Prayed for strength to defeat the dark thoughts. Prayed for trust when so much is out-of-control.

Peace and a commitment to stay focused came and are continuing to come from those prayers. It’s hard though. A hard-fought-for peace that only Jesus can provide. I can’t do it myself. I know that.

You might be wondering about the first part of my title though. Why do I no longer think I’m an introvert? It’s a tricky thing. While I’m feeling a hard-won peace in my heart, I’m also feeling deeply lonely. I find that I miss seeing other people and interacting with them more than I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family, and my Lord and Savior has been a constant presence and reassurance which I’m grateful for. But, I’ve missed seeing other people, and I didn’t expect it. It’s like energy has flowed out of me that I can’t explain. Everyone is talking about all these things we can do virtually which I plan on taking advantage of, but it seems like something is missing. The presence of another person. I took it for granted before because crowds tend to overwhelm me, and I tend to retreat when that happens. But, I have good friends who I enjoy seeing every week and living life with. It’s hard to think that this might be the last time I see some of them, and I haven’t told them what they mean to me. But, they do. They mean so much. And if you are one of those, you do mean the world to me.

As I am dealing with this new world of quarantine caused by Covid-19, I’ve come to realize that I am a mix of both types of personalities. I also know my Lord and Savior is okay with our expressing the good and the bad that has come with the changes in our society. I pray that you and your family are safe and well and that you know His presence in a deep and meaningful way today.

God bless you all!

Fasting Avoidance

I read about this fast the other day, and God has been nagging me since then about writing a post about it. As I said in my last post, I am the queen of avoiding an unpleasant situation. If I am uncomfortable in any way or don’t know what’s going to happen, I have the potential to react badly. So, I thought I would go further into that today.

Actually, now that I think about it, the title of this piece could be changed to Fasting Avoidance and Control. These are both things that I use to make myself think I have the illusion of control over my life. And, “illusion it is,” or at least it should be. For those of us who believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, He should be the one who is in control of our lives, not us. But, we don’t let go of that easily, or at least, I don’t. We fight and claw to maintain the illusion that we have some good in us though Scripture is clear that there is not and that we are all in need of a Savior.

Couple that with someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, and one could see that my whole make-up might be considered a recipe for disaster. Actually, I have a story I want to share from my own life that illustrates this clearly. It happened six years ago. I had been invited to a conference by a friend. This conference stated we would have an encounter with Jesus during the weekend, but did not give a lot of details about what would happen. (as was their right) I debated with myself over a couple of weeks about going because I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen, but I finally decided it might be good for me. I went to the meeting place where we would take a bus to go to the conference center. Many women were there, but I only knew a few of them. Everyone else seemed to be fine with meeting new people, but I was terrified when my friend left me and said she would see me out there. I went to the bus with the other women and saw other people clapping and cheering for me. (Did I mention I didn’t like attention being focused on me either? I didn’t and still don’t.)

We left the place where we had met to go to the conference center, and I cried on and off the whole way there. I didn’t like the way this weekend was starting. When we got there, I was able to eat dinner, but the feelings of panic and fear returned every time I had to be around a group of people in a small space. By the end of the first evening, even though I had enjoyed the worship and the lesson, I was exhausted from the panic, anxiety, and being in a place I had never been with a group of people I mostly didn’t know. The next morning my friend asked me if I wanted to go home as that was an option. I wanted to go home, but, on the other hand, I wanted to stay too. I was a woman who was almost 50, and I was ashamed that I couldn’t handle this level of uncertainty. So, I took a deep breath and stayed. The people who were running things made sure I was either at the front or at the back of a crowd so my chances of having a panic attack were less. It ended up being a good weekend for myself and my faith, and I was glad I went.

But, I haven’t been back since, and I have to wonder why. There were many reasons besides avoidance, all of which were valid. In the six years between that situation and now, I had done many brave things including going to Honduras on a mission trip one summer with a plan to go back again this coming summer. But, there have also been things I’ve completely avoided which have affected my relationships with other people and being taught and encouraged in my faith.

With all that, I wonder if I have ever embraced the mystery of my faith and not just side-stepped it. In recent years, I believe I have taken steps in that direction, but I know I can’t say I have fully arrived. Not until I make a deliberate choice to walk in a direction I don’t want to walk in because God has asked me to. So, for that reason. I am fasting from avoidance today, and I invited you to as well.

God bless you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fasting Regret

For Lent this year, I’ve decided to go through the book 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole again. I went through this book last year and learned a lot. I wasn’t sure if there would be anything new for me to learn this year, but I’m a few days into it, and things feel different. Between reading this book and the book Praying Women by Sheila Walsh, my understanding of prayer and its impact on my life has jumped four-fold. In the midst of thinking about regret and the other topics in Chole’s book, I hope to come out on the other side of this season with a better understanding of faith and how being a Christian really does matter in my life.

So, regret. Why is it so tough to let go of it? I think regret leeches over into the new life we’re hoping to have. I read the response I wrote in the book last year, and it brought back memories some of which were painful to read, but some that showed where I was now as compared to last year. I’ve become more and more aware that Jesus meets me in the darker places, the places where I’m not sure how to move on. What Lent does is help me move through those darker places to the celebration of Easter, to Jesus’ resurrection.

I do have regrets in how I’ve lived my life. I think all of us do. What I’ve done with them mostly is carry them with me in the hope that I can avoid making the same mistakes again. I have rarely directly addressed the situations that caused the regrets. There are two reasons for this. One, I’ve never learned how to manage conflict well. Two, my fear of being rejected is great.

But, in the last few months, I have learned some things and am continuing to learn things about my faith that are helping with my prayer life and will help as I struggle to let go of regret. It’s not me. It’s not me at all. What I mean by that is Jesus needs to come first in our lives. Before spouse, before children, before extended family, before friends, and even before our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus is first, and therefore, we should not expect or want to maintain control over our lives. One of the first songs Carrie Underwood sang entitled “Jesus Take the Wheel”¬† illustrates this vividly. This is also illustrated in Scripture. John 3:30 says, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Of course, I’ve listened to this song and read this verse many times, but it has become clearer to me what it means in the last few months. Control and the release of it. Let me explain. I’ve been praying for a situation, a situation that has caused me great grief and sorrow. And every time I’ve prayed, I’ve wanted it solved so “life would get back to normal”. God doesn’t want me to pray that way. He wants me to pray so He would be glorified whether the situation is resolved in my lifetime or whether it is resolved in eternity. This is a hard thing for me and contradicts most of what I’ve ever heard about prayer. But, it’s what God wants from my prayer life and from the things I regret and try to hold onto.

I wonder something else about the things I regret and try to control. I wonder if I take the regrets I have over certain situations or people and attempt to maintain control by avoiding them. And, if this is true, have I truly let go of the regret. I weave a delicate web, I think. But, it’s important for me to consider these questions if I want to live a life with God coming first and me coming second. Do I get involved with every situation or ministry that’s available, or is it okay to hold back sometimes? And, if I hold back, am I holding back because I have regrets about the past or the people, or am I holding back because it’s not something God has called me to? Those are hard questions for me to answer. I would like to think I’ve moved beyond the situations or the people who have caused me regret. And, to a point, I think I have. But, when I avoid something or someone for fear of being hurt again, I’m not so sure. So, I know I have more work to do–in ceding control to my Lord and Savior and in being engaged in a Christian community.

So, I come back to regret and my need to fast from it. How, I ask myself? It comes back around to what is said in Scripture, specifically in Lamentations 3. Verses 22-24 say this, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'” I’m especially attracted to the part where it says his compassions are “new every morning.” We get a new start every day, all of us. Fasting regret is possible, and I pray we can all know God’s love and forgiveness. I begin this today. Will you join me?

God bless you all!