Taking My Power Back

This was posted on a friend’s Facebook page today. I commented something about telling my younger self that if she thinks she’s fat, she should wait and see what happens when she has a kid. Pretty cliche response, I know. What that friend didn’t know is that I’ve thought about this very thing a lot for the past week. I recently had a breakthrough in therapy; this realization that I have believed lies about myself my entire life. These lies have kept me from becoming the person I thought I’d be at (almost) 32. These lies kept me from participating in things that I longed to participate in. I finally have a clear mind. I’m finally seeing the truth, and I’m ready to let go of those lies and become the person God called me to be.

The liar

The man in this photo is my biological father. The internet makes it easy to find people….and their mugshots. I don’t know this man. I have one memory of him. My mom, my brother and I were living with my grandparents. It was the day of my fourth birthday party. He came by after everyone had left. I remember being excited that he was there. I shouldn’t have that memory. I learned in Developmental Psychology that most people don’t have memories from that long ago. However, when there’s trauma, emotional or otherwise, the memory is likely to stay. So here we are. He brought me a Barbie doll. I don’t remember what she looked like, but I loved her because she was from him. We walked down to a convenient store on the corner and he bought me some candy. I remember the walk down to the store. I looked up at him and I wanted to talk to him…but I was afraid to. He didn’t talk to me either. He just looked straight ahead and he seemed like such a mystery. When we got back, my mom told me go to the bedroom and play with my new toys so they could talk. I wanted to play with the Barbie doll from him. I was happily playing when I was suddenly overcome with the realization that he might leave and I might not get to tell him bye. I threw my Barbie down and jumped up and ran out. I needed to tell him bye. I ran into the living room and he was gone. Just gone. I never saw or heard from him again. No phone calls. No birthday cards. Nothing.

As I got older, I learned more things about him. I learned he was an addict. I learned he was abusive, physically and emotionally. I learned there were other children he’d walked away from. I have half-siblings out there and I don’t know them. Earlier this year, I learned that I was the victim of some of that abuse. Remember when I said I was afraid to talk to him? I haven’t had an answer for that feeling for all these years. I didn’t even know it was fear. All I knew was that the walk was silent and something kept me from speaking to him, even though I wanted to. As it turns out, the reason I was afraid is that he would get angry when I spoke to him. I was yelled at. I had food smacked out of my hands. I was silenced by him because he made me too afraid to speak. When I was an infant, he would get in my face and scream at me to shut up. I was conditioned to be silent from the first moment he did that to me.

I’ve always been the weird, quiet one. Some have even said I’m stuck up. I’ve been the loner. What others have seen as me being anti-social has really just been me living in fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of saying something to upset someone. Fear of anger. There have also been these beliefs about myself that come directly from this experience. The belief that no one cares about me or about anything I have to say. The belief that I’m not good enough; I’m not worthy.

My therapist said something to me last week that rocked me to my core. He said that it’s time to take my power back from this man. All of these years that I’ve been feeling like this, I have just been letting him win. The ghost of that trauma has followed me around my entire life, traumatizing me over and over again. My therapist said that I have a father in Heaven who loves me and who wants so much more for me than this. God has plans for me. His plans do not involve me believing I have zero worth just because of what someone who shares my DNA did to me. I do have value. Jesus died for me because of that value. I’m alive today because of that value. It’s time I really believed in that.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

1 John 3:1a ESV

I’ve had a difficult time processing these emotions. The thing with therapy is that sometimes things get worse before they get better. I’ve been withdrawn for the last week or so, just trying to figure this all out. But now, I’m a little excited about where my life is going. Another thing my therapist said is that he believes God has more plans for me and that is why I am in therapy. I couldn’t agree more. I started this year with a goal in mind. In 2019, I returned to God. I stopped running and jumped headfirst into following Him once again. It was a year of tremendous spiritual growth. At the beginning of this year my prayer was to continue that growth, and to finally have the confidence to go out and do whatever God called me to. I ended up going to this therapist after a series of events and circumstances led me there. He just so happens to work out of the doctor’s office that I was referred to by a former supervisor. He just so happens to be a Christian therapist which is something that was important to me. God led me there so that I could finally heal. The last few months, a lot of my prayers have been for God to free me from this fear. I’m never comfortable with myself. When I’m interacting with others, there is always a tightness in my chest and a lump in my throat because I’m waiting for them to reject me. I finally realize that this fear is unfounded. It is all based on a lie. It’s not the truth. Knowing that truth has finally broken those chains. I’m learning to embrace this belief. It sounds strange, but it’s uncomfortable to believe good things about myself because I never have.

So, what would I really say to my younger self? I’d say exactly what my therapist said: take your power back. Stop letting that man win. He’s a liar. You are worthy. You are loved. Don’t be afraid to chase after your dreams. God is for you and He wants nothing but happiness for you. Cling to that truth and never let go.

And you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

John 8:32

Just Anxiety

“It’s probably just anxiety but we’ll check you out to make sure.” That’s what the ER nurse says to me as he prepares to draw blood. For the sake of privacy, let’s call him Chris. Chris is a pretty nice guy; he’s telling silly jokes, asking me about myself, etc. I can see he’s just trying to make me feel comfortable; let me know that they’re going to take care of me. What bothers me is that he’s so nonchalant about it. “Just anxiety.” What I hear is that it’s not a big deal; that I wasted their time; I wasted my time. I get an EKG and an X-RAY on my chest. They draw several vials of blood so they can run tests. I’m not sure for what. It’s all medical jargon and I didn’t go to medical school. All I know is there’s a sharp pain in my chest and it’s hard to breathe. Is that my shoulder too? I’m also feeling nauseous. Of course all tests come back normal. Chris’s hunch of “just anxiety” was correct. Seems like something that can be blown off so easily shouldn’t feel this way; but hey, I’m not the one with the medical degree.

Source: Danielle Dresden, MedicalNewsToday.com, September 23, 2017

I started writing this post 8 months ago. I couldn’t figure out where I wanted to go with it, so I saved it in my drafts. I went to an Urgent Care a few months later and was sent to the ER in ambulance. It was the same diagnosis: “Just anxiety.”

It’s not that I want there to be something else wrong. Of course I don’t want to actually be having a heart attack…but when it’s physical and objective then there’s an easy treatment, right? When there’s no obvious physical explanation, you just get judged. That’s the worst part. Our culture has made a lot of progress toward ending the mental illness stigma. Unfortunately though, most doctors still shrug off anxiety attacks like this. It’s terrifying as it’s happening and it’s humiliating when it isn’t taken seriously. It seems like we could do better than that.

I’m writing this after having a months long battle with extreme anxiety and depression. I didn’t go to the ER this time, but I felt that sharp pain in my chest more than once. I felt that overwhelming fear. I felt the dizziness and the feeling of losing control. The only thing that kept me somewhat grounded was repeating to myself that this has happened before and everything was okay.

I believe I have been naive. I’m always doing this dance with taking medication versus absolutely refusing to take it. I’ve been off for a few months now. It’s been great not having the side effects, and I’ve told myself that I’m okay. Really, I’m okay. I don’t need it. Yeah, I have felt more anxious and sad and angry but I don’t need it though. I have this ball of rage inside of me that I can’t control but its cool. Yes, I sometimes feel like the world would be better off without me but those thoughts quickly vanish and I’d never act on them. No, I rarely sleep well but it’s fine, I’m fine. Who am I trying to convince? Why does that all sound silly? Is it really that awful to need medication?

I have prayed about this for weeks. Earlier this week, it all came to a head and there was no more denying what I needed to do. I won’t go into specifics. Just know that I cried so much that night that my eyes were still swollen the next day from all of the tears and lack of sleep. I saw my doctor and was prescribed two new medications. One for anxiety and an antidepressant. I’m already feeling a difference.

For me, there is a physical cause. I’ve written about it but I try to pretend it’s not real. I’ve even had a psychiatrist tell me it’s my issue: I’ve had a traumatic brain injury. It damaged part of my brain. Literally the part that helps regulate emotions. Seeing as how that was almost 14 years ago, I don’t think it will ever change. So why am I still fighting it after all these years? When something in your body isn’t physically working, you take medication to fix it. It’s not that hard. Of course there are other factors as well: trauma from early childhood that I’m working through, thought patterns and beliefs that I have formed based on that trauma that I’m working on correcting, etc. Even without the physical component, I may still have needed medications to cope and that’s okay too.

There’s this idea among some Christians that we just need to have faith in Jesus and our mental illness will go away. Just love Him and trust Him and you’ll be happy. While I know that this faith in Him brings peace and can almost eliminate minor anxiety, I also believe this is extremely harmful to say. I am all in for Jesus. I’m not perfect, but my life is spent pursuing a relationship with Him and following His call. Am I less of a Christian because my brain is damaged and I need medication to help regulate emotions? No. Just like I’m not less of a Christian for taking medication for headaches, or my daily Asprin to prevent a blood clot. It’s physical. God gave men the knowledge to develop these medications, therefore they are from God.

Something amazing has been happening since my decision to go back on medication that is worth mentioning. For months I couldn’t feel God’s presence. I couldn’t see it when He was speaking to me. This last week has been different though. I finally stopped pretending I could do this alone and cried out to Him. I told Him I need his help and his guidance because I can’t do this anymore. I’ve surrendered my all to Him numerous times only to take it back and go on living based on my own knowledge. It always fails. But, since I surrendered that to Him and confessed my failures, I have seen numerous examples of Him speaking to me in unexpected ways. I’m so grateful. I’ll write another post detailing that.

The moral of the story here is that anxiety and depression are legitimate medical conditions that should be treated as such. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t let pride fool you into believing that you don’t need medication when deep inside, you probably know that’s incorrect. Jesus Himself healed many physical ailments in His time here on earth. In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul suggests drinking a little wine for a stomach issue. God loves us and wants us to find comfort and healing. Why wouldn’t He want us to use the resources He gave us to find that comfort and healing?

I’m sorry to anyone I interacted with over the last few months. I haven’t been myself. I’ve been angry and over-sensitive because I probably felt like you secretly hate me. I’m sorry to those I have neglected. Everything has felt like a chore. Today is the first day in months that I feel I have some clarity. And I’m just so incredibly grateful for the faithfulness of my God.

In His Sight

Today, I had an appointment with my therapist that didn’t go the way I expected. I see him every two weeks and it’s kind of hit and miss on how willing I am to talk (based on my level of anxiety). Some sessions are just him asking me questions and me giving the shortest answer possible. Others are me just speaking on pure emotion and no thought, which means I’m just rambling on. Today was the latter. Those appointments are more helpful because I can really get into the meat of my issues when I’m not bogged down by overthinking every word. This also usually leads to him saying something that almost seems like he is actually capable of reading my mind because it’s insanely accurate. As today’s appointment was coming to an end, he said something that kind of shook me, even though I know it to be true. He said, “In our time together, I have observed that you see no value in yourself as a human being and I think we need to change that because you DO have value.” I was surprised at how he figured that out, and I wanted to curl in a ball and cry. I have never voiced that feeling to anyone because I never really understood it myself, but it all clicked. That is my issue. My biggest issue. I don’t feel that I have any value. Not even a little bit. What a miserable existence.

Side Note

This is a little difficult for me to put out there. I’ve debated whether I should share this or not because it just seems so…pathetic? Silly? I’m not sure what the correct word is. However, I have decided to share it because that is my mission with this blog. I want to share the uncomfortable, the painful, the ugly, the embarrassing because that reduces the stigma. I also want to share how God helps me cope with all of these things. I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. The hope is that someone out there who does feel that way will see this and feel hope and comfort in knowing they’re not alone. More importantly, maybe they’ll want to know more about following Jesus because that is the only way I’m going to find healing.

I often feel like a burden. I hate asking for help because I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t say much to anyone because I feel like there is no way anyone could care about what I have to say. I squirm with discomfort when I’m complimented on anything because I feel like it can’t be true. I spend virtually no time on self-care because it feels selfish to waste time on me when I could be with my husband and son. Maybe it’s depression or anxiety or a mixture of the two, but there’s this (not literal) voice that tells me these things and it gets hard to ignore.

I felt convicted about this as well. How can I, as a Christian woman, see no value in myself when God’s word is full of scripture saying the opposite? The very core of Christianity, the Gospel, the fact that Jesus died for me screams that I have value. I’m not sure why it doesn’t register to me.

I’ve often wondered why I’m like this. The psychological explanation is a healthy balance of nurture and nature. But why, when God has the power to change all things, has He not changed this in me? I have no right to ask for a miracle; but to miraculously wake up and not be a self-loathing ball of anxiety would be quite wonderful. Without this struggle though, I would have no empathy for others who have the same struggle. This was a subject my pastor spoke on a few weeks ago and it really hit home. I’ve always been that person who just wants to take everyone’s pain away. I’ve gone through depressive episodes just because of sympathy for someone else’s depressive episode. That’s just where my heart has always been. How much better equipped am I to help others when I can understand how they feel because I have suffered too? Perhaps that is where I can find my value; in using my suffering to help others who suffer.

I know that I have a purpose. I’m not sure what it is, but He has a plan for me. I know there are good things about me. I’m not comfortable with trying to name them yet, but there must be something. I’ll get there. I have to learn that it’s okay to believe in those things. It is possible to think you have value and not be arrogant. It is possible to do something for yourself and not be selfish. It’s okay to take a compliment. Logically, I know all of this. I don’t know what it will take to get that to really sink in, but I do know that I’m on the right path. God has taken me on this journey toward mental and emotional healing and I’m learning so much more about Him and about my identity in Him. I can’t wait to see where this journey leads. I hope you’ll follow along with me because I want to share every step of the way. These struggles are a little embarrassing for me to share, but how can God get any glory for the changes that are coming if I’m silent?

Power in Weakness

Times are strange, to state the obvious. COVID-19 has hit like a storm that won’t go away. The rain is pounding, thunder booming, and the chaos seems like it will never end. I believe we’re starting to get out of the worst of it; at least, it seems that way. States are starting to open back up and stay at home orders are starting to be lifted. I’m just praying that we aren’t stepping out too soon.

In the midst of the storm, though, there have been positive things. Humans bonding together in a way that we didn’t before we were forced to be apart. The crafty ones among us making masks and donating them to healthcare workers. FaceTime chats are happening more frequently. The videos of different neighborhoods bonding together through music in the streets. On May 5th, I went to pick up Mexican food for dinner, along with everyone else in the area. This restaurant was understaffed because of the pandemic, and they didn’t expect the line of people waiting to pick up their order. Two women were there helping to pass out orders. These women were just waiting on their food; they were not employees. They just saw a need and stepped in to help out, and I thought that was beautiful.

Another positive thing is that this has forced us all to slow down and reflect. It’s been kind of nice to just stop and sit with my thoughts, without all of the hustle and the noise. However, I’ll admit that this has also been difficult. When an over-thinker is given too much time to think, all of those unpleasant intrusive thoughts can begin to take over. It’s enough to send you into a downward spiral of depression, like the one I’ve been battling for a few weeks now.

The verse I shared at the beginning was discussed in a sermon a few weeks ago (at Charity Baptist Church in Kannapolis, NC with Pastor Marty Payton). In this passage, Paul was discussing a thorn he had in his side; a weakness he had that plagued him. It’s not known exactly what this “thorn” was; but it made me think of my own thorns. We all have these thorns; weaknesses that cause us pain and/or hold us back. What if instead of looking at these things as flaws that need to be fixed, we saw them as an opportunity for God to show His strength?

I have three thorns. The first two are my anxiety and depression. I have spent years trying multiple medications to make them go away. I’ve cried and prayed for healing from them. I’ve used coping mechanisms that only made things worse. What I have finally come to realize is that they won’t ever go away. This is chronic depression and anxiety brought on by a few different factors, one being a brain injury. When you have damage to a part of your brain that regulates emotions, you have to accept that your emotions may be out of whack at times; and it’s okay. The worst part about it is that the treatment for it is medications that further mess with your brain chemistry.

Quick disclaimer: I am not coming out against antidepressants. I know they are needed at times. Honestly, I might not be here today if it weren’t for them. This is just my experience after taking them for around 15 years.

Since I was 17 years old, I have been on multiple medications for anxiety and depression. After my accident, I needed more than one medication at a time. These medications always served their purpose in the beginning, but after a while I stopped feeling alive. Every single one eventually left me feeling completely numb. If I must choose between feeling nothing, or the occasional bout of extreme depression, I kind of think I want the latter. Because depression isn’t fun, but I’ll also feel all of the other emotions that I’m missing when I’m numb: joy, happiness, even fear, frustration, anger. We are emotional beings and we are meant to feel these things; if we don’t, are we truly alive? So I’ve stopped all medications for anxiety and depression. I’m going through a rough patch trying to find new coping mechanisms, but I’m actually better off. I feel like myself for the first time in a long time. My emotional, quirky, awkward, nerdy self. I’m digging it.

My last thorn is more objective: my right-sided weakness from my stroke. It’s been going on 14 years, yet I still find new ways I’m held back. Did you know it’s hard to hold a mic when your hand is weak? You want to hold it in the weak hand though, so that it isn’t obvious. If you hold it in your strong hand, your weak hand is just going to look all balled up and weird. And you could just use the stand but you have a hard time adjusting it so you’d rather just hold the mic, but then even making sure it’s on the stand all the way (when you put it back) is hard. And you have anxiety so you don’t ask for help. And also, you don’t want that sympathy you usually get when you ask for help because you want to be treated the same as everyone else. And that’s the extra burden I carry being on the worship team at my church. It’s just one example of these little things that are difficult for me; things you wouldn’t think of. Another is that I type with one hand at work and I can always feel clients looking at me weird when they’re in my office. They give that look of curiosity with a hint of pity. It’s kind of humiliating, though I know they mean no harm.

I share all of that not to whine, but to do exactly what Paul says in the passage above: to boast in my weakness because it is where He is made strong. That is what God has been teaching me through this quarantine: how to be comfortable with my weaknesses because it glorifies Him. How to use my weaknesses to spread the good news of His power and His love. Without Him, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Think about it: does a chronically depressed, partially handicapped person with extreme social anxiety seem like the type of person to put him/herself out there like that? These blog posts, the videos, the job I have, the fact that I even visited my church in the first place; all of this is by His strength alone. Without His strength, I am just a scared little girl trying to be invisible. With His strength, I am brave, strong, and actually okay with my gimpy hand because it’s a testimony to the fact that He saved me when it looked like I wasn’t going to make it. This weakness and my scars are a beautiful reminder of the strength of my God. So, I will boast until I can’t anymore. I am so weak, but my God? He is strong.

Praise is my Weapon

It’s a little crazy right now, right? I’ll be honest, when this Coronavirus thing first started, I kind of thought it was being blown way out of proportion; but it keeps spreading rapidly. As things continue to amp up, I can feel the anxiety steadily rising. So, I thought I’d write something fun.

One of my favorite ways to deal with any kind of negative emotion is to listen to music. For me, the only music that really soothes my soul is praise and worship music. Whether I sing along, watch a video, or even just listen while I work, I find that the negative emotion is replaced by peace. So, I want to share my 10 favorite worship songs. I’m going to share a link to listen as well. I encourage you to listen. Whether you’re a Christian or not, just listen. I believe there is power in music. It speaks to our souls in a way that words alone never can.

These are in no particular order and this is always subject to change, but this will be a good start. I hope you enjoy.

1. “As You Find Me” by Hillsong UNITED

I figured I’d start with the obvious. This is the song that inspired the title for this blog. Its about how God loves us where we are. We don’t have to try to be good enough for His love. He meets us right in the midst of our filth and loves us anyway.

Key lyrics:

I know I don’t deserve this kind of love.

Somehow, this kind of love is who You are.

It’s a grace I could never add up,

To be somebody You still want.

Somehow, You love me as You find me.

2. “Jesus, Lover of my Soul” by Hillsong Worship.

So just a little disclaimer for this one: I do not love the original version. This is a pretty old song and I’m just not crazy about the arrangement. The version that I love is on a CD somewhere in a box. I bought it at South Mountain Baptist Camp from a band named 7-Miles. This specific CD was a different band name with some of the members of 7-Miles. I’m not able to find the version I love or even one that sounds similar online so I’m posting the original. Who knows, maybe I’ll get bold and have my hubby learn it on guitar and record my own one day, just for fun. But probably not.

There’s a story with this song. The year I bought that CD at camp was the year that I was saved. I laid in my bunk that night and listened to this song over and over on my little personal CD player (because this was before Smart Phones and even iPods). My joy could not be contained. That was the first time I felt true peace and I just prayed the lyrics to this song for hours.

Key lyrics: Pretty much the whole song but the ones that I prayed over and over that night were: “…and though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go.”

3. “Do it Again“ by Elevation Worship.

I remember the first Sunday we sang this song at church. I was dealing with a personal battle and had started to feel hopeless. This song reminded me that God has always been there for me and He always will be. No matter how hopeless things have seemed in the past, He made a way and He will do it again.

Key lyrics:

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains

And I believe I’ll see You do it again.

You made a way when there was no way

And I believe I’ll see you do it again.

4. “Way Maker” by Leland.

This is a similar story as “Do it Again.” I listened to this song multiple times a day for about two weeks straight. It reminds me that even in the silence, even in the waiting, God is working all things out for good. Even now, as we’re all waiting for this pandemic to be over, He is working. He has not forsaken us and He never will.

Key lyrics:

Even when I don’t see it, You’re workin’.

Even when I don’t feel it, You’re workin’.

You never stop, You never stop workin’.

5. “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel

I’ve loved this song since I first heard it at a Night of Worship in August (I think). I love the theme of fighting your battles with praise. My love for this song was raised to a new level a few months ago when my worship pastor introduced the arrangement by Harvest Worship. I listened to this song multiple times a day for a week partly because I was scheduled to sing that Sunday and I wanted to make sure I knew it, but mostly because it ignited this passion in me that I could not contain. I remember having a really terrible day at work. It was Friday and I was there late. I was discouraged and frustrated. My spirit felt crushed. I listened to this song right there at my desk and the weight of my day began to melt away. That terrible day didn’t matter because I had a joy that outweighed every bad thing that happened.

Key lyrics:

I’m gonna sing in the middle of the storm.

Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar.

Up from the ashes, hope will arise.

Death is defeated, the King is alive.

6. “Worth” by Anthony Brown and Group Therapy

I just love gospel music. The passion and the joy expressed in this genre is unlike any other. This song hit me hard the first time I heard it. He thought I was worth saving? I’m a mess. It was a beautiful reminder of something I already knew but still fail to grasp at times.

About a month or so ago, we sang this at church. I had another one of those mornings. I was late and I felt guilty about it. I’d also been battling with feelings of worthlessness. My last post delves into that more, but I’ll just say that I needed to hear that I am loved. Even though I was late that morning, I went to my usual spot and immediately joined in on the song the team was singing at the time. Then we got to this one. By the end of it, I was so overcome with awe/gratitude/love that my knees buckled and I just sat there and cried and prayed in the pew. God’s love for us is unfathomable. 🙌

Key lyrics: This song is pretty repetitive, but the ones that get to me the most are, “You thought I was to die for, so you sacrificed Your life…”

7. “Wide Open” by North Point Worship.

It’s hard to explain how wonderful this song is without just typing out the lyrics. This song does have a story just like most of the others. Once again, the first time I heard it was at church on a Sunday morning. I had been going to Charity for about 3 months at the time, so it still felt new for me. I had witnessed several people get baptized in those 3 months and had wondered if I should do it too.

Quick side note about baptism: baptism does not equal salvation, rather it is an outward expression of a decision that you have made. The pastors at my church always compare it to a wedding ring. I wear my wedding ring as a symbol that I am married; but if I take it off, I’m still married. Baptism is a symbol of my relationship with God.

I was saved and then baptized when I was 8 or 9 years old, but I really didn’t grasp what it meant. I did grasp it at 14 (church camp story from an earlier song on this list) but wasn’t baptized after that. Fast-forward to 19 year old me: a traumatic event mixed with some not-so-pleasant realizations about the church I grew up had caused me to turn my back on God and run away from Him. I ran for 12 years, then I started going to the church I go to now.

Fast-forward again and we’re back at the morning that I heard this song. One of my reservations about being baptized was fear/anxiety. I didn’t really know anyone at the church well at all yet. I had done the audition for the worship team but was still convinced I wasn’t good enough to be on it, so I really hadn’t spent any time getting to know anyone. I was afraid of waltzing up to one of the pastors and having this deep conversation. I also still kind of felt like God might be angry with me for all of the years I had turned away. But listening to this song made me realize that He was right there waiting for me to come back the entire time. I had nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. I was the prodigal son and He was the father who was ecstatic upon my return no matter what I had done.

So I did talk to one of the pastors that day. I told him my story and that I wanted to be baptized because I was tired of running. I wanted to go public with my decision to turn back to Him and devote my life to following Him. And that pastor baptized me the very next Sunday.

Key lyrics:

If I make my bed in darkness, if I try my best to hide

You know the farthest ocean, You give the morning it’s light

I can’t run from Your presence, there’s no place that far

So I run to You my savior, there’s safety in Your arms.

8. “God of Wonders” by Chris Tomlin

This one is a youth group throwback. I always loved this song. It always made me think of being a kid and walking around in the front yard at night and just looking up at the sky to see if I could see God (don’t worry, my mom and/or grandparents were on the front porch as I did this). My understanding as a child was just that He was up there in the sky somewhere and I wanted to catch a glimpse of this almighty being who controlled everything because I was in awe. This song takes me back to that childlike amazement of who He is. It’s kind of sad that I lost that amazement as I grew older. I’m glad I got it back.

Key Lyrics

God of wonders beyond our galaxy

You are holy, holy

The universe declares Your majesty

You are holy, holy

9. “Revelation Song” by Kari Jobi

This is similar to “God of Wonders” in theme, but it’s much more intricate and SO beautiful. There are really no words to describe it other than the lyrics. It’s just…wow. Plus, how can I have a praise and worship favorites list and NOT have Kari Jobe on it?

Quick disclaimer for the link I’m posting: this is not the original version. I’m actually going to share the video of my church doing it one Sunday morning. The only reason I’m choosing to post this instead of the original is because my worship pastor read some scripture from The Book of Revelation in the middle of the song and it was powerful.

Key lyrics:

Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder

At the mention of Your name

Jesus, Your name is power; breath and living water

Such a marvelous mystery

10. “Living Hope” by Phil Whickman

This song is just too perfect for the state of the world right now. People are sick and dying from a virus that is spreading rapidly and there seems to be no end in sight. Major events are cancelled. People are ordered to stay home. When we do venture out for necessities, the world seems different, scary even. I’ve seen things I never thought I’d see. People walking around in the grocery store wearing masks and gloves. Tape on the floor designating where you should stand in line to honor social distancing. Easter is next Sunday but we won’t be gathering at church, we’ll be watching online. It’s intense and the fear we’re all feeling is in the air.

There is hope though. He is our hope, our living hope. He is the one who pulls us out of the darkness and gives us peace. He is the one who defeated death. A virus is nothing to Him. He’s still in control and He’s working it out. Don’t lose hope just because the sun isn’t shining. He’s the light in the darkness and if you cling to Him, you’ll find peace despite all of this craziness.

Key lyrics:

Then came the morning that sealed the promise

Your buried body began to breathe

Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion

Declared the grave has no claim on me

Jesus, Yours is the victory!

I hope you enjoyed this list, and I hope you listen and feel hope. We’re going to get to the other side of this mess one day. In the meantime, I believe we need to be the light. We need to show others love, and spread positivity and encouragement every chance we get. We are all struggling with this in some way. Be the reason someone smiled today. ❤️

Say NO to Fear

I am a mess.

There’s no other way to put it. I’m messy, disorganized, forgetful. If there was an award for procrastination, I’d surely win it. I’m also awkward. I have no idea how to socialize. I’m fluent in sarcasm and not everyone understands my sense of humor. I’m no good at small talk. I don’t watch the news and I don’t keep up with pop culture. I’m more comfortable talking about Harry Potter or your theories on who killed Jonbenet Ramsey, or what happened to Maura Murray. If you’re into deep conversation, then I’m all in. Let’s talk about Jesus. Let’s talk about mental health awareness. Let’s talk about how wonderful it is to express human emotion through music or poetry, because daily conversation fails. Just don’t try to have a “normal” conversation with me. I’m a ball of anxiety and if I do manage to find words to say, I’ll just be over-thinking every word for weeks, wondering just how stupid I made myself look.


-this was taken several months ago. I left work early to go to an appointment and realized that I had spent the last 5 hours walking around with 2 different earrings. I’ll also add that these earrings aren’t even remotely similar in style, so I have no idea how I didn’t realize it.


I’m also a little broken. I have lived my entire life as a scared little girl in the corner. I’m too afraid to step out, because I believe I will mocked or rejected or hurt. Sometimes I do step out, and I feel so free, but I become overwhelmed by it and run back to my corner to hide because my corner is safe. I can’t be hurt here. I can’t be rejected. My corner is the prison that I’ve locked myself into, and I’m dying to be free.

I recently learned some things about the early years of my life. I never knew these things because I never asked; but recently I’ve been on this journey toward healing and I just needed to know. I’ve always known that my biological father was/is not a good man. All I have known about him is that he was abusive and he struggled with addiction. My mom escaped him and he disappeared. No calls or letters or visits. He was just gone. It did start to affect me at one point. Why couldn’t I have a dad? Why wasn’t I good enough for him to stay? Seems like a pretty obvious reason for why I have a fear of rejection and abandonment. Thanks, dude. But there’s more. He made me afraid to even speak. He yelled at me when I cried as an infant. He silenced me. One time, when I was about 2 or 3, I stood bedside him, ate a snack, and just talked to him as he watched TV. A little girl just living her life and talking to her daddy. He got mad and smacked the snack out of my hand so I’d shut up.

Side note: My mom did remarry when I was 8 and the man she married is the man I call my dad. He is my dad. He stayed. Even when things didn’t work out with my mom, he stayed. That’s what parents do and I’m grateful for him. Thank you dad.

Here is the point: I have lived my entire life (almost 32 years) crippled by fear. I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder which pretty much means I have anxiety about everything. The biggest thing that gives me anxiety is this underlying fear of rejection. I have also been diagnosed with Major Depression. That depression tells me that I’m not good enough for anyone or anything. That I’m terrible at everything I do, and that everyone probably secretly hates me. The depression is fuel for my fear of rejection. That fear has guided my whole life. Almost every decision I make is determined by how likely I am to be rejected. At one point in my life, it was so bad that I never talked to anyone unless they said something to me first. I couldn’t even bring myself to say ‘hello’ to someone because they might not want to talk to me. Ask anyone I went to high school with. I was the weirdo who said nothing to anyone. I even sat at lunch alone for almost an entire semester because I didn’t have a friend in my lunch period, and asking to sit with people I didn’t know was too terrifying. I preferred sitting alone and getting the weird stares over opening myself up to rejection. It all sounds so ridiculous now. What if I would have made a group of really great friends? Maybe high school could have been better. I’ll never know because I was too afraid to find out.

I started writing this post weeks ago, but couldn’t really figure out what I was trying to say. I hadn’t come to a resolution about all of the things I learned about my childhood yet. Tonight, I’m happy to say, I have found it.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of churches did online services today, my church being one of them. My husband is a hospital employee and had to be at work today which meant I was home with my toddler alone during the service. I tried watching it, but it just wasn’t going to happen at that time. After my husband and son went to bed, I sat on my couch to watch a message that I desperately needed. Today’s message was on fear. It was timely because if this illness we’re facing right now and I’m grateful that my pastor listened to God’s call to reach out and try to give people peace. To me though, this message was about so much more.

The Bible verse that stuck out to me the most was Matthew 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” I’ve read this verse before. I’ve heard this said in different ways, but today something finally snapped inside of me. I’ve been out here living my life based on the approval of the people in this world. I’ve hidden myself in this little corner, too afraid to leave because of what they might think. This affects every single aspect of my life. I’m ashamed to say, it even crossed over to church. Lately I’ve been kind of in a funk and I have been listening to this voice telling me that I’m nothing more than an annoyance. That I’m tolerated but not really liked. I worry about how I’m perceived at church. If it’s a Sunday that I’m singing with the worship team, I’m scared of everything from how I dressed to being concerned that I was feeling complete joy and worshiping God earnestly, but my facial expressions just look like I’m bored. I even have anxiety about my anxiety. I desperately want to join a small group, form a small group, or even just get to know people at church better in general. The problem is that no one would know that because my fear has kept me from making any kind of real effort. That makes me worry that they think I’m stuck up or don’t want to get to know anyone, but that’s so far from the truth.

I have been crying out to God to help me find a way to get over the fear so I can just be. So that I can live and just be me. I want to just have conversations and not over-analyze every single thing. I want to form bonds with people at church who will help me grow stronger in my relationship with God. I want to serve in more ways than just being on the vocal team, and I want to have the courage to do it. I want to go wherever God calls me to go without fear of what anyone in this world thinks. Because you know what? It doesn’t matter. If what I’m doing is pleasing to God then that’s what matters.

So today, I am saying “NO” to fear. Fear, here is your eviction notice. You have held up space in my head far too long. I am done. This is who I am. I’m a mess. I’m a nerd. I’m awkward. I don’t know what to say sometimes so I just laugh. I like deep conversations. I over-share or I stay closed off. I’m late. I use too much dry shampoo. I drink too much soda. I like to nap way more than I should. I have a super weird sense of humor. I’m a mess. But I’m HIS MESS. What could I possibly have to be afraid of?

“Feelings are not Reality”

It’s another one of those nights. My two-year-old son and I had a great time together while my husband was at a work outing. We sang, played with his cars, ate “fry fries,” and acted silly. When it was time, I put on his new PJ’s with the dinosaur on the front, brushed his teeth, and got him ready for bed. Then we sat and rocked and sang along to ‘Wheels on the Bus’ while we waited on my husband to get home so he could kiss him goodnight. Everything was fine. He kissed ‘dada’ goodnight and off we went to start the routine of getting him to sleep.

I’ve cherished this time since he was a little baby. Of course, there have been many nights when I was completely exhausted and just couldn’t wait for him to finally fall asleep; but most of the time, I love these moments. Singing to him, stroking his hair, watching him drift into a peaceful sleep. Sometimes, he grabs my nose or my hair or my mouth and giggles. Sometimes he plays with my hair and says, “pretty.” A lot of times, as he’s drifting away, he opens his eyes and says, “mommy” just to make sure I’m still there. Words can’t really explain the sweetness of this time with him. Knowing that he feels safe, and happy, and peaceful in my arms; and that I would do anything and everything to keep him safe…it’s a beautiful feeling.

The last week or so, however, has not gone so well. He cries and screams. Of course, it’s normal toddler things, I guess. Kids don’t like bed time. Most of the time I just buckle down for a long night. These have been different though. These cries have pierced my ears and cut through my soul. It’s not just that he’s crying, although I think every parent hates hearing their little one cry. It’s more than that. The reason why he’s crying is because he doesn’t want mommy to put him to bed, he wants daddy.

The first night this happened, I laughed it off and silently relished in the little bit of me time I got. That night, he was starting to fall asleep when he suddenly started protesting and asking for daddy. “I don’t want mommy to put me to sleep…daddy put me to sleep,” he said. I laughed a little and called my husband. When he came into the room, my little one said, “mommy get up!” I walked out of the room with a slight tinge of hurt feelings but laughed it off. Then it happened the next night and the next. Every night he says, “I wanna see daddy! Daddy lay with me!” And he tells me to get up and I leave. Each time, those hurt feelings get stronger. Each time, that postpartum depression that had long been gone, gets louder. It started as a quiet whisper that I was able to quickly silence with reason. He’s two years old. He goes through phases. Sometimes he prefers me. Other times he prefers my husband. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad mother. It doesn’t mean that I’m not as good of a parent as my husband. But, the more this happens, the louder it gets. And tonight, it is screaming.

My husband even called me to help him. Our guy is fighting sleep hard tonight. We thought that with both of us, he might calm down and go to sleep. I started stroking his hair and singing our song to him–‘My only Sunshine.’ I thought this might do the trick but then he sat up and said, “mommy leave.” So, here I am. I have me time but I’m not enjoying it. Instead, my soul is being crushed by the postpartum depression screaming in my ear and telling me that I must not be a good mom, that he loves my husband more than he loves me.

I realize how this sounds. It’s petty. It’s silly. It’s stupid. Logically, I know that those things aren’t true. I guess I’ve just been fighting for a long time and I’m finally exhausted from it all.

If I’m honest, I’ve been fighting a depressive episode for probably about a month now. There’s no real reason for it. It’s one of those things that I know will always be there, hiding in the shadows and waiting to attack me at my weakest. It’s those feelings of inadequacy. It’s exhaustion. It’s apathy. It’s an intense desire to lock myself away in a room and rest until I can wake up and feel like me again.

Fittingly enough, my pastor just finished a series on emotions. First we did anger, then fear/anxiety, then we finished that series up with depression. The last two services were incredible. They were the type of services where I felt like God sat down with my pastor and told him exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve left church the last two weeks feeling as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I also left with a first aid kit, of sorts; a package of ways to combat anxiety and depression when they make their inevitable appearance back into my life.

I keep replaying these words in my head: “feelings are not reality.” It seems like such a simple statement, but it has been powerful. The reality is that I’m not a bad mother, depression is making me feel that way. Feeling: I’m worthless. Reality: I am a child of God and I have so much worth to Him that He died for me. Feeling: I’m an idiot and I’ll never be good at this job. Reality: this job is hard and takes a lot of time, making mistakes doesn’t mean I’ll fail. Also: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. When I shift my perspective and look at these feelings for what they are, lies told to me by depression, I’m able to feel hope in knowing that this will not last because it is not the truth.

I’m fighting this battle of chronic depression and it’s a battle that will never end. I’ll have these moments where I can feel myself slipping into a depressive episode for the rest of my life. That’s the “joy” of chronic depression. The difference is that now, I am better equipped to fight it than I have ever been, because I know He fights for me.

I’m on medication. At one point I was on 4 different anxiety and depression medications at once. I’ve gone to therapy. Ten years ago, I used alcohol and marijuana to self-medicate. I’ve done it all, but nothing had truly helped until now. Even as I sit here with this sadness looming over me, I feel at peace because I know I have been redeemed. He has made me whole and He comforts me. There’s a peace that I get when I read my Bible or pray or sing worship songs that cannot be put into words. He loves me and He doesn’t want me to feel this way. And friends, He loves you too. If you have never felt that peace I’m referencing, I urge you to seek it. God says those who seek Him will find Him. There is no better way to fight the lies of depression. You’re not alone in the fight. You never were and you never have to feel that way.

Be Still

My body, mind, and soul have groaned with exhaustion for a few months now. I find it difficult to function in even the most uncomplicated task. I’m forgetful, slow; I’m lacking focus. My eyes burn with the longing to sleep. My muscles ache and beg for the comfort of my bed. My soul, on fire just a few months ago, has withered as if consumed by the flames. I don’t wake up early to spend my quiet time with God anymore. I rarely read my Bible. Sunday morning services, which once excited me no matter how tired I was, now feel like a chore. I drag myself out of bed and go anyway because Jesus probably didn’t feel like dying for me either.

My anxiety has returned with hints of depression. It’s not as bad as it once was, and it isn’t constant. I just have these thoughts of self-loathing. Why do I look this way? Why am I the way that I am? Why do I even talk to people? Why am I so awkward? Why did I say that? He/she probably thinks I’m an idiot now. I wish I knew how to socialize.

I was diagnosed with Hypersomnia close to a year ago. Basically, it’s almost Narcolepsy, I just didn’t quite meet the diagnostic criteria. The treatment, however, is the same. A big, white pill called Nuvigil. It helps….to an extent. But once it wears off, I’m back to fighting against the urge to lay my head on my desk and go to sleep. So when I ran out a few weeks ago, I wasn’t in a hurry to go refill it. It wasn’t helping that much and insurance won’t pay for it so it’s not exactly cheap. Plus, between being this exhausted, working, taking care of my two year old, and spending quality time with my husband and the rest of our family, it’s kind of hard to find the time and motivation to go anywhere. I figured I’d tough it out for a bit, drink extra coffee, etc. But things only got worse.

This led to an appointment with my primary care doctor today. After talking about my symptoms, he ordered a blood draw and some tests for my thyroid functioning, electrolytes, and a few other things that I can’t remember. But his biggest recommendation was to exercise.

Quick side note here: why is it that exercise seems to be the cure for almost everything? Depressed? Exercise! Anxious? Exercise! So exhausted you’re about to pass out right now? Exercise! Your muscles ache all over for no apparent reason? Exercise! Your arm has fallen off? Exercise!!! Okay, obviously that last one was an exaggeration but you see my point. It’s not that I don’t think exercise would help with these things. Exercise boosts your mood and makes you feel energetic. And working your muscles and stretching them out makes them feel better. All I’m saying is, sometimes it’s not that simple. I want to exercise. But how can I when it’s a task just to hold my eyes open? Let’s also add an inability to run or do a lot of physical activities due to having had a stroke. When I’m tired, my weakness is more pronounced, making it that much harder. So it’s just not as simple as that for me. But I digress.

The doctor’s other recommendation was to follow up with my sleep doctor to see about an increase in Nuvigil. I guess this seems like the obvious thing to do but what’s wrong with wanting to see if there is a root cause for this rather than just take a pill?

After the lab technician took my blood to run the tests, I left not really feeling like I had an answer for anything. I decided to go ahead and refill Nuvigil. It couldn’t hurt. I took it at around lunch time, knowing that it was probably way too late in the day. But I didn’t know what else to do. I had to go to work and I had vocal team rehearsal at my church right after. I’m not scheduled this Sunday so I could have skipped rehearsal; but I love going and I didn’t want to miss it. The people in that room are the only ones I have any kind of connection with at my church. My only community. So I want to cultivate that rather than go home to sleep.

As predicted, my decision to take Nuvigil so late has led to insomnia. (The Sundrop I drank probably didn’t help either.) But I’m actually really glad that this happened because I had a God moment tonight and I so desperately needed it.

I sat on my front porch, long after everyone had gone to bed, and I just talked to God. I talked about my insecurities, not just with how I look but with who I am as a person. I talked about how awkward I am and how all I want is to be comfortable in my own skin. Comfortable in my identity.

For the last few weeks, this subject has come up in songs, devotionals, Facebook posts, and at church. The fact that God understands me. The fact that He created me and that He knows my heart. The fact that He created me to be exactly who I am and to Him, I am beautiful. This has really smacked me in the face and has been extremely difficult to wrap my head around.

As I kept praying, I asked God to help me believe in those words. To really believe them and live like I believe them. To be comfortable with who I am, in all of my awkwardness, because I am His and this is how He made me. Then I just sat and listened to the crickets and cicadas. And that’s when I had my moment. God met with me. He told me to be still, to rest in Him. He told me that He knows my heart and my desires and that He will use me for great things. That I will be as His mouthpiece to spread His word and lead others to Him. But for now, just rest.

I was a little stunned. How could that be so? How could I ever do anything that has any kind of impact with this social anxiety and self-doubt that plague me?

It reminds me of the story of Moses; how Moses said he could never do the things God was asking him to do because he had a speech problem. So Moses begged God to send someone else. And God, in His mercy, sent Aaron with Moses to speak for him. Aaron was a security blanket that Moses never needed.

Don’t think that I’m comparing myself to Moses. I’ll never be that. People won’t know my name a few thousand years from now. But, if God could use Moses to accomplish all of the things He accomplished through Moses then why couldn’t He use me?

I said these things to God. That I don’t know how to overcome this and asked Him to show me. God’s response: “just trust me.”

To a nonbeliever, this might all sound crazy. But to me, it was very real. Be still friends. Rest. Know who God is. Trust that He made you who you are for a reason. Realize that He understands you. He knows you more intimately than you even know yourself. Don’t be afraid to follow His call. Don’t doubt yourself, or allow yourself to get caught up in wishing you were different. God wanted you to be who you are. That’s why he made you. 😊

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