Purpose, Not Pleasure

The last week or so has brought some significant developments in my writing. Not that I’ve been published or anything like that, but I have found a renewed passion for it, and the confidence to put more out. It was brought to my attention that I should have a introductory type piece for this blog; something to explain who I am and what the reason for this blog is. So, that’s what I plan to do here.

My renewed passion for this started at the beginning of the year. Cliché, I know, but it’s true. The pastor at my church started the year out with a series called “Better.” Throughout this series, he’s talked about striving for doing better this year instead of striving for perfection. He’s talked about how following Jesus will lead you to a better life and make you better at life. A couple of weeks ago, the message was about letting go of the things that hold you back and he asked the question, “What is holding you back?” This question really made me think because I do feel like there is something that holds me back and that is my fear. I thought about it not as something that I’m holding onto and refusing to let go of, but as something that is holding onto me and won’t let me go. How exactly do you just let go of fear and anxiety? I thought about that question a lot over the next week or so, and I prayed for God to give me the wisdom to understand how to let it go.

I spend my mornings on my way to work in prayer and deep thought. It helps me go in and be the best version of myself. Sometimes I listen to my favorite praise and worship songs, other times I just sit in silence and think and pray. It was during one of those drives that the thought occurred to me that my biggest issue in life is my complete lack of confidence. I genuinely have zero confidence in myself about anything I do. A big part of that is because I am constantly comparing myself to others and finding that I never measure up. Their talents, their thoughts, and their ideas far outweigh my own, so why in the world would I even try? I’ve lived my whole life on that principle, believing it is better to hide myself in the shadows so I don’t look like a fool when I’m not good enough. This belief about myself makes me believe that everyone else must feel that way too. Surely no one cares to hear my ideas. Surely no one cares about me doing the two things I love most in this world: writing and singing. There are a million others out there who are so much better. I’m better off keeping it to myself so I’m not embarrassed.

I was feeling convicted about having these thoughts. I remembered a message a while back where the pastor said something along the lines of, “Who are you to talk about God’s creation that way?” God made me to be exactly who I am. Why can’t I stand up and be confident about that? So, one Saturday night, I sat up after my husband went to sleep and I started looking for scripture on confidence, and articles by Christian authors. I found an article that said that having low self-esteem is actually a form of self-absorption. When you have low self-esteem, you are constantly focused on yourself. All of your thoughts are centered on how you look and what others think of you. I read that and immediately bowed my head in prayer. The last thing I would ever think of myself is that I’m self-absorbed. But reading that made me realize that that’s exactly what I am when I’m always worried about being rejected or judged or looking like a fool. I pleaded with God to help me find confidence in my identify as His child so that I’m not so focused on myself. Because the truth is that none of this is about me. He gave me the gifts and passions that I have so that He could use them to glorify Him, in a way that is unique to me. How cool is that? (Side note: I thought I had saved the article, but I didn’t and I’m kicking myself now. I will try to find it again so that I can give credit where credit is due.)

That next Monday, God did what He does and showed up to give me exactly what I needed. Someone I know came to me and told me that she wanted to share something with me. I could tell by her approach that this was going to be an emotional conversation, and I told her that of course she can share with me. She then told me that she had a crazy situation the Saturday before and she wasn’t sure what to do. But then she remembered reading some of my posts on Facebook and decided to pray. She prayed all day and all night. The very next day, the situation was resolved. She told me this with tears in her eyes and thanked me for my posts because they inspired her. She said that something traumatic happened to her a few years ago and she had spent all this time being angry with, and running away from God. Later we talked some more and she expressed to me that she wants to learn about getting saved and baptized.

I was completely blown away by all of this. My first reaction was to be overcome with joy at the fact that she had found God again. I know the emptiness I felt during my years of running away, followed by complete happiness and peace when I went back to God. It is always a joyful moment when the lost are found. My second reaction was to praise God and thank Him for using my words to speak to her. I am so unworthy of being used for anything, yet He did it anyway. There is no higher honor than that.

After this conversation, I found confidence in my writing because it’s not about me. I post these moments of revelation from God because after all He’s done, and continues to do, how could I be silent? I’m not a good speaker because I always struggle with finding the words to say, and the confidence to say them. So, my writing is my voice. Nothing I have posted has been for my own recognition. I share my stories, but they aren’t about me. My stories are about what God has done for me.

I’ve felt this desire to write for a long time. This longing to share my stories of God’s grace, love, mercy, and redemption. The call is so strong that I just write and share without a second thought. Because there is a story in me that must be shared. Because I have to tell how much better my life is now that I follow Jesus. I never really thought that any of it was actually affecting anyone. Most of the time, I don’t believe anyone reads it, except for a small handful of people. I’ve come to realize that there is a reason I have this burning desire. My writing has purpose. My writing is put out there so that maybe someone will read it and feel inspired, or hopeful, or feel a strong desire to have this joy that I write about so often and seek God.

God created us all with our own unique talents and abilities. In order to be used by Him, you don’t have to be the best (or even a good) public speaker. You don’t have to have the most musical talent. You don’t have to be employed at church or even someone who volunteers. All you need is a desire to serve Him and a willingness to obey, even when it seems like everything you’re doing is pointless.

I’m so incredibly grateful for this newfound passion and confidence in my writing. There are some potential developments in the future that could allow me to devote more time to this. For now, I will devote as much time as I can, knowing that if God intends to continue using me in this way, He will and there is nothing I need to do but obey and trust Him.

So, that is the purpose of this blog. This is my voice. This is my testimony. This my journey as I follow Jesus wherever He may lead me, and the lessons I learn along the way.

“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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