A Peek Into (or Out of?) the Postpartum Cave

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From Hello Dearest, the official magazine of MOPS.

Yesterday while Seth slept on my chest, I finished an article and submitted it to a website. I think it was the first creative thing I’d done postpartum, besides drawing a breakfast menu for Sam. To say I’ve been residing in a cave feels about right. It’s not dark and depressing, but it is a tunnel, and it does block my vision of things I used to see, and bars me from things I used to do. That’s why finishing that article yesterday felt so good. It helped me glimpse the creative side of myself again

IMG_3641I’ve found it hard to write since Seth’s birth. Mainly because my hands are always full, but also because I haven’t felt I had anything new or edifying to say about this period in my life. What I’ve managed to scribble in my writer’s notebook lately mostly goes something like this: “I didn’t know what busy was until I had two kids.” “I am exhausted.” “My brain is on the fritz.” “I feel like a crappy parent.” “I wish I could relax sometimes.” “Life is beautiful, but this is just a hard season, you know?”

Another thing that’s been hard during this postpartum period is reading my Bible. I’m too distracted. Too busy. Too bursting with my own unexpressed, unprocessed thoughts to take on the grand themes of God’s Book. And I was having a lot of guilt about this lack of Bible reading, as we “good Christians” do, until I sat down and examined this feeling, and had the following inner dialogue.

My faith feels stagnant right now. Maybe even in remission…because I’m too busy feeding my children (literally) to be fed spiritually. So how am I supposed to grow in my faith?

Share what I already have.

But how can I share my faith right now, when I’m in a “cave”? (Literally, when I don’t see people besides my kids on a daily basis?)

Write. Write about what you’ve experienced God doing in the past; also, write your experiences now. Maybe these daily details don’t seem edifying today, but later, when you have time and perspective, you can help others who are muddling through the same tunnel.

Indeed, the literature that has touched me during this postpartum period has come from other mother-writers, writing of their years in the trenches. I recently joined MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and besides the moms-in-the-flesh I’ve met at our physical meetings, I’ve become connected  to a number of mom-writers, through the MOPS blog and Magazine, Hello, Dearest, who have inspired me. 

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The current theme of Hello, Dearest is rest, with a number of articles about reawakening the creative parts of ourselves and doing activities that truly rest our souls (not just numb our brains)–and this theme was something I needed to attend to. I’ve needed to rest, through creating, again.

And so I wrote that magazine article yesterday–I created something–and because I couldn’t write edifying things about my current cavewoman state, I wrote about lessons learned in the past.

In time, I’m sure I’ll gain the needed perspective (and empty hands) to be able to write inspiring things about these postpartum days and beyond, because God has proven faithful to me in that way before.IMG_3614

If I’m tempted to forget that hard moments can make for inspiring stories, I just have to look at the stack of boxes filled with my first memoir…currently sitting in my cave…(in other words, not being circulated except by my dad, who is lugging a case of books around Minnesota on radio advertising sales calls for me…thanks, Dad!). Anyway, my first memoir is making the rounds among Adventist Book Centers around the country; with Paul Coneff and Straight 2 the Heart Ministries (whom I wrote The Hidden Half of the Gospel with); and finding its way into the homes of friends, family, and a few unknown readers who’ve left me good reviews.

All in all, despite my current cavewoman status, I am feeling good these days: still no postpartum depression (although people keep asking me because of my history with depression), and forming some thoughts about parenting…which I’m jotting in my writer’s notebook until God tells me it’s time to polish them up for the public. I can’t see much yet from within the tunnel, but one thing I know: I’ve started the process of crawling out.

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My little cavemen. Pretty good guys to be stuck in the tunnel with:)

The Pain When Real Life Unravels…and Why I Write About It Anyway

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“By a Thread 5” by TACLUDA

Something frustrating/painful/paradoxical about writing books about your life is that storylines you had sewn up at book’s end can, and do, unravel in real life. I’m dealing with that now.

My memoir is sewn up, edited, on its way to press…as far as paper and ink go…but in real life, this one thread of my story is refusing to stay put. That thread is a “character” in my book, a family member, whom I left at a good spot–and whose relationship with me ended in a good spot. But now the relationship…the character…it’s all just unraveling. And I am crushed.

That’s the thing about a happy ending in a work of non-fiction. Unlike the ending of a novel, the story can change. Happy can turn to sad, resolved to unresolved.

It’s times like these when I can start to wonder, Why did I even bother? Why did I go to the trouble to try to organize and understand and “sew up” my story? Happy endings in real life can’t really be sewn up anyway…can they?

Can they?

I wrote a book about overcoming depression. About moving past family dysfunction. About finding joy and new starts in the sinful, yet beautiful world around me.

And now this piece of my conclusion is unraveling, a piece of my life that originally caused much of my depression, contributed to my family’s dysfunction, and seemed to suggest that life would never–could never–change for the better.

What does that mean for my book, and for me? Does it mean that I am a fraud, my book a farce? Does this make my message of “new life” a bunch of baloney? Does it mean that depression can’t be overcome? That dysfunction can’t be left behind? That joy can’t be found?

If I give in to my gut reaction (this is terrible!), if I listen to my heart (I’m so sad, I feel so depressed), or if I trust the words Satan whispers in my ear (why get up today? Look at the junk I have to face…), then I can easily jump to those conclusions.

But if I remember the most important storyline of my book–the real message–then hope revives.

My Reasons for Hope

One of my favorite chapters in my book is my chapter called “Rebirth,” where, amidst the backdrop of this same thread unraveling that I’m currently blogging about (it’s been a recurring, unraveling thread in my life story, you see), I begin the habit of daily prayer, Bible reading, and Bible memorization. As I learn, my attitude, my mood, and my inner peace (or lack thereof) do not have to be determined by my outward circumstances. After three weeks of me meditating on God’s promises, that stubborn thread remains as stubborn as ever…but I have experienced a genuine heart transformation: after ten-plus years of depression, I no longer feel depressed!

And that is the overarching thread in my story–that we can learn to hear and operate in God’s truth even when Satan is attacking us with his fiery darts; we can embrace a new life on the inside even when life on the outside hurts. 

Beyond that, if we are faithful to God, he promises that one day we can have a new life not only on the inside, but also on the outside. The Bible says that if we believe in Jesus and give our lives and hearts to him, these sad stories down here are not our final stories. One day Jesus will “wipe away every tear”; in other words, he will sew up our stories for good and lay to rest those stubborn threads that keep tripping us up and pulling us down.

These truths are narrative threads that can never unravel.

And yet.

Sometimes hearing these truths don’t help much. Sometimes these Bible promises, if spoken lightly and out of context, seem like an insensitive slap in the face of our very real, very present pain. And that’s exactly why, I maintain, we need the sad stories along with the Bible promises.

My story of overcoming depression, moving on from dysfunction, is not a farce, and I am not a fake. The fact that one of my threads has unraveled again, again causing me much pain, is not a reason to hide my past story of suffering and overcoming; it is a reason to celebrate it. My story Ending the Pain has become a precious record of the Lord’s intervention at a desperate time, and now I can reread it to find hope for the present and future.

If I had not written the story, I might be tempted to forget that the Lord works in wonderful and mysterious ways even when, especially when, the threads of our lives seem to be unraveling.

Here on planet earth, until it becomes the New Earth, threads unravel all the time; things fall apart. So let’s not to forget to celebrate those strong, unbreakable cords of love that have held us together in the past…and that can hold us together today and tomorrow, no matter what falls apart around us.

 

 

Living Large: Awaiting a Book and Baby!

Somewhere between 34 and 35 weeks. I keep losing count.

Two big and awesome things are happening in my life right now: I am expecting my second son and my second published book sometime next month. Currently I don’t have many words available to describe my feelings–what with prego brain and book revisions squeezing me dry–but I can say this: “Thank you, Jesus.”

I am thankful that two of the best parts of my life are converging right now.

I am thankful that a publisher, Pacific Press, picked up my book so that I don’t have to keep lugging around an unfinished dream…and so I can now concentrate more fully on my kids.

And I am thankful that God continues to surprise me with this life I once thought I didn’t want to live.

This past week as I reread my manuscript in a breathless four days, scouring it for last-minute corrections, I had fun remembering all the  delightful surprises God had laid in store for me years ago.

The manuscript, now entitled Ending the Pain: A True Story About Overcoming Depression, begins with me, a depressed college student, giving up on God and giving up on life. The first chapter ends with me writing my suicide note. Then we jump chronology back to age seven so I can explain how I got to this point.

Once back to the suicide scene, the manuscript chronicles my failed attempt and then moves through the tough year after–a year in which I emerge from the mental hospital disgusted with my new start. It’s a new start I don’t want, with a clean slate that is “blank, but not in a good way.” I have no goals, no plans, no dreams. The one goal I had, to end the pain, has been taken from me by doctors, nurses, and family members who say I cannot kill myself. But there’s absolutely no one who can give me to will to live…no one but God.

After some futile attempts to numb my pain (sleazy guys, bulimia), things start happening in my life that can only be attributed to the Divine: I meet a great Christian guy from Texas, doors literally start closing in Minnesota (I go to work one day to find my restaurant has closed), and I am compelled to pack up my rusty Cavalier and move my sorry life 1,000 miles from home to start over again. One year to the day after my discharge from the mental hospital, at a measly twenty years old, I find myself in the “Gendke Love Chapel” (my now-in-laws’ living room) getting married to a man I’ve only known six months.

Lest you think the story ends there–because so many stories end with a wedding–know that we are only one-third into the book…and I am still w-a-a-a-y depressed beneath a good-churchy-girl-looking exterior.

What follows is the rest of the story of how I got un-depressed–a story that is often simplified or glossed over in Christian literature. We’re supposed to accept Christ and have a new life instantly, promise so many preachers and Bible teachers. But real-life recovery from depression (and crappy childhoods, I’ll just add) is slow and hard; often it seems unattainable. My goal with the last two-thirds of my book was to explain just what it looked like to find God and gain a new life in Christ when, for so many years, I felt him doing nothing.

It’s too much to describe in this blog post, but if you suffer from depression or just need a new start in Christ, I hope you’ll stay tuned for more details on my book’s release.

Until then, if you want a preview of what’s in my book, check out my seven-part “Ugly, Messy Rebirth” series–or, if you just want to get to the heart of matter, read this post for some practical tips on what most helped me turn a corner in my battle with depression and in my relationship with God.

Here’s to a God who “makes all things new” when we let him (Rev. 21:5), a God who has prepared a future for me–and for you–that we haven’t even imagined (1 Cor. 2:9).

What Christians and Parents Have in Common

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“When do you feel closest to God?” my pastor asked the congregation this Saturday.

I sat surrounded by toys; spilled popcorn; and my son, Sam, in a back pew reserved for parents with small children. Not now, sprang to my mind. Not as a young mother.

But upon deeper reflection, the pastor also mentioned that to follow Jesus meant to sacrifice everything…to bear your cross…to put others first.

I guess I feel like that…but in service to my kid. To parent babies and young children is to (temporarily) give up things, to sacrifice needs and wants, to bear a cross. A sweet new friend at church who sat with me at lunch said, after I told her I felt I was doing “nothing” in ministry right now, that ministry was “exactly” what I was doing.

So why is it so hard to see motherhood as a work for Christ (at least at this stage)? And why doesn’t it automatically make us feel “close to God”?

Any young mom knows the answer. It’s the “surrounded by toys” thing. The “spilled popcorn” thing. The thing about always being distracted, always making sure your kid doesn’t hurt himself, he has enough to eat, he’s not getting into trouble, or he’s getting consequences for the trouble he caused.

Did I mention the exhaustion?

Then, there is the fear. Fear that there might not be a reward at the end of the road. When they grow up, my kids could write me off, or write off God, or just get too busy for me. And there is the lack of immediate rewards. At least when I serve in church, someone else sees it. But if my kids don’t turn out right, who will ever know about all the effort I’m putting into them right now?

It’s times like these when I have to remember that motherhood is a walk of faith, much like the Christian walk. Much like being a Christian, being a parent is not easy, and it comes with no guarantees for health or prosperity…down here. But if we remain faithful in both walks, there are eternal rewards, and even temporal benefits.

Both walks, if undertaken with a right spirit, lead to self-discipline, self-denial, and the healthier life choices we make when we decide to live for something bigger than ourselves. We continually experience difficulties, but as Rachel Jankovic put it in Loving the Little Years, a new sin or challenge in our kids (and I would add, in ourselves) means they (and we) have moved on from the last one.

And then there is the joy of reaching God’s standards. How good it feels when we have labored over our kids (or ourselves), prayed over them , trained them as best we can, and they “get it.”

I experienced this very joy sitting in the same service that spurred this post…because it was the second week Sam sat all the way through church. Praise God! As with other milestones he has passed, I prayed for this, labored for this, began training Sam each morning to sit while we sang Bible songs and prayed. And the work was/is hard. But the rewards are worth it!

This weekend’s reward reminded me that even when I don’t feel close to God, as long as I am faithful to him, I can take courage that I living out his purpose for me.

Dear Lord, help me to be faithful to the children you have given me, and faithful to my Christian walk, even when I don’t feel you close. Help me to stay the course in faith, knowing that one day this race I’m running will eventually lead me, and hopefully lead my kids, to your kingdom.

Book News!

Acceptance letter copy

Big news! My memoir, Dear God, I Want to Die: My Journey to New Life after Attempted Suicide, has been accepted for publication. And the timing…wow. This news comes after a dry spell in which I didn’t even feel like a writer. It also reminds me that it is when I give up trying so hard–or when I “let go and let God”–that he blesses me the most.

In the last month, it’s been all I could do to muster a few posts about battling my blues as a pregnant woman, a topic I’m not thrilled with, but it’s been “what I can do.” That’s a saying I’ve adopted recently–“It’s what I can do”–to help me remember I’m doing the best I can with the time, energy, and resources I have in the present moment (is pre-partum depression a thing?). “What I can do” has seemed scant recently, but the saying has helped me to stress less; acknowledge my limitations; and, most importantly, acknowledge God anew.

I’ve been acknowledging God for a number of years now, but when I noticed my mood nosediving a couple months ago, I made it a point to really acknowledge him, in the little things “I could do.” Silent prayer before getting out of bed in the morning. Sitting down with the Bible or other good words during Sam’s nap. Praying several times with Sam throughout the day. Having worship with Sam as one of the first activities of his day, every day. Silent prayer before speaking to Buc, both in the morning, and before he comes home (the hubby is my biggest target when I’m stressed). Reading a few more good words by lamplight before I drift off to bed. I am acknowledging God in the margins of my day; it’s “what I can do,” and it’s enough. After all, the Bible says,

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

I have felt him drawing near, in the laughter he’s given me at my physical limitations, my disheveled house, and my toddler who just acts like a toddler. I have felt him drawing near in words of comfort from Lysa Terkeurst (specifically the book Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl) and the Psalms. Maybe he’s also working through this antidepressant that’s been building for four weeks in my system (and that never worked for me years ago–I figured my off-balance prego hormones called for another try).

As far as my writing goes, I felt God’s touch just a couple nights before the book news, when a wave of new writing inspiration rolled in. Suddenly, I felt ideas opening like buds in my brain, some just a quip for my recently dormant Facebook page, others the germ of yet-to-be-written blog posts. Somehow, suddenly, that young woman who wrote an entire book about overcoming depression was back.

All this to say…the book news was not what made me decide Tuesday would be a good day, or that the days ahead would be better. No, it was my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave me the amazing story in the first place. It’s like he wanted to remind me that he’s got my back even when clouds seem to descend, and he will rescue me from the dark day as many times as it takes. The book acceptance is just icing on the cake of my own story…and the real reward will be seeing it impact the stories of others as it goes out to the world.

For a synopsis of my book, click here.

(And, of course, I will share more publishing details when I have them.)

Staying Positive While Pregnant

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“Fading Smile 1” by TACLUDA

Since my second trimester began, I haven’t felt physically good. Despite how they say it’s supposed to go, I had a great first trimester, only to feel nauseated and exhausted when the second one hit. The upside? This temporary trial is teaching me to appreciate those who have a chronic illness, and who brave every day in spite of it.

You, see, I’m learning that living life—getting up out of bed, taking a shower, actually looking at your planner—takes mental work when you feel physically ill, when you just want to sleep, or when you just have to puke. It’s not fun to wake up day after day wondering if you can hold down your breakfast (not always). And it’s quite disheartening to see all your son’s naptimes—the times you used to get things done—fly away by the time you can haul yourself out of bed. Suddenly, all those things that used to be easy seem impossible…because you just don’t have the strength.

It’s no wonder sick people get depressed.

For those who live with chronic illness or pain and who remain positive in spite of it, I salute you. It’s no small feat to go about life happily in that state, and those who do have obviously made some hard choices.

Maybe it was the choice to take a shower today. I made that choice at 5:30 this morning, even though I didn’t want to, and frankly, I didn’t care if my hair was clean. I decided to shower for my family, reasoning that my cleanliness would bless them and might make me feel better.

Maybe it was the choice to lower your expectations for your day, or for your parenting, or for your writing, because really, that’s the only sane thing to do sometimes. I chose to let my son watch TV at 6:15 this morning, even though I don’t like to start his day with TV, because I needed some time to read my Bible and pray. And I made peace with this setup as a possible morning routine in the near future because, heck, I have another baby coming, and mornings are not going to get any easier for awhile.

Let me not rush past that last paragraph. I also made the choice to sit down with God for a few minutes today–even though my surroundings told me I didn’t have time–and I was so glad I did. This is where the choice to think positive for the rest of my day became easier.

What am I reading in this time of physical distress and distraction? Mostly the Psalms. I like the Psalms when I am distracted, distressed, or distraught (and without much ability to focus), because they can be read one at a time, in no specific order, and they still make sense. They are prayers and praises coming from an honest soul, and the words often work to jumpstart my own prayer life.

Today’s Psalms, 48 and 49, helped me to remember that everything on earth, including life itself, is temporary; I shouldn’t spend my time or energy worrying about stuff. The only lasting things are God and his kingdom—the God who is our God “forever and ever” and who will be our great and merciful and and loving “guide until we die” (Ps. 48:14, NLT). It may seem a small thing, but these reminders helped me to relax about the house I can’t totally get in order yet—the pictures I can’t hang, the floors I can’t vacuum, the boxes I can’t unpack—because I’m too sick, or too tired, or the noise would be too much while Sam is napping. It helped me to put my focus back on God, and back on Truth, where it belongs.

After I took time to remember that God is God, God is in control, and God is good, suddenly, the day wasn’t so daunting. I don’t know how chronically sick people do life if they don’t do it with God; but as for me, I have found my lifeline. I have discovered that God can give me joy even when I don’t feel “good.”

Lord, help me to always put you first.

The Everyday Adventure

My life has been full of interesting twists and turns since I began trusting God. A few days ago Buc and I road tripped back to Missouri from Texas—me with Sam in the truck, Buc in his new Corvette—and as I followed my husband over those familiar highways, I had to smile at the adventure God has brought me on.

I drove those highways over ten years ago to meet my man, sight unseen, on a whim and a prayer. Six months after I met him, I drove those highways again to move my life to Texas and to gain a new family. Now, Buc and I have started a family I never thought we would start, and God has placed us in Missouri—a situation that puts us closer to my family in Minnesota, and lets us travel back to Texas multiple times a year.

I once said that I could never see myself staying in one place for a lifetime. That was depression and despair speaking. Now, I see new experiences not as escapes, but as valuable and enriching milestones. (They also provide good fodder for writing.)

With that said, I want to address the negativity of my last post. I sounded depressed in that post, because I felt depressed. But these days, staying depressed is not an option. God has given me tools to combat those feelings, and as often as I complain about my struggles (to maintain my commitment to honesty), I want to give him glory for the little, repeated victories in my life.

Indeed, the best part of my life journey is how I keep seeing God show up—or how he keeps teaching me to do better, think better, and live better in the midst of life’s messes. Like anybody, I have reasons to complain again today—including a family diarrhea weekend, and a still unsettled house (too much traveling to unpack!)—but here are some ways I’ve felt God helping me out of my “Melancholy Mom” pit.

Antidepressants

I’ll admit it; I have started taking an antidepressant, and it seems to be helping. I want to qualify this by saying that I don’t see this as a permanent solution. I took myriad antidepressants as a teenager, and after five years they still didn’t help me avoid attempting suicide. It was only years after I stopped those antidepressants that I found my permanent solution and genuine joy: prayer and Bible study. Which, by the way, I believe is the permanent solution for most cases of depression.

But these days I am carrying a baby in my belly and my hormones are going crazy. After too many days where I couldn’t stop crying, where I couldn’t stop biting my husband’s head off, and where I generally couldn’t function, I decided to try an antidepressant (with my doctor’s consent, of course) to take the edge off. I prayed about this decision, and I sensed God assuring me it wasn’t a copout or a sin—it was just a tool he’d provided during extraordinary circumstances.

 Accentuating the Positives

Another tool is choosing to see the positives rather than the negatives. Some days this is easier to do than others, like when your hormones are balanced versus when they are unbalanced; but I believe it’s a Christian’s duty to focus on the positives. God has given us so many reasons to be thankful—most of all, salvation and a heavenly inheritance—but even while on earth, we can find positives.

As I alluded, the three of us had a yucky weekend of barf and diarrhea, which we picked up somewhere between Texas and Missouri. Then we had to come home to a house that was (and is) still strewn with boxes and belongings we haven’t had time to organize or put away in a whole month of living in this house. But you know what? It’s not a big deal. Because both situations are temporary, and we have better days ahead.

I found out I am having another baby boy!!!… and I can thank God that the three main men in my life are generally healthy (diarrhea excluded). I am also thankful that the first and worst night hit while we were in Oklahoma…which means it was hotel maids doing our barfy laundry, not me!

 Praise

Author Lysa Terkeurst brought this next tool out for me in her book Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl. It’s closely related to Accentuating the Positives, but takes it a step further by moving the focus from myself onto God.

Here is a list of powerful statements she includes that I’m thinking of posting in my home:

God, circumstances change, but I praise you because you never do.

God, I praise you for never leaving me.

God, I praise you for being trustworthy.

God, I praise you that you are with me in this moment and you stand in my tomorrow as well.

God, I praise you for being the wisdom I can lean on when I have none of my own.

God, I praise you for your love and your compassion that never fails. (p. 126)

Priorities

God is ever helping me to get my priorities straight, and having right priorities always helps my mood. I’ve struggled a lot over the years with my priorities, usually trying to do too much in my own strength (not God’s), and usually for the wrong reasons (to make myself look good, not God). But in this season of motherhood, I’ve been especially blessed by two books chock full of wisdom on my priorities as mother. They are The Adventist Home and Child Guidance by Seventh-day Adventist author and most translated female writer of all time, Ellen White.

Recently I was asked to collaborate on another book project that would help spread the gospel. And it was a tempting offer. Not because I would be paid much, if anything, but because it would help boost my sense of self-worth in a season of life where my strongest talents are lying dormant. I took some time to pray about this decision, but the answer throbbed in the back of my mind from the start: not right now.

 Because I had been filling my mind with Bible wisdom via Ellen White, I could easily see that this project would take critical time and energy away from my most important task as a wife and mother—and based on my exhaustion and volatile emotions lately, not to mention a glaring lack of babysitters, I knew this was not time or energy I could spare. And look at these words from Mrs. White. These are the words that kept coming back to me as I prayed over this decision.

Writing to a woman faced with choosing missionary work over her household, Mrs. White said:

The Lord has not called you to neglect your home and your husband and children. He never works in this way, and He never will. . . . Never for a moment suppose that God has given you a work that will necessitate a separation from your precious little flock (Lt. 28, 1890; p. 246 of Adventist Home).

You may be urged to attend mothers’ meetings and sewing circles, that you may do missionary work; but unless there is a faithful, understanding instructor to be left with your children, it is your duty to answer that the Lord has committed to you another work which you can in no wise neglect. You cannot overwork in any line without becoming disqualified for the work of training your little ones and making them what God would have them be. As Christ’s co-worker you must bring them to Him disciplined and trained (MS 32, 1899; p. 246 of Adventist Home).

So that is the adventure right now. Learning to be happy and content where God has placed me—even in ever-changing, ever-unsettled circumstances. I certainly haven’t mastered this to the point where I can say, with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11), but I am getting there. I see hope lighting the path everywhere I look; and for a girl who once tried to take her life, that seems like a significant stride.

This Stage of Life

photo from canva.com
photo from canva.com

Eighteen weeks pregnant, settling into a new house in a still new (to me) state, mothering a twenty-month-old, and wondering what to say after so much blank space. I should say “incredibly blessed,” because I am. It just doesn’t roll off my tongue, or leap through my fingers, like I wish it would.

I guess it’s a good time to talk about this stage of life–my Melancholy Mom stage–unbecoming as it is on a Christian (and one who wrote a whole book about overcoming depression, nonetheless). I’ll write about it, because it is the foremost thing on my mind and heart in this season; it is the thing that follows me and torments me and troubles my marriage and drives me back to prayer, because it shows me my heart is not right with God.

I just read a post by fellow blogger and new mommy (of twins) Kate, and I felt chastened by how grateful she is for the whole motherhood experience. She waited years and years to get pregnant, suffered infertility and miscarriages, and finally was blessed with two healthy babies. And she is not taking one moment for granted. I feel like I take almost every moment for granted.

I complain a lot. I nag my husband a lot. I have to apologize for hurtful words a lot. I think many negative thoughts. I want a babysitter a lot. I have a lot of anger. On a daily basis.

What sense can I make of this? I need to make sense of it…for the sake of my marriage, for the sake of my babies, for the sake of my soul.

I stood before a crowd of about thirty people on Saturday night and gave a talk about how I overcame depression a few years ago mainly through prayer and reading and memorizing God’s Word–it was a powerful experience and well received–my first time publicly speaking for a crowd about my conversion experience–and then I came home and snapped again at my husband and struggled to rein in my negative thoughts and struggled not to be angry that I was so tired and I had little help and saw no end in sight to my exhaustion and unpacked boxes and, well, just everything. I knew that the message I had just “preached” was one I needed to attend to personally. God is the answer. I know he is. I know he will deliver me from this melancholy stage, this angry stage, as I submit to him. The trick is figuring out what submission looks like in this season.

God delivers us from our struggles (internal, if not external), when we seek him. I wholeheartedly believe that to be true. And I don’t feel like a fraud for giving that message to those thirty-something people on Saturday night, because I experienced it six years ago, when God delivered me from thoughts of self-harm and not wanting to live and not even wanting to try.

So what sense do I make of this stage–this Melancholy Mom stage–that looks so unChristian, and feels so sinful (because it is)? Well, it’s my next mountain. Depression and suffering–that was my first big mountain. And now melancholy, anger, and sin–this is my next mountain with God. And I’m just being honest about it, because if Christians ever think they are done with mountains (hypocrisy)–well, that might be the most unattractive thing about Christians.

I told my big brother, Kyle, who visited from his mission work in Thailand last week (and who lined me up to speak to that audience), that my first memoir was about coming face to face with the roots of my depression (and then overcoming it, praise God), and my second memoir will be about coming face to face with my sinfulness through motherhood. “Staying at home with a young child puts me face to face with my sinfulness every single day,” I told Kyle. Do you know what I’m talking about, readers? Every single day.

In an earlier stage of life, I was the victim, and I didn’t care that Jesus had died for my sins, because I wasn’t a sinner; I was the one who had been sinned against. So Jesus’ entry point into my heart wasn’t the fact that he had died for my sins, but that he had suffered as I had (read all about it in the book I co-wrote, The Hidden Half of the Gospel).

But now, I can’t blame anyone else for my anger, for my melancholy, for my stinkin’ thinkin.’ I’m just a sinner, and I admit it. I don’t want to die, kill myself, or give up the daily battle–as I once did. But I want to complain about it. And that’s my current mountain.

I don’t have a lot of time or energy to write about it right now, and maybe that’s for the best. But anger, melancholy, sin–that’s what I’m thinking about, praying about, and living right now. Another book is brewing, and more answers from my Creator, in this stage of life. One thing I am excited about in this stage is to see how this mountain ends, to see how God delivers me as I submit to him. And he will. Because God is into happy endings.

When Writers Shouldn’t Blog (a Farewell, for Now)

Image created at canva.com
Image created at canva.com

I’m taking a break from my blog. I love it, but that’s the problem: I love it a little too much. In this season of life (early motherhood, moving to a new state, The Love Dare), lost in my own learning curves, I’ve lost audience awareness; I’ve slipped into nearly moving my diary online.

But a blogger should write for an audience beyond herself.

The fact is, I don’t have the capacity to write for an audience right now. At least not a blog audience, because a blog audience needs continual attention, much like the husband I am trying to love better; the one-year-old son who needs me constantly; and my God, who hasn’t been hearing much from me lately. (Ouch.)

Since deciding to put my family first, and actually implementing plans to that effect, I haven’t had much free time—but what free time I have has gone to this blog. Consumed with blogging and blogging ideas, I’ve lost the intimate prayer life and the desire to read God’s Word that I had before having a child. So, with the help of Love Dare #23, it’s time to remove this “thing that is hindering my relationship[s], [this] addiction or influence that’s stealing [my] affections and turning [my] heart away from [my] spouse [and my Maker].” It’s time to get re-centered on what’s most important.

But for me not blogging doesn’t mean not writing. While away, I will continue to write. I need to keep writing, in fact, to cope with all the growth and change happening around and within me. I just need to write for awhile without an audience, except my Savior, so I can listen better to him instead of worrying about what readers will think, or how to package my thoughts under a catchy title, or what content will get the most “likes.” I need some quiet time to be raw and real, to pray and journal, and to get back to that “empty notebook” strategy and the “writing to my roots” approach that evoked the germ of this blog and my first memoir—the core message of which I still believe needs an audience. (I’m asking God right now if it’s the right time to revise that memoir yet again…)

In time, I believe I will hit upon another message that deserves an audience–an audience to include (most likely) new mothers, impatient wives, writers, and well-intentioned (but struggling) sons and daughters of God. For now, I am seeking wisdom again, in and for this new stage of life. For now, I need to listen more than I speak; I need to read more than I write; and I need to write more than I blog.

Farewell for now.

Stupid in Love

Image created at Canva.com
Image created at Canva.com

I’m thirty years old with a ten-year-old marriage and a one-year-old son, and I’ve realized I’m stupid in love.

Not stupid in dreamy, teenage girl love, or romantic young woman love. Those are some of the false notions of love paraded in media and in our culture, and I know all about those. Those are the kinds of love that get you into trouble with teenage boys, and that get your foot through the door of marriage, but rarely any farther.

No, I’m stupid in agape love. God’s love. The love that chooses to love when someone is unlovely, when someone is angry, when someone needs you all the time and can’t return a favor. How did it come to my attention that I’m stupid in love?

Largely, The Love Dare, which I first blogged about here.

The opposite of agape love, says Love Dare author Alex Kendrick, is selfishness. And sadly, I know all about selfishness.

Boy, do I.

I had some holes in my growing up years that went unfilled—not to make excuses, just to provide some background if you’re new to this blog–and I spent my twenties first trying to survive, then crawling out of my hole of depression, and then working to further improve my newly non-depressed self.

I sought degrees, careers, publishing credits, and pats on the back from friends, church members, and family—because these investments weren’t risky…I knew I could keep them, no matter what.

One of my accomplishments was co-writing a book called The Hidden Half of the Gospel. It’s a book about how Jesus can heal our suffering, because he went through everything we did. And through the writing of that book, and through participating in the accompanying prayer ministry, I did largely heal from my suffering.

I began to open up to people like never before. I began to seek relationships. I began to spread the healing message I had learned in prayer groups and women’s ministry. My social life became the fullest it’s ever been. And I even decided to take the risk of having a child.

I thought I was pretty well equipped for this new job of motherhood and homemaking, what with all the healing I’d done.

Well, I wasn’t.

Yes, I had experienced the love of Jesus pouring into my heart—that’s what healed me from my own childhood wounds. But over the past year-ish of parenting—and especially since we’ve moved to St. Louis, where I mostly sit at home with my husband and son, stripped of outside relationships, accomplishments, and recognition—I’ve realized I’m not well equipped at all. I’m bad at putting my husband and son ahead of myself. I’m stupid in love.

It shows up in my short temper with Buc for not helping clean our new, tiny, easily dirtied kitchen. It shows up in my irritation at Sam for waking at “inconvenient times,” or for taking up “my” writing time. It shows up in my resistance to embracing the fact that THIS IS MY CALLING; THIS IS MY LIFE’S WORK RIGHT NOW.

The Love Dare has honestly helped me more than any self-help book I’ve read—and I’ve read a lot—because it is getting my mind off myself. For most of my twenties, I thought the best thing I could do was to focus on improving myself, because I was a miserable creature. But while “self-directed self-improvement” is sometimes called for, too much of it can ruin your heart for others. I think this is where I was before The Love Dare.

There’s not much room on my bookshelf these days for novels, memoirs, or light reading. Cookbooks, parenting books, and “others-directed” self-help books are what I’m into right now.

Before the dare, I was still too focused on developing myself and my career that I forgot my roles also include homemaking, wifehood, and motherhood—because God created women for these roles. I’m not saying he created us for these things exclusively, but when we have husbands and children—as I do—they should definitely be top priorities.

Yes, I needed The Love Dare to challenge me, to move me out of my prideful high place, and to put me back in the driver’s seat of God’s callings for me of wife, homemaker, and mom. I needed a “self-improvement program” that judges my progress within the context of how much time and effort I am putting into others—because where we spend our time (and money, if we have it) shows what we really love.

At this point, I’d say I’m still “stupid” in love. But I am learning. Day by day, and dare by dare. Slowly, my life is beginning to look more others-centered. 

It’s amazing the time I’ve found to take care of my home and family now that I’m putting them first. Here is a “family wall” I’m working on so that Sam won’t forget his relatives.
The second best “others-directed self-help” book I’ve read recently is Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe. The coauthors Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson have pointed my attention to the importance of small details in the home, like straightening a bookshelf, lighting a candle, or playing music to create a pleasant home atmosphere. (This bookshelf still needs work, but it’s better than it was!)

  

This was my to-do list one day last week, and I had to stop and laugh, and take a picture, as I considered how my to-do lists have changed in such a short time. (Wipe out sticky areas of the cupboard? Really? I bothered to put this on the list because I didn’t want to forget this nagging thing during Sam’s nap time. Free times in short supply make one really prioritize daily goals!)
Enjoying lunch out yesterday with my sweet boy, after his fifteen-month appointment.