“I Laughed,” “I Cried,” “I Couldn’t Put It Down”: Reactions to My Book

Book signing
Book Signing for Ending the Pain, June 26 at the Adventist Book Center in Keene, TX

A writer and stay-at-home mom of two very young children, I’m in a growing period of life that is hard, and hard to examine with much distance or perspective right now…hence the dearth of blog posts lately. However, reactions to my book, Ending the Pain—which chronicles another hard growing period—are trickling in, and I am proud to share these with you!

Here is a sampling of the comments, messages, and book reviews I am getting via Facebook and Amazon.com most days of the week now.

I just want to say how much I love your book. I am recommending it to everyone I know; I wish it was required reading for all living humans. I cried. It is a life-changing book for me. Thank you, thank you! –Jodie

I just finished reading your book and I literally couldn’t put it down. I laughed and cried through the whole thing and feel like I know you already. Thank you for opening yourself up and letting God use you to bless others. I can honestly say, your message of depression and forgiveness touched me deeply. I have recently dealt with both of these issues myself and your words brought me healing. Thank you. –April

Your book was absolutely Amazing. What a tremendous story and pathway to healing. I just don’t have words, Lindsey. It was beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. –Connie

I finished your book today; I couldn’t put it down! Lots of tears and Identifying with your pain. Thank you. –Grace

I finished Ending the Pain in two days; recommend this book to everyone. Thank you, Lindsey, for writing this. -Janice

Hey! I have stayed up way too late reading your book the last few nights. 😉 (Too bad I can’t tonight, both kids woke up lots last night). I just wanted to say that you are a very talented writer, which is weird to say because it’s so hard to read this about at good friend. –Jess

Ending The Pain is a very well written book. I enjoyed the story of Lindsey’s life. I think many people will relate to her story and enjoy reading this book. It is worth it. God’s Word has power and Lindsey’s life bears witness to that! -Leah

Riveting! I couldn’t put it down. I could identify with Lindsey’s pain. I’m very glad that she found God through Straight2theHeart. I have had considerable healing myself. Jesus really did come to “heal the brokenhearted and set the captive free.” -Amazon Review

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t put it down. I would really recommend it! -Amazon Review

Thank you to all who have taken time to reach out to me or review my book. Whether you are a friend, family member, or (previously) a stranger, your words have invigorated me, validated my story, and encouraged me to work (however slowly) on a second book. Please, keep the feedback coming!

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

by a thread
“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).

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.)

How I Relate to MR. MOM

Mr. Mom

You’ve heard it’s the true-to-life comedy that’s the funniest. It’s so true. I’ve been watching Mr. Mom for the past two nights (it’s gonna take three to get it all watched–what mom has time for movies?), and I can’t stop thinking about a couple scenes in this 1983 movie that hit so close to home.

It’s a movie about a man (Michael Keaton) who swaps jobs with his wife to become the homemaker and primary caregiver of their three children. It’s funny because it shines a light on all the difficult and mundane things moms do daily via the eyes of a man who now has to do them.

There is a series of scenes where Keaton gets depressed, beaten down by the daily routine, and we see him go from clean shaven and svelte to scraggly bearded with some junk in the trunk; his house goes from tidy to turned-upside-down; and his attention goes from his kids and wife to trashy soap operas. “My mind is mush,” he complains to the wife. That’s the result of no adult conversation and watching the same TV shows as your kids. Yep. Feels like this is where I’ve lived recently, minus the soap operas. Instead, I just nap when Sam lets me. (I love the moment when Keaton’s kid tells him his grilled cheese is cold and Keaton simply slaps the sandwich on the ironing board, steams it with the iron for a sec, and hands it back to the kid so he can get back to his show.)

Anyway, it comes to the point where his wife gives him a good talking-to for letting it all go–the house, the kids, himself. Look at yourself! She exclaims, pointing at his newly flabby belly. And the house is a wreck (paraphrase). Basically, she says, get it together, because I did it for eight years, and I understand it’s hard, but I got through it because I had some pride in what I did; I understood that what I did was important. Again, close to home. I recently had a “talking to” by my spouse; more in a moment.

There is another scene where Keaton daydreams he has an affair with the over-sexed neighbor, and his wife walks in with a gun and points it straight at him. “What did it, Jack, hmm?” she asks. “Was it the daily repetition? The boredom? The loneliness?” Now, I’m not close to an affair (never!), but I understand the list: repetition, boredom, loneliness. Add pregnancy to it and a melancholy disposition, and you’ve got some potential problems.

And so I got a talking-to from my beloved husband two nights ago. The house was a wreck and he couldn’t find what he needed, and he couldn’t avoid tripping over some things while looking (we’re still trying to get unpacked/organized is my excuse). I probably looked like a wreck, too. And I don’t think I’d made supper that night. I don’t remember. But I told him to talk to me; tell me what was wrong; if he had a problem with me, I wanted to know.

So he did. He told me some things that really stung. Including, “It seems like you don’t do anything at the house all day.” And, “Somehow, other moms with more kids get more done than you seem to; you need to learn to multitask more.”

Ouch.

In my hubby’s defense, he never volunteers these kinds of criticisms unless provoked. And I provoked him. He was trying to clam up so as not to hurt my feelings, but I made him talk. I had also used Sam’s Sunday nap time to get out of the house and do some rare shopping instead of staying in my daily “work” environment to organize. (In the future, we’ve agreed he can stay silent in the angry moment as long as he agrees to talk to me when he’s cooled down. This honors both his need to stonewall, and my need to communicate.)

Anyway. Those comments, after which I stayed up late to clean house and shower, followed me into the next day and beyond. Is there really something wrong with me beyond the typical Mom burnout? I wondered. Am I defective because I can’t get anything done besides keeping my kid alive and doing the dishes and maybe cooking a meal or three?

I asked Buc that next night, “Is it possible you’re thinking of moms with older [not-so-needy] kids; or moms who have relatives nearby to help, or moms who let their kids watch a lot more TV than I do?”

He conceded that that might be some of it. But the main problem, he said, as he’s often said, is my “perfectionism.” I don’t want to let our kid go without mommy enough. I pick him up [the kid] too much. I give in too much.

Hmmm. I am still pondering this and praying over it. Even though Buc’s words were said in anger, there is usually some truth to angry words. I wish I got more done these days. I wish my house were cleaner, my meals more consistent, my hygiene sparkling. I suppose there are ways to accomplish this.

I also know what Buc doesn’t: I know the inside of my mind, and the physical limits of my body. I feel like I have mental mountains to climb that other people, other personalities, perhaps don’t. I seem happy and serene to most outsiders, but it takes me lots of prayer and meditation sometimes to get to that point. And a man doesn’t know the work of making a baby.

Maybe these are just excuses. Maybe there is some truth to them as well. Either way, I’m glad for my “talking-to,” so I can work at improving, and I’m glad for Mr. Mom so I can laugh at my challenges. One day I will laugh a whole lot more, and even now, I see humor in my day. I’m putting on makeup for my husband when he gets home–and I also made his favorite meal during nap time (no nap for me today…progress!)–but I’m not going to apologize for my stretchy pants, no sir. This is a mom’s life, and I’m learning to embrace it, along with all the humor wrapped up in the job.

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.

Life-Saving Routines

"Soap" by mimwickett
“Soap” by mimwickett

Living without routines can make life clumsy; but living without purpose can make life seem impossible. In my last post I wrote about how my lack of purpose and routine as a freshman in college brought me to the brink of suicide.

I’m so glad I have a different story now, eleven years later. That story is one of great purpose, and as many routines as life with a one-year-old will allow.

Because my life once lacked purpose, I love to remember my second year of teaching high school English—the year I found purpose, and the year I started observed the most important routine ever. (You can read more about that life-changing year in this post.)

In a nutshell, that year, my morning time with God saved my life. Amidst a backdrop of uncertainty unfolding with my family, I found purpose knowing that God still had a plan for me and for my family members. I couldn’t see the overall plan, but as I surrendered each day to him, I knew that it was enough to do what was in front of me. At that moment, the things within my control were teaching one-hundred high school students and developing my own character through Bible study and prayer. So I focused on excellence and consistency in those things. I had a wonderful school year, and found myself the most happy I had felt for years. And eventually, the stressful home situation resolved itself.

That year was my first memorable spiritual “peak,” and I’ve had many dips and bumps in the five years since. Life is always throwing us new realities, and these challenge our routines and often necessitate change (a new baby being a prime example.) That’s why it’s good to periodically re-examine our routines, assess what is and isn’t helping move us toward our goals, and change accordingly.

But what happens when life challenges routines that, for our best health, should never change?

Here are a few tips that could apply to not only new parents, but anyone in a schedule-upsetting situation.

Don’t Give Up

It’s an understatement to say that a baby complicates daily time with God—which I’ve argued is my life-saver. Same for daily showers. But that doesn’t mean we stop taking showers, right? Realize that showers, God times, and other important things may not be as frequent, long, or luxurious as they used to be. But don’t give up. If you can find five minutes to shower, you can find five minutes to talk to God and read a couple words.

Abbreviate Your Routine

If you have to shorten the time, so be it. Reading one Bible verse is better than reading none. Oftentimes I get more out of meditating on a single verse all day long than I get out of reading five chapters of the Bible in thirty minutes or an hour.

Move Your Routine to Another Time of Day

For months off and on, Sam woke at or before 5 a.m.—this after waking multiple times in the night. You can bet that a 4:30 Bible study wouldn’t result in much holiness. So when we went through those spurts, I moved my worship time to right before my bedtime—and I moved my bedtime earlier, too. If it doesn’t work to meet with God in the morning, find a time that does.

Don’t Confuse Routines with Schedules

Be careful not to confuse a schedule with a routine. Schedules tie activities to exact times and days. Routines have to do with the order in which you do things; but exact times can change if needed. For a mother of young children, a routine is an achievable goal, but a schedule may not be. If you’re in a season where life is predictably unpredictable, forget schedules; they will set you up for disappointment. But do establish some routines.

For the time being, Sam takes a pretty reliable two naps a day: one in the morning, one in the afternoon. The naptimes change based on when he wakes up for the day, so instead of planning to write at 10 a.m., or to prep supper at 2 p.m., I plan to write “during Sam’s morning nap,” and cook “during his afternoon nap.”

I don’t always accomplish what I hope to in a day, but I can relax knowing I made some progress toward my goals. If a daily worship is all I manage to get done, then that’s okay too, because I can honestly tell God I kept first things first. God tells me that if I seek him first, all my other needs (I include writing for my sanity in that list) will be added to me. Sooner or later. Either today’s nap or tomorrow’s, or next Tuesday’s.

Now, as soon as I post this, Sam will probably change his habits again. And I will have to adapt again, too. That’s the life of a mother. Can you tell how counterintuitive this is to me? I don’t like having to adapt all the time, but I didn’t like having to suffer depression and other bad things, either.

One thing I do know about struggles: they make us grow. We do best when we don’t resist being stretched; if we resist, we might break. If we can stretch a little along with our circumstances—adapting our routines as needed to fit our core purpose to glorify God—we recover faster, and can thrive sooner.

What routines have saved your life?

Why People Need Plans

ID-10016416
“Future” by graur razvan ionut

I believe humans thrive on patterns and plans, because we were created for them. When we don’t plan how to spend our time, we open a door for Satan to run amuck in our lives. Like when I went off to college, failed to implement a study schedule, and found myself floundering in all areas of life. (More on that in a minute.)

The Bible says God is not a God of disorder, but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33).

He created a six-day workweek and commanded us to rest on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2, 3; Ex. 20:8-11). Through the example of Jesus, God showed us that it is good to start our day with solitude and prayer (Mark 1:35). Proverbs gives us many principles about using our time wisely, including these:

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty”  (14:23, NLT).

[A wife of noble character] “works with eager hands,” “gets up while it is still night,” “provides food for her family,” “sets about her work vigorously,” and “does not eat the bread of idleness” (31:15, NIV).

Indeed, one of the most important lessons we can learn in life, and teach our children, is to use our time wisely.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).

Here’s a personal example that shows the dire effects of not having a plan in place.

College Flop

For years before I got to college my home life was falling apart, yet I was able to hold myself together enough to maintain straight A’s and participate in sports, music, and drama. The rhythm of high school and a part-time job and scheduled activities gave me predictability, a pattern to follow. They gave me something to count on when everything else was up in the air.

But when I was loosed on the college scene, with huge chunks of free time gaping at me each day, I fell apart. I needed to set up a study routine, and times to practice my music each day (I was pursuing piano at the time), but instead I found myself sleeping away my afternoons. It didn’t help that I was recently off depression meds.

Before three months of my freshman year had elapsed, I dropped out, suicidal. Now, having routines and schedules may not have fixed my depression, but I think they could have kept me from the drastic actions I took.

The Need for Routines

flylady“Fly Lady” and organizational expert Marla Cilley maintains that routines are lifelines. Before she got super organized, she suffered depression and rock bottom self-esteem.

Now she encourages other women to get up and put on shoes every morning, get dressed, and put makeup on or whatever you do to get ready. Doing these simple actions start your day with intention. Then she gives ideas for routines to houseclean a little every day until it becomes second nature. One of her readers gave a testimonial to this effect (I’m paraphrasing to the best of my memory, as I’ve returned Cilley’s book to my friend):

After my hubby died I wouldn’t have known what to do with myself if I hadn’t had my cleaning routines in place. They gave me something to do. They gave me purpose in my day.

Purpose is key. Setting routines forces us to define a purpose–no matter how lofty or low. It’s possible to have “routines” that don’t buoy us in the long run—TV time, drinking—but those are addictions, not routines, because they control us, we don’t control them.

College Comeback

Flash forward a few years to my third try at college. I was married now, and we lived in married student housing, and my hubby worked nights. I was still covertly battling depression, but the stability of being married to a working man who very much likes his routines finally helped me implement some routines of my own.

My days had structure once again. When I was not in class, I was at work, cashiering or stocking shelves at a nutrition center. In the evenings Buc was gone, so I studied. I had little time for much else. To be sure, I didn’t really have hobbies at that time, and I didn’t really want them. I didn’t enjoy my life then, but I was feeling some stability. And that stability is largely what kept me from self-harm.

This was a better way to live, but still not a good way to live. With those routines during that period, I can truthfully say my purpose was to keep so busy I wouldn’t have time to be actively depressed, or rather, to act on my depression.

The Need for Purpose

Routines with a dismal purpose like this can only last so long. Humans need a better ultimate purpose than “to stay alive because I’m supposed to.” That purpose is to give glory to God.

But it takes time to get there. My journey to this point was slow and painful. It wouldn’t be until two years after completing my college degree that I would actually claim the purpose of glorifying God in my life. And then I would actually take joy in my days. My purpose would become not just to survive the day, but to thrive so that others might see something in me that pointed them to God.

As I wrote my memoir in 2012 and 2013, I had the insight that God gave me stability in my early twenties so I could learn to trust him again. Through the writing of that project, I realized that sometimes it takes having your physical needs met, and perhaps one person you are safe with (for me, my hubby), to free your mind of some temporal concerns so you can seek God.

When we come to that point, or when God enters our lives in a significant way, it’s time to set new routines: routines that are even more life-giving than basic routines that merely keep us moving.

I’ll write more about that in my next post.

Memoir and Melancholy: A Perfect Pair

despair, hope

We memoirists might look like gluttons for punishment, because writing about real life hurts, and no one makes us write but ourselves. But for many of us, writing about real life is just an extension of our “Perfect Melancholy” personalities; we write about our lives because we have to do something with all that self-analysis happening in our heads.

I’ve been reading Personality Plus by Florence Littauer, and the author’s description of my Melancholy personality hits home more than other personality tests or training I’ve taken. Other tests labeled my personality in less negative terms— Analyzer or Empathizer, for instance. But Melancholy cuts right to the chase. It describes me to an M.

The evidence is overwhelming—I am introspective, moody, artistic, and depression prone—and the personality test was indisputable. I am Melancholy through and through. True to Littauer’s description, I have been saddened by a small thing to which other personalities wouldn’t give a thought (the label of my personality); and more introspection is the result. I want another personality. I don’t want to have to work so hard to be happy. I don’t want to be Melancholy.

People who study personalities have long observed that artists and writers are commonly Melancholies, as opposed to Sanguines, Cholerics, or Phlegmatics, and this could be good or bad, depending on where you stand.

If you’re the one consuming the art, Perfect Melancholy is great: its existence enriches our culture by providing life-enriching and thought-provoking art.

If you’re the one providing the art, or struggling with “genius” tendencies (Littauer’s word, not mine) that you have trouble harnessing, Perfect Melancholy can be excruciating. Littauer notes that while Melancholies have the highest potential for achievement, they also experience the “highest highs and the lowest lows.” To my Melancholy-colored glasses, this data forces me into a dilemma that’s definitely false, but that seems so real: Would I rather be a “genius” (in writing), or be happy?

The Misery of Memoir

For much of my life, pursuing my art meant misery. All I could write about was my life; and my life, for a good chunk, was sad. Why didn’t I pick another topic, a happier topic, to write about? I go back to the personalities. Melancholy couldn’t get its mind off itself. I was trying to process hard things in my life, and as a writer, I naturally processed through writing.

Because it didn’t yet feel safe to talk about some of those sad things, I especially needed writing as an outlet. I had a strange relationship with writing, though. On the one hand, I felt like I needed to write to survive. On the other hand, what came out of my pen felt like it might kill me.

For almost ten years I would waffle on writing my story—I mean writing it for an audience as opposed to venting in journals. Typically here’s how it would go: I get the desire to write, I pull out old journals for inspiration, I spend a few hours working with the material, and I end up in a pool of tears because it hurts so much, followed by a crumpled heap in my husband’s arms because I am not ready to confront all the emotions these memories bring up. Then, I stuff the emotions, the memories, and my writing aspirations for another few months or years, only to repeat the process again and again.

Melancholies Can Write Happy Endings Too

This blog has borne witness to some of the healing process that finally got me writing again…and writing not only with sadness, but with gladness. God gave my story a happy ending. He not only redirected some of my worst circumstances, but he redirected my mind.

Now, even when more bad circumstances arise—which they inevitably do from time to time—I don’t have to give in to Melancholy. I don’t have to collapse in despair because “that’s just the way things are, and that’s just the way I am.”

God’s Word gives me a more accurate measure of how things really are, and how I really am. You might say he gives me a better personality test, or the ultimate Truth meter:

Though outwardly I am wasting away, yet inwardly I am being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).

The sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in me (Rom. 8:18).

If I wait on the Lord, he will strengthen me (Ps. 27:14); Isa. 40:31).

I can learn to be content in whatever state I’m in, knowing that God will supply all my needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:11, 19).

He will keep me in perfect peace if my mind is fixed on him (Isa. 26:3).

I can remember that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5).

And I can be confident that, even when progress seems slow, he who began a good work in me will keep working on me until Jesus comes back (Phil. 1:6).

Yes, this world is sad and often hard to navigate—especially, I think, for us over-analytical Melancholies. But this world is not the end, it is temporary and passing away, and that is life-giving knowledge I can cling to.

Yes, I am sinful and fallible and moody and depression prone. But Jesus didn’t come to this world to suffer and die to leave me that way. He came to pull me out of the pits, physical and mental; to retrain my mind on him; and to change me, from glory glory to glory, as I behold him.

And so the story continues. Many mornings I wake feeling unhappy by default. My Melancholy personality (and Satan) doesn’t want me to be happy. But as I make the choice, day by day, to seek God’s face, he gives me strength for what’s in front of me. So I keep praying through it, keep writing through it, and keep moving forward, little by little. A lot of my days end better than they start, because throughout the day I exercise my faith and allow God to smooth out the bumps. These are small rewards, little happy endings, that point me on to the day when Jesus comes to take me home, and give me my ultimate happy ending.