Don’t Be That Guy ^

The image above is currently at the top of my list of Things That Make My Blood Boil.

As you may have heard, a “Big Brother” contestant spewed forth a bunch of vile nonsense about depression recently on Twitter.  It’s sad to see stigma promoted through the platform of fame, reinforcing people’s misconceptions.  However, a lot of people stood up for mental health awareness in response, which was encouraging!

What is also sad is how many people in our everyday lives still think exactly what he said, people who don’t support our healing and recovery, who don’t understand and aren’t willing to learn.  It’s honestly scary to realize how commonplace and accepted and normalized mental health discrimination is.  I’ve met people who thought it was okay to harass, invalidate, isolate, and emotionally abuse others if they were mentally ill.  This is NOT okay.

To those who don’t understand mental illness:

Don’t be like that guy. You can be part of the solution! When you find something you don’t understand, humility and willingness to listen and learn are a far better response than arrogance and ignorance. Especially when it comes to mental health–there is so much stigma already.

Past, Present, Future: Hopeful Thoughts

Five months ago, I was hospitalized.  I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t keep food down, and was experiencing extreme suicidal thoughts.

But today?  Today I am halfway through my second week as a professional in my field.  I am a college graduate, despite it all.  I have my joy back.  I love what I do.  My faith in God is my guiding light.  I discovered some true friends throughout it all who are still there for me, and I have a loving family supporting me as I move into the future.

Recovery is possible.  Hope is real. ♥

How?

I don’t understand how people I once considered friends could be so cruel during my mental illness, and yet still carry on with their lives as though they are good and blameless and never hurt anyone… how???

An Allegory

Once upon a time there was a woman who, like everyone else, had preferences about food.  Though she was willing to try almost any food once, she had discovered a few things that she found pretty unappetizing, and tried to avoid those.  Namely, tater tots, papaya, and yogurt. Her family and friends accepted this because they also had preferences about food and considered it normal.

Then one day, she came down with the flu. For days, a fever raged and she couldn’t keep anything down.  Nothing tasted good–in fact, the very thought of food made her heave.  For the first two days, people stopped by to help with ginger ale and Gatorade.  The third day, she realized she was becoming dehydrated and couldn’t keep enough fluids down.  She called a friend for a ride to the hospital.  “You really should have been drinking more fluids, ” the friend commented as she dropped her off. “I really expected you to pull it together by now.”

The woman felt ashamed. Maybe this was her fault.  Certainly if she had tried harder to fight her gag reflex this wouldn’t be happening.

“It’s a good thing you came in when you did,” the doctor remarked. “Dehydration is one of the biggest dangers of the flu and can become life threatening if you don’t seek help.”  Despite hearing this from an expert, the woman struggled to believe it after the words of her well-intentioned friend.

The woman was in the hospital for a week, hooked up to an IV, before she finally began to feel better.   Friends stopped by to check on her and cheer her up.

“It’s wish I had known you had the flu,” one said. “My grandmother swears by herbal tea. Flu is over hospitalized and over medicated when it really isn’t that big of an issue.”

One of her friends refused to come and tried to get others to not go as well.  “Don’t reward her for having the flu,” she urged. “Giving her attention for being sick will only encourage her to dehydrate herself again.  No, it’s best to ignore her until this is over.”

A week after being discharged from the hospital, the woman was feeling like her normal self.  She decided to host a get together to hang out with friends and celebrate her recovery.  Although she offered to do all the cooking, they insisted on making it potluck style so as not to overwhelm her.  They were enjoying the foods of their choice and having a good time, when a friend brought her a plate of seconds. “Here, I saved you some of the yogurt and papaya fruit dish.”

Confused, the woman tried to find a gracious way out without drawing attention to the mistake.  “That’s so sweet of you, but I’m actually full.  Someone else can have the last bit.”

A friend frowned at this response. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay? I thought you were over the flu.”

“I’m fine,” she insisted bewilderedly.  “I just don’t want to eat anymore.” She also couldn’t believe they were trying to get her to eat a dish combining two of her least favorite foods.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be here yet,” remarked another friend. “You clearly aren’t eating like normal.”

Pressured and defeated, the woman took the plate, feeling like she had to eat it or be discredited by her friends.  But the combination of two unappetizing foods and having already eaten her fill led to a wave of nausea as she tried to choke more of it down.  She tried to excuse herself gracefully, but it was too late. Everything she had eaten that night came back up all over the kitchen floor.  As it happened, she heard the people talking around her.

“We should go. She obviously isn’t normal yet.”

“I’m sorry, but the flu has changed you. I can’t do this anymore,” the friend who had forced the plate upon her said, and walked out.

“I told you not to give her attention,” the friend who had ignored her during the illness remarked.

“It’s too bad you’re like this. We could have had a really good time.”

I hope that it is immediately apparent to anyone that this is a terrible way to treat someone suffering from a disease, yet many people still treat those with mental illnesses like this all the time!  People with mental illnesses deserve respect and compassion just like everyone else.  They are not defective or inferior for getting sick.  Illness is something that happens to a person, not a character flaw or something that is inherently wrong with them.  It is not the person’s fault that they are ill.  Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness—recovery IS possible and asking for help is brave, NOT shameful.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, please seek help!

You can text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 at any time for free and confidential help, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (273-8255).

Please feel free to share!

Treasure Love

Treasure is valuable.  It’s hard to get, but worth working hard for or even sacrificing for.  It is desirable, enduring, and not easy or common.  Someone in search of treasure would not let any obstacle stop them from obtaining it, even if the journey was long, difficult, and costly.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches us about finding treasure.  He says,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

But what does heavenly treasure look like?  We know how to recognize gold and silver and jewels.  Fortunately, we have the Bible as a heavenly treasure map.  As we try to follow its directions, we find the greatest treasure of all—God’s love.

Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians,

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

God’s love for us is amazing.  Not only does He love us beyond what we can imagine, He has called us to act out His love to the people around us.

When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He responded, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  Later, Jesus again instructed his followers to love, saying, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The love God gives us and wants us to have for one another is treasure love.  Like treasure, this love is precious and has lasting value.  It’s not easy, common, or convenient.  It requires hard work, endurance, and sacrifice.  Our love is our testimony.

Worldly “love” is self-serving, conditional, based on feelings and circumstances, convenient, fickle, and fleeting.  It gives up when the going gets tough. It’s not a treasure—rather, it’s a dollar store find, bought to be used briefly and carelessly, then discarded without a thought when it inevitably wears out.

In contrast, the treasure love God wants us to have for one another is based on God’s love for us, not our feelings or circumstances.  It is sacrificial, faithful, perseverant, lasting, and given freely.  It is tough and willing to stick through challenges, difficulty, and hardship in service of God and others.  In the words of 1 Corinthians 13,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

We see an example of what treasure love should look like when applied to our daily lives in Matthew 25:34-46, where Jesus tells a story about the end times.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

One of the ways God wants us to show our love for Him is by serving others and tending to the needs of those around us—the hungry, the thirsty, the sick.  

Romans 12 says,

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another is showing honor.  Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought of what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

This passage adds some more facets to the love God wants us to have for each other in prayer, peaceful living, and humility.  When we rejoice with those who rejoice, we celebrate their joys unselfishly.  When we weep with those who weep, we walk alongside those who are suffering or mourning and help them carry their burdens.  Galatians similarly adds, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

To help create a clear picture of treasure love, I have a story for you.

When I checked my Facebook this morning, I got a notification from memories that said “Four years ago, you posted: Only four weeks until my first college Move-in Day! feeling nervous and excited.”  Seeing that status this morning was particularly meaningful to me because I am now a college graduate.  And for a while in college, I wasn’t sure that would be the case.  Things got pretty rough for a while.  I got some mental health diagnoses, and spent some time in the hospital, but I still made it through because of God’s work in my life, especially the many ways in which God’s love was lived out through the people around me.

Getting a mental health diagnosis seems to be one of the quickest ways to find out who your real friends are—who is actually living out the love of God and who is just there for the fair weather.  For some people, once I was ill, even if I kept everything I was going through to myself, I was suddenly perceived as a burden. Friendship suddenly became too much effort.  People were suddenly too busy for me, talked behind my back, and excluded me from groups where I had previously always been included.  They made excuses because friendship was no longer convenient.  Even though they had plenty of time for worldly things like online games, youtube, and social media, they no longer had time in their lives for someone who was struggling and in need of genuine, treasure love.  They didn’t stand to gain anything from me in my time of need, so they turned their backs on me.  That sort of friendship is fickle and based on worldly, cheap “love.”

On the other hand, though, I found there were people in my life who really truly did love the way God wants us to love one another.  My two roommates at college showed me this kind of treasure love.  They helped me remember to eat regular meals.  They took me to the grocery store to get gatorade and ginger ale when my medication was making me sick, and the health center wasn’t identifying the problem.  Once the health center did realize that it was a medication issue, they visited me in the hospital, even though 1. there is still a stigma attached to the psychiatric ward, and  2. they were both extremely busy with student teaching.  Not only that, but one of them did my laundry for me while I was in the hospital.  (You know someone is a real friend when they excavate an accumulated heap of dirty socks and other articles of clothing left from weeks of paralyzing depression and anxiety attacks and invest the time and effort to wash it!) When I got back out and was trying to catch up on work in order to graduate, they celebrated the little successes with me, asked what I needed, and supported me all the way.  They really did bear my burdens, weep with me when I wept, rejoice with me when I rejoiced, and help me when I was sick.

The love they showed me helped me to better understand the love of God, and that is what we are all called to do for one another.  1 John has a lot to say about treasure love, including “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  Our love for one another bears witness to the world of God’s power and love.  The way we love can lead people to Christ if it is different than the love of the world.  Finally, treasure does not only bless God and those around us, but the person giving the love.  God has invited us to love one another in order to be a part of His greater plan and share in His joy.  Jesus says,

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

God’s love is a treasure that is not meant to be hoarded.  Go out and share it.

Friends Like Samwise Gamgee

Samwise Gamgee has long been one of my favorite characters.  A stalwart and faithful friend, he travels with and fights alongside Frodo to the end of all things and beyond.  Throughout my journey of mental illness, I have grown to love this humble hero of Middle Earth more and more.  His relationship with Frodo, and his compassion, support, and understanding for Frodo’s burden of carrying the ring are exemplary of the truest and deepest of friendships.

During the darkest times of my battle with depression, I felt like Frodo—drained, worn, too weak to press on under the crushing weight of my burden.  Some people turned their backs on me, said and did hurtful things, and broke my trust.  Yet in the midst of that darkness, I discovered that not every Samwise Gamgee is fictional.  I found that some of my closest friends were truly there for me no matter what.  I want to encourage you that despite all of the stigma still in the world, there is still goodness and hope.  And my hope for each of you reading this is that you will not only find, but also be, a friend like Samwise Gamgee.

  • The friend who will walk with you into Mordor.  This friend does not abandon you after learning of your illness, but stands by you and fights alongside you no matter what.  Although some “friendships” failed the test of learning my struggle, others only grew stronger.  For these friendships, being genuine and carrying one another’s burdens brought us closer together.

Frodo: “I am going to Mordor.”

Sam: “I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.”

  • The friend who will carry you when you can no longer carry on.  As Frodo and Sam near their destination of Mount Doom, the ring around Frodo’s neck becomes an increasingly heavy and terrible burden to bear.  When Frodo collapses under its weight, Sam is there beside him with words that have stuck with me since I first read them, “Come, Mr. Frodo!  I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”  Sam picks up Frodo, who no longer has the strength to fight forward, and carries him despite his own hunger, thirst, and exhaustion.  This friend knows she cannot fight your depression for you, but is prepared to be there for you in real, tangible ways throughout the war, even to carry you when the fight is too much for you.
  • The friend who stands beside you in your darkest hour. Frodo: “I’m glad you’re with me, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.”  For me, these were the friends who walked me back to the dorm from the crisis counselor’s office at odd hours of the night, let me cry freely, bandaged my wounds, visited me in the hospital regularly, and did my accumulated weeks of laundry while I was in the hospital.
  • The friend who reminds you of your reasons to fight.  When everything seems dark and it is hard to hold on to hope and all of your reasons to keep going, this friend is there beside you, pointing to the light.  At a point in my life when I could not see the value in myself, a friend told me how I had been a lighthouse to her through her storm.  This recollection became a lighthouse for me, too, a beacon of hope in the darkness of depression.

Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”

Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness, and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

Frodo: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”

Sam: “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

  • The friend who reminds you of the beauty and good in the world that is waiting for you on the other side.  Sam: “Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It’ll be spring soon, and the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields. And they’ll be eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?”  Even when you can’t remember all the things that once brought you joy, this friend remembers and safeguards them for you, reminding you of them when you can no longer see them.  She is there when the voice of depression tries to tell you there is nothing left for you and that the battle is not worth it, to give you hope.

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”  ~Gandalf

Fighting Stigma

As someone who has been fighting mental illness, I could give many examples of the stigma we face. Sadly, people aren’t often willing to try to understand how their behavior is wrong and try to change.  I want you to know that you are not alone if you are dealing with stigma or discrimination.  Here are some things that have been said to me:

  1. “You can’t recover from depression.” Some so-called “friends” in college were militantly insistent that recovery from depression is impossible, to the point of cornering both me and another dear friend (who was recovered from depression!) to argue it further. I find few things more disgusting than people who try to extinguish the hope of others, especially with such blatant lies. Even more, this assertion on their part demonstrated their belief that depression was something inherently wrong with who I was as a person, rather than a diagnose-able and treatable medical condition.  Please know, dear one, that recovery is very real.  Sometimes it takes time to find the right combinations of treatments, and sometimes the journey is long and hard.  But recovery, and hope, are real.
  2. “If you’re on medication, you aren’t recovered.” Umm, no? I am recovered BECAUSE I am on medication. I have a chemical imbalance. It’s like a vitamin deficiency (which I also have). When I take my vitamins, I no longer have the deficiency.  Medication can be a very valuable tool in the fight against depression.  You are not weak if you need it.
  3. Similarly, “If you are seeing a counselor, there is something wrong with you.” The college I was at had free counseling services. Literally anyone could go to them to talk about anything. So even given their other deeply held stigma, this one lacks rationale. Not to mention how terrible it is to perpetuate the belief that an ILLNESS is a personal flaw.  Counseling is a positive and helpful thing!  It is should not be wrong to get help!
  4. “How come you listen to your counselor more than to us? We’re your FRIENDS.” Yeah… this one made it pretty clear that no, they weren’t really friends. Scarily enough, they wanted me to value their opinions (which were completely detached from the scientific facts of my diagnosis and treatment) over the guidance and advice of trained professionals.  Those who have your best interests at heart will value your recovery and the support of medical professionals even if they don’t understand it.
  5. “See? You’re still depressed.” This one came after long, drawn-out lectures about how one can’t recover from depression. My friend who was recovered at the time, finally cracked under the barrage that she couldn’t get away from and cried in frustration, which the assailants then twisted as evidence that she couldn’t get better. This, folks, is EMOTIONAL ABUSE, and it is very, very WRONG. You do not deserve to be treated like that, and if there are people in your life who treat you that way, they don’t deserve to be a part of your life.

I’ll add a list of stigma I have personally experienced and witnessed as a person with mental illness. Please, please, know that these are wrong when someone does them to you, and examine yourself to make sure you never inflict them on others!

  • You should be able to “snap out of it” or “pull yourself together” and if you can’t, there’s something wrong with you. Depression is very real and is not something anyone can just snap out of.
  • Being diagnosed with depression should make you an instant expert on the illness so that you will never inconvenience anyone else, and if you aren’t an instant expert or happen to accidentally inconvenience someone by trusting them, you are a bad person. This is ridiculous. If you are a healthy person who says you care about a person with depression, but the inconveniences of that person trying to understand and heal from an illness are too much for you, you’re a jerk.
  • Conversely, if you have depression your opinion on anything is no longer taken into consideration. Your emotions aren’t valid because of depression, and your feelings are never real and thus don’t matter. Again, this is ridiculous. Even if your feelings are not always what they would normally be, they are always real to you. You deserve to be respected as a person. Your opinions still matter.
  • It’s okay to treat someone with depression as “less than.” NO. You are just as valuable and deserving of love as anyone else.
  • Depression is a topic that is up for debate and personally decided, not a scientific or medical issue. Do I even have to contradict this one? It’s an illness. There is scientific research. People need to stop being bigoted and ignorant.
  • People with depression are not worthy of the same respect and communication as people without depression. A person’s a person, no matter what illness(es) they may or may not have!
  • It’s okay to talk behind someone’s back, lie to them, and treat them as inferior if they have depression. No. Why would anyone of those things ever be okay for anyone???
  • People with depression just want attention. In my experience, the last thing most people with depression want is attention drawn to them by their illness. If I ask you for help because of my depression, I must be pretty freaking desperate.
  • Seeking help for depression is a sign of weakness. A huge NO to this! Seeking help is one of the bravest and strongest decisions I (and many others I know with similar diagnoses) have ever made.

To sum up: It is terrible to treat someone badly because of an illness of any kind, including mental illnesses, but it happens ALL THE TIME. Please be part of the solution, not part of the problem! And if you are fighting a mental illness, please know that you do not deserve to be mistreated, and the stigma is not your fault.

Love and prayers!

 

Prayer, Perseverance, and Pit Stops

Spending time in a psychiatric ward was never part of my plan for my college years or my life as a whole; and for a long time I didn’t understand how it could be part of God’s plan for me either.  I had prayed so much for the strength to push through the constant exhaustion, the intensifying intrusive thoughts, the hours of seeming hopelessness, and the mental pain whose source I could not find.  I felt so incredibly weak, and that’s when God’s strength should have kicked in and started showing through me, right?  In the midst of my pain and prayers, I felt like God wasn’t listening or responding.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming God isn’t listening when the answer isn’t what we want to hear.

But God did hear my cries. He knew what I was going through and knew what I needed, even though it was not what I wanted.  Rather than giving me the strength to keep trudging through suffering, he brought me to a place of healing and renewal.  Despite my fear, shame, and lack of trust, God worked through my hospital stay to give me strength to go on in a better way than I had asked for.

Oftentimes in the Christian life we put pressure on ourselves to be strong in all circumstances, focusing on the concept “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” from Philippians 4:13 without a clear understanding of the ways in which that strength can be manifested or what it really looks like.  It’s true that sometimes strength means being able to keep going through a challenge, but that’s only one piece of the picture.  Sometimes God is saying to stop.  Sometimes the strength God gives is the strength to ask for help, and the strength to step back from fighting in our own power and instead be renewed in His.

In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah is at a tough point in his life.  After many victories for God, he receives death threats from Jezebel, and feels alone.  1 Kings says,

“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.”

Up to this point, I didn’t find anything particularly interesting about this story.  He’s scared, he wants to die, and he’s all alone.  Same bro.  I’ve been there.  Next should be the part where God wakes him up and tells him to get back to work because he’s being ridiculous, right?  But that is not the case.  Instead of being angry with Elijah, punishing him, or scolding him for his weakness, God has compassion on him and tends to his needs.  The account continues,

“All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.”

At Mount Horeb the next morning, God tells Elijah to stand on the mountain before the Lord, and after an earthquake, a fire, and a mighty wind, He reveals Himself to Elijah not in any of those overwhelmingly powerful things, but in a still, small voice.

God knows what we need.  Sometimes He tells to stop running in our strength and start running in His; but other times He tells us to stopping running in our strength and start resting in His instead.  In the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

A race car driver isn’t going to finish a race by letting their tank run empty and ignoring flat tires.  Neither can we expect to finish the race if we burn ourselves out and don’t listen when God is saying “The journey is too much for you right now.  Come rest and be renewed.”  In the letter to the Hebrews, we are exhorted, “let us run with endurance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  A key part of that endurance is taking God’s pit stops.

What are some ways to take a spiritual pit stop?  I have four that God has been putting on my heart recently.  To help with remembering them, the first letter of each spells out PITS.

P—Pray, and actually listen to God’s answers, even when they aren’t what we want to hear.  Jesus modeled this one for us during His time among us, often finding a place to be alone and talk with God throughout His ministry.

I—Invest time in God’s Word to get to know Him better as a God who is not only found as the intensity of an earthquake or a fire, but in the peace of a still, small voice.  The psalmists often demonstrate this one in their celebration of God’s Word.

T—Take the rest and renewal God offers to us for our physical, mental, and spiritual needs alike.  If we look back at the context surrounding Philippians 4:13, we see that Paul is speaking of the peace God has given him no matter his circumstances.

S—Seek the support of fellow believers (and medical professionals when you need them!)  God has given us these people in our lives for a reason.

Like Elijah’s, my need for a pit stop had a happy ending.  I am here to talk to you right now because God had and still has a plan for my life, a plan that involved taking a pit stop in the hospital to give me the resources and rest I needed to continue my race.  And that’s okay.  Because of that experience I grew closer to a God who is not only powerful, but also compassionate, a God who knows what we need even when we can’t see it ourselves, and who wants to give us rest and healing as well as strength.  God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His plan is best.  2 Corinthians 4:7 says “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be from God and not from ourselves.”  It has been amazing to see how God has worked through my life since my hospitalization.

Psalm 116

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;

    he heard my cry for mercy.

Because he turned his ear to me,

    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,

    the anguish of the grave came over me;

    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

Then I called on the name of the Lord:

    “Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;

    our God is full of compassion.

The Lord protects the unwary;

    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,

    for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,

    my eyes from tears,

    my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before the Lord

    in the land of the living.

Why Ashes Dancing?

“…we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be from God and not from ourselves…”

2 Corinthians 4:7

In only a few short months, my life has turned completely upside down and back up again.  I’ve experienced severe depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and hospitalization.  But I’ve also experienced the amazing, redemptive power of God in a myriad of ways throughout.

Along the way, reading mental health articles and blogs was a much-needed encouragement.  Now in recovery, I want to give similar encouragement, celebrating what God has done in my life through telling my story.