Where I’ve Been

I haven’t posted anything in ages, and I’m sorry. If you know me, you know it’s been a tough few months! Car trouble, pregnancy, money, depression.

The goal for my next post was to finish up my series on why God allows trials. I have a ton of notes written for that post, but I wasn’t able to complete it before I was hit with one of my own trials (or my own series of trials). Hopefully, my experiences over the last three months will make it a better article than it would have been!

I’ll write it. Soon. But until then, I wanted to say that I’m still here, and I haven’t given up. I’m also still learning. I didn’t face my trials as well as I could have. I was disappointed in myself when my attitude became very negative and I told those closest to me that I was not okay and the situation was not okay and not going to be okay. I believed God was still with me and would see me through, but knowing it deep down wasn’t the same as letting it be reflected through my actions and attitudes. But I will write and finish that series.

By way of update, Hubby and I are expecting baby #1 sometime before October. Smile We have a new(ish) car with lots of back seat space. I am in business for myself as a Virtual Assistant over at www.Michelle.io (check it out!) (running a business is a lot of work!) and have plans to expand and grow. Speaking of expanding and growing, I’m almost ready to get into maternity clothes. And, though I was depressed for a while, I can see the sky again, at least for now, and I’m always grateful for such times as these. Oh, and I’ve learned to drink lots of water. I think that’s most of the new stuff.

Deep Dark Brightness

I’ve been struggling heavily with depression again lately. I can’t really get into the details, publically. Some of you know a bit of what’s going on.

What’s striking me about this is that it seems so cheerful right now. Warm, bright sunshine comes in the windows, the house is clutter-free and clean, I have a new hair color to *squee* about, I’m getting to spend time with my mother, I got a job on Elance.com, etc…

But all the brightness just annoys me. I feel sad, and I keep trying to close myself in my bedroom with the lights off and lie there, staring at the wall. Or sleep. I want to break things and quit things and scream at things.

Man, I hate depression.

I get little bouts of motivation. Then long, heavy bouts of just not caring. Then sometimes I get in-between bouts where I care enough to try and get someone to help me or pay attention to me, and when those aren’t successful I just cry for a good while.

My motivation gets less, though, as I walk through this valley, and my “not caring” is just taking over.

This is just where I am today. I looked at this blank screen and started typing, and this is what came out.

Trusting the Only One I Can Conclusion

Part Two

Very shortly before we moved, we finally settled where we would be living. A first-time landlord was renting out a beautiful country home for a price we could just afford, and, man, the pictures were just beautiful. They even helped us move in and flew down from another state to sign the papers with us the very day after we arrived in Missouri, so we only had to spend two nights in an expensive hotel.

Fantastic. Beautiful house, tons of space, living in the country with plans to grow tons of veggies in the big garden, almost fully unpacked quicker than I thought possible. Marty’s work was going great, and they were promising him a promotion, and we even found a church to visit that seemed good. Yup, it was a good 2 weeks or so.

Then Marty ended up at the hospital. And I had a wreck. And I started resenting the stupid country home. Stupid house, with stupid gravel roads, and stupid ambulances and tow trucks that couldn’t ever find it, and stupid lack of cellphone and internet reception, and stupid everything. I felt unsafe, and I was worried about having an accident or emergency and being unable to get help. I was afraid to drive over 10 MPH, and my anxiety and depression went through the roof.

Mom, my hero, came to my rescue again. She stayed with me for a month at the beginning of Marty’s deployment when I was falling apart, and she stayed with me for three weeks here in Missouri when I was falling apart. She helped me a lot, and I got some support from my doctor, and I got back into counseling, and we attended church regularly at the church Marty and I had visited twice, but I was hardly praying, and I wasn’t really acting as if I trusted God.

Right after my mom had to leave, Marty and I spoke on the phone, and he revealed some things to me that were extremely painful. Things from his past that he had been advised never to tell me… but he decided he wanted to be open (and, in my opinion, he probably needed to get these things out in the open in order to heal). At first, the pain was excruciating, but that didn’t last as long as I’d expected. It faded and was replaced by an extremely heavy burden. It was so heavy, and I cried not because I was hurting so much as because I just didn’t know what in the world to do with this burden, this information. Where did life go from here, and what was I supposed to do every day? I felt kind of numb, kind of depressed, very burdened.

But God never abandoned me. Never, in everything I’ve gone through, and only a few of you really know everything that I’ve gone through. When I’m in true need, he always has made a way. My jobs and living situations, in so many more instances than the ones I’ve mentioned above… He always provided. Financially, always. When I had a wreck and was panicked? When we had to pay thousands of dollars for fixing the car and having a rental? When Marty was in the hospital? My mom was able to come, the money came just in time for our DITY move, and God put us in exactly the right place.

It took that kind of breaking that happened when Marty revealed those things to me to get to another level. Because for two days I carried that burden, and then it was Sunday. I planned to get up early and go to church, and I was going to talk to the Pastor’s wife that morning before service and try to get some help or perspective or prayer or something. When I woke up, though, I said screw it. Nevermind. I can’t do it. I’m tired, and I’m depressed, and I’m going back to sleep. I did. I went back to sleep. And then I woke up, and I had just enough time to go to church. I went.

(Sidenote: This church is different from any I’ve been to. They call themselves non-denominational and Holy Spirit led. They’re truly unique. And at this church, the worship service is basically in the dark, and many of the congregation (which is only about 15 people on a good day) go up front to this open area where they sometimes dance or lift hands or kneel or lay flat on their faces or wave flags around or clap or just whatever they’re led to do. It’s all completely unique. I spent my first two months there standing by my pew and singing, like I would have anywhere else, but I kept feeling like I should go up. Go up front. Go up front. I felt like I needed to just do it. Go up front. I told God he had to be patient with me because I’m shy. Just be patient, God. I’m not trying to fight you, just trying to work up the courage.)

Worship began, and I felt that tug I’d been feeling for weeks. Go up front. I thought about it, but no, I couldn’t. See, so-and-so is standing right there, and I’d have to squeeze past and disturb her, and, see, on the other side there’s so-and-so, and he’s taking up the whole space. I won’t fit. We got to the second to the last song, and all the so-and-sos left. Errr.. Okay, God. I guess… I guess this is it. I started to go, I stopped. I almost took a step, I stopped. I took a step, I went back. Finally, though, I forced myself to walk up to the front. I stood awkwardly to the side with my arms crossed across my tummy and closed my eyes and sang.

The female deacon of the church came up to me shortly afterward and placed her hand on the center of my chest, starting to pray for me. I kept singing. She gently unfolded my arms till they were palm-up at my sides. She touched my head, told me to let go, let go, let go, breathe deep. From behind me, someone was touching my back, and someone was holding my arms up until I was reaching up to heaven, and I started to shake. It was hot. I was worried maybe nothing would happen, and how would I have faith then? But I was shaking, and I was breathing deep and telling God I let go, I don’t want it, You take it! My knees were weak, and at least three people were praying around me as the last song started up.

They say you’re slain in the Spirit when they touch you and pray over you and you fall down. I wanted that, but I couldn’t figure out where the line was between resisting and simply letting my legs give out. Eventually, though, I was at the point where I felt like I was going to faint, and I just went ahead and sat down. The others left, though one put a light blanket over my head, but the deacon stayed and prayed. She held my face and prayed and told me to let go, and I continued to just try and do what she said. Breathe deep. Let go of everything.

When worship ended, I sat for a while. When I opened my eyes, I was kind of seeing double. I was still shaky, and I felt a bit intoxicated. But oh, I felt joy. I felt light. I felt… my burden was gone. As if God said, of course you don’t know what to do with this burden. It’s not yours to carry! The sermon afterward felt like it was just for me, and that afternoon I got even more encouragement from talking to the pastor. God has never been so real to me as he has been since that day…

And I could finally see how God had worked everything out just perfectly. Now, Marty’s going to be medically discharged from the Army, but it wasn’t God’s will for him to deny the orders to Missouri and get out the way he wanted to. No, we had to come here. We had to come here so he could have the care he needed when he ended up in the hospital. We had to come here so we could grow in the ways we needed to grow. We had to come to this house, because otherwise we would never have gone to this tiny church in the middle of nowhere. We needed to be here, at this time, and things needed to happen in this way, and even when it was too much to handle, it was all right (and alright!) because God had things in hand. He always does.

God is the One who will never let me down. The only One I can fully trust with absolutely no doubt or fear of being let down. Because of what He has done in my life (definitely not because of what I have done), I’ve finally come to a point of what I believe is complete trust in Him. I think it will be tested, and I think I will have to really put forth effort to live out that trust when I’m tempted to worry about things, but I honestly believe that I can say that I trust him completely. With everything. And I hope to learn to keep giving over things to Him as I realize that I’m holding onto the control or worrying about the outcome. Even when my anxiety and depression tells me things are not ok, I know deep down that they are.

And I’m not sure what else I can say. I can’t make anyone else trust Him. I can’t convince you that my experiences are not just coincidental and emotional but truly spiritual. But that’s my story. And I just want to brag on my Heavenly Father and how amazing he is.

Trusting the Only One I Can Continued

Part One

I was working a part-time job which I liked, but I needed income from a full-time job. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I got a call from an office I had faxed a resume to probably six months prior, and they gave me a job with a higher hourly pay and a promise to move me up to full time after a short while. My mom, always full of faith, said it must be God. I said ok. I was excited about the prospect of having enough money to support myself and move out of my parents’ house before they moved out of state.

I believe it was the very day after I got hired that I went to Goodwill during my lunch-break with my coworker from my original job, and there I found a couch. I needed this couch. It was in great condition, and I could afford it, and I knew I could store it in my mom’s house until I moved out. I can’t remember how it worked out, but somehow or other, my parents went to look at the couch themselves. My mom told me I should pray about it. I said ok. Later that night, I was whining to her about wanting the couch and asking her to make the decision for me. Could I have it? Her answer: did you pray about it? Me: …no… I pouted and went back into my room, laid on the bed, and prayed for the first time in a long time.

I asked God… should I get the couch? What should I do? And I heard…nothing. Not that I should do nothing, but I heard no reply. I heard nothing at all. I was frustrated. I went to work the next day still frustrated and still not sure what to do. Then I got a phonecall from my mom saying that, if I liked, they could meet me at the store after work to get the couch. I agreed, and we went.

When we got to the store, however, the couch was sold. I was a little taken aback. Like… *blink blink* … ok God. No couch. That was a pretty direct answer.

I left feeling pretty good, and I started to pray more. I prayed about my new job, thanking God for it. I went to work at the new job. I hated it. Okay… but God gave it to me, right? So I prayed, and I told God it was really hard, and I didn’t know whether to quit or not, and what should I do? Should I keep it? No answer.

I went to work again, and in the middle of the day, I was fired. Umm… *blink blink* … ok, God. Thanks for that. At least I didn’t have to quit.

I stayed at my original job, and before long they bumped up my pay and my hours. Then, again, they bumped it up, and I was working full time! When it was time to move out of my parents’ house, God directed me to a really great first apartment. Based on my previous experiences, I was confident when I prayed about whether to take the apartment, even though I didn’t hear a supernatural voice saying “DO IT!” because I had begun to trust that while I was seeking His will, He wasn’t going to lead me into something contrary to it. Around this time I also finally started reading the Bible regularly again.

Fast forward some, and we get to my dear husband’s reappearance in my life. We had known each other since we were twelve, but we had never dated. When it came down to deciding to date, I took it very seriously. I had been praying for months that God would prepare me to be a good wife but also to help me be content in singleness, which was something I had never been content in. Finally, I felt content, and there came Marty, and there came a new feeling about him that was more than what I’d felt for him the previous 7 years… So I prayed about it some more. A lot more. For about 3 months straight. And I sought advice from people I trusted, godly people. I felt peace with the decision that I should go ahead. All signs pointed to yes. And so we dated, and so we married, and so we fast-forward again.

Since that point in my life, I was kind of stagnant in my spiritual life. Actually, dating and getting married hampered things because I no longer made time for prayer and the Bible. I knew I shouldn’t make my husband my “god,” but I just couldn’t seem to get my priorities straight. So I kind of stayed where I was. I had a sort of confidence that God wasn’t going to let us walk into something awful if we were seeking Him, and that was about it. Then, during Marty’s last deployment, he got orders for Fort Leonard Wood, and Marty had to extend his time in the Army in order to take the orders.

He was basically forced to stay in longer, when he had been planning to get out. And we were both like… Ummm… ok God. If you say so… Missouri, here we come.

Things have been a struggle, let me tell you. Deployment was a struggle, but I grew some… Of course, my good habits of daily Bible reading and prayer didn’t really carry over once Marty came home. Things were just too hectic. We had trips to take and packing to do and a move on the horizon, and Marty was really struggling with stuff at work. The time between his coming home and our moving was hard. Deciding to do a DITY move, having to pack up our whole house and load the moving truck and drive ourselves and our three animals to another state… Oh, and there was the struggle of trying to figure out where we could live. I tried to trust God, but it sure felt like I was doing everything. Where in the world was He, and where in the world were we going to live, and how was I supposed to have any peace when it’s weeks till the move and we still have no place to live! See, really, I wasn’t trusting God at all.

Trusting the Only One I Can

A little story for you all…

I hope to explain both why I’ve been scarce here and what has been going on in my walk with God with this story. However, in focusing on these goals, I won’t be telling absolutely everything that has been happening in my life. I’ll be wordy enough without trying to be that thorough, I’m sure.

Some Background

Trusting God… How to do it? How to be sure? I’ve struggled with this for a long time. I’ll go back to the beginning. Apparently, I was “saved” at least twice around the age of three. The one I always remembered was a race on the monkey bars and “praying the prayer” before my friend, then dropping to the ground. I won and I got saved! Good for me! I leaned on this through my childhood, going to Sunday School and such and never thinking much more of it. Church was a way of life in my family. Hearing Bible stories and praying before bed was normal.

As a teenager, though, I started wondering whether I was really saved and really going to heaven. Maybe I hadn’t understood what I was doing when I was three. In fact, how could I have? So, I reconfirmed my salvation and recommitted myself to God, and later I got baptized as well. I was sure. For a while.

When depression started creeping in and looming over my whole life, I started to question things again. I begged God for help, and none came! I reasoned with myself (and God) by saying that I wasn’t asking Him to take away the pain, just to help me to bear it, but he didn’t! Nope, I was all alone and miserable, and over time as I cried and cried at church, at home, out walking around in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep… I began to think about whether God really existed at all.

I knew the kind of God I believed in, and I knew that if there was a God, that He would be that kind. You know: perfect, holy, loving, forgiving, etc. If that was the kind of God that must exist, if there was one at all, then surely He wouldn’t ignore my pleas. If I wasn’t getting answers to my prayers, it must be because God didn’t exist. So, I decided I was agnostic. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there was no God, but I said to myself that I wasn’t sure whether or not there was. I quit going to church and pretty much quit caring about any of my morals.

Through a series of circumstances during what I call my “Wandering Years” (which I’ve written all about but have only shown to my mom, my husband, and my former therapist), God brought me back to Him. Something that was key in my beginning to accept that, yes, God is real and does exist, was reading the books by Lee Strobel: The Case for Christ, The Case for a Creator, and The Case for Faith. If you’re struggling with questions about God’s existence, I’d highly recommend those books (as well as Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, which I read more recently). But like I was saying, I decided to believe in God. I had enough evidence.

Later, eventually, I started going to church again. And then the real fun started because I began to pray again. I remember the first REAL time I prayed in my adult life, and that’s where this story about trust really starts.

The Other Big D

Depression

Every time I come up against bloggers-block (ha :P) it’s because there is something on my heart that I feel I can’t share, for whatever reason. I usually start blogging again when I realize that the best way past it is to blog about it, and afterwards I’m able to move on to other topics. So I’m going to try that now.

I tell myself, privately, that my struggle with depression will one day be a great testimony for the Lord. How he brought me through. Once I finally reach the other side. And, in the meantime, I tell myself, it must be secret. I have to push through on God’s strength, keep quiet, and one day I’ll be able to look back on these times and explain to others how God brought me through.

And you’re reading that, going, “Michy, that’s dumb. That’s not how it should work.” And I’d agree with you.

Why do I feel the need to keep my struggles secret? It’s not for God’s glory. It doesn’t make God appear any stronger or do anything to prove his power. It neither helps me nor does it help my friends. It’s pride. If I’m honest, the only reason for my secrecy is that I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I’m weak, that I struggle, that I have a problem that my friends don’t have, and I hide it to protect myself, pride-fully trying to appear unflawed.

The other option is, of course, to open up and let my loved ones in – to help, to listen, or even just to pray. I would have to trust God enough to be vulnerable, to humbly admit that I’m not Super Michy. Just Michy. And that definitely goes against the grain.

Some Truths

IMG_2331So here’s the truth. I cry more than … anyone. I cry more than anyone should, more than anyone else does, as far as I can tell. I get depressed, and miserable, and it makes me feel utterly alone. Because I know that there is no way anyone else can understand. I know that really, only God can truly be there with me – understand me – and I feel alone. I feel helpless to explain, and I usually don’t even bother.

In fact, I usually scoff at people who ask “What’s wrong?” I decide that they don’t have, or care to have, the next twelve hours free for me to really make myself understood. And it seems so meaningless to just say I’m sad. I’m depressed. I’m going through some stuff. I’m having a hard time. Those phrases don’t even BEGIN to cover it, and even if they did, someone would then ask me, “Why?” A million reasons! I can list a handful off the top of my head, but to you they will seem like nothing, and the truth is, they are nothing. Except that they are piled on top of a lifetime of other STUFF and they are viewed through my messed-up, depressed mind.

And the truth is I hate that I’m depressed. I see myself as weak and lazy when my depression interferes with my life, and I tend to feel like I need to protect myself from being seen that way by others. So act strong. Get mad, not sad. Crying is weakness. Smile. Pretend. Be there for others, but never make them be there for you. Because chances are they’ll fail, or even if they don’t, they won’t be ENOUGH.

Best not to try. And best not to be a burden, because if you are a burden you’re likely not to have ANY friends.

This is why I feel unknown: I don’t let anyone know me. I might as well tell God that He made me wrong. He shouldn’t have given me this flaw. It’s ugly; it’s meant to be hidden.

And as I try to hide, I lose something. I grow hard and harsh and lose my inner beauty and gentleness and… I can’t be genuine with people. And without that genuineness and openness, my relationships become shallow. I wonder if my impact on people, on the world… how different would it be if I were open? Vulnerable? Would people see God more clearly? Would they feel love more fully? Would my words and actions be more meaningful?

The truth is, I live with the chronic pain of depression. I struggle THROUGH it, constantly. And God helps me. He’s with me every moment, he gets me through each day. He’s the reason I don’t become self-destructive, the reason I can still love others, the reason I can still find joy (sometimes). I think my friends deserve to know that NOW. Because who knows if there ever will be an “other side” that I’ll reach, where it won’t hurt so much? If I keep waiting for that, I may never get to share my testimony.

Just some thoughts…

Overcoming Depression

It’s Sunday night, and I’m writing now because I know I’ve gotten into a bad habit of putting off my blog-writing until the last minute, and then sometimes putting it off even longer. I have several different topics written down, but none of them struck me as right. I could write about them, I guess, but it would just be writing. I would just be filling space. They are topics I care about normally, but right now I’m having a hard time caring about much of anything.

Lately, my blogs have been a bit more personal, so I might as well continue in that vein. See, the truth is, I have, and I guess I continually do, struggle with depression. I have ups and downs. Sometimes the downs seem to be random, while at other times they’re triggered by something or someone. Of course, my most recent down was triggered by JRTC.

“Overcoming depression,” is, I think, a fitting title. Depression is one of those ongoing things that never seems to just go away. It took me… not long at all to figure that out, but it took me years to really accept it. At first it was horrifying. I’m going to probably deal with this for the rest of my life? I can’t handle that! … But I can.

The Early Years

I don’t know when it started. You know? Lots of us can’t really remember a time when it was different, though we have a feeling somewhere in the backs of our minds that it was, at one time. I do know when it got bad, and then when it got worse. I definitely remember crying – all – the – time. I couldn’t handle the things I thought I should be able to handle. I remember feeling so sick of “having to pretend everything is ok.” Dropping out of school, quitting multiple jobs, dropping out of college… Depression is miserable, right? I mean, to me, the words are almost synonymous.

I used to wonder why no one cared. Couldn’t they tell? Couldn’t they read between the lines? Nevermind that I was trying to hide it.

The worst part was that I “knew” I had no right to feel that way. I told myself…probably every day…how good I had it. Followed closely by an increase in the flood of tears and a feeling of hopeless misery as I told myself how bad I had it. Followed by berating myself for feeling that way. Endless cycles of what felt like endless sadness. I dealt with it like many do. I avoided people, isolated myself, built bad habits, self-medicated, ran away, et cetera…

How I Healed

Those valleys at first were so deep I thought I’d never get out. And once I did, it seemed like another one was there to meet me right away. Now, they’re less frequent. They’re not so deep. But how I healed then is the same way I get through the valleys now. Now, I’m just more practiced at it, I guess.

  • Prayers of Family and Friends – I have to mention this first. People loved me, throughout all my dark years, enough to pray for me no matter how I hurt them or worried them. My parents, siblings, grandparents… My friends from highschool, friends online… I don’t know how many prayed for me or how frequently they prayed, but I do know God heard them. I use this as a reminder to myself to pray consistently for those I care and worry about. I know it makes a difference.
  • Walking with God – My healing came from God, not from within myself. But it wasn’t instantaneous like I wanted it to be. I had walked away and abandoned him because I couldn’t believe he was really there. I spent two years crying out in my misery, asking God not to change my situation but to help me cope. Finally, I said he wasn’t doing it. Why would he not do it if he was there? Why would he let me suffer so, when I’m trying to do right, and when I’m asking for help? By the time I got to the deepest part of the valley, my faith was, well, nowhere in sight. I had forsaken almost everything I had previously valued.
    Eventually, I came to realize I did believe in God. I couldn’t deny his existence anymore. But it was still a long time before my life began to reflect that admission of belief. And after that, it was still a long time before I began to learn to trust. And even then, nothing magically got better. I wanted it to. I wanted it to be as simple as saying I believe – please help me! But it doesn’t work like that.
    I had to learn to walk with God, and I have to keep walking with him, and he helps me through. I go through things I’m sure I can’t handle, and he listens to me complain, and he loves me. And sometimes I don’t even realize until long after the fact that he’s really been carrying me and my load, just like in that poem Footprints in the Sand.
  • Permission to Feel – I’m an Army wife now, so my first thought is of my husband and how he has to ask permission to do almost anything. I don’t know when, but at some point, I convinced myself that I did not have permission to feel. Permission denied.
    I did not have a right to my feelings. I never asked anyone; I just decided. The second biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone struggling with depression is to allow yourself to feel. There’s no should to human feelings. Maybe there’s a “norm,” maybe. Maybe. But no should. You just feel what you feel. The problem is that some of us spend all our time feeling guilty for feeling bad, and then feeling bad for feeling guilty, and then feeling guilty all over again. Like I said, in me it produced an endless cycle until I decided that I was going to allow myself to feel sad. Even if my reasons were flimsy – even if there were no reasons at all. When sadness hits me, I feel sad. When anger, depression, or hopelessness hit me, I feel it rather than denying it. I find that it helps tremendously.
  • Venting and Support – Both are important, but sometimes we can’t have both. Still, the last step for me and the last piece of advice I can give is this: Find an outlet and find support. Journaling can be an outlet, chatting with friends can be, and so can art or a number of other hobbies and crafts. Even crying while eating a bowl of ice cream can be an outlet. Prayer is another great outlet! You’ve got to have some way, though, to express your feelings. It’s good for you.
    Me, I choose a combination of all of the above. 😛 And as for support, I have quite a few supportive loved ones, but my main source of support is my husband. I am so blessed to have him.

I Want to Help

I don’t know if I’ll ever really have an outside-the-home career. As you know, I’m a stay-home wife, and I hope one day in the next few years to become a stay-home mom. But even if I don’t have a career, there’s something I want to do. I want to help. Depression is one of those nasty things that I hate for anyone to have to experience. But we do. We go through it, and if you’re like me you may struggle with it for most of your life! I saw several different counselors and psychologists in my low times, but only one made a difference to me. I want to be that person for someone else.

I want to help… so badly! The hard part is that what works for me may or may not help anyone else. It’s hard to know how to approach people because everyone is different! Just like not everyone struggling with weight issues conquers them in the same way, not everyone struggling with depression conquers it in the same way. But I do so want to help.

And I guess that’s all I have to say about that. For now.