Monday, January 19, 2015

When Darkness Descends

It's back.  The debilitating anxiety has returned.  An unsuccessful attempt to lower one of my medications (as recommended by my naturopth) has landed me back in the throws of darkness.  Honestly, I had forgotten just how bad it could get.  These past few months have been relatively anxiety free.  I've still been dealing with insomnia, but the anxiety seemed to be contained.

Nausea.  Foggy brain.  Tightened chest.  Exhaustion.  An inner tension screaming from my insides.  It's relentless.  It's frightening.  It's here.  I try my best to force myself into the day, going through the motions of being a mother and a wife.  I make breakfast, but I'm far away from the messy kitchen and my beloved children.  I'm inside my head, saying safe phrases over and over in my mind.  Accept.  Float.  Breathe.  In for 4.  Hold for 7.  Out for 8.  I am calm.  I am safe.  I am loved.  The amount of effort it takes just to make it through the next hour is almost too much to bare.

Panic and doubt gives the evil one easy entrance into my consciousness.  You're back to square one, Laura.  Might as well give up this time.  You're never going to get better.

I fight back with everything I've got...namely the name of Jesus.  I say it out loud.  I  rebuke you, Satan, in the name of Jesus Christ.  And for precious moments, the voice stays quiet. I meditate.  Try to expand the gap between my thoughts.  Positive thinking.  Bible verses.  The Serenity Prayer.  Anything to get through. 

Then the what-ifs begin.  What if I can't get the girls to school this week?  What if I can't work and we have to sell our home?  What if I feel this way forever?  What if I can't sleep?  What if I never get off this damn medicine that's not even working.  Why did I even try to get off it in the first place?  Oh, please help my Lord, Jesus.

I lay on my bedroom floor and sob for 30 minutes.  Then I get up, put in my headphones, and finish dinner.  A shell - that's what I feel like.  I'm here, but I'm not.  I force myself to breathe and try not to let the negative thoughts take over by going over what I know to be true.   I know that Jesus is with me.  I know that I am unable to restore myself, but He is fully capable.  Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday.  Let Him love you, Laura.  Listen to His voice.  Please be bigger than my fears, Lord.  Use this for Your glory.   Help me not give up.  Make a way, Lord.  Please.

I pick up a book that I'm giving as a gift.  I happen to flip to a page where the author is laying in bed preparing for the next day when her baby girl will be born.  They know she will not live.  The author spells out her life-long struggle with fear.  It sounds so familiar.  And the Lord tells her to Praise Him.  Praise him?  When she knows the baby in her womb will die tomorrow - may not even take a breath as she enters this world.  Praise You, Lord? 

I take a deep breath and raise my arms into the air.  I will praise you in this storm, Lord.  Give me strength to praise you...I surrender.  I trust You.  I know that I am loved.

It happens again.  My Bible lays next to me, open to a random page.  But no, it's never random.  It is meant for me.  The answer I seek:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.  Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods.  On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  - Psalm 63 1-8
Dear ones.  If you should happen to read this, I welcome your prayers.  I know nothing is impossible with God.  He.  Can.  Heal.  Please let it come quickly!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015: The Year of ????

Beloved Brews LinkupToday's writing prompt from Bonnie Gray is the infamous "Word of the Year" post.  Perhaps you've seen this phenomenon filling the blogosphere.  Instead of an itemized list of new year resolutions, you choose one word on which to focus as the days, weeks, and months of the year unfold.

In true first-born fashion, I had my word all figured out.  Trust.  After all, wasn't that the root of all my anxiety and insomnia issues this past year? The landslide effect of working too hard, worrying too much, and trying to maintain the facade of a life lived perfect had spun me right into an unfamiliar vortex of panic and exhaustion.  I could no longer trust my body or my mind, and trusting that God could fix such a big mess was a leap I seemed unable to take.

So trust.  "Yes, that is it," I thought.  "If I focus on trust in 2015, surely things will turn around."  I envisioned a young child standing at the edge of a pool. A dad is gently coaxing the child to leave the solid ground under her feet and leap into the water to land in his arms.  I can see the thoughts tumbling in her young mind, weighing the risks and rewards,  And then...she does it.  She closes her eyes, bends her legs, and launches into the pool.  As her daddy twirls her around, she raises her arms in glee and can't wait to do it once more.  I want to be that little girl, trusting my Heavenly Father enough to jump back in the pool.  But, as I considered what a year of trust would look like, I realized there is a precursor to the trust.  Before that little girl could leap off the edge, she needed to know that her daddy loved her.  Love is the beginning of trust, in fact I'd go so far as to say that you can't have trust without it.

I KNOW I am loved.  I know my family loves me.  I know my Heavenly Father loves me.  I know my Savior loves me.  I.  AM.  LOVED.  But I realized with a jolt that I don't let myself FEEL loved. With the amount of love in my life, my love-quotient should be overflowing.  The Bible is full of passages that tell us how much God loves us.  How he wants to lavish us with love and give us our truest desires.  Love is the reason He couldn't leave us in our brokenness.  The reason He sent His beloved Son.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

The entire Bible paints a picture of God's love.  I know this.  I believe this.  So, why don't I feel this? The God of the universe wants to overwhelm ME with love.  He wants me live life to the full.  To be so filled with His love that it is spilling over me and into the lives of others.  With love like that there is simply no room for fear or anxiety.  THAT's the life I want to live!  I'm tired of living fear.  I'm tired of feeling that I don't measure up.  I'm tired of isolating myself from the people that love me and want to know me.  I'm ready to break myself open, make myself vulnerable, give up every desire except be loved.

So that's it.  In 2015, I am going to ask God to break down the walls that are preventing me from experiencing His love.  To open my heart, my mind, and all my senses to receive His love.  And in turn, to extend that love to others.  I'm ready to surrender.  To get myself out of the way.  I will stop asking for healing and begin asking only to truly FEEL and EXPERIENCE God's love.  Fully. Completely. Undeservedly. And I will choose to believe that Love was the answer all along.

2015:  The year of LOVE.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It's Time - New Year's Eve Musings

It's the final day of a year that I've been waiting to release to faded dreams of memory.  For all the heartache of 2014, one would think I should be giddy to begin anew.  But, that's the thing about "shoulds,"  they never do any favors.

Instead, I find myself quietly reflective on this December 31, 2014.  After all, why would I want to forget when I have learned so much?  How can it be that just a short year has passed when at times it felt so very long?  If I had known it was to be my year of Aeschylus, would I have trod the same road?
He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.  
- Aeschylus 
At first glance this quote seems so very depressing doesn't it?  But how apt a description of my 2014!  Did you notice it there in the center?  In our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom.  I fought against that wisdom for far too long in my selfish attempt to escape the chains with which I bound myself.  But the harder I fought, the stronger the chains became.  In the end, the only way out is  through.  My suffering has made me stronger, but still it stands like a hovering cloud blocking the light from above.  So...I have been begging God to show me a purpose for it all, to provide a new lens through which to see the intense pain of the past year.  And by His grace, it is slowly happening... 

For don't you know...there was so much beauty in the midst of the pain.  There was so much loving and learning and growing.  So. Much. Grace.  Miracles.  Relationships.  Trust.  So much hope that's not meant to be tucked away inside.  Truthfully, I am scared to take the first step that's asked of me.  To. Write. It. Down.  I sense that it will  take time, lots of time, and  I don't know if I will ever be ready to publicly share all the details.  I do know that this story of mine cannot be kept inside where it continues to whirl inside my head.  Only by reaching back into the darkness and pulling it into the light will I finally be free to let it go. 

So, I hereby dub 2015 the year of writing.  I shall write and write and write.  Taking my time to write privately as well as publicly at Seeking The Still.  I will share with my confidantes and continue the sifting.  Most importantly, I will pray to God that He would show me how much to share and when.  As the veil continues to lift, and my eyes are opened to see more clearly, I know deep within my soul that there will be healing here.  For my journey has been marked by the bravery of others bold enough to share their dark night stories.  I saw myself there and know others will see their story in mine.  We are all souls simply plodding our way back home...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Does anybody know me?

I hear small feet skipping in and see a pair of brightly colored sneakers enter the bathroom stall next to me.  Unexpected words are spoken into the stillness of a school bathroom.  The little voice asks, Does anybody know me?  

I startle at the question and reply gently through the cold, metal door with a smile, No, I'm sorry I don't think I know you.

Oh, ok, the little girl answers brightly.  I'm in kindergarten.  And just like that, she's on her way.

There it is.  The question we're all asking deep inside.  DOES ANYBODY KNOW ME?

For thirty seven years I hid "the real me" behind a mask of achievement, perfection, and control.  I only let you see the me I wanted you to see. I didn't acknowledge that there was a "real me" on the inside.  Her memories were too messy, her emotions too raw.  She was wounded and imperfect and scared.  It was easier to pretend that girl didn't exist.

The thing is, the pretending only works for so long.  Eventually the truth finds it's way to the light no matter how hard you stomp it down.  It's painful, unexpected, raw, and it held me hostage for six long months.  A dark night of the soul.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Insomnia.  Depression.  A life clawing to stay still and familiar even as the river of life swirled with currents that would not be calmed.

I recently read that the greek root of the word crisis means to sift.  And that is where the river has led me.  To a place where I'm sifting the memories, shaking the sand from my eyes and seeing this life anew.  Though the sifting is hard, it is good.

God only allows pain if He’s allowing something new to be born.
                                                               -Ann Voskmamp

I'm in the cocoon now, waiting for the miracle.  I know it's coming, but it will not be a result of anything I've done or will do.  And that's the hard part to accept.  Does anybody know me?  Yes, HE does.  The One who was there in the beginning and whispered me into being.  HE knows me and says the truth will set me free.  Perhaps one day I'll even know the real me that He intended me to be.  Please, let it be so...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Story {Day 4}

Written across the ages, it forms.  Each life, a thread, expertly written across the page. I long to know The Story and my part in it.

Most days, I attempt to write my own plot and protest in frustration when the chapter doesn't go the way I planned.  Crumpled bits of paper lay strewn behind me, the weight of the deadline looms ahead.

And then I flip back the pages and see that it's not my words at all.  It was the Author every step along the way.  He never asked for an assistant.  He simply asks me to savor the story as it unfolds.   Today and every day, no matter where the story turns, let me trust the pen in the Author's hand.

In this 31 day series,  I'll flit and flutter around the topic of seeking the still within the boundaries of God's grace.  I'm open to the whispers of the wind, so fly with me if you wish!

Friday, October 4, 2013

To Know Him {Day 3}

It takes a long time to really know someone, and even then it's not easy.  If fact, it's rare to truly know another person.  You have to understand their history, observe how they interact with others, look at the work they do, and gain insight into their nature.  You have to study them. Celebrate with them. Mourn with them.  You have to talk.  You have to listen.

That kind of knowing takes a lifetime...and even then is limited by the lens through which we view our own life and experiences.  It's complicated, to say the least.

It's the same thing when it comes to knowing God.

I grew up knowing stories about God.  I went to Sunday School and church, read the children's books, watched the shows.  I could recite the creeds and say the prayers.  Who is God?  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  What does He do?  He saves us from our sin.  Yep, I thought I knew it all...but I didn't.

How is it possible to wrap our minds around the Creator of the Universe?  The One who breathed us into being and spoke the world into motion.  The One who longs for relationship with his people, who chose a nation so that He could reveal who He is and what He does.  The God who loves us in spite of our brokenness.  Who loves us in spite of our rejection.  Who loves us so much that He would send a holy Savior, a Way for us to live in His presence for free and for forever.

Knowing Him begins with the still, quiet voice that says there is more than meets the eye in this world.  Pay attention.  Look deeper.  Stop trying to understand Me and just try to know Me.  Gaze upon the beauty of My creation and know I exist.  Read how I set apart the people of Israel, so I could reveal myself to the world.  Look how I kept my promise to send a Savior, to redeem those who put their faith in Me.  Watch how I work today, through the lives of those I call my own. 

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.  Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.  Matthew 7:7   Deuteronomy 4:29   Jeremiah 33:3

We must seek, my friends.  In the midst of our hardest days, we can't stop seeking to know Him, the Gift Giver.  For in doing so, we are promised that we will finally receive the gift, the still. 

In this 31 day series,  I'll flit and flutter around the topic of seeking the still within the boundaries of God's grace.  I'm open to the whispers of the wind, so fly with me if you wish!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Gift Giver {Day 2}

It was a painted piece of clay attached to a necklace with yellow yarn.  A homemade charm lovingly designed by my eldest daughter to replace the "real" one she lost.  Happy birthday, Mom!  I looked all over the house, but I couldn't find your missing charm.  I made you a new one for your birthday.  Will you wear it today? 

The giver of the gift matters.  Given by anyone else, I would have likely smiled, offered my thanks, and moved on.  But this gift was fashioned by my flesh and blood.  My daughter, who I dearly love, poured her heart into this gift.  Created it with her own hands.  Wear it?  This gift of love? I most certainly did.

We appreciate gifts in proportion to our relationship with the giver.  The more we know the giver, the closer our relationship, the more the gift matters.

How close are you to the giver of The Still?  Do you know Him?  Know about Him?  Don't know Him at all?  Perhaps you wonder about this peace that so many speak of.  You reach and yearn for rest for your soul, but it forever seems just outside your grasp. 

As I Gracefully Seek the Still these next few weeks, I want to be honest and look with eyes wide open.  I seek to open my heart to know the Gift-Giver better.  Not with knowledge and facts, but heart to heart, soul to soul.  He's been designing lovely Gifts for me since the beginning of time.  Yes, He created them with His own hands.  I don't want to smile and move on.  I want to wear His gifts of love...

In this 31 day series,  I'll flit and flutter around the topic of seeking the still within the boundaries of God's grace.  I'm open to the whispers of the wind, so fly with me if you wish!