🎶 Help me want the Healer, More than the healing 🎶
It seems like a natural progression to me now, but it didn’t back then.
My taste in music is generally pretty edgy. I like some depth. Some raw, live acoustic music. Throw in a raspy voice or deep inflection, some passionate lyrics, and you’ve got me in my happy place. But sometimes even I need a feel good song.
This is that song; ‘More than Anything’. I can hear it coming from a place of desperation, a place I’ve been before. Back in my totally clichè ‘Jesus take the Wheel’ days (translated, thats the “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here God, but I sure have messed things up on my own steam, PLEASE please help me.”)
That was the single Mom living paycheck to paycheck who’d just been laid off unexpectedly and bawled my eyes out when HR walked in and coldly gave us all our pink slips a week or so before Thanksgiving. I remember thinking “What the hell am I gonna do?!”
I remember later that night in a fit of chest seizing anxiety, drinking a glass of wine, looking into the mirror at my tear stained cheeks just feeling so defeated. I had been plugging along telling myself if I could just pay my bills, my rent, my car payment, buy food for my kids, I’d be fine. And then it just felt like someone pulled the rug out from under me. In that moment I prayed the desperate prayer “Lord why is this happening? PLEASE HELP ME!”
🎶 I know if You wanted to, You could wave Your hand Spare me this heartache, and change Your plan. And I know any second You could take my pain away. But even if You don’t, I pray…🎶
I’d mentioned before about how I’d once been turned off by religion, but I know now it was the people that falsely represented it that actually turned me off. There in that very workspace a couple of years before, I’d encountered a coworker who walked it out differently. She saw my down trodden attitude and somehow identified a deep and hurting soul. Did she come to me and tell me I needed Jesus, or make me feel judged? Nope. She handed me a book entitled “Letters” of Mother Teresa. I remember looking at it and thinking “Hmmm, I vaguely know who that is, I think I heard about her on the news or something.” I thanked my coworker and said I’d take a look at it.
I opened up the book and started reading about a woman who surprisingly reminded me a little of myself. She had a deep need to help humanity but she felt so much emptiness inside her that it was nearly overwhelming. And she liked to write! Her letters reminded me of the poems I wrote as a teenager, where emotion filled every word. Compassion and Christian in the same sentence? I shook my head. This equation hadn’t been one that equated for me in the past.
That this happened was one of those things only God could have orchestrated, my coworker (now my best friend) refused to take credit, stating only that she was an instrument of God. Talk about goosebumps!
🎶You know more than anyone that my flesh is weak And You know I’d give anything for a remedy And I’ll ask a thousand more times to set me free today Oh, but even if You don’t, I pray 🎶
Amazingly less than six months prior to the layoff I had begun therapy. And the only reason I had an ounce of hope that a therapist would show me compassion was due to one person showing me what that looked like. I would go on to find a community of others who thought and acted the same. And it just so happens that the therapist was a graduate of the Grad School I would go on to get my Masters in Counseling degree from.
I couldn’t see it that day nor could I see it for a few months afterwards, but that layoff would change my whole trajectory. I’d go on to have a job that not only paid my bills but also gave me an opportunity to do something I’d always wanted to do but didn’t think that I could. Most importantly I had internalized the sentiment mentioned in this verse.
From “LORD HELP ME” to “I’m so glad I have my faith, and a loving Father.” You don’t even know how much that’s helped me since Covid hit!
🎶 These battle scars, don’t look like they’re fading, Don’t look like they’re ever going away, They ain’t never gonna change 🎶
We’re deep into 2020. This year has brought some of us to our knees. A song called ‘Battle Scars’ seemed fitting to me based on my perception of the current state of those around me. I rarely speak to a person who doesn’t feel damaged in some way by the way the year has played out.
But I wonder why this song spoke to me; why do I find the lyrics so captivating? Maybe because in life and in my work, I’ve met many people who think armoring up is the way to avoid pain.
🎶 Shields, body armours and vests, Don’t properly work, that’s why you’re in a locker full of hurt 🎶
🎶Now you’re down on the ground screaming medic The only thing that comes is the post-traumatic stresses🎶
“It hurts when I do. It hurts when I don’t”. Which is worse? It’s hard to say. In my line of work it’s often the emotional pain that has people afraid. Afraid to heal. Or having healed but fearing ripping the scar back open. Self protecting. Feeling delicate, Feeling “broken”.
Honestly, I did that thing too. It’s called avoidance; the idea of something we fear being too much. So we do everything we can to rid the thoughts from our mind, avoid the memories, and even the people places and things that remind us of the painful thing that’s got us stuck.
Unfortunately that’s the very thing that keeps us stuck; not getting help to deal with the trauma from our past. And that’s where the writer of this song was going when he speaks of being in the front lines. It feels like that sometimes, at least it has for me.
🎶A lover not a fighter on the front line with a poem Trying to write yourself a rifle Maybe sharpen up a song To fight the tanks and drones of you being alone🎶
Grief and loneliness can be gripping. Terrifying. Seemingly Unbearable. And with all of the rules and isolation we’ve had, it’s just hard to go it alone. As humans, we’re wired for connection.
Perhaps life has taught you people aren’t safe. They always leave. You’ve got that abandonment wound. Or maybe they were there, but emotionally unavailable. If that’s the case, this part of the song might resonate.
🎶I wish I couldn’t feel, I wish I couldn’t love I wish that I could stop ’cause it hurts so much🎶
Being vulnerable comes with a price. You legitimately put yourself out there. You’re authentic. You don’t hide your feelings.
And then suddenly, they’re gone, leaving you to declare “Never again.” Heart broken. Feelings raw. Now what?
I think it’s fair to say 2020 has a lot of fear in it. We HAVE to avoid actual things for our safety but the thoughts can still be dealt with. America got down to business this year in a lot of ways; shining the spotlight on racial injustice, and uniting over leadership for our country. That’s where one thing came into the picture and really resonated with me. Hope.
Light was always going to defeat darkness. It’s hard to see that this year especially and with this administration. We’ve had perhaps one of the darkest years most of us can remember, or will ever remember. And the battlefield isn’t in a distant land. It’s our country, our very doorstep.
It’s so hard. We’re in survival mode. The entire country is in crisis, and it’s not just the pandemic it’s our perception of democracy, it’s the fear of going backwards from all the progress we’ve made, and it’s personal. It’s so dark that it seems like everything is closing in on us at times. We may think there’s no way out. We may think we’re doomed. We don’t know what to expect. Some of us are scared and rightfully so. We have no control over the people around us and their actions. We’re thinking catastrophic! Is this the end? Why is this happening? And we aren’t getting answers.
On top of the pandemic, a handful of my closest friends have lost loved ones. Now I’m starting to regularly counsel on grief and other emotions that come along with a season where ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ is already bad enough.
It’s nearly Christmas. So many around me describe this year ending as a finish line of sorts. Even if we’re slo-mo working our way there. Not everyone we know got to make it to the finish line this year and that resonates with me, hitting me especially hard as a veteran, where I often think of the creed; a Latin phrase ‘nemo resideo’ or “leave no one behind”. Weren’t there people we lost this year that we would have literally carried to the finish line if that meant saving them? Life is so fragile and this year was an unpleasant reminder of that.
As a Christian the peace I find when I think about all the loss and uncertainty is this. God won’t abandon us. He’s with us through the battle, our scars have a purpose, and we already know the ending. He wins. Thank God for simple truths in difficult times!
If you aren’t a Christian, that’s ok, God loves you no matter what! I like to think of a special verse I often repeat. I know that in life even the most loyal of all people may let me down, but I can rest in this.
That’s the opening line from the title song by Staind. I guess you might not expect a blog like mine to include songs with explicit lyrics. So if that offends you, I’m here to say that it’s possible the reason people don’t want to come within a 5 mile radius of a religious establish might be because they listen to songs with explicit lyrics and feel like that makes them judged as less than. And maybe nothing Christians are putting out there is reaching them because they just can’t relate. I’m all about meeting people where they are. That’s how God met Saul on the road to Damascus. Right. Where. He. Was. At.
Everyone likes to focus on the reformed Saul, the man who became Paul, an apostle known as one of the greatest of all Biblical messengers. But I think the thing I like the most about Paul was his humility. He’s the first to admit he was the greatest of sinners. In Paul’s own words:
That’s so relatable to me! I don’t see the need to hide all my past sins under a rug, even though I’m not proud of them. It doesn’t make me more relatable to others to act like I’m sinless, at least not to others who aren’t trying to look more perfect than they really are. Have I lost friends because I was authentic about where I came from and the kind of raw person that I am? Yes, on more than one occasion.
But Jesus cautioned against being fake and acting like you’re perfect when you’re not and he had major beef with the Pharisees who acted like they were perfect, yet who played an important role in his crucifixion. I don’t want to look like a hypocrite.
The other day I heard a song that went like this, “There’s a sign on the door that says ‘Come as you are’ but I doubt it.” (Truth Be Told -Song by Matthew West).
If you feel that way, I don’t blame you. I’ve tried to go to a church and be transparent about my past and found out I couldn’t. They were too legalistic. I felt judged, even excluded. If that has happened to you, I’m sorry.
You see, as a therapist, I feel like we’re all a bit broken. I talk a little bit more about that in another blog post here: Broken
I’ve definitely had days when I felt like I’d screwed things up way past the point of saying “I’m sorry”. As the song goes, there were so many times I felt like:
🎶 And it’s been awhile
Since I’ve gone and
F#%&$@ things up
Just like I always do
And it’s been awhile,
But all that s#%$
Seems to disappear
When I’m with you 🎶￼
Can you relate, trying to fill that void inside with a person? Somebody who makes you feel good and helps you forget your pain?
In the bridge of the song it says
🎶Why must I feel this way?
Just make this go away
Just one more peaceful day…🎶
You see, physically, I’m a weak person. I’ve really struggled with my health in recent years and just felt so un-usable by God. I just wanted the pain to literally GO AWAY.
I was wrong though. God can use me like this. Because maybe some people aren’t willing to meet you where you are, but God isn’t like that at all. Somehow through my weakness and loss of faith in some of the people and things in the world around me, an unexpected thing happened. My faith grew. Exponentially! People repeatedly let me down. I lost trust in humanity at one point. I became rather cynical.
Then I thought about it. God was true to his word:
All the people that let me down didn’t break me though. I learned to stop putting my faith in people; in relationships, fair weather friends, politicians, leaders. It might be hard to believe, but I can now think about the song “It’s Been Awhile” as me telling God how much I’ve screwed up and hear him say “That’s ok child. Nothing you can ever do will stop me from loving you.” Isn’t that what we all need to hear?
I would not lend a hand, I’ve seen your face before my friend,
but I don’t know if you know who I am, Well I was there and I saw what you did,
I saw it with my own two eyes, So you can wipe off that grin,
I know where you’ve been, It’s all been a pack of lies.🎶
I was driving around listening to Pandora when the song In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins came on. Being one who can often feel emotion in music, I wondered why this song had never hit me like this before. I mean, I’ve heard it hundreds of times! A tear lingered in the corner of my eye as I imagined being the target of those words.
That’s SHAME! I instantly thought to myself! Heavy!
There’s just something captivating about how he sings the song into that electrifying sound machine too. Like it totally grabs you and hits you emotionally.
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord.
Feel what? Maybe the weight of other people’s judgement?!?
Now it’s possible you could google song lyrics and discover exactly what Phil Collins was talking about in this song, but that’s not what my blog is about. I’m one of those “Soundtrack of my Life” people. You know like I’ve got a song that accompanies some of my most powerful encounters.
I recently discovered Enneatypes through a dear friend I share the same Myers Briggs personality type with, and FINALLY understood why music is such a big part of my life; I’m an Enneagram Type 4. So was Prince. No wonder I’m not like everyone else!!
I think this is a song that really gives a name to shame and how our society gets it wrong. Can you imagine seeing a person drowning and your first instinct NOT being to go try to save them because of something they did in their past?
But isn’t that what people do? People are “drowning” all around us. We find out someone died by suicide. Why couldn’t anyone see she was drowning? And that shame thing. What about the “invisible people” among us, the homeless that walk the streets that we won’t even make eye contact with when they stand next to our car with a sign asking for something, anything. He’s drowning.
It’s easy for us to look at these people as isolated incidents, not relevant to us, insignificant. But consider the story told in Luke 15:4-5:
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.”
He doesn’t say “That damn sheep has run off a million times, I’m just going to let him run off the side of the mountain and drown in the lake”. No. He goes after it.
But it’s more than that. Ever thought about why that person even crossed your path today? Or why the same person with a shameful past crosses your path EVERY day? Maybe somebody you work with, a family member with an addiction, a neighbor, even, it could be anyone. I look in the mirror and there are days the enemy tries to remind me of shame from my past. I’d still like to think if I ever really needed someone’s help in a desperate kind of way like this song implies, that someone could look past what they know about me and still think I’m worth saving.
A pastor at a church I attended made a powerful statement to the congregation. He said ” It’s great y’all are here developing your faith. But if someone walks through that door who is lost, we’re dropping everything and helping them.”
How does that hit you? As Americans we like to think everything is about us. But sometimes it’s about them. The person or group out there that God is calling you to serve.
A common theme you’ve probably seen running through my blogs is that I find one of the most freeing things about being a Christian is that it’s not MY JOB to judge others. And I can’t love others if I’m keeping a list of their wrongs.
The gift I received when my shame was washed white as snow is a gift everyone deserves. Don’t let them drown!
The song by Imagine Dragons is just so raw and honest! Problem is, most of us don’t really want people to know our dark side. We might not even be willing to admit we have one. Or, we act like it’s all in the past or that generally speaking, deep down, we’re all just “good people at heart”. “Demons inside? They aren’t talking about ME”!
While living in Germany on a U.S. Air Base, I was lucky to travel to some amazing places. One such place was Trier, Germany where I visited The Dom St. Peter (Trier Cathedral) which is reportedly the oldest church in Germany. Much to my surprise, there was a statuary of the grim reaper right there in the church; it’s pictured in the photo you see at the top of this article. The entire photo below shows a “personification of death” and makes sense when you see it in its entirety, but at the time I struggled with such a harsh symbol of death in a place of worship.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not equating demons with the grim reaper in this picture, but when I think about demons it does have that same sense of darkness and foreboding; after all, demons are characteristically known for being blamed (or responsible, depending on your viewpoint) for dragging someone down into the depths of sin, which leads to death.
Still, it’s so hard to talk about our demons, our bad choices and ultimately their consequences.
As a parent, I want to set a good example for my children. So saying “Yeah, when I was younger I struggled with being honest with my parents, etc…” was originally VERY HARD for me. I never heard those kinds of examples when I was growing up, but I’m not placing blame. At first I was sure my kid would think “So, Mom lied when she was young, it’s ok for me to do it too. Why is Mom being a hypocrite and telling me to make wiser choices than she did”???
It definitely gets really murky and gray when we step into this water, doesn’t it? I can see why many would just want to avoid it all together. In my past, I wanted to present the “best image of myself” to others, so why talk about all that shameful stuff?!?
The reality is that acknowledging a struggle that others are likely to experience helps them see you as real and relatable, someone they can trust to talk to when they encounter trouble. If they see you as perfect, it may be too shameful to mention to you, or they may get into a really bad situation and think “No way Mom would understand”.
Acknowledging ones weaknesses or mistakes is a risk, yes. Outside of parenting, I’ve trusted people with telling some of my past and was judged or even rejected. Looking back, it made me feel like I was naive or that I needed to self protect.
The truth is that not everyone can handle it.
I can’t make others see me the way I wish they would and although it was painful, I’m thankful that it happened because I’m going through a process of being ok with who I am. Not the “no regrets” kind of ok; I do deeply regret choices I’ve made, but those actions don’t define who I am. I choose to focus on who I am to God, and that’s where I find peace.
Still, I’m not doing myself any favors if I don’t own the fact that I’m just as capable as the next person at any given moment of making a choice that could end up with me on the 5 o’clock news.
As the song goes:
🎶Don’t want to let you down But I am hell bound Though this is all for you Don’t want to hide the truth. 🎶
The minute we say “Oh, I’d never let myself be tempted to do that! I’ve got control of myself”! is the moment we become weak. Romans 7:15, pictured above, states the truth about us all that we want to deny.
But here’s the best part! God CAN HANDLE YOUR DEMONS! He can handle your past mistakes, no matter what they may be, no matter who has shamed you or how bad you feel about it.
I bet there are some of you out there who have been made to feel like that’s not true. I recently met a girl who said a Priest told her she was going to hell because she had tattoos. Wait, what?!Obviously that’s not true (or else I’m going too, I have several), but it seems there’s a fair amount of biblical misrepresentation out there even from sources one would think were credible.
That’s part of why I have this blog. If you’ve been made to believe that you’re too dirty, too unlovable, you have to know that was NOT coming from God. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us that the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Such imagery! Hence my choice of the song title Demons.
Sure, we all have the tendency to do what we know is wrong BUT true believers of The Gospel won’t tell you that you will never measure up. They will say “I’ve been there”, and perhaps caution you to be on guard, and remind you of what it says in Hebrews 4:16, that we can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
But if that’s not what you’re hearing, I hope you can hear this; the God I know is the “come sit at my feet and give me your problems” kind of God. Me personally, I have to pray constantly, and give some of my sinful thoughts and tendencies to God on the regular.
I never “got” that God desires to have a relationship with his followers. I think that’s because God wasn’t presented to me as a gracious God. As Christians, I think we can do a better job of emulating the love of Jesus Christ to others, especially to non believers who have likely heard all the Hellfire and Brimstone side of it but possibly don’t know that choosing to walk with Faith means we can be forgiven. To do this we need to reach people where they are, possibly wrestling with their demons.
🎶I can’t escape this now, unless you show me how🎶
Those lyrics speak to me. Dan Reynolds sounds desperate as he SCREAMS those words, emulating the thoughts of so many. We’ve got a choice every day to reach out to those who so desperately need us or watch and judge, but do nothing.
Hootie & The Blowfish just reminds me of a simpler time. 1994. A time when I sometimes wish I could go back and revel in all that simplicity. Then again, I was 18, and I’m kinda nostalgic. So the song was a natural selection for this blog title.
Let’s talk about the term “ugly crying”. You know, I really kinda hate this word! Saying that we were reduced to “ugly crying” implies that when we experience the most overwhelming of emotions i.e. sadness, that we can no longer be beautiful. I mean how many movies have you watched where a woman sobs and doesn’t ruin her eye makeup? I call BS, there isn’t even one of my most reliable mascaras that can survive a heartfelt cry!
Thats an example of how we don’t see crying authentically represented in media, so when we do see someone ‘legit’ crying it’s labeled “ugly crying”, Something referred to in the same vein as something you’d rather not do in public (like use the restroom when you’re a guest at someone’s house).
I actually read an article thanking an actress (Jennifer Lawrence) for having the courage to ugly cry in a movie (specifically The Hunger Games – Mockingjay – Part 2). We consider it being brave to do something that is just natural, but has been shamed so much people are afraid to do it.
People have to stuff their emotions for fear of “ugly crying”. Young girls are made fun of for ugly crying. Boys who cry in public have it even worse I think, though. Any type of crying a boy does is generally countered with dismissal of their emotions and a stern, “be a man.”
The attitude that boys shouldn’t cry or that it implies they are less than a man or feminine is insulting to both genders.
Further, not validating the emotions of a boy who is sad results in a man who can’t regulate his emotions and may be the reason we see so many angry men.
Every child, male or female, relies on their parents to teach them how to regulate their emotions until they can do it themselves. This is done by acknowledging what we see the child is feeling. For example, “I see that you’re feeling sad right now” and letting them know it’s ok to be sad or cry, and that they can take the necessary time to let that emotion ” just be” without someone handing them a tissue or telling them to “stop it”. It works the same for adults.
And just let her cry, if the tears fall down like rain, Let her sing if it eases all her pain 🎶
Kinda reminds me of this verse:
When crying makes us uncomfortable, we still don’t have the right to squash another person’s emotions. And research shows that being allowed to feel and process emotions without shame results in the development of a healthy human being.
Carrie Underwood even takes it a step further in her new song “Cry Pretty”. She talks about how you can fake a lot of things but you can’t cry pretty. So, the word “can’t” means physically unable to do something. Maybe I’m taking it too literally, but tears aren’t ugly when you see them on a baby, so at what point did we decide tears make this transformation to being ugly?
Personally I see the expression of emotion as a beautiful thing. But then again, I’m the person who can see the beauty in scars like my c-section scar that means I’m a mother, or stretch marks that mean I nourished 3 babies.
Well how about this? It’s ridiculous that we judge how someone looks after crying as ugly. It’s just how we look after crying. I was just thinking about the word ugly and how it’s such a dumb word. When is the word ugly even necessary in conversation except to be hurtful or judgemental?
My inner geek had to know, what is the origin of the word ugly? Because if you search for the word “ugly” in the KJV of the Bible, you won’t find it. The root of the word ugly first began as a word more often used to describe something that’s appearance brought fear or dread, something more along the lines of being morally offensive. An abominable sight. It’s sad that we now have so many people attaching this word to themselves or using it to make others feel less than.
But in our culture, we introduce children to the word “ugly” at a young age. Ever read the classic Hans Christian Anderson nursery rhyme from 1844 “The Ugly Duckling“? You have to laugh really, isn’t it funny how such a deep message can be turned into a story for children? Then again “Ring around the Rosie” was a thing when I was a child, and that’s supposedly about the Bubonic Plague!
You might be reading this and thinking “Geez just put on your big girl panties and deal with it! It’s just a word”! But is it? Vulnerability is about being brave, and isn’t that what you are suggesting?
I listen to the song and I like to think Darius Rucker knew about Emotional Intelligence before it was a thing. Chances are, you know somebody like he mentions in the song. Wouldn’t today be a great day to reach out to them and see how they are doing? ❤️
I was that girl. I was always busy, busy busy, no time to stop and question, no time to be still. And honestly, I didn’t want to. Life is funny like that though; you’re just cruising along thinking “I got this!” or maybe even going at a breakneck speed, whispering “If I just drive fast enough through this spot, I’ll get through it and onto the next adventure.” I specifically remember telling myself on many occasions that “I can do it, I’ll be ok.”But what if, like me, you never pause for reflection? What if you never take the time to relax and examine yourself? What if like me you’re counting on yourself to make things happen and as long as everything goes as planned…….
True to form, God knew I’d never do that willingly. 2013 was a year of tumultuous events. It’s as if God was dialing up the volume to see if I was paying attention. May 20th is my birthday. Oddly enough several weeks before my birthday I told my best friend that I felt like something bad was going to happen on my birthday. She shrugged it off but I remember feeling uneasy. I’ve always had a strange gift of intuition that I usually second guess but at times has been strangely accurate.
It was Spring in Oklahoma and the last couple of years had opened my eyes to some weather situations I’d never experienced in my life. Originally being from the East Coast where hurricanes are more of a thing, the unpredictability of the severe weather here was terrifying to me. The year before, I’d had my windshield and much of my car destroyed by baseball sized hail, but this year, there had been a pretty active tornado season.
Laying in my bathtub in my apartment with a twin mattress over me, I experienced a new kind of fear for the first time in my life, as a tornado touched down less than a block away. It pulled a roof off a house and then billowed East/North East to eventually hit other towns and cause more disruption and greater damage.
I woke up the next morning (my birthday) and the air was heavy with a sense of foreboding. I literally walked outside and drove to work with the lyrics of Jewels song like an anthem “I roll my window down feeling like I’m gonna drown in this strange town.” I’d been transplanted in Oklahoma by the military, and even after 4 years it didn’t feel like home. In this strange season of crazy weather, a girl who needed to feel control in her life was feeling very, very uncomfortable.
That was the day that May 20th was no longer just another day in May that happened to be my birthday. That day my coworkers and I sat in utter disbelief as we watched horrified at the surreal events play out live on the tv screen in our break room.
A huge tornado began to form near Moore Oklahoma just before 2 that afternoon.
Statistics from that day recall that this wasn’t just ANY tornado, it was an EF5, the biggest and baddest of all types of tornadoes, with wind speeds of 210 mph. It had a path of 14 miles that chugged along on the ground for 40 painstaking minutes with a wedge shape over ONE MILE WIDE . It was leveling everything in its path. This was the first time I had EVER heard a meteorologist say “If you aren’t below ground you aren’t safe.”
When all was said and done, 24 people had died and over 200 were injured. The area lay in ruin, looking like a bunch of rubble, where a housing community once existed. Most houses completely destroyed down to the slab; an estimated 2 billion dollars worth of damage.
When bad things happen, we have a tendency to wonder why or even think God has something to do with it, don’t we? We sometimes also don’t think about the enemy and his power to wage war upon the earth. It makes me think about this verse.
Looking back now at the May 20 tornado, I could question what was behind that tornado on my birthday, but at the time I really didn’t. It was only in retrospect that I began to ponder the connection.
Just a few weeks before my birthday, something had made me pick up the phone and call to make an appointment with a therapist at my church. The appointment happened to be for May 21st. In the aftermath of the tornado, I got a phone call asking if I still wanted to come in tomorrow for my appointment since a lot had happened on that day and the counselors were planning to do relief efforts. I still remember reciting the words “If I cancel this appointment I don’t know if I’ll have the courage to do it again” and hearing the receptionist tell me “then we will absolutely be here for you tomorrow.”
The next day I sat in the Counselor’s office, the same place I would sit every Wednesday afternoon for one hour, week after week.
Ironically, Mother Natural wasn’t done wreaking havoc. May 31st would prove to be another day of catastrophic weather. My best friend studied meteorology in college. A native Oklahoman, unlike me the prospect of seeing a tornado put a gleam of fascination and excitement in her eyes. The weather channel began warning people early in the day to get to a safe place, preferably below ground before 4 pm. Since I lived in an apartment, my bestie told me to come stay with her because she had a storm shelter.
I drove down the interstate scared because so many people were literally in their cars trying to drive away from the projected path of the tornado, that I feared that I’d be stuck in traffic when it hit. By the time I got there the news was already pinpointing a likely area. It wasn’t a matter of “if” today, it was just a matter of “when”.
When the news reported a tornado had split with 4 different vortices (something I didn’t even know was possible) I could see the concern spread across my bestie’s normally calm face. We went outside and looked up at the clouds; I’d never seen the sky look like that ANYWHERE I’d ever lived in the world. I remember her saying, “We’re getting in the shelter now!”
There’s nothing like the feeling of going underground, not knowing if you’re going to come up to a completely leveled home, or if rubble would prevent us from coming up. Neighbors crowded in with us and in their eyes you could see how terrified the children were. They were asking the questions us adults had in our heads also, but were perhaps in denial of. We hoped and prayed and sweated A LOT as we listed to the wind and the rain roar above us. Amazingly, we emerged and still had electricity, while the neighborhood around us was a grid of darkness. Another close call, the tornado had come within a half mile of our location and then turned.
After that day I remember thinking “Ok God, I am listening!” What did I hear him whisper after that?
Simply, “Be Still”.
Looking back now I’m so glad I continued to go see my therapist, because when October rolled around I would’ve been in a very bad place.
One seemingly normal work day, we all were called into a meeting where we were handed our “pink slips”; our office location was being closed due to downsizing. My job was being terminated. As a single mom who thought she was holding it all together, that’s when I lost it.
The first person I called? My therapist, who managed to fit me in that very day. As I sat there with a tear streaked face she asked me what I planned to do. When I prayed about it later God whispered again,
Now as humans, especially a human soon to be without an income, our first tendency is definitely not to be still!
Are you familiar with the verse?
God knew I’d never be still on my own. So he gave me the opportunity to be still.
Something began to happen in those weekly visits in the office of a therapist who was only maybe the second person I’ve ever met who would listen to me and really hear me. Except for my best friend, whom I tended to not want to burden with my life that I saw as a “hot mess”. And it wasn’t just because my therapist was being paid to do so. I could tell she genuinely cared about me. No matter what I said, her face never looked at me in judgement, her voice remained at a reassuring tone and I just felt safe.
It was there in that environment I formed an alliance; at the end of every session she prayed with me. I’d never had a complete stranger pray with me like that. Sure I’d grown up saying Grace around the table but there wasn’t a connection with someone who wanted me to know the source of unconditional love, Jesus Christ.
The best thing about it was it wasn’t just a great relationship with my therapist that developed. It was the understanding that God didn’t just want me to believe in Him, He wanted me to seek Him. For the first time in my life I “got it”. There’s more to religion than just following a bunch of rules so maybe I can get into Heaven. Knowing Christ is believing that He cares for me and wants a relationship with me too. It’s a little mind boggling to think about, but the more I allowed myself to “Be Still” and seek God, the more things started to make sense. The journey was just beginning but it’s so ironic looking back now that it had to start with a complete halt!
Since it’s been a little over a year since I first launched my blog tRUTHfulonline.com (Copyright 2017) I thought it might be fun to highlight some of my “top hits”. You may have noticed many of the titles of my blog posts are titles to songs. I don’t know if you can relate, but I often have what I like to call “the soundtrack of my life” on loop in my head. Plus I LOVE music! If I’m sad I listen to music, if I’m pumped I listen to music. I sing to my daughter daily at bedtime and during daily routines. I definitely sing in the car. I mean who can resist a jam session with three adorable back up singers? Of course now that my soon to be 12 year old likes to play DJ, I don’t always know the words!
The song by Queen seems to embody a popular idea in our culture; regardless of how you may feel behind the scenes, even if you are barely holding it together, plaster on that smile and tell people you’re “Good” when they ask. And why is that?
Two celebrities took their own lives this summer, and it’s been said most people didn’t know they were struggling. But hang on, before you assume you know what this article is about, I challenge you to read on.
Could it be that depression is often met with comments like “Quit playing the victim. Other people have it worse than you do….” or “what do you have to be so sad about?” There’s a lot of pressure in our society to “be brave” in difficult situations. I’ve noticed this especially with parents and children. But when we say “be brave” we’re also saying “don’t be scared” or “I can’t handle your sadness. Don’t show that to me”!
How much pressure are we putting on the people we love to be brave and to get over stuff and get “on with the show”?
Other diseases – like cancer for example- we hear people say stuff like “She kicked cancer’s butt, she’s a survivor”. We have a tendency to champion people who overcome things. (Side note: Definitely know that I am not discounting anyone who has overcome cancer.) But then there is Depression, and with suicide, that doesn’t have the same kind of ending.
When I think about it, why is something as simple as sadness so uncomfortable for people? Quite often when you see someone crying, you’ll see another try to do something to make it stop, like offer them a tissue or, less sympathetically, just ask them what their problem is or tell them to stop crying. Why is it so shameful in our society to be sad?
I would argue that some of the bravest people are those who battle a disease (because yes, Depression IS a disease) and attempt to overcome it.
Validating emotion, whether it makes us feel uncomfortable or not, is what we are called to do. Most of the time when people think of those we need to help as Christians, the needy and marginalized come to mind. Well, doesn’t our society marginalized people with depression?
The stigma that is mental health… “Oh they’re crazy”. “They are mental”. “What a hot mess”. “She’s out of control”. “Cray Cray”! Even some headlines we always see floating around after someone dies by suicide, ones like “Killing Yourself is Selfish” and if that’s not judgemental enough for you, how about, “Suicide doesn’t stop your pain, it just transfers it to another person”. If you have ever read those headlines and thought, “Yeah that’s right”! I’d love it if you’d reply in the comments section and give me some insight. Far from selfish, this is a suffering human being. Suicide is not a sin someone commits, it’s an act of desperation by someone who is hurting and sees no hope.
By now you’ve probably noticed a theme regarding authenticity going on here with my blog. If you know me personally, it’s probably something you’re aware I’m working on. I think of the number of exhausting years I put on my “show”. Having suffered with persistent depression on and off for decades, I reached a point in my life where I looked in the mirror and Just.Felt.Tired. Tired of Living.
Self awareness and getting the help I needed has resulted In me realizing this is the way I’m wired, probably the way my brain was formed in chaos, and the way my mind learned to cope with things. Depression isn’t a disease that a person can wish away. There are people that have a lifelong battle with it. Be kind. If you can’t understand depression, take some time to educate yourself about it. What you may view as someone “playing the victim” just might be the only way they know how to cry for help.
It’s very likely there’s someone you know who always says they are “Good” when you ask who really isn’t. It’s possible that person has grown tired of putting on a show, and it’s possible that YOU could be the one person who can help them to feel like they aren’t alone.
A verse that has personally helped me when I felt overwhelmed was this:
I like the picture with this verse because it represents to me the feeling of hope I’ve often needed, similar to the old “Footprints in the sand” poem. If you’ve never heard it, check it out here:
When I think back to some of my saddest moments, I realized when I didn’t know God, I felt utterly alone, and wondered, just like the Queen song goes,
On and on, does anyone know what we are living for?
It took a lot of insight, but looking back now I can see where God carried me through some difficult times when I didn’t feel like I had the strength to go on.
A word of caution though. Depression is a serious thing. A person shouldn’t be made to feel like they are weak and that they just need to become a more devoted believer to relieve their depression. If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, ASK. And even if they aren’t, but are struggling, walk alongside them and help them get the care they need.
If you are reading this and feel hopeless and need help, I pray you will call this number for the National Suicide Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255
or tell someone that can help you. Also you can check out this link for additional resources:
A neuroscientist once told me as people age their sense of sight, hearing, and taste can diminish but the one sense that doesn’t diminish is PAIN. Think about that for a minute.
When you can’t see, and you can’t hear, you feel isolation. All the wonderful things that make life grand; the splendor of a sunset, the melodic sound of crashing waves, delicious food, fresh air, the chatter of loved ones become subdued. Meanwhile pain still screams out loud and clear.
When we’re younger we often think we will always have these amazing gifts and we tend to take them for granted, don’t we?
But imagine how it must feel to come to a place where your body doesn’t work like it used to, you can’t do the things you once enjoyed and your body is breaking down and causing you undeniable physical pain, the kind that can’t be remedied by popping a couple Tylenol and then it just goes away. The mental anguish of realizing you are aging and regret and frustration add to the pain. You just feel…Broken.
Aging people in our society aren’t always valued like they are in other cultures. I’ve rarely taken a trip to a nursing home where I haven’t met at least one precious resident who has told me about how their family never visits them anymore and begs me not to leave.
When I’m out in public with my baby daughter and encounter an elder, the interaction between the two is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen, they both gaze at each other with so much fondness. It makes me wonder how that all changes as we become adults.
Erik Erickson said it this way, “Lacking a culturally viable ideal of old age, our civilization does not really harbor a concept of the whole of life”. I think the renown psychologist was on to something. Our culture FEARS aging and death. We have made retaining one’s youth an idol and therefore we must live in denial that we will ever get old….until we do.
In many Native American tribal communities, wisdom and life experience is handed down by elders and deeply respected. Chinese children care for their elderly parents. Greek cultures celebrate aging, In Korea, respecting their mothers and fathers is a fundamental value they take very seriously. In India, elders are considered the head of the household. So why is it our culture thinks caring for aged parents is inconvenient and cramps their style?
So I’m watching this video they made for the song Broken by Seether. I usually comment more on lyrics than imagery but you can’t help but notice what’s being said here visually. Although the people in this video aren’t old, they look as if they’ve just been left in a wasteland to wonder around broken and confused. The lyrics, ‘Cause I’m broken when I’m lonesome. And I don’t feel right when you’ve gone away’ so powerful they give me chills. I can see it two ways. A elderly person left in a nursing home to die, with no visitors, or a young person crying out because they are lost; God is not in their life.
I’m glad my Mom took me to sing and play the piano at Assisted Living locations when I was a child. It inspired me to visit veterans at nursing homes when I served in the Air Force and it reminds me of how the Bible reminds us to respect the wisdom of our elders.
The truth is, I could be doing SO much more. I challenge you to search out someone you may know who is getting older and take them to lunch or go visit them. If you don’t know anyone who is elderly, isn’t it time to make a new friend?