In the trenches of grief

finding christ in grief Trudging through grief is like trudging through mud. Mud as waves: powerful and thick, vast and unknown, mysterious and dangerous, dominant.

[My eyes are red with weeping; darkness covers my eyes. -JOB 16:16]

[Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. -KING DAVID Psalm 30:5]

As the waves of sorrow billow onto the shore of where you once stood, you wonder when and how and why you are now in the middle of the gushing water that threatens to crush your fragile and frail body.

trudging through grief

[I too have been assigned months of futility, long and weary nights of misery. When I go to bed, I think, 'When will it be morning?' But the night drags on and I toss til dawn. -JOB 7:3-4]

You catch glimpses of rocks, boulders, in the distance and wonder how they remain so faithfully strong up against the wall of the earth. They bolster the dirt that turns into mountains and you wonder how they do that? How do stones enlarge themselves to be strong and mighty, so much so that they hold up the earth as hills to hike and we walk above and below and beside them? How do those stones and those rocks abide on the shore and never leave land, continuing to exist safely ashore? Sure, high tide kicks in and the swelling waves sink their splashes onto the rock's surface; but never are the rocks, boulders, hurled into the depths of those surging masses of water in danger. The rocks do not toss around among the towering surges of ocean, they are not fickle and weak, bending beneath the strength of...water. They dwell in the sand upon the shore at the very base of the mountain. If only you could stand on that rock.

[The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. -KIND DAVID Psalm 18:2]

Grief is dreadful and distressing, often dislocating you into the dwelling of depression. Pressed deep within yourself, that is how depression feels. Pressed-deep within yourself. Trapped, entangled, imprisoned by self and sorrow and sadness and suffering.

[I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. I must complain in my bitterness. -JOB 7:11]

Some sit with you in silence, not forcing words or furthering hurt. Some hug you as you sob and pray with you when you have no words. And it is no wonder God gave us the church - to find a few close friends who offer grace instead of shame.

Some say [out of love] they understand but they don't. How could they? They are not you; they do not feel your feels or know your heart or know your time with Him. They may understand to an extent but this was not given to them to process, this was given to you and only He fully understands. They assume incorrectly and offer formulas that mean nothing but agony and guilt to you. Formulas that sound righteous and right, holy and honorable, devoted and devout. But formulas are just that: formulas. And He does not work with formulas. There is no formulating your way out of the trenches of grief and despair and into His place of peace and refuge. There is no one formula to march out from the waves with your very own strength to stand upon the Rock. I know this so well, because often I am placed in the category of "they," in my self-righteous state of thinking I know. And for that I am terribly and awfully sorry. Gravely, I apologize for thinking that I know where you are, because surely I do not. I am not Him. I am both culprit and critic. I am guilty as charged.

formula for grief

[People who are at ease mock those in trouble. They give a push to people who are stumbling...Please be quiet! That is the smartest thing you could do. -JOB 12:5, 13:5]

I have something for you, dear Reader, who may reads these words and may [or may not] nod with each syllable. I have something for you that was given to me today, as I was stuck in the depths of despair, unsure that I could be pulled out. As I drove from point A to point B in my shiny vehicle-car, I sobbed into the wheel that steers and I had no will and no discipline to speak Truth to combat the dark cloud that looms all the days and all the nights, stringing together in darkness. But I have a friend that is dear, dear to me and dear to you, now, because I will share the Truth words she sent to me while I was out in the waves being tossed around much like a rag doll. Brace yourself now, for tears will ensue if you are needing a stony hard and angry heart to be broken and crumbled at the cross in humility. Ready? Commence reading and read aloud:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Your plans are to bring me good and not to harm me.

You will never leave or forsake me.

You have loved me with an everlasting love.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God.

I am made in your image.

In you, I am new.

You are faithful.

As I obey you, you will give me the desires of my heart.

Even the birds are beautifully clothed and fed, you care for me.

You clothe me in strength and dignity.

You uphold  the weak and comfort the broken hearted.

Sorrow is for a short while but your joy will come in the morning. Your joy is my strength.

combatting depression

My dear Readers, many whom I know and many I do not, I pray hopeful prayers that your eyes can be wide open for the healing balm of beauty of this earth, ears open to the morning sounds of bird's praises, and your senses open to the gifts of tastes and smells that delight you. It is in the small and minute that we can find grace to get through the long and low days. I am beginning to believe that it is in the trenches of grief that we can find Him more than we ever have, among the pain and the aches and the agony and they heart-breaks. In the trenches of grief, He is there, still and quiet, but there. May your heart be touched with the duplicity of love reaching out to you through your sorrow. I pray these things would be written on your heart as He relentlessly pursues you with His overwhelmingly beautiful love.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD The truth is, right now, I am exhausted, I am one giant emotion, and I have nothing to attribute the reasons to. My hormones are a confusing mess, it is not "that time of month," and I am not pregnant. My thyroid is fine. Simply, life feels like chaos; and that is because it is.

Who ever said life on this earth would be easy?

Certainly not Jesus. And He is who I look to for guidance.

The truth is, right now, I feel as though I am suffocating and gasping for air. I feel weary and tired, always ready to fall asleep, but when the time comes to lay my head on the pillow all of the worries and cares and burdens of those I love and spend time with come flooding into my brain all at once. As well as the long list of to do's, the ways we should change our life, the cool ideas to implement for our church, and many humans who I wish I could meet with. It is as though my mind's cue to run at full speed is the comfort of a cozy pillow.

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The truth is, right now, the weather is my favorite but is also my body's nemesis. I love the colors of every leaf, the temperature invites a scarf, and I do love walking with a warm something in my hand. But something happens during these darker months - you can look it up, its science - where people struggle a little more than they would throughout the year. Let's talk about it, not hide it. Let's shine light on it, so that it doesn't grow scarier in the dark. "Mushrooms only grow in the dark." SAD, seasonal affective disorder, is a real thing and doesn't have to be this big and dark hidden secret. Especially among Christians.

Though I am fickle and my emotions and hormones and feelings are often unpredictable, Jesus is not. Jesus, my God and my Lord, is stable, steadfast, reliable, and so extremely loving. This is the key to my finding peace among the angst, joy amidst the despair: that He loves me, that my weakness is not what defines me, and that I get to experience His grace on a deeper level when I fall into these pits. I am made in the image of God, as is every human being who has ever walked the planet Earth. Or the moon. He has called my by name, He has said I am beloved, and He is my defining value. He is my Redeemer. He brings joy in the darkest nights and hope in the dreariest days. My friends, He is real. This is not some made up thing for the weak- though I am so very weak. But in my weakness, He is made strong, and He works in me.

We get to experience His grace deeper when we are falling apart & broken messes, because even when we are those things, He loves us perfectly.

Jesus did not tell us to hide our despair or wear a facade of okay-ness. In fact, He invites us into this place of freedom called Honesty. An honesty that faces the facts and then moves forward, pursuing His heart in every situation.

The Truth is, I have a lot to celebrate, a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to praise Jesus for. I have food multiple times a day, I have a warm shelter, I have clothes to choose from and create outfits with. These are some of the most obvious things. I have a team of people that I get to call family and coworkers, team members and pastors, and we are honest about this real struggle and have opened it up for discussion: that is celebratory. This church I am a part of is something else, I must say. More reasons for thanksgiving: I have three of the most blessed jobs: shepherding people I love and building them up and pointing towards Jesus, Doula-ing and supporting families during child birth, Photography and capturing beautiful humans with a camera. But here I am, still battling down-in-the-dumpness. And together, me and you and our church communities, we can point one another to our King, to our Healer, to our true source of actual Joy.

This is a vulnerable and risky thing, sharing my heart on the internet. But to me, it is worth it, if it means one more person has a bigger glimpse of what it means to follow Jesus. If one more person has a deeper glimpse at His love and the life He craves to offer, it is worth the risk; because friends, we need this Life. You need this Life. We need His love to live fully, and not just survive. He is our answer and I hope you'll join me in discovering His heart for us, individually & collectively.

psalm 43

Read here some tips for battling the weather blues.

"Three times He said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."

2 Corinthians 12:9

"His grace is enough for you: you are okay, just as you are. Tears, shortcomings, strengths, all. His power is demonstrated through times of weaknesses, so they are okay. And you are okay. It is a relief to remember that and that it is okay to not be perfect. In fact, the times of depending upon grace when we are imperfect are the more beautiful powerful times. Not so much the seemingly 'perfect' times." A piece of encouragement from my friend to me and now to you.

A note to those in ministry:

Acknowledging that sometimes the circumstances in life are hard to deal with.   The demands of ministry are hard, the constant rejection is hard to not take personal, and this is a season where our bodies and minds have a hard time adjusting and handling those pressures.

A key to overcoming depression isn't just being reminded of how you should feel, because then you just feel worse for not feeling how you know you should feel.  It is reminding ourselves and each other of Jesus and how loved we are, acknowledging and validating each other's feelings and helping to get each other active in using our gifts in selflessness.

Learning that being broken is the norm and leaning into Him is freeing;

Natalie

The Weather Blues: they're a real thing.

the weather blues are real. SAD I love fall. I always look forward to fall. I always want fall to stay.

But what I forget, every year, is the blues that tend to follow fall's arrival. I forget that it is quite normal and that our bodies are affected by the weather change. I tend to get exhausted easier, pack too much into my day, fall into a pit of feeling discouraged and depressed.

I fall into this swirling downward spiral of exhaustion, discouragement, loneliness - even though I am constantly meeting with people. It is an odd thing. Craziness threatens to overtake my mind and I wonder why I am a despaired soul.

The article linked below was posted in our church facebook group, because we care about each other and crave to remind one another that it is okay to be human on this earth: Dark Days here for folks with seasonal depression disorder.

Posted with the article were 5 additional steps to take that I have also taken and experienced true freedom as a result:

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Depression is a real thing. If you're struggling this time of year, this article has some great ideas. I would add a few...

1. Talk to someone about it. It is not scandalous that Christians struggle with depression. It is scandalous that we don't talk about it! Depression is not just a spiritual issue although it expresses itself as a troubled spirit.

2. Engage with your church family. Seek community and reminders of how valuable we are. Remember, others may be feeling the blues so don't take things personal if it takes a bit more effort than normal.

3. Serve someone else. I am convinced from my experience that if we can serve someone else, it lifts our spirits and gives us the right perspective that we are at our best when we are acting selflessly towards one another.

4. Pray and ask for prayer. This should be #1. Ask your pastor, friend, parents... for prayer. Prayer moves our hearts to be more in line with God and God did not create you to be depressed. So when you spend time in prayer with Him, your heart aligns with His and you will feel His presence.

5. Talk to someone... seek community and listen to advice. Remember, your perception of what is going on is wrong... you are the affected one. So listen to others and seek help.

That is what the strongest people in the world do. They ask for help.

seasonal affective disorder

In addition to all of these things, I encourage you to really dive into Jesus's heart for you. I have experienced this as the best thing for me. When I spend amounts of time reading His love letter and praying through the words so carefully etched into our Bibles, I find so much peace. I find that, "Hey I am okay, I am going to make it." When I am soaked in His presence, I am less offended and have a clearer head, even when discouraged and feeling the blues.

Recently, as in the last 4 days every day at least one time a day and up to 3 times, I have found myself turning to Psalms 17 and 18. There I pray through the words of David, his cries to his Father God. In his honesty, David cries out letting the Lord know that he is despaired, exhausted, beat down and attacked on all sides. He praises God because He is so worthy of our praise. He claims God as his savior, redeemer, refuge, protection. Every time I have sat down and claimed God as those things, I am overwhelmed with peace. I am reminded that I am okay and He has placed an identity of Belovedness over me.

Im here to remind you that if you experience SAD, you're not crazy. You're not a bad person. You're still youu!