Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Tag: healing

An Expanded Place

This past not quite a year and a half has been tough to get through. It’s been a long season of walking through some hard things, facing painful things from my past, having the blinders removed around certain family narratives and unhealthy dynamics, and letting myself experience the painful emotions that I’ve denied and stuffed down and ignored throughout most of my life.

Throughout this journey I’ve come to realize that I have C-PTSD, and how that has impacted my physical health, as well as my emotional and spiritual health. Together with my husband, I’ve walked through anger, intense hurt, grief, feelings of perplexity and confusion, anxiety, and at least one bout of severe depression. But through it all, I’ve also experienced healing and growth. I’ve learned how to silence the mean voices in my head, ignore the lies and replace them with truth, reject the labels that have been placed on me throughout my life and shed the identities and expectations others have tried to force on me.

Last fall, my husband and I were given an opportunity to move to the Ozarks of Arkansas, a place we’d talked about off an on over the years in a “wouldn’t it be nice to live there some day” kind of way. It seemed like it was being orchestrated by God, and it still appears that way. We’re renting a home on a large acreage in the middle of the woods on top of a small mountain near a lake, miles and miles from civilization. Our house has woods on one side and large expanses of fields and grass on the other three, with a vast view of the sky where we often see eagles circling overhead. Whenever I step outside, I take a deep, cleansing breath and think of all the times King David praised God in the Psalms saying, “You’ve brought me to an expanded place.”

I believe God brought us here to give us the room we needed in order to heal, to rest, to grow into who He meant for us both to be, free from the forces and influences that have always hindered us and held us back and kept us (or at least me – I don’t speak for my husband) in an unhealthy place of striving to be pleasing and acceptable to people instead of to Him.

As I write this, I’m in a much better place. Lately I’ve been feeling calm and settled in a way I can’t remember ever feeling before. I’m crying far less often and laughing and smiling much more easily. I’m having an easier time knowing my own mind and making decisions and speaking up about what I prefer instead of staying quiet and going along to get along. I’ve reached clarity about some decisions I’ve been going back and forth on for years, unsure of what I actually wanted and afraid I wasn’t allowed to want it, finally confronting that fear and naming my desire. And with that clarity has come a deep sense of peace, even as I acknowledge that my decision might not have the outcomes I hope for and could very possibly lead to a lot of pain.

But I feel assured that, even if that turns out to be the case, God will be with us, walking us through it and holding us together, not letting us break but making us both stronger and using it all for our good.

Part of this newfound sense of peace and wholeness – really, all of it, probably – is due to coming to a single, important decision: do I believe in God’s goodness or not? I realized that I haven’t always, but decided that, ultimately, I do. And that if He is truly good, with no darkness in Him at all, then He is completely trustworthy, even when whatever I’m going through is the opposite of good. That He is good, and powerful, and faithful, and no matter what happens I can absolutely trust him to turn it around and purpose it for good. Even when it hurts like hell. Even when my heart is breaking.

The other thing is that I’ve learned –am learning, really, but getting better at it – that I don’t have to hustle and strive to achieve the life that I want for myself and my family. I’m always having to learn this lesson, and I’ve said no to hustle before, but it’s always so easy to get swept up in my goals and trying to accomplish my own plans and lose sight of what I really want, which is a life that’s free of hustling and striving in which I can simply work steadily at my own pace doing work that fulfills me and uses my giftings to accomplish His purpose.

I mean, just last month I was complaining about feeling overwhelmed because I forgot that I’m in a marathon and was running like I’m in a race.

But I was gently reminded that it’s okay to slow down. I don’t need to hustle. The Lord is my provider, and I have everything I need. He’s not going to let me miss out on any good thing He has for me.

And I’m also discovering that the more time and effort I put into seeking Him, the more I’m finding myself and the life He has for me.

I don’t know how long we’re going to be calling this place home. I don’t know what our future holds. And for the first time ever, I’m okay with that uncertainty, because I know and trust the One who holds our future. I’m living out this simple, quiet life one day at a time, seeking my assignment for each day, offering my work to Him, releasing my hopes and plans and leaving the outcomes up to Him as He orders both our steps. I’m more fully present in the here and now than I’ve ever been before, enjoying this season of life while anticipating with joy and hope where He’s going to lead us and for once being at total peace with having no clue where that will be.

But wherever He leads us, I know it will be beautiful.

“You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment.” – Psalm 16:11, VOICE

How a Rock Helped My Depression

I have a history of depression.

There, I said it.

Admitting this hasn’t always been easy for me. In fact, for a long time I was in flat-out denial. I wasn’t depressed, I was just tired, or stressed, or just dealing with a lot. Or it was hormones, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or all of the above. But I was never the D-word. How could I be? I had Jesus. You can’t have Jesus and still be depressed.

Except that you actually can. And — hear me now — it doesn’t make you a bad Christian.

I didn’t finally acknowledge my depression until after my two miscarriages and the unexpected loss of both of my in-laws happened in fairly rapid succession. It wasn’t until then that I finally acknowledged I was dealing with something more than just grief and exhaustion. I was ready to call the sense of joyless numbness and hopelessness I’d been carrying around for months what it was. I admitted that I was depressed, and that I needed to deal with it. And that’s when I started to heal.

That’s also when I learned that you can’t confront something that you’re not willing to acknowledge, and you can’t claim victory over something you’re not willing to name.

Since then, God’s brought me a long way in my battle against depression. So far that I can stand up and proclaim myself healed. But that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t try to creep up on me from time to time, and that it’s not a real battle when it does.

But before I can do battle, I have to acknowledge the true nature of my enemy.

Recently, it started creeping back in, and instead of naming and confronting it, I denied it and hoped it would go away, even though I knew better. On top of feeling depressed, I also felt guilty. God has answered prayer for us this year in a big and positive way! We’re right where I spent years praying to be! How could I be depressed? How could I be anything other than full of joy and gratitude?

But it went on long enough that I knew I had to look it in the face. Just to be sure, one night a couple of weeks ago I took an online assessment, expecting it to say that I was mildly depressed. Instead it said that I was showing signs of moderate to severe depression. I knew I needed to deal with it before it got worse–because that’s all it ever does if you try to ignore it.

I started praying about it immediately. I confessed my depression, and all of my negative thoughts and fears, and the things I was feeling hopeless about. And I confessed my guilt over feeling depressed when He’s been so good to me this year.

That’s when He helped me realize what was already plain to Him: that we are complicated creations with complex brains and emotions, and we are perfectly capable of being sad and depressed about some things while still being grateful about something else. I went to sleep that night, feeling a little more at peace.

The next morning I was still struggling, though. Now, I’ve learned that God is the best therapist out there. Not only does He listen, but He can change my thinking. He can even change my circumstances, but if He doesn’t, He can still change my outlook on my circumstances.

So I got out my journal, and I wrote down everything in my life that I felt was contributing to my depression. And I prayed and gave each of them to God. And as I did, I looked deeper. The things I’d written down were circumstantial, but they all spoke to a deeper longing that was still unmet in my life, one that I’d started to believe would never be met.

By now I felt like I needed to go walk so I could really pour my heart out to God. So I walked, and I prayed, and I confessed and asked questions, and when I was done walking I went up to the bluff and just sat there, looking out at the lake and the hills beyond, and I just let God love on me for a little while. And I realized then that I had been looking in the wrong place to fulfill that deeper longing. That it already had its perfect fulfillment in Him.

I also realized that I’d been carrying burdens and responsibilities that didn’t belong to me. So I repented for trying to do God’s job, and admitted that I was far, far too weak to carry these things, and that I needed Him to take them from me.

And as I prayed and cast my cares on Him, I picked up a rock that lay at my feet and threw it off the cliff as hard and as far as I could.

Y’all, I know how hokey that sounds. But that tangible feeling of casting something heavy far away from me made it feel more real, and when I was done I felt so much lighter and full of peace.

It took a few more days of staying in prayer and in the Word, closely guarding my heart and mind and refusing to pick any of those weights back up off of His altar, but I’m doing better. My hope and my joy have been restored, and I’m enjoying life again.

I’m not saying that this is a simple thing. It’s certainly not as simple as picking up a rock and throwing it off a cliff. I know that sometimes depression keeps you from even being able to pray, let alone hike up to a cliff to start tossing rocks around. But God does care for you and you can claim victory over and healing from depression. I’m not saying it won’t be a battle, and that it won’t involve a lot of steps. But the first step is to acknowledge it and call it what it is. The second is to call on Him for help. And He will help you. Even if all you have the strength to do at first is to whisper his name. 

Still Leaning: A Mid-Year Review, and Looking Forward

Image via UnsplashOne thing I always hated about having a corporate job was performance evaluations. Not that I didn’t appreciate the feedback, or the subsequent raise, but the whole process was nerve-wracking, and also served to remind me that I was valued for what I did (and how well I did it), not for who I was.

Since I’ve been my own boss for the last seven years, regular performance evaluations are a distant unpleasant memory, nearly all but forgotten about, especially this year as God’s been working to remind me that He values me not for what I do, but for who I am, and that I don’t have to work to earn my place or strive for advancement in this life He’s given me.

So it may seem odd that, here at the half-year mark, I felt compelled to pause and look back over my progress so far this year and carefully plan my agenda for the next six months. Not so much to evaluate my performance, whether as a writer, a freelancer, a wife or just a person, but to make sure I’m on track with seeking first His will and leaning into what He’s doing in my life (in case you forgot, my One Word for this year back in January was “lean“).

The first half of the year was pretty full. It was certainly productive — I wrote most of a whole novel, revised two more of my own novels and a novella, released two of those into the wilds of the Amazon, edited a novel for a client, and wrote more freelance articles than I can keep track of.

But more importantly, I’ve had some pretty major spiritual breakthroughs as God’s been helping me release my iron grip on the steering wheel of my life, surrender more and more control to Him, and embrace the person He made me to be. I think the biggest breakthrough was the realization that I had bought into some lies about myself that the enemy has been speaking to me my entire life, and coming to a place of deep healing over my past, rejecting those lies and embracing God’s truth about me (I wrote in more detail about those breakthroughs here and here).

Another major theme of this year so far has been growing more fully into who God created me to be and understanding that I was made this way, with this personality and these specific talents, giftings AND limitations, for a purpose. Understanding that I was made on purpose to be a dreamer and a thinker and an introvert and a slow processor, and that by embracing these things about myself and honoring them I honor Him.

So what will the next six months hold?

I can’t say for certain. I expect these themes to continue. I know there are specific things that need to be done, including finishing my current novel and getting it revised in time for the August deadline, and gearing up for the launch of my debut novel in October. There are things I want to do–other writing projects I want to work on, and personal and household projects–and things I hope to do, including a steady stream of freelance work.

But one thing the last six months have taught me is that it’s best to hold my plans loosely and look to Him to direct my steps and establish my work. During my break the last two weeks, I spent a lot of time praying for direction for the next six months, but rather than a specific agenda, I was given some guidelines for going forward:

  • Stay surrendered. Keep leaning into what God’s doing. Build altars, not stages. Build benches, not cities.
  • Don’t fear the future. Remember it’s in His hands. Focus on each day as it comes.
  • Don’t focus too much on making money. Trust God to provide as you do the work He directs you into (this is a big deal. As a freelancer with an unsteady income, money has always been the driving factor in choosing what I work on, but that hasn’t really gotten me anywhere good, so I’m ready to try it God’s way).
  • Forget “should.” Figure out what works for us and do that. No comparing.
  • Do only what you can do (this is a principle I picked up from Loving My Actual Life — similar to my philosophy of “just do what you can do and leave the rest to God”).
  • Just keep writing and leave the results to Him.

It will be interesting to see what the next six months will hold. To be honest, I’d hoped back in January that this would be the year our lives finally turned a major corner for the better, and six months in, with circumstances much the same now as they were then (albeit attitudes and perspectives have changed), I’ve been a bit disheartened. But I’ve been receiving a lot of encouragement lately that things will get better, it’s just going to take more time–time in which we need to be yielding to the work He’s doing in us to prepare us for what’s next. Because I think that what’s in store for us is going to blow our minds.

Have you paused for a mid-year evaluation? Do you have the rest of the year mapped out? Any big breakthroughs or accomplishments this year so far that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

In love,

PS – Linking up this week with Holley Gerth and Missional Women!

PPS – Want to get a friendly and casual letter from yours truly in your inbox once or twice a month? This bi-monthly(ish) letter to friends of the blog is a little more personal, a little more intimate, a little more silly — a place to share the things that don’t quite fit here. Sign up and get a special link to my must-have tools & resources page!

Daydreamer Dispatches

My Two Fathers


One night twenty years ago I was driving home from my job at Dillard’s department store. I wasn’t looking forward to going home. In fact, I was dreading it. But it was late and I had nowhere else to go.

I was still many miles from home when I heard a distinct voice say, “I am a Father to the fatherless.” At first I thought I’d imagined it, but then it repeated two more times. Then nothing. And I started to cry.

I was twenty-two years old and living at home with my parents and kid sister. My dad and I hadn’t been getting along. We’d never really gotten along–my dad was a difficult man and our home life had always been less than functional. A year before, I had been away at college, but I had sunk into depression and as a result was failing — not just at school, but at life. My dad had come to get me, telling me to come home and rest, promising that things would be different. I wanted to believe him, and I just wanted to rest, so I dropped out of school and moved back home.

Things had been better for a while–about as good as things can get when you’re living with an alcoholic who needs to be in control of everything and everyone around him–but then old patterns began to repeat themselves, and home ceased to be a peaceful place. I became depressed again, and knew I had to get out. It was way past time to move out on my own. But my dad had other plans. He wanted me to stay there and go back to school at the local community college, but I wasn’t yet ready to go back to school, and when I was, I knew I wanted more than the community college had to offer.

So we fought. A lot.

When I heard that voice as I was dreading driving home for what would surely be another round with my dad before I could go to bed, I believed that God was telling me that He saw my situation, and that He was with me, and He would get me through it. I took comfort from that.

And then, a few days later, my dad was driving home from work when his truck veered off the road and hit a bridge abutment. He didn’t survive. Suddenly I was literally fatherless.

Today, as I write this, is the twentieth anniversary of that fateful morning. I remembered that voice, and what it told me, when I received the news, and I’ve thought about it often since then.

And do you know what? God is a father to the fatherless.

It’s taken all of these twenty years for me to come to a place where I can truly relate to Him and trust Him as my perfect Heavenly Father. My earthly dad inflicted a lot of spiritual and emotional scars, but God has been faithful to heal them, one by one. Only recently has He brought me to a place where I’m able to have complete confidence in His love without the shadows of the past casting doubt over my faith.

But more than that, He’s healed my memory of my dad. Of course I still remember what an angry, broken man he was. But I’m able to look back on him, and on our relationship and our time together, through eyes of compassion, and realize that he was broken and hurting, and his ability to love, and to express it, was also broken.

It’s taken twenty years, but I’m finally able to forgive my dad, and to remember the good things about him. That he was a dad who would drop everything to drive 300 miles round trip to collect his hurting daughter and bring her home. That rain or shine, if I was in trouble of any kind, I could always call him to come get me. That he liked to pile the family into the car and go on long Sunday drives and longer road trips. That he was a voracious reader and loved small children and making them laugh and liked to tell off-color jokes. That he was often a difficult customer at restaurants but he was ALWAYS an excellent tipper. That he was a faithful provider, and although we were far from rich, we never did without anything we truly needed or wanted.

It’s taken twenty years, but thanks to my Heavenly Father’s faithfulness and love, I’m finally able to say to my earthly father,

I love you, Dad.

And I miss you.