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When This Jesus-Lover Lost Jesus

I’ll never forget the moment it happened—when I felt a crack in my spirit, the breaking of my faith. Chink.

It was an afternoon in November, just a few years ago. I was sitting on the couch alone. The house was unusually quiet. There were no shouts from little boys. There was no chaos. There was nothing to distract me from thinking, praying, worrying. There had been so much on my mind for so many months. So many things piling up, weighing heavy; a load of issues ready to drop as soon as I could no longer hold them. On this particular day, it was concern over my dad’s health that pressed down with the most weight.

And then I felt it. Crack.

The “what if” question manifested itself physically in my body. Just a little blip in my chest—a literal skip in my heart rhythm.

Smash. Thor’s hammer of doubt hit against the clear glass floor of faith holding all of those weighty issues, all of those uncertainties, all of the pain, all of the confusion.

That floor had always been so strong. It had always been so solid. It had always, always held. But the issues were heavier now. They were just so many more than there had ever been. And the strength I thought I’d always had simply evaporated.

The scattering of cracks along the glass was swift—they were so numerous. One wrong move and it was going to break completely—the solid floor of faith that had always held was giving way.

I couldn’t stop it.

Bang. The “what if” questions grew more numerous over the next days and where for years I’d always been able to come up with faith-based responses to quiet them, I now found myself at a total loss. It was an unusual place for me. A scary place.

Three days before Christmas I wound up in the ER, and the cracked floor could no longer hold. The glass shattered into tiny, glinting pieces of my once firm faith.

Crash. God was missing.

I could not find His goodness. I could not find His promises. I could not find any semblance of a reality where He had any kind of beauty in store for my life. I felt like I’d been robbed. I felt like I’d been abandoned. I felt extremely alone.

Exactly where the enemy wanted me.

Perhaps I should back up a little. Perhaps I should explain when this really all began.

I’m so lucky. Blessed. Honestly had the best childhood a person could ask for. I was raised in a Christian home by loving parents who taught me from a very young age how important faith was. I gave my life to Christ at the age of six and never considered any other path. Sure, like many, I ignored Him more than I should have in my teens, but came back around fully in adulthood. I led Bible studies. Taught Bible classes. Sang on the Praise Team. Followed Him through difficulties. Became pretty well known around my circles for living my beliefs. Life had its ups and downs, but it was good. Me and Jesus? We were good. Simpatico.

Sure, maybe I wasn’t a daily Bible reader, but that’s ok. Jesus got me anyway. Maybe I didn’t pray as much as I should have, but I prayed and prayed hard when I needed to. Maybe I excused and looked over some things in my life, but I knew that God had me. I was good.

I suppose I was too good on my own with all my me-based faith and expectations for my life.

2016 was supposed to be a stellar year. I was expecting baby #4, working a job that was more than a blessing, writing and loving it, and looking forward to moving into a place with a little more space for our growing family. But things weren’t all that great behind the scenes.

Bam. Our marriage hit a rough patch. A very rough patch. Worse than anything we’d been through before. Why, God?

Bang. Then there was some specific sin in my life that I was ignoring. I’m ok, right, God?

Crash. Next came a health concern for my husband, leading straight into the week our son was to be born. What if, God?

Those first three months of 2016 were some of the most difficult I’d had in my life up to that point, but I had no idea what was coming.

The day our baby boy entered the world turned into more than a day to remember. It was one of those days that became defining in my life. You’d think it was because of his birth and that’s partially true, but unfortunately, that day is remembered because of someone else’s choice that put me moments away from the grave. A nurse chose to defy doctor’s orders and I nearly lost my life. I won’t rehash those details now, but while there was joy in my son’s birth, I left that hospital a few days later with pain I could not explain—pain I did not have when I arrived. The pain was physical, but it was also mental and spiritual. I didn’t understand what I had just lived through. I was grateful to be alive, but I had so many unanswered questions. So many new fears. Why, God?

Clink. Bam. Bang. Pain became my bitter companion.

But I loved Jesus! This wasn’t what my life was supposed to look like.

Having a newborn is hard enough. Having a newborn plus three other boys is challenging. All of that plus debilitating pain, strep throat, and the inability to sleep at all is how the first few weeks back home went. Plus we sold our home, the baby had some serious reflux issues, and we bought a new home and had to move.

Bang. It was a lot.

And through it all, the pain continued. I learned very quickly that the doctors I had trusted for so long suddenly had no concern for me. I completely lost faith in the medical community. I was bounced from doctor to doctor, all of them hypothesizing about why I couldn’t stop hurting, but no real answers. Medications and treatments and theories were thrown at me, but nothing worked. And no one seemed to want to listen.

Not even God. He wasn’t listening to my pleas for help. Why, God? What do you want from me?

Chink. Clink. Bang. Pow. Smash.

One month turned into six and exhaustion began to wear me down. Chronic pain will do that. It tears up your resolve, emotional health, and spirit with every lingering ache.

I’d never experienced anything like it.

Flash forward to Christmas 2016. I spent that day in mental agony, certain it would be my last holiday with my family. I’d seen so many doctors since the birth of my son back in March. I had so many physical issues at that point that I could hardly keep track. And I simply could not calm the “what if” questions. They overwhelmed me.

The floor of my faith had shattered—I had no faith left in anything. Not medicine, not myself, not God.

2017 brought more questions. I was lost, in constant pain, and I couldn’t see my way out. Tests, biopsies, more tests, more doctors…it was a never-ending cycle of fear.

I had only one truth at this point—God had one thing for my life: suffering. Because suffering was the only thing I could see in the world. Fear was the only thing I could feel.

No, it didn’t matter that I had lived through a near-death experience. The living didn’t matter to me. It was the almost dying that mattered. It was the mess of the aftermath that mattered. I was blinded to everything else. I became paralyzed by fear.

I couldn’t factor it into God’s plan for my life. The plan where I was happily married and raising boys and teaching and writing books and singing at church and living—that plan. What happened to that plan?

I wasn’t living—not really. I was existing. I was floating in the black abyss, completely lost, questioning everything. Me and Jesus? We were no longer ok. I just knew that whatever His plan was, there was no good in it. And I couldn’t understand why.

I couldn’t reconcile what I once believed about the loving nature of God with the pain, suffering, and evil I saw in the world. Even though His truth and goodness were still there, I could not find them at all. With each incident that happened in and around me, especially medical issues, my spirit shattered a little more.

I’d never “believed” in depression—not really. I’d always thought that someone who “claimed” to have depression needed to get up and get over it.

Until I fell so far down into a pit of depression and anxiety, there was no way I could pull myself out. How naïve I’d been. How cruel my view.

Timelapse Photography of Clouds

What’s depression like?

It’s like living inside of a swirling, gummy black cloud. You can see through it to the life you had—the life you want—going on around you, but you can’t seem to find a way to push the fog aside to participate. You know in your rational mind what truth is, but your emotions take over and crush the very joy out of your soul. Joy, peace, happiness, hope—they are all strangled by fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. There is nothing other than despair. There is nothing other than your own feelings. It’s a very selfish state, even when you don’t mean for it to be. The blooming, healthy vines that once carried your thoughts and emotions are strangled by black weeds of destruction, killing hopes for the future and replacing them with a new truth—that the only thing to be believed is that the worst of any situation is reality.

I slipped as low as a person could go into the foggy, sticky, black pit. I had the thoughts no one talks about. I faked being fine for a very long time. I stopped writing, stopped singing, stopped dreaming or sleeping or laughing. I wallowed in my anger, so full of frustration that I, the one who had always been able, couldn’t do anything to fix myself. I was broken. I realized that I was doing damage to the people I loved most by talking about my fears, so I bottled them up as best I could. In fact, there may be those of you reading this who are surprised, maybe even shocked by my words. Maybe you’re re-evaluating what you think about me as a woman, a mother, a daughter of the Most High King.

And that’s ok. I can handle it because God can handle it.

I did seek professional help. I was treated by a wonderful Christian counselor for PTSD resulting from the trauma I’d experienced at my son’s birth and that was helpful for moving past that moment in time seared into my brain, but it didn’t really help with the big questions. I did try medication as well, but the side effects were, for me, far worse than what I was going through.

Please understand, this was not “just post-partum depression.”

This was a war—the kind waged in spiritual realms. I was under attack in all ways.

So I began to fight. I fought so hard that I didn’t think I’d have any fight left in me. I screamed in prayer. I searched. I became obsessed with finding and understanding my God again. I wanted to understand life again. I prayed like my life depended on it—because it did.

It isn’t my strength I fight with—it’s His.

I’m writing this for two reasons—1) Writers have to write what they know. And although I never would have thought it possible in my own life, I have come to know depression and anxiety, and 2) I write this because you need to know that if you, too, are a lover of Jesus and you are fighting through depression and anxiety, you are not alone. It’s not impossible for someone who loves Jesus deeply to experience the very depths of despair. Christians fight this battle, too.

And if this is you—if you’re fighting it now or you’ve fought it before, know that there is hope. I’m going to write in future posts about some specific things I’ve done to survive this season of my life and to learn from it. I’m going to write about how I found Jesus again—how even when I couldn’t see Him, He was right there beside me, just as He promised.

I’m going to write about how this strong-ish again, faithful, Jesus-loving wife and mama with grand plans for her life learned that God teaches us lessons in the ways we least expect. Sometimes He lets be weak so that His strength is supreme. Sometimes He lets us learn that He is faithful, even when we are not. Sometimes He shows us just how empty we are so that He can fill us with something so much greater. Sometimes He allows our plans to be smashed into a million tiny bits only to build new plans from those shattered pieces. The lessons are hard. Tear-stained, painful, belly-aching, heart-torn-open lessons that bring beauty from ashes. And sometimes that beauty looks nothing like what we’d planned, hoped or expected.

I’m not cured. Not a single day goes by that I don’t have pain in my body. It’s chronic at this point and still mostly mysterious. And I still struggle with the emotional war sometimes. But there’s more sunshine now—more light. More opportunities to celebrate His faithfulness when I trust Him. I can smile and laugh again. I can write again, and this post, the first in a very long time, is proof. I praise Him and thank Him for that! And if I’ve learned nothing else over the past three and a half years, I’ve learned that the fight with anxiety and depression affects far more people—Jesus-loving, God-fearing people—than I ever would have guessed.

Jesus hasn’t left you, child of God. God is still for you. His word is still true, despite what the enemy whispers in your ear and despite what your feelings are screaming at you today. I haven’t found a miracle cure or the answers to my tough questions, but I have found hope again. And that hope begins with simply saying, “I trust you, Jesus.”

So keep fighting. Keep praying. Keep reminding yourself that you are loved and God is good. Ask him to show you His goodness. Never give up because Jesus will never give up on you. There are questions, sure, but Jesus is the answer. Grab on to Him and fight the powers of hell with everything you’ve got. TRUST HIM. Know you are not alone. Know that there are others who know just how difficult, exhausting, and frightening the fight can be. I’m praying for you and I’m praying that these words are laced with grace from the Holy Spirit and that they’ll give you the courage to keep going. You might feel lost in that swirling black cloud of depression– but God sees you. He sees right through all of it to the very core of the soul in you He loves so much. He holds you. He has a plan for you. And He is the answer.

You are deeply loved by the Creator and currently prayed for by me.

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When Hatred Becomes Necessary In America

hatred in America

What a weird few weeks it has been in America. Genders and races are changing right in front of the whole world. There has been tragedy and a response to said tragedy that has dwarfed even the events themselves and created a debate all its own. There have been some very important and remarkable Supreme Court decisions. Politics and emotion have collided and created a hurricane of debate about very serious issues.

And among it all, the word hate keeps being thrown around, whipped from both sides, hurled toward anyone who would dare disagree with the “mainstream.”

“Don’t hate.”

“That’s hate speech.”

“You’re hateful.”

“A hate crime.”

“Keep your hate to yourself.”

“Stop hatin’.”

“Haters gonna hate.”

“Your opinion is proof of your hate.”

Some of this hate is expected, born of disbelief and anger; born of revulsion to crimes that are unimaginable and viewpoints that are unbelievable.

I’m not one to shy away from a political or religious debate. I never have been. But I’m learning now how to make my opinions and views work for more effective change in the hearts of people rather than just temporary agreement in an argument. I like my opinions. I stick to my convictions. I’m not backing down and I’m okay with voicing my dissent.

But even if I end up shaking my head in bewilderment at your viewpoint, my opinion is proof only of my disagreement. And I am 100% capable of disagreeing without any hatred at all, as most people of faith are. Hatred is an emotion. Opinions should be based also on fact, whether that fact is drawn from scientific evidence, historical proof, or religious belief (which, to many, is fact).

So please, don’t mistake my dissenting opinion for hate. I. don’t. hate. you.

But I’ll tell you what I do hate—I hate sin.

I hate the way it twists and turns, weaving is way into willing hearts. I hate the way it defiles and deceives, and I hate the way it manifests itself in evil acts that serve to divide and destroy.

I hate how it abolishes tradition. I hate how it revises what is allowable. I hate how it murders and destroys families, leaving nothing but sadness and devastation it its wake.

I hate what it’s doing to our country, our neighborhoods, our relationships. I hate what it does to me.

And I think it’s 100% okay to hate sin. In fact, it’s encouraged. Even the Bible talks about how God himself hates sin.

We need to hate it, but before we can hate it, we need to know what it is.

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand.” How many times have you heard that or a variation of it?

Ladies and gents, you need to understand sin. (The more you read about and understand Christ, the more you will be able to recognize sin).You need to not be afraid to stand up against it. And you need to hate it. You need to hate it with the joy of knowing that one day it will be destroyed.

But until that time when sin is finally obliterated, what do we do? What about when something happens that walks all over our moral convictions, heats our emotional coil and threatens to spew words from our angry and frustrated mouths?

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. –Psalm 6:16

Proof right there from the scripture that God himself hates much of what has happened in this country over the last few weeks. Plug those events right in.

How have you added to it?

Sure, you didn’t pull a trigger inside of a church and spill innocent blood (in fact, like most of America, you were probably deeply saddened and repulsed that such a thing could happen). You didn’t spout racist propaganda, placing yourself above others. You didn’t sit on the Supreme Court. You didn’t issue court rulings or devise the very court cases that brought the rulings.

But did your reactions leading up to and after these events add to the hatred listed above?

Did you lie to support your side of the argument? Perhaps you pulled at half-truths just to feel like the victor?

Were you conceited and disdainful, filled with self-righteousness because of your views?

Did you run headlong into a conversation full of nasty words and vitriol?

Have you stirred the pot, making the angry, heated words flow even faster rather than cooling the situation with words that heal and encourage?

You don’t have to agree with the other side of the argument.

Once again, disagreement is not hatred and disagreeing with sin is not only encouraged, it’s necessary.Rick Warren

The winner of the disagreement is the one who leaves with his or her integrity intact, having soothed the angry mob with words that present the only version of Christianity that some people will ever see. The winner is the one who refuses to fuel the fire with more sin, but instead stokes it with the love of Christ. Sometimes this means walking away from the debate all together. Sometimes it means keeping your mouth shut, even when that is a difficult thing to do.

So seriously consider if you want the best version of you, as you present Christ to the world, to be the version that also adds to the very things that God himself detests.

Hate can be a good thing.

Hate sin. Hate what it does to the world. Hate how it lies and destroys. Hate how it misleads people into believing that they don’t need God.

Hate sin with such ferocity that introducing people to Christ and his loving forgiveness of sin becomes more important than winning an argument.

Stick to your convictions.

Hate sin.

But don’t be its vessel.

 

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The Hallow of Halloween– Should Christians Be Involved?

The Hallow of Halloween

Of all the holidays, Halloween definitely provides the most instigation for controversy among the Christian community.

In some circles, it’s the “no-no” holiday.

Should it be celebrated by Christians?
Should Christians even hand out candy?
Should churches condone the idea of children dressing in costume? What’s more, should churches host Halloween or Fall events?
Are Christians going to hell for celebrating on “the devil’s day”?

Here’s my view–

The day of Halloween holds no power of evil for me, for I am filled by the One who overcomes all evil.

The devil doesn’t have any more power on Halloween than he does any other day of the year. The evil and sin that plague the world are just as bad on October 30 and November 1. But here’s the good news– we know what happens at the end of The Book. Evil is destroyed and Goodness wins.

So what should Christians do on October 31? What we should be doing every other day of the year– being a bold, blazing bright light for Jesus Christ in a dark, dark world. Whether that means we let our kids dress up and collect candy door-to-door or simply smile at a stranger we pass on the street, our mission is the same on Halloween as it is every day.

I read a post the other day from a Christian Mommy-blogger that said that because Halloween was evil, she and her family locked themselves behind closed doors every year and avoided people at all cost.

The post made me sad. An opportunity missed for the message of Christ to be spread on Halloween, even if by handing out invitations to church or a simple “God loves you” to go along with a piece of candy.

Now I’m going to go all history nerd on you.

When speaking to Believers who do not celebrate Halloween, the number one reason given is: “Christian’s shouldn’t celebrate Halloween because it’s pagan.”

Not so much. As a historian and born again believer, I’m ready to de-bunk the myths of the “pagan” Americanized Halloween.

Many of the American Halloween traditions are relatively new. In the grand scheme of history, dressing in costume and going door-to-door asking for candy have only become popular in the last century.

Before that, Halloween was an unorganized compilation of various religious beliefs and traditions from many European cultures. 

And many of these religious beliefs and traditions were started by the Church. (Big “C” church refers to the Roman Catholic Church–the earliest form of organized Christianity.)

Back in the day, the Celtic people of Europe (the UK and northern France) had beliefs tied to this time of year. They celebrated a holiday called Samhain (sow-in) that recognized the changes in the seasons–from light to dark, warm to cold, and from life to death. October 31 began the new year, and they believed that at Samhain, the land of the living and the land of the dead could overlap.

From these ancient traditions, the Catholic church attempted to reach converts. To take the emphasis off of the paganism of Samhain, the Catholic church made November 1 All Saints Day, or the day to remember and honor the saints. They then added November 2 as All Souls Day, or the day to remember and honor all of the dead who had gone on before.

These two “holy days” fell into the Catholic church’s method of conversion for pagans in the early church days--Keep doing what you’re doing, just do it in the name of Jesus. Remember that in those days, it wasn’t about converting hearts as much as it was about numbers.  So the idea of the living and dead overlapping fell under these days–Church sanctioned days of commemoration for the dead.

The night before All Saints Day became known as All Hallow’s Eve, and then was shortened to Hallowe’en.

One of the traditions during All Souls Day was for children or youngsters to go house to house asking for small cakes. In return, they would offer prayers for the family members who had died. Some believe that our tradition of trick-or-treating might have come from this early practice.

The idea of wearing costumes has no real “pagan” tie. In general, it can be traced back to the idea that many who instigated “trickery” or pranks during this time of year really wanted to mask their identities.

In the early 20th century, communities looked for a way to stop the pranks and keep kids safe on Halloween. They decided to organize community wide parties and parades for kids to show off their costumes, and later on the idea of subduing “tricksters” by offering them sweets turned into modern day trick-or-treating.

The Jack-O-lantern might be the most “evil” of all Halloween traditions. According to old Irish folklore, a man named Jack O’Lantern was so bad that he was kicked out of hell with only a burning ember to light his way. He wanders the earth at night with his ember in a hollowed out turnip. When the legend came to America, children began hollowing out pumpkins to create their own “Jack O’Lanterns.”

Okay, so there’s the history of our Americanized traditions.

We know what the Bible says about evil. We know what it says about what happens to a soul at death and where it goes. There’s no need to argue whether or not some people emphasize the negatives of the holiday–they do. It’s the non-Christians who’ve darkened the holiday; for well over a thousand years, Christendom has attempted to refocus it.

And if one still wants to cling to the pagan argument, then we must also point out all of the pagan influences in other parts of Christianity. Celebrating Christmas on December 25th, for example. That was not Jesus’ actual birthday. No, no. It was a Roman pagan holiday that the Church usurped, once again taking emphasis off the pagan rituals and putting them on Christianity. So can we ignore one holiday for “paganism” but not another?

If you and your family choose not to celebrate Halloween, there is nothing wrong with that. I respect your decision completely.

No matter your views on Halloween, it is important to remember that evil has no power over us when we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit.

Emphasize the positive: happy costumes, candy, and communities coming together. Remember The Great Commission– we are to make disciples on all days, and not avoid any opportunity to shine His great light.

Everyday is hallowed when we walk in the light of the Lord. Nothing can change that. Glorify the Lord in all you do, even on Halloween.

For more info, check out this video from The History Channel.

Share with me: What are your family traditions on Halloween?

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