Wednesday, September 17, 2014

So long!

Well, this little space has served me well over the past few years, but I think it's time to move to a new, bigger, better space.

One where I hope to write a lot more. And I hope you will join me over there.

My new blog is:

I hope to find you there!

Much love,


Monday, September 8, 2014

On Suicide, Depression, and Swallowing My Pride

I was thirteen when it happened.

I woke up to yellow tape across the street, darkness heavy in the air. It was a blue shed where he had done it, and although I never saw the inside of the shed, I could easily imagine how his body was found. I heard the stories; how his wife found the note on the counter by his ballcap, and ran out to find him out back. The blue shed only lasted a little while, a stark reminder in the February cold of what had happened. One day, finally, someone in town bulldozed it away. The physical reminder was gone. But my questions remained.

I can still feel his wife collapsing in my arms at the funeral, and the questions that had been ringing in my ears since that Sunday rang even louder. How could he do this? How selfish can one person be to leave behind a beautiful daughter and wife?

There was an underlying thought that somehow, suicide and mental health and depression was linked to selfishness. Because, in my thirteen-year-old's mind, what else could explain such an act?

And then, in my third year at university, there was the book. Dark Night of the Soul. And it challenged me; it challenged me to see from the mind of someone severely depressed. To see the darkness that shadowed their every move.

And then.

The darkness fell upon me.

I felt like I was drowning. While everyone else around me was breathing.

Every choice became a source of anxiety. I couldn't even decide whether to eat dinner in the dining room or the living room without stress.

The heavy weight of sadness followed me everywhere. I would find myself weeping for no reason other than the sadness I felt. I would seek anything to lift the darkness I was feeling - my family. My friends. Prayer. The Word.

And nothing was working. Nothing that gave me life was giving me life. I didn't look at a lake and talk to God about the beauty He must have delighted in to create it. I didn't see Him in any of the places I had previously found Him. And worse; I felt like I couldn't feel Him anymore.

So I found myself in the doctor's office, the imprint of the nurse's sympathetic hand on my knee burning a hole on my skin. I told the doctor about this pit of despair I was drowning in. I needed a lifeline because I so felt like I was drowning. There was an ethereal feeling, though - I found myself asking myself, is this really me? Am I the one talking to the doctor across from me about suffering from depression?

As I walked out of the doctor's office, and a week later walked into a therapist's office, I have swallowed my pride. The Lord teaches us humility in gentle yet painful ways. I am not as strong as I might appear. I need so much help. I am learning the verse from 2 Corinthians that I have written down is so true for my life these days. "And He said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong."

I say all of this because there have been two things that have encouraged me in this hard season, in this season of learning how His grace is sufficient for me. I have learned that I am not alone. Depression isolates you; but that's the farthest thing from the truth. It has been such a ray of hope and encouragement for me to hear of other's journies; to have people literally stop whatever they are doing to lay hands on me and pray. For each of you who have been there for me: from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

And the second is, whatever I am going through does not change who God is. I will choose to trust that He is who He says He is - even if, in this season, I don't "feel" it. He is bigger and stronger than my feelings. And He has always, always, proven faithful in His sovereignty. For when I am weak - which these days, is every day - He. Is. Strong.

Sadly so many have struggled with mental illness and not sought help. I've been on the other end where I have sat and judged. It's hard for me to even write these things because I know there are people out there who will judge - who will tell me that I need to pray harder, or "choose" happiness when I wish it was a simple as that. But I beg you - please don't find yourself where I once sat. It could be you. I pray these words of mine encourage others to tell their stories; you aren't alone. If you are feeling that darkness, let me lay down in it with you. If you are feeling alone, let me hold your hand and remind you that you aren't. You'll see rays of sunshine and joy again; and when you do, I will dance with you.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Find that person.

It was a late afternoon. The smell of fresh coffee lingered in the air, and I lingered in the doorway with it. I made small talk as I am apt to do when stalling; and although I knew in her eyes she knew what I was doing, I did it anyways. When my words finally ran out, I finally crossed the room, sinking into the sofa across from her.

"So how are you?" she asks me in her quiet way. Her words are an invitation to me; they are the warm, safe blanket I am seeking. Before I even answer her, I can feel the tears brimming in my eyes and I fight the urge to look away from her. "Not good," I reply, and my voice cracks.

"I know you aren't," she says softly, her face reflective of the tears that have appeared in my eyes. There's a moment of silence but the silence is anything but quiet. It's proclaiming the grace I am desperately seeking; it's showing me the heart I have been searching for just to simply listen.

I was searching for someone to hold my brokenness in their hands and to not allow me to stay that way, but to hold my hand as I step forward. To allow me to share the dark parts of me; to confess the sins I hide deep in my heart. But even more than that, I was searching for someone to love me in spite of my darkness.

And although I know Christ loves us that way, He also calls us to love one another in that manner. And sometimes finding someone who loves in the gracious way He does is hard.

But, on that afternoon with the smell of coffee in the air, I found it. I experienced grace. What a beautiful thing, because although admitting how we fall seems like such a failure, what Jesus does through grace is transform it into a sign of redemption.

I say all of this to say,

find that person. 

Seek out that person who will love like Christ does, and confess your sins. Unconfessed sins are a powerful tool in the hands of the Enemy. He uses them against us. But confessed sins are a powerful tool in the hands of the Lord, because He uses them for testimonies.

Find that space. Find the space in which you can be known, the dark, gritty, ugly parts and all.

Because when grace invades those ugly parts? God uses even that to bring Him glory.

"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." (James 5:16)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fall leaves and barren trees

Henri Nouwen wrote that "joy and sadness are as close to each other as the splendid coloured leaves of a New England fall to the soberness of the barren trees. When you touch the hand of a returning friend, you already know that he will have to leave you again. When you are moved by the quiet vastness of a sun-covered ocean, you miss the friend who cannot see the same. Joy and sadness are born at the same time, both arising from such deep places in your heart that you can't find words to capture your complex emotions."

I read these words on Saturday, as I tried to understand how I could feel sorrow at the beginning of something good. It was as if my heart, although full of joy at the newness of change, couldn't fully experience that joy - because it was already preparing itself for when it would end.

I realized and wondered if joy and sorrow are inexplicably linked. Because isn't one gain a sign of many losses, too? One beautiful, glorious triumph is truly built of all the falls leading up to it. As I celebrate the newness of this season in my life, of change and moves and unknowns, I also am sorrowful for what I too have lost - a childhood chapter closed, friendships changing, shifting roles. With every gain, there is so much loss. Yet with every loss, there is oh so much gain.

I am a big believer in seasons of life - that most things have a beginning and an end. But secretly? I also loathe their existence. I hate that some friends are meant for a season. And I even hate that some people are meant just for a conversation, that they are meant to impart wisdom for the two hours you sit across from them in a crowded airplane. It's sad to me that some jobs are meant just for a time, and it breaks my heart that some homes are meant for a childhood.  I am not good at juggling the contrasting things in life.

But I am trying.

I am trying to embrace both the joy and sorrow, and to hold them together as if they are both beautiful and needed.

I am trying to embrace beginnings and endings, as if they both shape me in different but good ways.

I'm trying to see God in the seasons of life - the short ones and the long ones, the dark ones and the bright ones.

I'm making the constant decision that He is the Redeemer and Author of all things,

of hellos and goodbyes,

of beginnings and endings,

and of fall leaves and barren trees.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reflections on Senegal

This morning, just like every morning before work, I pulled out my bag of coffee beans and ground a few fresh tablespoons. I'm a coffee snob, I fully admit. And I love my fresh pressed coffee. But today, I'm missing Nescafe. And sweet tea.

It's a forty minute commute to work, and normally I'm thankful for the silence of the drive. I listen to sermons and music and as usual, my mind doesn't rest. But today I'm missing sun drenched paths and shouts of "Kasu-may!"

I'm back to my North American food, with lasagna for lunch and salad for dinner. But really, all I'm craving is yassa. I want that fresh fish and vegetables and rice with a group of people surrounding the dish.

I'm thankful for my hot bath. Yet I'm yearning for that bucket shower underneath the African starry sky.

I wish I could sit with everyone of you over a cup of coffee and share my heart and share my stories. 

Every day while in the village we had the opportunity to share Christ in conversations and actions and showing the Jesus film. I felt the love of Christ overflowing in my heart for these people; the moment I met them I wished I could in some way convey to them how loved they were. In so many ways they reminded me how loved I was: I was amazed at how God's character shone through their simple acknowledgement of every person who passes. They shake hands, greet with their greeting, and continue on. I wondered at what our lives would be like if we had that simple acknowledgement of those we pass that we matter. That we aren't just someone walking by. And I love that God thinks of us like that; He always stops. Always. 

We had the opportunity to lead unbelievers to Christ. And it was amazing to see the Lord bring healing to one of them, to hear that she was able to walk by herself after being unable to even leave the house without assistance. God is good, and faithful.

Every meal we ate there was shared. Fish and vegetables and rice were placed in a large dish, and five or six gathered around. (Except for that one time that we must've fed 100 children after one of the screenings of the Jesus film. There was that. I'll have to tell you about that one day, about seeing so many children crowded around multiple dishes and how in some way, it stirred our hearts in a way words can't describe). There was something simply profound about eating together. We've missed that in our culture, you know. We eat alone and we eat quickly and we forget how life wasn't meant to be done alone, but to be done together. We really should stop more, and just simply share a meal. I wonder how lives and families would be changed if we simply stopped.

I realized while there that there is a boldness in knowing you are there to serve and share with a purpose; I am wrestling with how to take that boldness home. How do I live my life as a witness to Christ not only in actions, but in words here, too? As we sat on one of our last days with the Believers in the village, we talked about how these Believers would be challenged in their walk. It wouldn't be easy, one of our team members sadly warned. And it wouldn't. When these Believers chose to change their lives, and follow the Lord and abandon all other fetishes and idols, their physical and societal lives were put on the line. It's not a battle of flesh and blood; it's a spiritual battle. They were wrestling with what it means to abandon all else and follow Christ, to truly live their lives according to the Word. It was a sombering reminder to me. It's too easy here, in our western world, to live lukewarm. Our lives may not be truly threatened. But how important it is that we too, live lives worthy of the calling placed on them. That we live our lives worthy of the One who died in our place.

As I am reflecting, and hopefully coming out of my jet-lagged state, I am prayerfully committing every precious moment to memory. You might know that I love talking about things that make my heart dance. Throughout this trip, so many things made my heart jump for joy. Conversations about love and faith and God's call for women. The full moon and stars. Reminders from strangers and new friends that God wants you to dream big and take those leaps of faith, that He creates your heart and hopes and dreams for a purpose far grander than you can imagine. 

I prayed to be a blessing to those I met, but I never imagined how much they would be a blessing to me too. I left a piece of my heart with those people, and I simply can't wait to go back.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Those Hands of Loss

It's at the top of the stairs I find myself falling, falling into the hands of loss. It finds me in these strange places. There is makeup to be put on, my bag to be unpacked, my rain jacket to be found. But I can't move. It always seems to be that in the moments when I least want to hear them that I do: I hear those memories echoing in the silence of a quiet house. I wonder at the pain it must bring to be a parent in an empty house, one that was never supposed to be empty. I wonder and hurt at the intense loneliness that this breaking brings.

My hand drops from the knob and I take the stairs. One at a time, I whisper to myself. That's all. Just one. step. at. a. time. And it's hard not to fall over, in this grip of loss, because it's only in these rare moments loss has its opportunity to stare at me face to face. Oh sure, it seems to always be there, but most days it seems more like an unwelcome companion.

It does not always have the boldness it has today.

And I walk by the boxes that fill the basement, and the boxes contain the memories that refuse to be left safely inside. Because there are journals open, with her scrawl across them, that remind me of that other life. There are letters and framed photographs that once graced the wall of a family home. They once told a story. And now their story is in a box, in a basement, hidden away.

And I stop walking. Because loss is too heavy. It stops me in my tracks, and I'm frozen there until the crunch of gravel in the driveway outside brings me back.

Because there's makeup to be put on, a bag to be unpacked, and a jacket to be found. And so I leave the journals and stories in their boxes. And I walk away.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Signs of Blessing, Too.

The sign welcoming us into my hometown appears before us, a beacon on a hill that I had driven by all my life. I'm excited to show one of my best friends where I grew up, giving her glimpses into the life I had before I knew her. We pass by one of the side streets, blocked off for construction, and I make a left by the restaurant, immediately feeling enveloped by the maple lined main street.

We make our way down the road, and I find myself pointing out landmarks as we turn onto the street where I grew up. I tell her of neighbours as we round the corner, feeling myself driving as if on autopilot. And then I see the large green evergreens, the pool peeking out from behind, and I feel my breath catch as I'm brought back to a lifetime ago. We get closer to our house, and I slow down, feeling my heart hurt as we approach. I study the grey siding, the new gardens in the back brightening up the large backyard. I see evidence of the new family that's moved in; the new deck, the different cars in the driveway. In every way it feels as if someone has taken over my life, has moved in while I was away. I swallow and pull the car ahead away.

We're silent for a little while, until I point out the place where my dad's childhood home once stood. I wave to an old neighbour and then we're driving past the public pool and I'm remembering T-ball games and babysitting trips to the park. As we turn back onto main street, heading out of the village, I feel the tears well in my eyes and I grip the steering wheel harder.

"I think what makes everything so hard," I hear myself say, "is that it feels like I lost my whole life." As the words leave my mouth, I feel her hand on my shoulder. "I know," she answers quietly, and I'm infinitely grateful for the absence of empty, sympathetic words.

I can feel my sorrow and grief entering into the car with us, and I sit with them for a moment. I feel the weight of sadness and my heart is heavy. As the maple trees disappear into my rearview mirror, I swallow my remaining tears and look ahead. "Please God," I feel my heart pray, "some day let those memories not just be signs of loss. Let them be signs of blessing, too."