Faith

Faith

I used to pray for unshakeable faith. I wanted to be steadfast in belief that God would always come through, never doubting His goodness.

When things go right, when life is smooth… it’s easy to have faith. It’s like breathing, how easy and natural it is to shout His praises and share your good news and blessings.

You breathe in His presence and breathe out your testimony, like Aslan blowing life onto the statues in Narnia.

Our faith and testimony release life-giving encouragement to people in pain, the people in the midst of hardship and struggle. Seeing how mountains were moved for us unlocks their vision, they take heart that their mountains can move too.

But sometimes, we aren’t the Aslan in the story. We are the statue, hardened and in desperate need of the Life-Breath.

Suffering and difficulty swirl around like a funnel cloud of fury and deception. It clouds our judgement and all we see is pain, the Why’s and the When’s of our prayer requests being whipped about like shingles ripped from a storm-torn house.

At first we cling to our knowledge of a Sovereign Father, but as the winds continue to screech and fear rumbles in the distance we might begin to wonder… What if? Where is He?

Grief and bitterness choke us like smoke and our faith doesn’t feel so strong, instead we feel weak and wavering.

The adversary whispers lies, “do you even really believe? Where is God now? There’s nothing left. You can’t do this.”

The steadfastness comes when we dig in our heels. This house will not be uprooted by the storm, because the foundation is 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴.

You might be clinging to your faith by the width of a hair, but all you need is a mustard seed.

“Go,” you whisper to the lies. And they flee. The storm might not be over, but you stand awaiting the victory.

Your faith may shake in the face of the tornado, but the House The Lord Built won’t fall, even if the siding creaks.

The storm passes and the statue comes back to life, your heart beats again and you breathe in deep.

Now it’s your turn, share the story of the storm and breathe the Life-Breath on the next person worn thin by grief and trial.

Steadfast in action, faith like potatoes.

If this piece resonated with you in any way, I’d love for you to share it! You never know who may need the encouragement.

Come follow along with me at my Instagram! I share daily musings on faith, Biblical womanhood, homeschooling, urban gardening, and critical thinking.
Fueled by Jesus, imperfectly learning and living lessons every step of the way!

For The Crushed In Spirit

For The Crushed In Spirit

Two years ago a pastor and mental health advocate I adored died by suicide. When I read the news I wept.

He was such a strong, powerful voice for those who loved Jesus and also struggled with depression.

In the days that followed I was mortified to see speakers and influencers denounce him and say he should never have pastored if he struggled with depression.

1) that’s a poor view of God and who He can work through and 2) read the dang room and be respectful in the days of someone’s passing.

Over and over in the Bible we see God use broken, flawed people for His glory.

People who had a speech impediment, people who struggled with depression, people who used to kill Christians.

Every person has struggles. Every pastor, leader, teacher, speaker, and podcaster has a struggle you don’t know about.

Thank you Jesus we are worth more than our private issues! We would ALL be disqualified.

Dealing with anxiety/depression/trauma/intrusive thoughts doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in the world. It doesn’t discredit your testimony or wisdom you have to share.

Mental health struggles are no different than physical ones, we just can’t see them. They’re a lot easier to hide or make assumptions about.

A pastor who may deal with depression can still speak truth to people’s hearts. A mom who has PPD can still love her children and teach them who they are.

Your bad days do not disqualify you from the race God has called you to run.

2 Tim 1:9 says He gave us a holy calling not because of our works, but because of His grace. Nothing you do can earn His love or freedom, it was given to you.

Our effort isn’t what qualifies us for our calling!

Look at Moses, David, Elijah… Elijah experienced a powerful victory in 1 Kings and a few days later asked God to kill him.

Jeremiah cursed the day he was born. His entire ministry was filled with such difficulty that he’s called “the weeping prophet.” He cried out “why was I born if this is my life?!”

David, the man after God’s heart, someone who did great things but also made terrible choices he had to live with – “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:11)

The Word says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and He saves the crushed in spirit. (Ps 34:18)

If He can use these people, He can use you and me.

If you struggle with an eating disorder, that doesn’t disqualify you from God’s plan and calling.

If you’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts, that doesn’t discredit the giftings God has given you.

No matter your struggles, God has a purpose for your life. No one’s opinions or cruel words should steal that from you.

Don’t receive the lie over your life that you can’t ________ because you have had depression or anxiety or go to therapy or use medications or supplements.

Imagine telling a person with fibromyalgia they aren’t qualified to teach the word of God. They can’t help the condition they have.

Now imagine telling a person who Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that they can’t share God’s heart with the world as they deal with trauma-based anxiety.

That’s like telling God He shouldn’t use David because of all the times he lamented in the Psalms.

Do we believe in the God of the impossible or are we limiting what He can do and who He can use?

Even Charles Spurgeon wrote about the pain of mental health –

The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.

Charles Spurgeon

God uses imperfect people to do incredible things. He has taken people with terrible pasts and given them bright futures!

Whatever you may be working through, what matters is that you are working through. Talk to safe people, go to counseling, change damaging situations.

What matters is your heart. Are you living in a way that shows people Jesus? Does your life show the fruit of the Spirit?

Just like a bad day doesn’t make a bad life, a bad mental health day doesn’t mean that’s who you are.

This week was extremely difficult and stretching for me and everything added up until I woke up one morning feeling the tension mounting inside me.

A glass falling off the nightstand and shattering was the small trigger that set off all my overwhelm, spilling over into an awful anxiety attack.

These moments the despair is so deep. The lies try to creep in to disqualify me, and imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.

“How can you expect to help people when you’re so broken?”

It’s easy to keep these thoughts and moments to ourselves, but calling them out takes their power. Reaching out to someone who loves you and will rebuke the lies calls you back into the light.

Here’s the thing, dear reader… The power of your testimony and victories, the stories of your struggles and successes, they will bring freedom to someone else going through it. Share your story, shame doesn’t get the final word.

Your struggles don’t disqualify you; they might just be what draws someone else to the Lord.

Your perseverance through your mental health battles will show someone dealing with the same thing that they aren’t alone, they aren’t worthless, and they have purpose too.

Whatever your calling in life might be: pastor, teacher, mother, writer, social media manager etc., you are an overcomer. You are a more than a conqueror. You are seen, loved, and valued.

If you ever doubt that God can use you, please flip through Scripture and see the long list of imperfect people that God used to prophesy, lead, evangelize, and heal.

You aren’t your bad days, you are more than depression or anxiety.

Most importantly – you are never alone and deeply loved above all.

Of Hopes And Dreams

Of Hopes And Dreams

I have wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember. Poetry, investigative journalism, novels… I just wanted to write.

Books inspired me, grew me, and kept me alive. In my darkest and loneliest times I had Jesus and books.

I started writing books as a preteen when I learned that Christopher Paolini, who had also grown up homeschooled, wrote and published Eragon as a teenager.

Ever since, I have had big dreams of writing novels and speaking and changing lives. Life took some twists and turns (Good twists! Hard turns!) and writing took a backseat for a while. I have gotten married and worked and had babies and served in ministry and done XY&Z!

And I have never called myself a writer.

Through it all, though, I have never stopped writing. And every time I write something vulnerable, something big, something brave, something that makes me want to vomit as anxiety and imposter syndrome creeps in…

Every. Single. Time. That I doubt or am unsure, someone shares with me how much they needed what I wrote.

That’s when I realized… You don’t need to be published with a huge company behind you or have a million Instagram followers to be a writer.

So, I guess this is my announcement to the world that *gulp* I am a writer.

It’s my passion. It’s my God-imbued dream. I have brilliant, complex worlds of people and stories in my mind waiting to come out. I have been slowly working on writing and world building for my dream novel for years now, and it’s time to get the ball rolling.

This week I made an investment into my dream and joined hope*writers. I am a hope*writer!

I want to write books that inspire readers, like Narnia and LOTR did for me. I want to share and empower women to be everything they’re destined to be. I want people to know that there is hope and joy in this world, that life doesn’t have to be all sorrow and pain and despair.

This is why I write. This is why I keep going. I don’t have to have it all figured out right now, I just have to keep going!

Like I’ve told my kids, my youth, my friends: sometimes you have to do it afraid. So here I go!

The Hidden Pain Behind Mother’s Day

The Hidden Pain Behind Mother’s Day

I wrote this post a few years ago on my old blog, but I felt led to share it again.

This was written because I’ve met many other women who were raised in abusive homes struggle with Mother’s Day. There’s so many inspirational posts for new moms, great moms, those who’ve lost their moms, but not so many for those whose mom’s were harmful.

I submitted this post to a well known mom website who wouldn’t publish it because it didn’t fit with the cheerful vibe they wanted to present…. As a mom who has struggles in motherhood because of my lack of a mom that stung.

What about us, then?

Where are the encouraging posts to cheer us in despite our struggles working through trauma?

So I wrote what I couldn’t find. If you struggle with Mother’s Day because of an unsafe mom I hope this speaks to your heart.

Mother’s Day When Your Mom Wasn’t Safe

Around April, beginning of May, you start to see the mom posts. You know the ones – maybe your stomach sinks a bit when you read the titles…

The viral blogs about all the heroic, unseen tasks moms have taken on through the years, for those who can fondly celebrate their mothers.

People share the sweet photos of their moms gardening, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, smiles on graduation. It’s beautiful!

On the other side of that we see the bittersweet articles, the tender memories of those who’ve lost their mothers. We hurt for them as they share their photos in remembrance.

These friends share their favorite moments as they work through a holiday that won’t be celebrated quite the same ever again.

There’s another child who sees Mother’s Day approaching, however.

This one grew up with a mom they can’t, or don’t want to, celebrate on this holiday. Maybe they don’t even speak anymore.

I’ve noticed while there are many of us, there aren’t many blogs or support posts for those who endured abusive, unhealthy, negligent, toxic, manipulative, or addicted mothers on Mother’s Day.

Understandably, it’s a difficult topic to write on. There is a huge spectrum of people in different stages of healing from their trauma.

You seek support from friends or other family, but truthfully- they’ve not experienced it and cannot understand it at your level; and they don’t always know what to say.

They don’t know how hard this day is for you.

I have an amazing mother-in-law. Seriously! A phenomenal mother-in-love who is THE. BEST. NANA. to my girls and crazy loving towards me.

I am grateful for her every single day. And I am consistently reminded by people that while my mom isn’t in my life, I sure do have a great MIL!

Listen, I know! Trust me. I love her so stinking much.

But that’s incredibly invalidating and disheartening to hear – because its apples and oranges.

My mother in law has an awesome mother in law too! But she cannot replace her mother who lives states away, you know?

A square peg, while still a good sturdy peg, does not fit in a round hole. The round hole was made for a round peg that got broken.

I’m thankful for this family that I have through my husband… but they are who they are, and cannot quite replace that ache for what should have been.

I see my husband and his siblings and all the memories they share with their mom and my heart aches for all the memories and laughter I don’t get to have, because my memories aren’t pleasant.

My memories are screaming, threatening, name calling, emotional abuse and gaslighting; mine are my mom taking me on shopping sprees when she was in an up mood, because our house was hell when she was in a down mood.

Threatening to call the police on the family that took me in when she kicked me out. Speaking so cruelly to me that I struggled with horrific self harm and continue to fight anxiety.

Forbidding me to leave the house or have human contact, which drove me insane and led to three suicide attempts. Those are the memories that come to mind for me on Mother’s Day.

To all you who may be reading this with that strange knot in your chest on Mother’s Day. I see you.

You are not alone in that hard space, feeling sadness or envy for what you don’t have, and still feeling all the emotions towards that person who stole a healthy mom experience from you.

What a day, for the kids like us.

The ones who wept everyday, who wanted to die to be free, who were never enough, who hid, who served and gave more than we should, who lost our childhood.

What a day for women who’ve had to learn to mother their own children with no positive, healthy tools in their parenting tool belt, but plenty of fear of turning into her.

What a day for the father who wants to celebrate the mother of his own children and mourns the mother he should have had.

What a day for the people who chose not to have kids because their childhood was so traumatic.

What a day for those whose unhealthy mothers are still a part of their life, those who can’t buy a sentimental Hallmark card for the woman who hurt them, that must sit at dinner on Sunday and grit their teeth while honoring that person on “their” day

What a day for those who are still working towards their healing, plateaued in their healing, afraid of healing.

What a day for those who have moved on and found freedom and strive to do better than what was done to them.

What a day for the survivors.

Oh yes, I said it. You survived.

Its a word that makes some people pretty uncomfortable – it makes them reevaluate what unhealthy really is, what abuse really is, and its unfortunate impact.

I wasn’t beaten but my mind was beaten into submission with so much fear and hateful talk that I would rather end my life than try to leave… I’d say I survived. I know you did too.

You survived. You made it through what tried to break you, and you are on the other side!

You survived the negativity, the lies, the venom – you’re fighting back.

You survived the hitting, the punching, the slamming – they won’t touch you like that again. You are a whole human, even if you still sometimes feel like a bunch of shattered pieces.

I asked some friends to weigh in on Mother’s Day on the other side of a difficult childhood, and I’m sharing their quotes below.

“I choose not to celebrate, but when I did, when I felt forced to, I had the hardest time finding a card with a blank inside. I could never find it in me to profess all the fluffy feel goods that has been Hallmarked for this occasion.


The abuse I’ve been subjected to as a child did not stop at adulthood. Even though it was always denied. That changed on August 4th of last year. My relationship with her has always been on again off again. But on this day, she claimed to be remembering things. She then shared with me one of many memories that I’ve completely blacked out.


I really thought this was going to be a pivotal day in my life. I would imagine the ways the acknowledgment would change my life. How it would set me free.


It was a big deal and I know how much courage it took for her to admit to it.


I felt lighter.


I was so excited to share with a couple people who had the tiniest glimpse into my past.


I felt lighter until exactly two days later when the abuse continued.
I permanently broke those chains my own self and the weight of her lifelong mistreatment ended there.

So I see you. I hear you. I understand your pain and the confusion of such celebrated days for us children who were born to women who couldn’t mother.


I appreciate the glimpse of your family life now and if I can offer any suggestion, it is to celebrate the mother you’ve become despite the place you were raised.”

Staci

“There’s so much conditioned guilt and shame if you choose not to have a relationship with your mother because she is abusive.

Mother’s Day is hard for me. I LOVE being a mom to my kids and motherhood has been so healing for me in many ways, but I also long for that healthy mother/daughter relationship that I know I’ll never get. I feel a lot of grief on Mother’s Day. It’s always bothered me the lack of cards in the store for situations like this. There’s so much pressure to fake it and have relationships with people that are toxic for you, under the guise of “that’s your mother”, as if we should be grateful for years of abuse.”

Julie

“This is a wrestle point for me this year as well. One of my core beliefs/practices is honor. How can I honor someone who isn’t there? What does it look like to love well when you can not directly love that person? Here’s two things I landed on: 1) I will not let someone’s bad decision steal my joy of celebrating or being celebrated in motherhood. I’m a powerful person because I choose to keep my joy. Toxic relationships steal enough, don’t give it your power too! 2) There are multiple ways to be a mom to someone. Yes, there is a woman who you were “fearfully and wonderfully made” inside of, but there are friends, sisters, cousins, aunts, in-laws, church moms, breastfeeding moms, etc who have poured love, knowledge, wisdom, understanding into my life. It’s ok to have more than one mom. It’s also 100% ok to be in a space to grieve these things not coming from a birth mom. There aren’t words that can fix that reality, but there is healing. Be encouraged, you can celebrate this holiday and be in the tension of grief at the same time.”

Shannon

If you take away anything from this, let it be that last sentence…

Be encouraged, you can celebrate this holiday and be in the tension of grief at the same time.

Our sweet, well-meaning friends, we love them.

Their words may help or they may sting, but we can’t judge them for what they don’t know – that tension, the dichotomy, the salty and the sweet.

The joy and the pain of loss all rolled into your heart as you take on the day. The gratitude for what you have now and the grief for what you went through, and wish you had instead.

Take heart, dear friend reading this, you are not alone here. However you feel about the day, celebrating or not, your feelings are valid.

My advice this Mother’s Day?

  • Hold strong to whatever boundaries you have, and if you haven’t set boundaries it is absolutely time to guard and protect yourself.If your friends or loved ones invalidate you in anyway as you process your grief/anger/emotions on this day, don’t react – choose to respond. And maybe gently enlighten them so they can understand and be more empathetic in the future.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t run from the memories – face them, acknowledge them, feel them, then let them free. Process in a healthy way.
  • If you’ve chosen to cut off contact with your mom as your boundary, that is okay. If you feel the need to continue contact and work towards healing your relationship, that’s okay too. Wherever you are in your journey with the woman who raised or birthed you, I stand here with you in a quiet sea of men and women who’ve endured too.

There is community.

There is hope.

There is restoration.

There is wholeness.

There is a healing.

Prisms and Purpose

Prisms and Purpose

I’ve got this prism that is eternally smudged.

I ordered it in hopes that it would somehow elevate our cluttered mess of a dining room into one of those Waldorf forest homeschools where kids keep all their Montessori materials sorted in rainbow colored sets and listen attentively to poetry as they finish watercoloring their nature journals.

Alas, it sits covered in sticky fingerprints on a dust covered windowsill next to an abandoned Captain American LEGO project that is missing a foot. Cap has been sidelined for the foreseeable future just like my dreams of a whimsical home in which to educate my children. 

The truth is that the prism brought us a lot of joy at the outset of the year, but has been shuffled aside under math workbooks and the flotsam and jetsam of four kids learning at home full time for the first time. The prism somehow got shifted aside as an afterthought because, if I’m honest, I’m not fully sure what I’m doing, I’m constantly doubting myself, and I never followed through on that light unit like I thought I would.

The prism hasn’t been shattered by my raging and screaming yet, so that’s a mercy. Turns out we’re not the quiet woodland family I had hoped we might be.

This morning as I lamented the wads of hair and dust that somehow always live on my stairs, and the shoddy job my children do of sweeping them, and the shoddy job I am clearly doing as a parent, I was struck by the prism. Its once pristine glass was noticeably clouded and foggy and I’m pretty sure it was handled by someone who had recently been eating cheese puffs.

But my breath caught as I watched a rainbow pour out of the dim prism onto the hair covered hardwood below.

None of this looks like I thought it would.

I haven’t managed to create a space that “measures up,” whatever that means. I live in a sea of uncertainty and often wonder what use my gifts actually are to the world.

It’s easy for me to dismiss my days as less than, to chalk them up to unfinished projects and problems unsolved. But when I consider the prism, I see more.

When I consider the miracle that a rainbow is at hand, that it dares to shine in the presence of my mess, that it is bold enough to shine onto my doubt and my fury and my fear, I am forced to stop. When I step back to take that in, I’m reminded that all is grace. All is gift. 

You see, the truth reflected in the prism is that the miracle cannot be stopped. The rainbow is somehow not dimmed by smudges or filthy fingerprints.

However manhandled and bunged up it may be, the prism still exists to turn light into rainbows. The purpose of the prism is to reveal invisible, but ever-present colors so that they may be seen by the naked eye.

The miracle cannot be stopped because the prism cannot deny its purpose.

As a woman I am uniquely called to die to myself that I might nurture and grow the souls of others. As a woman I am designed to gently steward the souls entrusted to my care.

As a woman I am specially created to hold all that in my heart, to birth beauty out of struggle, to give life out of groaning. 

We’ve all been manhandled and bunged up. None of us is the flawless crystal we might wish that we are.

Things don’t turn out like we plan or expect. People fail us, boundaries are crossed, our hearts are wounded in broad and intimate ways every day. Yet we are all capable of casting great beauty into the neglected corners of our world.

The miracle cannot be stopped because this is what we were created to do.

The only thing that can stop the miracle is if the prism is moved out of the light. If I shove my prism in a drawer, there’s no way for the light to touch it.

The same is true of our hearts, of course. If our hearts are hidden away, shoved in closets, shut down and shamed, it’s true that we won’t reflect much light. You can’t shine a rainbow from a shadow, it’s true.

And if I’m honest, seeking the light sometimes seems futile and foolish. It’s honestly kind of silly that I’ve kept my filthy prism on the windowsill through the gloom and clouds of the Cleveland winter.

To an outsider it seems like an exercise in futility but I believe the miracle. Even when there are days on end that I don’t catch a glimpse of rainbow, I have faith that the sun will come through the clouds and the cheese puff smudges.

I’ve seen it happen before and I have faith it will happen again. I’ve seen the rainbow on the stairs with my own eyes. I have witnessed the miracle. 

And I realize the same must be done for my heart. I think a lot about how the Psalmist reminds us not to harden our hearts. He may as well be saying, “Don’t retreat. Don’t build up walls and separate yourself from the light.”

And I know in order for me to achieve my purpose, like the prism, I must remain in the light. 

Every day I must claim the miracle. Every day I must accept my purpose as undeniable. Every day I must place myself in the light, smears and smudges fully exposed so that the miraculous love of the Father can penetrate my heart and cast His love onto the world through me.

It won’t work if I’m not in the light. It won’t work if I’m not reading scripture and attending Mass, receiving the Sacraments, praying with my friends. It won’t work if I believe the lies that I’m fed by the world, if I deny my belovedness, compare myself to others, or allow my heart to become hard. 

To be in the light, we must be in the truth. If we are women who claim resurrection, the truth that should spur us on is that nothing is irredeemable.

If we are women who claim the risen Christ, it is our duty to claim Him, to claim the miracle of resurrection in all we do. Our work is to set our hearts on the miracle, to seek it out, to draw our families and communities along with us as we encounter it.

Our calling is to claim the truth of the risen Jesus in ourselves, to speak it over our hurts and our pains, to repeat that truth to ourselves when we are at our weakest and to speak it over our sisters:

“You are redeemed. You are chosen. You are safe. You are loved.”

St. Josemaria Escriva said, “He did not say you would not be troubled, you would not be tempted, you would not be distressed, but He did say you would not be overcome.” 

My place here in my family is not to curate a perfect home or achieve some other lofty goal. My purpose is not to fit any sort of mold of womanhood that’s been manufactured by the world or the church or anyone in between.

My purpose is to shed light, to cast rainbows into darkened corners, to show up and love despite my dinginess and my bruises.

The rainbow is no less beautiful because my prism is smudged. My gifts are no less beautiful because they come from an imperfect source.

If each day is an offering to Christ, I am receiving His light. If each day is a claiming of truth, I am receiving Him.

And if I am receiving the light of Christ, just like the prism on my dusty windowsill, I can be nothing but a channel through which that light enters the world. 

Mary Susan is so dear to my heart! She creates a beautiful space of vulnerability, humor, and encouragement. She can be found at https://oh-bless-your-heart.com/ and here on Instagram.