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.

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.

Deborahs Rising

Deborahs Rising

I recently shared on my Instagram how the Lord is leading me on a new writing journey. I shared it in my most recent post on the blog – Ezer Kenegdo.

Today I wanted to talk about Deborah. She’s one of my biblical heroes, and my first realization that women in Christianity are often slighted in leadership.

Why is that? After growing up in a church culture that had women as Sunday School teachers but never pastors, I read about the female leader of Israel.

Deborah was a prophetess and poet, but most importantly one of the Judges of Israel.

This was huge to me when I learned this. Israel was ruled by judges for some 300 years before they asked for a king, and Deborah was one of those leaders.

This was even more astounding to me because the judges of Israel were appointed by God. That meant, contrary to what I had been taught, that God placed a woman in leadership, over His people.

The office of judgeship in the tribal confederacy of the Israelites, which was centred at a covenant shrine, was not hereditary. The judges arose as Yahweh saw fit, in order to lead an erring and repentant people to a restoration of a right relationship with him and to victory over their enemies. The quality that enabled a person selected by Yahweh to be a judge was charisma, a spiritual power that enabled the judge to influence, lead…”

https://www.britannica.com/topic/biblical-literature/Judges-importance-and-role

The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.
Judges 5:7 ESV

Judge here comes from “Shophet” – שׁוֹפֵ
This type of “judge” doesn’t mean a person presiding over legal issues in court. Shophetim were heroic, highest ranking leaders in the land in both the political, spiritual, and military sense.

Let’s set up Deborah’s story

Life in Israel during this season was extremely difficult, and it was because of the Tribes’ disobedience.

When God delivered them into the Promised Land He told them to drive out all the Canaanites, and while some listened– other tribes allowed the Canaanites to stay, perhaps trying to make peace believing things would change or be okay.

In choosing passivity with an enemy they disobeyed God’s command, which was given for their protection and abundance. This led to the Canaanites pushing Israelites from their land and the slow fade of losing who they were as they mingled with these people who did not honor God.

They began to worship false gods and idols and behave in wicked ways. “So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them.” (Judges 2:14)

He allowed them to be overtaken by the culture and people they welcomed. He didn’t do this with a hateful heart, but that they might repent after feeling His absence.

There was a cycle of obedience, bondage, and rescue in the history of Israel. Judges 2:18 says God was moved to pity by their groaning because of the oppression they were under, and yet they would still return to the same patterns that ensnared them.

When God was setting up judges for them, he would be right there with the judge: He would save them from their enemies’ oppression as long as the judge was alive, for God was moved to compassion when he heard their groaning because of those who afflicted and beat them. But when the judge died, the people went right back to their old ways—but even worse than their parents!—running after other gods, serving and worshiping them. Stubborn as mules, they didn’t drop a single evil practice.

Judges 2:18‭-‬19 MSG

The Lord was angry. Can you imagine? Rescuing a prodigal child over and over for them to spit in your face and return to deplorable ways?

Because of His anger and their violation of the covenant, He left them.

Judges 3 shares the compelling story that comes next, the continuous cycle of judge, rescue, and disobedience. One judge, Ehud, defeated an enemy and led Israel to peace and rest for 80 years, one of the longest breaks in the cycle of this 300+year cycle.

As we can expect, again, the people of Israel fell into evil deeds after Ehud passed away. And so yet again the Lord allowed them to experience the brunt of the repercussions for this.

The Canaanite king’s army was led by a man named Sisera. “Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.”
Judges 4:3 ESV

During this time, Deborah became judge of Israel.

As I have studied this, some of the commentaries have felt the need to weaken the legacy of Deborah, saying she was only appointed because there wasn’t a man strong enough or worthy enough to take on the position.

Only. I laugh at that! She was appointed not because of a lack of men, but because God saw her fit to lead His people!

I also read that she was permitted to lead because she came under Barak’s authority and leadership. But I can’t find Scriptural evidence that confirms this. Barak was a military leader but Deborah was listed as judge over Israel.

“In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways. The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.

Judges 5:6‭-‬7 ESV
Image source

In this season of cyclical pain God appointed Deborah to lead His people to freedom again. She rose into her calling, into her position of leadership, and partnered with her military to defeat the oppressive enemy.

The book of Judges says Deborah summoned Barak. When she asks him about the Lord’s command to confront Sisera, Barak tells her he will not go to battle unless she comes with him.

Various theological ideas abound here, might Barak have said this in sarcasm? Because he was spineless and weak? Or because he valued her leadership and prophetic connection to God?

It’s disheartening that so much male-written commentary and opinion seems to discredit Deborah’s authority or worth on some level.

Why would Barak ask her to accompany him to battle in a sarcastic manner (he wasn’t being emasculated), or because he was weak (he led the military forces)?

Could it be that Barak asked the highest leader in the land to join him because that wasn’t uncommon for leadership to go into battle?

He respected her, he recognized the authority given to her from the Lord (Deborah is the only Biblically documented prophet AND judge of Israel, aside from the last judge – Samuel).

Deborah was appointed by God to lead Israel and bring them to peace.

She stepped into a divine calling, obeyed, led her people and brought them into rest as a mother to the land.

“Now Deborah was a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth.” What is interesting here is this word in Hebrew, eshet, can mean wife. Because of the culture at the time, women were often identified by relation to a husband or father.

“Eshet” also means woman. Lappidoth could be a husband or a place, but neither are mentioned in Scripture to confirm.

There is a third way of interpreting “woman of lappidoth.” Rather than being a proper noun, lappidot in Judges 4:4 could be the plural of lappid, a word usually translated as “torches” elsewhere in the Old Testament, including the book of Judges where the word occurs in two fiery and fierce situations (Judg. 7:16, 20; 15:4-5). Did Deborah have a fiery or fierce personality? Does eshet lappidot mean “fiery lady”?[7]

Lappid can also refer to lightning flashes (e.g., Exod. 20:18). This has led a few scholars and rabbis to suggest that Deborah was a “woman of splendours”.

Marg Mowczko (Who has a theology degree and an MA in early Christian and Jewish studies)

Deborah. Wife, mother, prophetically gifted, governing leader. She is an incredible example of Biblical womanhood.

We, too, can be wives and mothers and leaders. We all have a God-created design and purpose.

In hindsight we can see the great purposes of various women in the Word. Did Esther realize the grand outcome of her story? Did Rahab know the legacy that would come from her?

Are all women called to be political leaders? No. Likewise, not all women will be mothers. Not all women will marry.

Like Paul, there will be women called to not marry. There will be women who mother nations, who mother school rooms, who mother emergency rooms instead of biological children.

I believe we have individual callings for His glory and purpose. We must be careful not to measure another’s role against our own.

If you have been led to be a homeschooling, stay at home mom, I believe there is greatness in the purpose there. You should be supported and equipped on that journey!

If you are called to minister to hearts in social work, there is greatness in the purpose. You also should be supported and equipped well for your journey in that.

A woman’s role is not strictly confined to be a wife and mom. Culturally, in biblical times much else wasn’t always permitted.

In Judges we can see that God does appoint women. In our culture now we have so much more freedom to lead, grow, and serve.

Some of us will serve as wives and mothers. Some will serve in careers. Others will serve in both realms, and all areas covered here deserve our support.

Let’s be women who cheer each other on in our various glorious callings here on earth.

There doesn’t need to be competition or comparison, those are tools of the enemy to divide us and hurt even further.

Women of the Word, let’s rise up like Deborah. Let’s mother our children well, mother our careers well, and mother our callings well together.

Help your spiritual sisters as you can in their own journey. Deborahs partner with Esthers and Tamars and Ruths. Partner with the Baraks and Boazs of our lives!

Let’s dive into biblical womanhood together. I’m excited to dig more into our powerful and divine design! Thanks for joining me along the way.

Ezer Kenegdo

Ezer Kenegdo

I’m going on a new journey with my writing space. I’d love if you would continue to follow along as I share it along with my personal posts, but I recognize the topic won’t be for everyone. That’s okay! If you’re curious, stick around 🧡

Something that I’ve struggled with since childhood is my identity as a woman.

Throughout my journey of religion, disbelief, and discovering Jesus “who am I and what is my purpose” has followed me. Plenty of belief systems have tried to answer that question.

I’ve seen so many mixed messages from so many different crowds. The spectrum in our culture swings from radical feminists who hate men to ultra-controlled wives abused by the term “submit.” I’ve witnessed both ends of it, I’m not here to debate the existence of either side.

I think there’s a middle ground that women are missing out on and honestly, we’re kept from.

Jesus fiercely loved women and advocated for them in a time where that wasn’t the cultural norm.

God desiged women עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ – “ezer kenegdo.” A FASCINATING deep term that goes way beyond “helpmeet.”

I want to dive into this topic, our divine design as warriors, not mice. The incredible stories of women weaved throughout the Word, and what this means for us.

How it can EMPOWER us and free us to walk in our callings and live out our purpose.

Whether you are called to teach the next generation of warriors, or you are called to be salt and light in the courtroom, any role in between…

You were created with purpose. And when you know who you are (and the power behind that identity) you can be an unstoppable Kingdom force.