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.
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.
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!
While I was born in Ohio, I grew up in North Carolina. It will always be home to me, the place I spent my childhood and “grew up” and fell in love with Jesus.
I learned to drive there, I made lifelong friends, I experienced heartache and grief and joy and growth.
Ten years ago I celebrated my first birthday back in Ohio! A decade now of birthdays and life after coming back “home” to where I was born and growing up for real.
I’m turning 29! The last year of my twenties. I know that’s still really young to all the people who’ve lived a lot more of life than me, but the Lord has taught me a lot in these few years I have (and I know He has so much more to share).
In honor of my tenth Ohio birthday, I wanted to share ten lessons I’ve learned in my time here.
1. Crazy Faith Looks Like Crazy Obedience
I remember attending a youth conference when I first moved. During this season Crazy Love by Francis Chan was super popular, as well as the song Crazy Love by Hawk Nelson.
If you’ve ever attended a Christian conference you might know the “conference high” after you get refreshed and hyped for Jesus again.
We attend conferences and get amped up, on fire again after a stagnant season. We go home encouraged, ready to take on the world, spread the good news. Right?
But eventually that amped feeling fades. Because the conference high isn’t sustainable. What keeps the fire alive is intimate relationship with your Savior, not any certain speaker or worship singer.
Then, when God asks Crazy Love level stuff, we hesitate. We fear what people might think. We worry about the financial aspect. The “how.” Sometimes we don’t obey.
On the flip side, there are times we hear the call for crazy faith and we do step out. And “the world” doesn’t get it.
Nominal Christianity won’t get “it” either because it doesn’t make sense to human logic.
A friend once shared with our young adults group the time the Lord called her and her husband to tithe their entire paycheck.
If memory serves me correctly, they were paycheck to paycheck and in between jobs at the moment.
That sounds ludicrous and makes zero sense to the average human brain, right?
Yet they obeyed.
And God honored their faith and blessed their finances several times over that week; rent was paid for, her husband got a job, and they were blessed with an advanced check.
God asks some wild things of us sometimes… Give up an ivy league for the mission field. Donate your bonus to a homeless shelter.
My husband and I eloped at 20 + 19 years old and everyone thought we were nuts. Horrible things were said to us, I was almost pressured into signing an annulment by family, and it was a really rough beginning because of the opposition we faced.
Many people thought we made a really stupid decision, but we felt God led us to do so.
Was it always easy? No. But following God and obeying isn’t always easy. It’s often wild, crazy, and takes a lot of courage and hard work.
If we hadn’t stepped out in crazy faith we wouldn’t have the life we have now or be in the season we are now and I can’t even fathom it!
There’s been several crazy faith moments in my life but this one gave me everything I am so grateful for. Definitely worth it.
2. Romance Looks Different From What “They” Tell You
When Justin was pursuing me he took me to church, brought me medicine when I was sick, and made me laugh so much.
We had weekly date nights, went to the movies and geocaching, dinner out, all that good stuff.
But ten years in romance Looks different than the early puppy love. It looks like a husband that listens. It looks like learning what an anxiety attack and helping me through it with patience.
Romance is emergency take out dinners when he’s heard I’ve had a bad day, surprising me with my favorite pop, learning with me how to parent our kids well.
It’s brewing my coffee for me in the morning when the baby nursed all night. Setting firm boundaries to protect me. Hanging twinkle lights without complaint when I can’t reach.
Romance in the movies looks attractive (and sometimes unrealistic, honestly) and then marriages are so often portrayed as dry, loveless, and lacking.
With intentionality, purpose, and thorough communication romance doesn’t have to die off. It can shift and look different, but it gets better and better!
Love can age well.
Every year has been filled with more fun, more passion, more laughter, and more tenderness.
I still love surprise flowers and dinner dates. But I so love the quiet ways we get to love each other too.
3. Boundaries Are Vital
I majorly struggle with people pleasing. I have had a hard time saying no to things, to people, because I don’t want people to dislike me.
In the past few years I’ve learned how unhealthy that is. My mental health is important because it directly impacts my life and family, and taking on too much affects it.
The health and well-being of my spouse and kids is top tier, and we can’t say yes to it all, or they suffer.
This can be anything from jobs, ministry, school opportunities, family, friends… You name it. Sometimes we have to say no. I can’t. We aren’t able to take that on.
Without excuses, without over explaining or justifying. If something isn’t serving you and your family, you don’t need permission or some grand circumstance to turn it down or say “this isn’t okay.”
You can’t speak to me like that. We can’t do that. No.
This isn’t always easy (what in life is). You will inevitably receive backlash, anger, and plenty of upset when you or every aspect of your family/time/finances etc aren’t readily accessible.
It’s always worth it to protect your family, your marriage, your mental health, your home, your budget, and your time.
4. I’m Worthy Of Good Things
I grew up thinking I was an inconvenience. It felt like I was a problem that ruined my mom’s life, that stole her freedom, and I wasn’t worth it (whatever “it” was in my little mind).
The burden sat heavily on my shoulders for far too long. It’s an inner voice I still have to ignore and fight off sometimes (aka way too often).
“The way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice” hits me hard. Because it’s so true.
But I’m not an inconvenience. I was designed by a Creator who fashioned me carefully, every detail for a reason. I was created with purpose for a purpose.
I’m not useless, I’m not an imbecile, I’m not worthless. These are not my identity.
My identity is beloved. Daughter. Redeemed. Worth dying for. Treasured, adored, fiery, lovely.
His voice is louder than all the rest, when I remember to listen.
I’m worthy of good things. I’m worthy of joy, love, laughter, and friendship.
I deserve people in my life who love me well, respect me, and don’t mistreat me. I don’t need to accept treatment that doesn’t align with that.
5. Feelings Aren’t Facts
I used to think if I felt something, it was true. This was before I learned that anxiety is a liar, that my inner dialogue can be abusive talk still ingrained in me, and that the heart can be deceptive.
We need to keep our thought life in check. We can hold space for hard feelings but we can’t keep holding on to them, lest they become bitterness taking root in our hearts.
I might feel ______ but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s truth. I might entertain ______ for so long and it’s fine, but then it spirals me into a bad place for my heart.
The what-if’s and the but if I‘s aren’t helpful. Intrusive thoughts aren’t reality. And assuming the worst doesn’t actually prepare me for anything.
I could feel like my husband is mad at me because his tone was off, assume the worst, and act out of that assumption and let it affect my mood and behavior towards him…
Or I can assume the best and turn those thoughts around, maybe he’s having a hard day, maybe he needed to burp and it came out funny (I speak from experience).
I can communicate with him and ask instead of assuming the worst.
Learning about feelings and the power of my thought life has been a game changer for me and my freedom and emotional regulation.
6. It’s Okay To Have Bad Days
I used to think if I had a bad day, and wasn’t cheerful all the time, or made a mistake/lost my temper/had an attitude that I was a bad Christian.
We have to be the salt of the earth! I have to be a witness. I need to be the light in the darkness and if I appear to be a human with emotions outside of joy ever than no one will want to know Jesus.
This is not healthy. God gave us emotions, and we can use them as tools to understand what’s going on in and around us.
Losing my temper with my kids after an exhausting day doesn’t make me a bad mom.
Sometimes I’m snarky because I haven’t eaten and my blood sugar is dropping! (Hello, fellow hangry people.)
It’s okay to have a day where things go wrong, or dinner gets burnt, or I yell or spill coffee.
A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life.
A bad day doesn’t mean I’m a failure. And it doesn’t mean I’m a bad Christian. I’m just a human with humanness, who happens to also live Jesus.
7. My Too-Muchness Isn’t For Everyone
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard “you’re too much.”
It’s been said in jest, in anger, in exasperation. It used to hurt a lot.
I don’t wear it as a wound anymore though. It’s a unique badge of honor that I wear proudly (sometimes… Haha).
See, I am a lot. I’m loud, all the time. I am loud in every color and emotion! I am passionate about many things.
There’s some weird stuff too, like sensory overload, stuttering, major fantasy adventure nerdom, ADHD behavior (I could write a whole novel on that topic alone)…
The whole package of *waves at all this* can be a lot for some people. And this really bothered me (recovering people pleaser that I am) for a very long time. I had to prove myself to them, and I was crushed when my Too-Muchness wasn’t their cup of tea.
Some people think I’m weird (I am, but they do in the “that’s a bad thing” way). Some people think I’m too loud. They don’t get it about how I am.
That’s okay. I don’t need to be everyone’s friend.
There are people that love all my Too-Muchness and adore it. My volume, my Lord of the Rings quotes, my passion about whatever soapbox I happen to be on. And I treasure them.
And I try not to hold it against the people who don’t like my Muchness haha.
8. I Am Resilient
My anxiety might like to lie and tell me otherwise, but dare I say – I am resilient. I’m going to toot my own horn here. (My husband inspired me to write this one so I have permission, I won’t be cocky I promise!)
I can do hard things. I have been through the RINGER and back, okay? It’s too much to even sum up in here.
As I mused what I should include here, my husband brought this up to me. That even in darkness and “the depths of despair” (if you’re my level of nerd you’ll get the quote) I don’t give up.
My faith has been through the ringer too, but it just goes deeper.
This lesson is 1000% God, not me. His grace alone has gotten me through suicidal seasons, miscarriages, backstabbing and so much more.
I am resilient because I cling hard to the hem of His garment. Sometimes I’m holding on by a thread, or the skin of my teeth! But guys, I’ve tasted and seen His goodness. It’s all that matters. It’s what’s kept me alive.
This one could take an entire series, a few paragraphs here won’t do it justice. It’s coffee date level. Jesus has brought me through it all, His strength is what makes me resilient.
9. Gratitude Is The Key
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
It’s easy to complain. It’s so easy to focus on the bad and not see the good. I got so stuck in that cycle, viewing life through the negativity lens.
It’s where my Finding Daily Delight project came from. I wanted to rewire myself to look for the little things to take delight in again and practice gratitude.
I could list countless scriptures about thankfulness and gratitude! It’s repeated so many times.
Think about it, if you are focusing on the negative only, it will affect your attitude. (Remember earlier when I mentioned thought life? Mindset matters!)
This isn’t about toxic positivity. This is about operating from a grateful heart space. Holding space for the both//and, where you can have both hard moments and joy, and not settling into despair.
Paul was able to worship and praise from a prison cell. David wrote Psalms crying out “where are you God?!” in one breath and worshipping Him in the next breath.
We can too. Both//and. Gratitude unlocks next-level joy and peace.
10. I Like Who I Am
It’s okay to be different and weird and like strange things. I used to despise that about myself.
Surely, I thought, if I just dress more normal or liked this type of music or hopped on that diet wagon or this fad I would come across as more normal and then people would like me.
This was before I discovered my Too-Muchness. Striving to be what people wanted me to be so I’d have their approval led to a lot of unhappiness on my end.
I’m loud, I am neurodiverse, my playlists on Spotify range from anthem worship to punk rock to folk and bluegrass.
I like who I am. I like the things I like because those things make my soul come alive.
Lake Erie might be a smelly mess to some people but it’s where I feel Jesus next to me in the car. I love that I love Lake Erie, I love that Jesus meets me there.
I like that I cry during Hallmark Christmas movies. I’m “sensitive” and feel all the things and Hallmark movies are a safe, cathartic release.
There is not box for me to fit into, my design is unique just as yours is. Quirks, dislikes, the things that make us laugh… Trying to change or fit into someone else’s peg is pointless.
I enjoy who I am growing into. I’m excited to see who I am in ten more years!
Here’s the thing about all of these lessons: I don’t have one of them mastered. God still works on these same lessons with me.
Even my birthday today. 90% of this post was already written. My morning was splendid, but by afternoon some stuff hit the fan. My birthday wasn’t sunshine and rainbows.
It could have ruined the rest of my night. I had to fight off those thoughts that I was a failure again. But as my oldest says, we had a restart! The rest of my birthday evening was redemptive and sweet.
Happy ten birthday, Ohio. I’m so glad to be home. When I celebrated my first birthday here I never imagined in a decade I’d be watching my daughters run around our front yard from my porch. This is what dreams are made of 🧡
This week I had a phone date with my “NC BFF,” who I am so blessed to still have in my life 11 years and 500 miles later. She’s known me since my early teen years and been by my side through a lot of pain and joy.
She remembers who I was before the life I have now, and as we chatted recently she mentioned how this *gestures broadly* was my dream.
18 year old Alyssa didn’t know if she could have kids. She didn’t think she could be a mom because of her upbringing.
She had grand ideas of producing movies and being a bestselling author, living a wild life to numb the pain she carried, never getting married because boys hurt her, but underneath it all was the dream to be a wife and mother.
I didn’t know how I’d ever achieve this dream, of a husband who loved me and kids and a home and joy.
Lo and behold… here I am with everything I prayed for and didn’t believe possible. A sweet husband, three beautiful girls, and a house I get to make into a cozy home.
I was thrilled. Those early years had their fair share of hardship, but it was everything I wanted. I’ll never forget the morning after my husband, baby, and I moved into our “big” apartment. I woke to sunlight streamed in, hitting our new yellow quilt and a smiley baby. For the first time I felt absolute contentment.
This was it! Hashtag wife life! Starting the day feeding my girlie oatmeal and fruit. The faraway dream was finally reality.
And yet, somewhere along the way something whispered to me. A lie crept in and deceived my heart.
This lie told me it just wasn’t enough. I was just a mom. I wasn’t there yet.
It stole some of my joy, and striving took it’s place.
If I do this then I’ll matter. If I do that, or serve here, or work there, or get a degree, or do ______ THEN it will be enough. When I finally get a house, when I work a “real” job, when we can afford _______.
I know moms aren’t alone in being fed this destructive lie. Women from all walks of life experience this!
I have ________ but I still need to get married and then I’ll be happier. I have the dream job but I still need to visit _________ or do ________ and then I will be accomplished. I need to take that class or have this certification and then things will fall into place.
I should be doing more. I can do it all. If I can’t do it all, there’s something wrong with me.
Let’s break that off right now. May I be bold?
You are enough right where you are.
You can still have goals, you can still walk the steps to get there! But listen to me right now: you matter, you are worthy, you are enough in this season. Before you get to the next one.
Don’t let the “hustle” lies tell you otherwise.
Whether you are a mom, or work at Subway, or are in law school or anywhere in between!
You are enough.
Comparison and striving steals our joy from the right-now moments.
You can have dreams, you don’t need to step into all of them right now. You deserve joy before you get there, on the way there, and when you arrive.
If you are an intern in this season of life, you get to be the best intern you can be. You have purpose. You can have joy!
If you are a mom in this season of life, you get to be the best mom you can be. You have purpose. You can have joy!
The same goes for pastors, counselors, students, graphic designers, artists, and farmers.
You don’t have to be married to be whole. Wanting a partner to do life with is absolutely valid, but you’re a still a whole person on your own.
Traveling the world is amazing! It’s okay if you start small and get to know the city you’re working in til you can afford bigger.
Wanting to be in ministry is an incredible goal! It’s okay if you can’t right now because your family is your first ministry and needs your time more.
Culture sells us “more” but so often we lose hold of what we already carry to grab hold of it. Where you are right now deserves your attention.
This past year has brought me back. 2020 was difficult on so many levels, but it forced me to slow down and reevaluate. To rewire some thinking and take charge in my mental health, boundaries, and growth.
I think the Lord set me free from that deception. The weight of that burden being gone… It makes me feel light as air sometimes (when life drama doesn’t remind me there other weighty things haha).
This picture I have framed on my hutch gave me pause as I perused Pinterest one day.
The little girls, the baby wearing mom with coffee in hand, fresh bread and a cooling pie. The windows open to show off a gorgeous sunset.
A little moment of my dream captured in folk art.
Of all the things inspiring me lately, giving me joy, helping me fall in love with life again… This little painting has stood out time and time again.
It’s the background on my phone now too, because it centers me to my most-importants. It reminds me of what used to be my dream, what I have now that’s so important.
Right here is pretty stinking awesome. I could live only looking forward, dissatisfied with what I’m missing, and pining for the future… but I’d really be missing out.
My season of life can be hard, but it’s still good. It’s where I am. I still have goals and dreams! But I am no less of a person whether I’m “just a mom” or an author too. This goes for you too, my friend.
Dreams are good. God gives us dreams! He has a calling for every one of us. But sometimes we try to rush future dreams into the right now. We can invest in the future and still hold space for what’s valuable right now.
If you can’t breathe because you’re so busy, if you have no time for rest because you’ve taken too much on, if you’re finding yourself unhappy and overburdened… Some things might need to shift.
Plan out your goals, that’s not unimportant, but live in the present. Give yourself room to breathe and time to rest here. Don’t pack it all in to get their faster, because burnout is REAL.
You don’t have to get there before you’re real or valid.
You already are.
Live in that freedom, friend. You are loved and important in every stage.