Christmas was always special to me growing up. It didn’t matter how awful my year was or what I was going through, there was some joy in the air.
There was such a palpable, real holiness to the season that I could feel. The magic in the lights and the tree, the coziness of a fire and stockings.
No matter how cold the wind is or how dark the night, there’s a warmth we are invited into in the Christmas season that has always truly been there… because its the Light of the world beckoning us.
I learned about the season of Advent as an adult. If you, like me, didn’t grow up familiar with Advent, here’s a quick synopsis.
In the liturgical Christian calendar, it is the feast that begins four Sundays before Christmas, ending on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve begins the 12 day Christmas season.
One catechism describes Advent spirituality beautifully: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’”
Advent is meant to get us ready, not for a present-opening party, but for a transformational celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is a season of expectation.
In the years before Christ, the people on earth were yearning for a savior; the Jews waiting for their promised Messiah. Every human ached for Him, whether they realized it or not.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.”Its a celebration of the anticipation felt then for the coming of the Savior and the anticipation we feel now for His return, for our home, reminiscing how much we needed Him to come and still need Him now.
Christmas is the celebration of His birth, but Advent is preparing our hearts for that very celebration, yearning and hoping and taking comfort in His peace no matter the darkness of the world.
When I discovered Advent a few years ago I was in a really dark place. I could feel Jesus beckoning me into this space of desiring Him and yearning for Him, while creation groaned for Him it was as if a lightbulb went off in my heart. My soul was groaning for Him too.
Ever since then its been a really special, tender time of year I look forward to; while we should always seek His face, it was a time specifically set aside to dive in deeper. It became a time to settle in and focus on Him more diligently in this season rather than get wrapped up in the stress of family gatherings and present buying.
While preparing for a youth lesson a few years ago, I was reading a blog written by a reverend who had also grown up without Advent – He only discovered it as an adult in Theological Seminary when his professor gave a lecture on worship and the beauty of the Church Year like Advent, Christmas, Holy Week, Pentecost etc.
The professor was excitedly talking about how the seasons of the Church Year could enrich the worship of a church as well as a person’s own private devotions. The reverend had never heard of this growing up and, much like me, decided to explore Advent as a personal devotion time with the Lord.
He came to love Advent because he found that observing Advent enriched his celebration of Christmas. Rather than a materialistic holiday, he was finally experiencing the spiritual depth of the season in his closeness with the Lord and celebrating His coming to rescue us.
For so long after Adam, the world lived in such brokenness. Humans tried to fix the pain and emptiness but it wasn’t the actions of men that would bring relief and change.
The world waited.
In Advent we don’t just anticipate the coming Savior, but the “making new” creation has longed for since the fall.
God always had a rescue plan, and it all began with the birth of His son. The One who would bring order, make things new, heal and restore us.
The One who pull us from brokenness into wholeness.
“For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
Each Sunday in Advent has a theme and the first Sunday of Advent is Hope. The hope and longing our ancestors felt waiting for the coming of Christ, the hope we can feel in knowing He has us, even now.
The dictionary definition of hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, or, a feeling of trust.
Biblically hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you – 1 Peter 1:3-4
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13
Hope can be scary sometimes, have you ever been afraid to hope for something? Afraid to put your faith in something and it not come to pass? I know that I have.
Jesus is a safe bet for your hope.
We can hope for things and situations to go a certain way but know that when you hope for Him, you are not putting your faith into an empty impossibility. He will come through. He will meet you there.
Challenge: Take time this week to meet with Jesus. Give Him your hopes and dreams and place your hope in Him. He wants you to come close to Him this season, so think about ways you can make time with Him a priority. Hope for wild things with Him, dream with Him about how you want to grow and what you want your relationship with Him to look like! Look up some verses on hope this week to meditate on.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Romans 12:12
Affliction comes in this world but like this verse says we can be joyful in hope, because our hope isn’t in this world and the people in it. Our hope is in the Light that overcame the darkness.
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!
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 🧡
2020 has brought on a “silent rise” in mental health crises.
It’s no secret that it’s been a rough year, but viruses aside, the job losses, bankruptcies, and isolation has had devastating repercussions for mental health.
People already struggling with anxiety and/or depression may feel like they’re barely treading water with their mental health. Others who have never (or rarely) experienced anxiety or depression have, unfortunately, begun having their own bouts.
I know for myself, dealing with end of pregnancy and postpartum, on top of dealing with repressed trauma responses… Covid depression has been the icing on the cake.
Of course there are good days. We feel a camaraderie, like we’re all in this together! We got this! It sucks but we’ll get through it.
Other days though might feel really dark. Numb and apathetic. Lonely and weary. What is the point of x, y, z?
Last Fall was a very difficult time for me, a lot of joy was stolen. As this season has approached I’ve entered it with a jaded attitude. A lot of pain is resurfacing for me to face, and I’m learning the dance of holding space for pain but holding on to joy too.
What I wanted to talk about today is the in-between of those two extremes. The both//and space.
You can hold space for hard emotions and bad days, and still look for the light shining through, for the joy moments and the silver linings.
You can also hold space on your fantastic days for the trauma that you’re still working through. You can enjoy things and still recognize that you are wounded and that there’s work for you to do.
Your joy doesn’t have to erase your pain.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you’ve ever worked through traumatic situations or had to process hard emotions, we can almost sort of gaslight ourselves if we have good days.
Like, oh I’m having a really good day maybe this isn’t bad as I thought it was. Until something triggers you or you’re faced with more emotions that you haven’t processed through yet.
Likewise, when you’ve dealt with depression or anxiety and have felt like you’re spiraling, we can become consumed with those difficult feelings as well.
Our vision can become clouded with everything that is wrong in the world because of the hardship that we are working through. It feels impossible to “choose joy” because everything is painful, or we are numb to everything.
We do need to be cautious in those circumstances though. We are not victims to our mind, and though we can deal with mental health issues, we must take authority over some areas as well.
Becoming consumed with our depression or anxiety, not seeking help or utilizing tools that can help us, can be destructive not only to ourselves but to those around us too.
I’ve seen depression and anxiety steal away so much from families; I’ve seen it in my own family growing up and the repercussions that it had for me as a child.
This has been the number one driving factor for me in trying to grow and heal, so that my problems would not negatively affect my children.
In that same vein however, we can also be consumed with running from our depression and anxiety, or our trauma that needs to be dealt with. This is also unhealthy.
Rather than communicate our pain, or face difficult emotions, we try to be happy and bubbly and ignore the pain. “Fake it til you make it” can be as damaging for some people as it is helpful to others.
Because pain that we swallow down instead of facing and processing will absolutely come back to bite us. It can look like rage, depression, fear and anxiety, and many other things.
So where is the line? How can we not let depression and anxiety rule our lives and steal all our joy, yet also not force happiness and joy when we are in the midst of pain and grief?
I’m no expert, I’m just a mom who’s done a lot of reading and praying haha. But I would love to share what I’ve learned, and what helps me.
Have grace with yourself. Have you ever heard that phrase? What does it look like though? I’d say it looks like being kind to yourself and what’s going on in your head.
Don’t be a bully. Don’t make yourself feel bad for what you’re going through. If your inner dialogue is making you feel bad, you need to reroute that language!
Even if you have to over and over, tell yourself no! And talk to yourself like you would talk to a hurting friend or loved one.
Would that dialogue be uplifting or edifying for a beloved friend? If not, than don’t speak that over yourself.
Another thing to consider here: when we are numb we might not even be able to give ourselves grace. But we can receive God’s gift of grace.
All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us. And just as we experience the abundance of Christ’s own sufferings, even more of God’s comfort will cascade upon us through our union with Christ. If troubles weigh us down, that just means that we will receive even more comfort to pass on to you for your deliverance! For the comfort pouring into us empowers us to bring comfort to you. And with this comfort upholding you, you can endure victoriously the same suffering that we experience.
2 Corinthians 1:3-6 TPT
This might look different for the person or by the day, but we can sit in His grace and comfort when we can’t give ourselves grace. He can hold you, just rest in Him.
2. Choose Joy
I know some people get super irritated by this phrase. I get it, being told to be happy when you’re suffering is upsetting.
But choosing joy in spite of your circumstances isn’t forcing happiness when you’re miserable.
It is tapping into a supernatural gift and a fruit of the Spirit which is yours to have when you know Jesus. The joy of the Lord can be your strength when you have no strength of your own left.
Choosing Biblical joy and gratitude isn’t faking happy, it’s a deep-seated soul joy, soul rest, to enter into.
I wanted to pick a Bible verse about joy but there’s so many!! Let me just reference a few:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” James 1:2
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” Galatians 5:22
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…” Psalm 16:11
“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Psalm 4:7
The list can go on and on! The Lord has joy for you that goes far beyond surface worldly happiness, another verse called it “inexpressible joy.” To me, that goes beyond a circumstantial emotion like happiness.
Joy is like a pressure washer.
A lot of people don’t really know that though.
Pressure washers are wonderful inventions, in seconds, they can remove years of build up. Years of caked on dirt in the most walked on areas around our homes.
We all have these areas, and I don’t mean around our homes. Around our hearts. Places people have walked all over us. Trampled on our hearts. Brought their dirt (and other things) into our lives. The areas that have become not only dirtied, but hardened from so much traffic.
Much of the time, we think we have to get everything cleaned up before we can be joyful. We think we have to have it all healed before we can get out of feeling down and dirty.
And those who think like that often never become joyful. They stay depressed. They stay bitter. They stay hurt. They stay is self-pity. All the while protecting themselves from the very thing that can remove it all.
The pressure washer of joy.
God wants to give us His joy to remove the years of build up. To quickly blast away the years of pain. To clear up the places that seemed impossible to clean.
Is. 35:10 says…”those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
It’s joy that’s makes the sadness and sighing flee. It makes them run from us. It’s joy that blasts it all away.
Don’t wait to be joyful. Don’t fix everything before you smile and laugh again. Don’t wait. Don’t even hesitate.
Receive joy today and watch what happens as you do.
3. Glimpses of Gratitude
A few years ago I tried to keep a gratitude journal. I’d sit at the table and try to comb through my day to recall and write down everything I was grateful for.
While it was a good suggestion, it wasn’t realistic or sustainable for me. I often forgot to pull the journal out or just sat there with my mind wandering trying to pull out something to write down!
And on my bad days? I honestly couldn’t think of things. Of course there’s the I’m grateful for my home, my family, food in the fridge, etc.
Sometimes it’s really hard to see beyond that when depression has a grip on your feelings and everything is numb.
I wrote a post about taking every thought captive; intrusive thoughts, depressed thoughts, spiraling thoughts, and tips to help you realistically take those thoughts captive! Read that here.
Instead, what has been helpful for me is momentary glimpses of gratitude.
It can happen any moment of the day, but it’s something that lights you up. Morning sun dancing on the hardwood floor in my kitchen. My girls giggling and dancing in the living room. The way my warm coffee feels in my hand.
It doesn’t have to last long, but pause and sit in that moment and feel the gratitude. Thank the Lord for that glimmer in your day.
Instead of reciting off everything you’re supposed to be grateful for, look at your day or those moments with your God lens on.
You can even ask Him! Lord help me see with Your eyes today, help me see the beauty. Feel His delight in the moments around you.
Just like joy, there are so many verses about gratitude and thankfulness in the Word!
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” Colossians 3:15
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” Psalm 28:7
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7
Gratitude is the key to a heart posture towards Jesus and walking in joy regardless of outward circumstances.
One of my favorite podcasters, Blake Guichet of The Crappy Christian Co. recently wrote about this topic and it’s so good!
“It’s not that our feelings don’t matter or aren’t valid – we should honor one another’s emotions and bear each other’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. But the line gets blurry when we start treating those emotions as though they are the facts of the situation.
I know that the reason I personally function this way is because of my generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis. Through years of therapy, I’ve learned to separate how I feel from the truth to avoid spiraling out of control. And for the most part, it really serves me well.
The truth without love is harsh.
Love without truth is enabling.
That’s why we tell the truth in love (Eph 4:15) This a necessary maturity of faith so that we are no longer tossed to and fro by our emotions, but deeply rooted in what God says about us and others.
I’m honestly thankful that our feelings aren’t facts. When things feel hopeless, we know they never are. When we feel isolated, we have the knowledge of God’s nearness. When it seems like the world is out of control, we know the One who holds it all.
Your feelings aren’t facts, friend. And that should provide you with peace. Let’s stop allowing our emotions to run the show and instead turn to the truth.
We are not victims, and living with a victim mentality will steal your joy and suck the life right out of you. Maybe you were wronged, abused, mistreated. That’s valid.
But staying a victim in every area of your life, not growing or healing, is super damaging.
The Word tells us we are more than conquerors, in ALL things. That He works ALL things together for our good. That the Lord can make beauty from our ashes. The ashes of abuse, trauma, accidents, pain, etc.
We see what’s right in front of us. But the Lord sees an entire atlas of roads leading from our current circumstances. We have no idea what He can do through us and our stories!
A note on victimhood…
Mental health struggles are not a free ticket to be a jerk.
Yes it happens. I’ve experienced this. I have seen awful, atrocious behavior justified because of where someone was mentally. This is wrong.
We still need to take responsibility for our actions; mental struggles cannot be a crutch or excuse for bad behavior.
Victimhood clouds judgement and can cause immense pain, for others, and yourself too.
You are not powerless, you are still in charge of you.
“You can sit here but you can’t stay here.”
Validation is important, but dare I say, needing validation can also be a crutch. Some feelings can’t be validated if they are skewed or untruthful, but they can be acknowledged.
Having safe people, trustworthy friends or family, who can lead you back to your foundational truths when you are blinded by pain, apathy, or spiraling thoughts is so important.
Staying somewhere unhealthy and stewing in negative thoughts is a counterproductive narrative that will keep you bound up. Stewing and processing are not equal.
We can sit with grief. We can sit with hard things that need to be processed. Ignoring doesn’t help!
But staying there is when it becomes dangerous. We can miss the steps towards healing that God has for us. We can miss the beauty that’s transforming by remembering only the ashes.
Don’t run from your pain, but don’t let it swallow you either.
You don’t deserve to be consumed by dark thoughts and days of sorrow. There’s a bigger plan for you!
Depression is real, I have felt it’s nasty claws. Anxiety is real, I have experienced is vice-like grip.
We can acknowledge our hard and still see the joys. We can find delight in little things, even when bigger things are going wrong.
Remember the both//and my friend, and remember you are never ever alone.