One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel alone. To feel misunderstood. Not understood at all. To feel like you are the only one who has been where you are. You stand on top of the mountain – the vast and wide world before your eyes, but you don’t see a single soul. You are alone.
You’re going through something dark or have been through the darkness and are still wounded. Where do you turn? You find comfort at times from others, but there is still something lacking. An aching. A searching. A desperate need in your soul to find something or someone to help you – to heal the pain you feel in your heart. You feel alone in your thoughts and feelings. “No one has felt this way before.” Or, “There must be something wrong with me.”
And, then, the frustration comes. The anger at yourself. The guilt for feeling this way. The guilt for still feeling so affected and hurt by the past; even after all this time. Time. We feel or are sent the message that after a certain amount of time has passed is when we should be “over” something. Those bad memories all placed neatly in a box, the box locked, and cast into the ocean. Moved on. Never to remember those memories again or be hurt by them.
But this is not so. It doesn’t work so easily like that.
For me, the past has been hovering over me lately. Like a huge wave, it hovered above my head. I knew what was within that wave. Memories. I tried to keep them away – building a make-shift, flimsy sea-wall to keep the wave away. I succeeded for a few days when I tried this method. But it was hard. And then, just like that, I allowed the make-shift seawall to come down, and the tsunami-like wave came crashing in. I couldn’t fight it anymore. Part of me told me I had to let it crash in. And so they began. The memories. One by one, until there were hundreds of them that I’d been trying so hard to avoid – they flooded my mind. The waves would not stop coming. And I didn’t resist. I just sat there and let them come. I dwelled there with my thoughts and memories. With each memory, came pain. An indescribable pain. Fear came with the memory. So much so that I felt my body jerk at times and shiver in fear. The tears fell that I’d been resisting, and the tears brought something to me that I needed. I felt a weight being lifted from me with each warm tear drop that fell. It was cleansing. Freeing.
I recently told someone about some of my most painful memories from the dark time in my life when I had postpartum depression. I was then asked, “What is the purpose of you thinking about this?”
I was floored by the question. I had just poured out my heart by sharing something so painful from my life, and instead of answers, I was greeted with a question. A question that surprised me. That I didn’t know the answer to. A question that, after thinking about it, didn’t think needed to be asked.
I had been hoping for healing in sharing my memories. But instead was sent the message that I should just stop. I was basically later told that I should just try and not go there. The message I heard was that after all this time that has passed, I should be completely over this. To just not think about it.
I don’t think there is an answer to the question of what is the purpose of me thinking about that painful time in my past.
Perhaps there is no purpose, and maybe that’s the point that that person was trying to make. But maybe we shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not there even is a purpose. Focus instead on the fact that I am still thinking about and remembering this time in my life, which is saying I am still hurting. Let’s realize that I am still severely wounded and these memories maybe are coming up for a reason. I don’t need to be told to just not remember it anymore. How does healing come that way? For one reason, it is natural for us to remember things, and sometimes it’s easier to be triggered to remember our most painful experiences in life.
The biggest reason I think these memories come and when they do, I don’t always resist them, but I let them come, is because I am still wounded. My heart, soul, and mind still need healing.
Also, perhaps because there are still questions I have. Questions like, “Why? Why did that have to happen?” Or, “What if . . . fill in the blank.” What if some element or factor had been different – then, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten PPD.
Maybe you have an experience like that and wonder those same questions about your own pain you went through.
I don’t have the answers to my own questions and probably never will, so maybe my thinking and sometimes “dwelling” on my painful PPD days is really in vain. But, we’re human. It’s only natural to think about the past.
And, as Rafiki said in “The Lion King” . . . “the past can hurt.” Oh yes, it can, and does.
I realize that it is not healthy or good to “dwell in the past” for forever, but we should be allowed to think about these painful experiences from time to time. I don’t know the purpose behind thinking about it. Maybe there doesn’t have to be. Maybe it’s just a part of life and part of the journey towards healing from the past.
A few days ago, when I let the wave finally crash in, it hurt, yes. It brought me fear and anxiety. It brought tears and sadness.
But it also brought me grace. Grace for myself that I haven’t given myself much of before. Since the time of being sick with PPD and then getting better, I can tell you there have been many times that I’ve been triggered by something and my mind goes back to that time, and it’s like I’m there again. Flashbacks I guess you’d say. And more times that not, when one memory comes, they just all start rolling in. Over the past nearly three years since my battle with postpartum depression, when I’ve gotten triggered or find myself “there” again in my mind, I usually beat myself up for thinking about it and still being so deeply affected and hurt by it. I’ll feel guilty.
The other day, though, I lay there crying and it was like I had a revelation. I said to myself, “It’s okay. Lindsey, it’s okay that you’re feeling this way.” It’s only natural and human, especially to be triggered by the time of year of it being my daughter’s birthday, and not very long after that, getting hit hard by the sickness. It’s okay that I still think about it three years later. Telling myself and actually believing that it was okay brought such relief to my soul. I was giving myself permission to feel this way; without guilt. Without anger and frustration. And perhaps without judgment. Tears flowed from my eyes. Good tears. I exhaled a sigh of relief.
Bad things happen in life. There’s no way around that. At times, when the waves of memories were crashing in for me, I felt the need to run away. To literally grab my husband’s hand, and, with or without a suitcase, board a place for some exotic place. So that I could forget. So that I could escape the memories. The pain. But I still remember. I can’t help but remember that time, as it changed my life forever. It changed me, mostly for the good. God’s hand was in it all. He had a purpose for it happening to me and my family. I truly believe that. But I can’t run away from my thoughts. They always catch up to us. I can’t escape from my memory.
I must face it head-on. I must be brave. Let the waves crash in and know that I will still be standing after they have passed through. And I will be stronger than before. For, I made it through the storm.
“Why do I write?”
I’ve had to ask myself this question lately and had to do some internal soul searching.
I am a writer.
Sometimes maybe I feel too humble to admit this or I feel not worthy of the title, but in reality, it is the truth. It has been the truth from the time I could write with a pen. In elementary school, I was already writing children’s short stories and illustrating (or shall I say attempting to) those stories as well. It was my dream as a 3rd grader to be a writer one day. As I got older, I dreamt of the day that I would be a writer and photographer for National Geographic and travel the world to all the places I saw in the pictures in their magazines. Throughout school, my teachers would commend me for my writing. And I wasn’t writing for their approval or praise. I was writing for myself. Because I loved to. Because it was a part of me. I had to write. Always a deep thinker and introspective person, the words easily flowed from my head onto paper. It gave me joy and happiness to create something from nothing. From a blank page into a work of art – not of painted colors but of words pieced together to create meaning and to create a story.
There are boxes in our garage full of journals, my journals, that I have bled my heart into. And I keep buying those journals. I keep filling the pages, and I keep writing.
But, there are times, when, I don’t want to write anymore.
I feel uninspired. This happens to every writer and we automatically think of the word, “writer’s block.” It’s a real thing. There are no ideas. Or we can’t find the way to get it out of our heads….like when a word is on the tip of your tongue.
Or, I simply want to regress away and hermitize myself. Being a writer, at least when you are writing about your own life, is highly personal. It’s risky. It’s scary. Putting yourself out there and exposing yourself takes courage. And it can take a lot out of you. For me, it sometimes creates anxiety as the writer is often wondering what other people are thinking of their writing, and, “what are they thinking about me?”
Which leads me to a reason of why I recently found myself putting my writing to a halt. I had to ask myself why I was writing. Was it for the people? Was my heart in the right place?
In our world of social media, it is so easy to get caught up in the self-gratification of getting “likes” on what we post. It sounds silly and juvenile, but unfortunately, over time, some of us find ourselves becoming obsessed with the number of “likes”, comments or now it’s “reactions” that we get. We can find ourselves rating the worth of what we posted, whether that be a picture, a blog post, etc… based on the number of “likes” we got. Our minds, naturally so, are wired to think that the more “likes”, the better it is. And the less “likes”, we are apt to think that what we presented was not that great after all. We want what we present to the world to be perceived well. As a writer, I have found myself from time to time getting wrapped up in this. And so then I have to ask where my heart is in all of this.
I often find myself thinking of the verse, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?” (Galatians 1:10). It was this very verse and a convicting lesson I heard in church one day several years ago, that I made the decision to get off of Facebook. And I did. For two years. Two whole years, people! That’s a long time! Especially for someone who had realized she was getting too much out of the approval or lack of approval from others through Facebook. She needed to start living more for herself, and not for others.
That was several years ago, and I’ve been back on Facebook since then, though I have had my short breaks that I’ve needed to take from time to time.
Alas, but this post isn’t meant to be just about social media.
I’m being honest about the struggles of being a writer, especially in today’s modern world of technology. I’m talking about the things I wrestle with as a writer.
When I find myself getting gratification from the accolades of people and losing sight of why I wrote what I wrote in the first place….then it’s in those times when I have to take a step back.
I recently found myself feeling a tug at my heart strings to step away from some things in my life. From a group I was leading. From Facebook. From writing.
I found myself needing to get away from people. To become a hermit for awhile. To rest. To seek God. To seek peace in a chaotic world. To see where my heart and priorities were and do some evaluating.
It was during this sabbatical, that I found myself feeling down in the dumps. I didn’t know what to do with my time. I didn’t have Facebook on my phone to scroll mindlessly through. I didn’t have my group to lead. I was losing connection with friends and feeling an emptiness and loneliness. The worst feeling, though, that I found when getting rid of several things all at once, was I was feeling unfulfilled. And then I realized that all these things that I had let go of, including the praise of man, had been giving me a lot of fulfillment. I then felt guilt because of this. But it was during this short break that I found myself spending more time with God and reading books that drew me closer to Him. I felt, at times, a sense of peace and weight off of my shoulders to have surrendered these things for a while. I felt less anxious.
But I began wondering a question – a question we all ask ourselves. “What is my purpose?”
I stopped writing altogether, even for myself in my own personal journals and I realized that something was missing. Something is missing when I am not writing. I am not feeling fulfilled. Writing is like life to me. It GIVES me life. And it has been this way for years, without me even realizing it.
And I think I have come to realize that part of my purpose here on earth is to write. God gave me a talent – a passion, and I must not let it go to waste. As I was going for a run the other day, a thought came to my mind; “I love to inspire people.”
This brought clarity and happiness to my soul. And then that was the answer to my question, “Why do I write?” I write for several reasons, but the driving force behind it is truly to inspire other people. To help people. To encourage others to follow their dreams.
Ever since I overcame my sickness with postpartum depression three years ago, I have been so transparent and vulnerable about that time in my life and what life looks like since going through that. It hasn’t been easy to be so honest, but I have felt compelled, perhaps even called by God to do this. And the reason has been to help others. To know they aren’t alone.
I’ve tried to write about “real life stuff”, so that people can relate. There’s so much perfection that we see on social media and perhaps I’ve even portrayed that from time to time when posting pictures of our travels that have been edited and filtered so that the picture looks like it’s from a fairy tale. But, for the most part, I have felt the calling to, on Facebook and in my blog posts, to be real. It’s kind of against the norm to talk about things like depression and anxiety, but after having gone through it myself, I want to shed light on it. And as one who is on the other side, I want to encourage and inspire others that they will get through the darkness.
And so, I write to inspire. I write for myself. It has helped bring me healing from my battle with PPD. I write for others.
I don’t want to get caught up in the applause of men and I think this is something I will have to constantly keep in check and not lose sight of the purpose of the piece I am writing.
A dear friend of mine sent a message to me recently during my sabbatical from writing, and I felt it was perfect timing and perhaps a sign from God. She said, “You have a gift. Keep doing what you are doing. You have a beautiful way with words.” And her words inspired me to write again. Her words inspired me to say to myself, “I’m not meant to be here to just be silent.”
And I will not be silent. I will not let my pen become covered with dust. I will not let the pages of my journal be left empty.
I will fill those pages with my words. I will fill them with my heart.
I’ll admit – it hasn’t been easy for me. Moving forward has not been easy.
Whenever any one of us goes through something painful or traumatic, muddling through the aftermath can be almost just as hard as when you were going through the negative experience itself.
I have been striving, very hard, to move forward past my traumatic experience with postpartum depression. In three months, it will be 3 years since I suffered through the horrible illness.
They say time heals all wounds, and there is truth to this, but there are some days when the pain can hit you just as hard as if the event happened just yesterday.
After my healing came, I was a changed person. And I strove to help others going through what I experienced. I shared my story over and over. This helped in my healing process, but it has also been very triggering at times.
When trying to move forward, or to put the past behind you, it’s like you can take two steps forward and one step back. You make progress, and then you’re back to where you were…hurting. Remembering. And it is deeply painful.
My journey in trying to move forward, as I said, has not been an easy one, and I’m still on the journey of putting the pain behind me.
When we look back to the past, we can feel a multitude of emotions. Sometimes positive. Sometimes negative.
When I look back to when I had postpartum depression, as one could imagine, there are very few happy memories. It was the darkest, most terrifying time of my life.
I’m not a fan of the phrase or being told to “Move on.” For it’s not that easy to do so. I have also thought about the popular phrase, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” I love these words, and yet, at the same time, it irritates me. I know we do not need to dwell on the past…past mistakes, past hurts, past painful experiences; but I think we must acknowledge and give ourselves the permission to know that this experience is forever a part of us. It may get easier and WILL get easier as time goes on, but it’s a part of your story. It might have helped change the course of your history and the history of those around you. It’s natural to look back. And I think it’s important to look back sometimes…to see the positive that came from that experience. You might have to look hard to find that. There are lessons to be learned, wisdom to be earned. But I do agree that we should not wallow, or try not to wallow in misery every day of thinking about the past.
For me, it’s been a challenge to overcome the flashbacks of the experience I went through. There are so many moments from that time that I find myself reliving from time to time as if I were literally back there again. It’s also been a huge hurdle to overcome my fear and anxiety that I get of ever having to go back to that dark place again.
“Where’s the silver lining in this story?” You might be asking. “How are you moving forward?”
I have to move forward, first of all. We all do. We can’t stay stuck in the past. My counselor told me the other day that God doesn’t want me living this way; feeling this way. Filled with negative emotions like fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, sadness, anger, regret, jealousy and envy. God doesn’t want you living your life bound to these emotions either; imprisoned to them.
So I must seek. I must seek and find the silver lining. I must see the beauty that came from the most painful experience of my life.
I must look back and see, and thank God for my parents and for holding me and crying with me during those dark days. I must be thankful for the closeness and bond that was forged between the three of us because of what happened. I must see my sister, and the love and support, the empowering words she said to me.The love that I saw she had for me. For my brother-in-law and the words of comfort he gave me. I must thank God for my in-laws, who supported me and never made me feel ashamed, but who loved me as their own and who I know prayed fervently for me every day. For all of my extended family – I am so thankful for them.
I must thank God that it CHANGED my marriage. Our marriage wasn’t sunshine and roses before I had PPD, and this experience could have made or broken the relationship between my husband, Josh, and I. He could have abandoned me or lifted up his hands in the air and said, “You’re on your own.” But I saw that man truly shine his brightest. He was an angel, a godsend, sent from above. He held up my arms when they grew weary of carrying my sword and shield. He sometimes took my sword and smote at the enemy himself. He was my hero, and I know I could not have made it through without him. We’ve both thanked God that it changed our course, I truly believe, and made our love grow indescribably closer. We have a bond. We get it. We get each other. We love and cherish one another more than ever. Our hearts have changed BECAUSE of PPD.
I must thank God for the bird he sent my way. I must thank Him that there were crows and buzzards hanging out in the dead tree in my parent’s backyard, taunting me. I must thank Him for sending me a little wren that made a nest outside my window and sang to me every day. For the moment that bird looked in at me through the window and locked eyes with mine and I knew that it was God…his messenger sent to give me hope. I must thank God for this imagery he sent me, that he made me aware that there was a spiritual battle going on, a war between God and Satan.
I must thank God that he saved my life. That he healed me. I must thank Him that He was near me; I felt his presence. I called in His name and clung to him. I grew closer to my Heavenly Father.
I must thank God for my friends. For those who called, texted me, sent me letters, who prayed for me. Their prayers helped send healing my way.
I must thank God for my beautiful daughter, Isabella. For the love that I have for her that is insurmountable. That cannot be measured. That I loved her so much from the moment I saw her, that I fought for her. I fought to stay around. I thank God for the bond we have now, and that she calls me her best friend. I must thank God that PPD did not mess with the bond between a mother and her daughter.
I must thank God for the wisdom he gave me and the words he has given so that I have been able to relate to and help other mamas going through what I experienced.
And I must thank God for the mamas who did not have to go through what I went through. I must thank God that they can enjoy and love on their babies those first precious moments of their life, and not be surrounded by a dark cloud.
I must thank God that he changed me. That he opened my eyes to this life and filled me with zeal and passion. That he softened my heart in many ways.
And I must thank God that I am here. That I am able to share my story with you.
I am a survivor!
Yes, I am moving forward. One step at a time.
If you have it — you can do anything. No one can stop you. Nothing. You can walk into the conference room with your head held up high, papers in hand, and give a presentation of a lifetime. You can hop on a plane and fly across the globe to a foreign country — where the language barrier is just one of the many odds against you. When you have it — you can climb a 14’er — summit the mountain without even thinking twice about all the dangers. When you have confidence, you can do brave things.
But what if you woke up one day and realized that it was gone? You didn’t have it anymore. Your confidence had left the building.
First, you might ask yourself and wonder, “How did that happen?” and “Where did it go?”
I came to a realization one day that I had indeed lost my confidence. I’m not talking about “self-confidence” in regards to how you view yourself, but the confidence you have in your ability to do things.
And I knew why. Why I’d lost it.
I’ve always been a girl who loves adventure. Who loves to do things that are brave and to be seen as brave. I wasn’t a wild daredevil, but I found exhilaration, when I was a little girl, to take my shoes off and run around barefoot — risking the chance of getting a “sticker” in my foot. Over the hot, Texas, summer days, I’d run across the street barefoot to my friend’s house — the black pavement burning my feet —but also toughening them up so they became hardened and resilient — perhaps even more resistant to getting those pesky thorns in my foot. I was a “girly-girl”, but I was also a tomboy. I loved climbing high up in the trees that grew in our backyard and sitting there feeling like I was Pocahontas and that I had a connection with the spirit of the tree.
As I grew up into a young woman, adventure was still on my heart and wanderlust filled my soul. I dreamed of traveling the world.
I met my husband Josh in December 2009. I loved this man — his passion for life and that we shared an affinity for travel. He had already traveled abroad and his stories filled my heart with a longing to see these things. But, more importantly, to see these sights with him.
We married in the Spring of 2011.
I had confidence back then. Oh yes, I had my doubts and my fears, yes — that is only natural for all of us. But I knew I could do things. I had a mindset, perhaps a bit of pride, that I could do anything.
And so, within the first few months of marrying, my husband and I quit our jobs, sold almost everything, packed our bags, said our goodbyes to family, and we moved across the world — from Texas to New Zealand.
This was brave indeed and it took a huge amount of confidence in oneself to be able to do this. With our working holiday visa, we were able to live in New Zealand for a year. And, along the way, I got to climb trees again! Well, not technically, but climbed a ladder and picked apples from the trees. It was like being a kid again. Wild and free. Yet working. So, I’ll admit, I didn’t like apple-thinning too much. I hated it. Josh heard me moan and groan a lot. It took only four days to figure out that Lindsey wasn’t meant for manual labor. But I had had my hand at apple-picking. I had tried it.
While in New Zealand, Josh and I hiked several trails — that’s one of my favorite activities in life to do is hike. Our greatest accomplishment was hiking the 19.4 kilometer Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I had confidence enough to do this treacherous day-long hike and to climb across volcanoes.
And, in New Zealand, I finally overcame my fear of driving on the opposite side of the road, and, after trying it, my heart swelled with pride and confidence. As the saying by Eleanor Roosevelt goes, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”
I had a nickname growing up, given to me by my youth minister who later became my brother-in-law. It was “Linzena – Warrior Princess.”
New Zealand was a time when I truly felt like I was a warrior princess.
We eventually had to move back to the States, and our next destination became Colorado — so that we could continue to breathe in mountain air and revel in God’s creation. I “bagged” (the term used in Colorado when you accomplish summiting a peak) three “14’er”s as they are called in Colorado — meaning mountain peaks where the summit is over 14,000 feet.
To climb a mountain, it takes courage and bravery. It requires confidence in yourself.
Little did I know I was about to climb the biggest mountain — the most rugged, treacherous, dangerous one I would ever have to attempt to conquer. And I’m not talking about Long’s Peak.
I’m talking about postpartum depression.
Our first daughter, Isabella, was born to us on a sunny October day while we were still living in Colorado. It was one of the happiest days of my life. A flood of tears poured from my eyes when I saw her for the first time and heard her first cry. Everything was good — despite the anxiety that I felt intensely every day from the moment she was born.
A month after she was born — my mountain appeared. Postpartum depression hit me full force as I woke up on a Monday morning and had my first of what would soon be countless panic attacks.
I couldn’t take care of myself. I couldn’t take care of my baby. I was a wreck. The depression and anxiety debilitated me to the point where I could barely eat or drink, and I had thoughts of just wanting to end it all.
That is when it happened. Postpartum depression grabbed my confidence, my dignity, my pride, and it ripped it away from me.
I had no confidence that the “mountain climbing, world-traveler, Linzena Warrior Princess” could “bag” this foreboding summit that towered above me. That laughed at me. That made me say things like, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t!”
It made me feel weak. I couldn’t do anything. And I needed someone to be by my side 24/7, because I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of the scary thoughts in my head.
But, amazingly, after four months of inching my way up this mountain towards recovery, I finally reached the summit! I conquered that which tried to take my life. I won. Postpartum depression and anxiety had been defeated.
When I found healing, you can imagine how my life changed. I was on fire! So thankful to be alive. Thank you, God! I had a deep appreciation for life again; for my life. A deep appreciation for my family. A bond that grew between my husband and I as we weathered this storm together. As we, like all the real mountains we climbed together before, this time, my husband carried me on his back many times along the way. I know he did. Our love for each other grew tenfold. I started connecting with my baby daughter again and not feeling so scared of her. It was all so beautiful.
It’s in the aftermath, after a battle as intense as the one I went through, that I realized I had suffered many wounds. One of those being, that I lost my confidence. There were ways in which I actually gained confidence after going through that. But, I felt robbed — like something was missing that I once had.
Even after recovery, I doubted myself.
That’s one of the worst feelings. And it keeps you from doing things. From doing what you used to be able to do.
Fear and anxiety still remain with me, even after recovery, and I struggle with anxiety to this day.
They say that, after falling off a horse, you have to get right back on. Shake the dust off and keep on.
And I have to do the same.
And so that is what I do. I “do the things you think you cannot do”. It’s not easy, and I’m still struggling to get a better hold of my anxiety, so that it doesn’t control my life. It’s not easy. But I’m trying.
I will continue to climb those beautiful mountains. I will do it with confidence —despite my fears and anxieties. I will and have continued to board those planes to foreign places that light my heart on fire.
And I will, despite the wounds I carry, live my life with courage and adventure. I will regain my confidence and, with hardened, tough feet — I will carry on as Linzena Warrior Princess, living out my life Wild and Free.
I used to love the quiet. Always being an introspective person, I would often sit with my thoughts and reflect on them and why I was thinking those things. And it was in the quiet that I felt myself connected and close to God. That I could feel his presence. In college, one of my favorite pastimes was to sit on one of the swings they had scattered throughout the campus. I would swing away. I’d look up at the clouds and talk to God. I’d see the flowers around me and hear the birds singing and knew that God was near. I felt happy. Content. Close to Him. I’d journal my thoughts instead of studying for my next exam. But this was something I loved to do.
Life and circumstances have changed since those college days, back when life was more simple and carefree.
There came a time when I was sick after the birth of my daughter. I had postpartum depression and anxiety and oh, how things changed! I did not want to sit with my thoughts anymore. I didn’t want to hear my thoughts or have the thoughts I had. They scared me. I did not want to be alone.
But things have a way of coming full circle sometimes. Despite not wanting to be alone for a second while I was sick, there were times when I would take the courageous step outside of my parent’s house (who were taking care of me and my baby at that time) and I would walk out into their backyard. It was beautiful out there. It overlooked a quiet, peaceful, still lake. And, there was a wooden swing. Waiting for me; calling out to me to come sit on its bench and do what I’d done long before. Talk to God.
And I would swing away. In desperation, this time, I pleaded with the Lord to please take this away from me; to please, please heal me. Heal me for myself, but more importantly, to heal me for my family. They needed me and I was so sick I could barely take care of myself. I remember crying out to the Lord with tears in my eyes, “My God, My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”
God heard me. He even saw me hit a tree with a very large stick…with great force, I might add. I was so angry. Why was this happening to me?
But it was in the stillness, out on that wooden swing, that I knew in my heart of hearts that God was listening to me. I could feel his presence, not strongly, but I knew or hoped that He would have pity on me.
And he did pity me. My Father loved me. He sent birds my way that made a nest outside my window and they would sing to me loudly every morning.
And one day, healing finally found me.
Now, after surviving such a battle, I have been on the mend. But I still struggle.
As a stay at home mom with a two and a half year old daughter, I now find the silence to be like a double edged sword. Perhaps other moms can relate. Some moments, after being constantly needed and followed around all day (let’s admit – having your space invaded all day!) and then when it’s nap time, I welcome the stillness and quiet with open arms. I turn off the tv, and even leave the music off. I’ll just sit there, and revel in the peace where I can finally breathe again.
But, on the other hand, there are times when the silence is truly deafening. Even frightening again at times. Our thoughts can consume us…thoughts of worry and “what if’s”, contemplating our purpose and all the deep questions you can think of can arise in just a few moments time of sitting there alone with your thoughts. Isn’t this why we are so busy all the time? Why we’re always on the go, leaving no idle time? That’s why we’re on our phones, scrolling pointlessly through our Facebook feed, wasting time, but it keeps us, or maybe even “saves” us from thinking.
But God, he is beckoning us to come to the stillness. To find that wooden swing to sit on and just talk and pray to Him. For that is where we will truly find our peace. We find our peace in the stillness. We talk to Him and lay our burdens at his feet.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. To know that we have a Father who cares for us should bring great comfort to our souls.
In my prayer/writing room, I have this sign hanging above my desk; “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. It is a reminder that I need to see daily. It may be intimidating and overwhelming to think of being still, for you, like me, may be afraid of your thoughts and where all they can lead you. But God is powerful.
Satan is powerful, too, yes, and he wants your mind to dwell in the dark places. That is why we must remember the verse: “…we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. Give your thoughts to God…tell Him. He already knows your every thought, but we grow close to Him in releasing that to Him. Our thoughts might be scary and overwhelming, but surrendering those to Him can leave us with a sense of freedom. Peace. He has the power to calm the anxiety within us; we just have to hand it over.
Be still, and you might just find the God your heart has been searching for.
I wear it
Sometimes I take it off,
Place it in a box
Pushing it far into the back of the drawer
Away from my mind
And away from all memory.
It signifies that I am a soldier.
That I fought in a battle.
I received a Purple Heart
For I was wounded in battle.
And I will never be the same.
I want the world to see my badge.
To know that I fought a battle.
And that I won.
Yet, there is shame.
Shame that I had to fight this battle.
And so, I am torn.
Should I show the world my Purple Heart?
Or keep it locked away?
[Backstory. I wrote this poem about a dark time in my life, when I suffered through postpartum depression. This is very personal to share, and a word of warning that it can be triggering and intense, but the ending of the poem offers Hope. I have felt the need to share this in hopes that it might help someone know that healing will come. Do not give up!]
I still hear the crows.
I still hear the buzzards.
I still see them.
They circle the skies above me,
From time to time.
And they remind.
They taunt . . . “Remember? Remember?
Remember your pain. Remember your fear.
I will always be here to remind you,”
Their screeching, ugly voices tell me.
I often wonder how they found me.
I’d seen them using their evil powers
In those I loved
From the time I was a little girl.
I always deeply feared them.
That one day they would search me out
And find me.
That their midnight black darkness
Would encircle me and choke out the world.
That those birds would steal my joy,
And replace it with tears.
I never knew Fear until they found where I was hiding.
I’d seen it and felt it before
But I never truly knew Fear until the birds came.
I brought Life into this world.
She was Beauty.
Heaven came down and Love
Came flowing from my eyes,
When I saw her for the first time
And she breathed her first breath;
When her first cries were heard
by her Mother and Father.
Yes, Heaven came down in those moments.
My eyes beheld Beauty
And my arms held her.
And then, in a moment,
I thought I was losing my Beauty,
The life I’d just brought into this world.
Something went wrong with my child,
And for tortuously long moments
That will forever be immeasurable,
She was taken away from me.
And I was left alone.
Alone I cried,
Alone I wondered if I’d see
The Beauty again.
I wondered if I had seen her for the last time.
I wondered if I would hear her beautiful cry,
If I’d ever hold her again.
My beloved husband
Returned to me,
As I lay there waiting.
There was hope in my heart again
When he whispered, “She is okay.”
That our little Beauty we’d created
Had held onto his finger tightly.
We then knew,
Our Beauty was a Fighter.
When I saw her again
She was under a glass container;
The artificial oxygen filling the air
To help her breathe.
But I saw a little baby,
Struggling, crying, fighting.
Fighting for her life.
Frantically and Fearfully
I watched the numbers
And felt helpless,
As they were not where they were supposed to be.
I was scared.
Scared I was still going to lose her.
“Don’t grow attached,
Don’t grow attached,”
Something told me.
When she was finally returned to us,
Relief filled our hearts.
But something held me back —
I couldn’t believe that she was back in my arms.
Hyper vigilance set in.
Anxiety took over my entire being.
I was so thankful,
But I was stunned.
I was traumatized by thinking
That my Beauty was dying in my arms,
In those seconds when something went wrong with her.
I was traumatized —
Believing she was still going to be taken away from me.
“Hold on . . .
But don’t on too close.
Love her . . .
But don’t love her too much.”
Were words that echoed in my mind.
Nightmares haunted me of losing her.
A month after the Beauty debuted her appearance,
All was well with her.
But not so with her Mother.
For that was when they came.
The thing I’d always feared . . .
Finally found me.
I watched the leaves fall from the trees,
And I watched my world turn grey.
In an instant the darkness
I watched the sky cry tears
And the sun hid its face from me,
In my darkest and loneliest hours.
I wanted to die.
The buzzards hovered overhead
And flew in circles above me.
Waiting for me.
“We want you,”
Their beady eyes looked down and I knew their deadly thoughts.
A dead tree overshadowed
And towered above our home —
And the tree became the crows and buzzards’ battle position
Sent forth from the enemy.
They wanted me to die.
They were a constant reminder
I battled the thoughts —
The war that waged within
Of wanting to take my own life
And yet . . .
Fighting desperately for my life.
This battle lasted for months.
Months that should have been beautiful.
That should have been blissful.
That should have been Heaven,
That should have been what they were not.
I was robbed.
We were all robbed.
The thief had come in the night
Stealing my joy,
And, thus, stealing all of our joy.
And those who loved me suffered immensely.
I remember the day.
The day I stood outside
Staring up at that dead tree,
Feeling defeated and completely hopeless.
I remember seeing the parting of the clouds
And seeing and feeling the ray of the sun
Finally break through the clouds
And show its face to me again.
I heard the crows and saw them.
They were so loud.
I saw the jay clothed in blue.
I saw the sparrow,
And I saw the red cardinal.
I saw them flying from bush to bush,
From tree to tree,
Right in front of my very eyes,
And I heard their melodic singing.
And I faintly heard the song
Of a bird in the forest.
Just a tiny sound at first,
That slowly crescendoed into a loud chorus.
That would not be the last time
I’d hear that little bird in the forest.
That day, his song was too powerful
And I watched in wonder as the crows flew away
And I could no longer hear their lies.
It was a moment my heart had hungered for.
That tiny bird had flown from far, far away,
And had found me at last.
He found me one day sitting by the window
Feeling in despair again.
He sat on a red chair and looked in at me.
His eyes looked into mine
And he didn’t look away.
“Get better! Get better!” He told me.
I felt the very presence of God
And that He was sitting in the red rocking chair,
“I am here. You are not alone.”
That tiny bird had the loudest song
Of any bird I’d ever heard.
And the most beautiful.
He stayed around our house from that day on —
The days that I was still sick.
He was a Carolina Wren,
A bird known for being shy —
And yet, he stayed so close,
In the moments when I needed to hear
His song the most.
The mornings were my darkest, scariest hours,
When the panic would set in,
And when I’d usually been awakened by crows.
But now, that same wren had found his home.
He made a nest right outside my window,
And he sang for me.
I’d look out my window
And he’d be there looking at me,
Watching over me.
Time had taken its time,
But with it,
Came my healing.
The sickness, the darkness finally left me.
The crows, the buzzards, those preying birds
Finally flew away.
They had learned that I wouldn’t
Be taken by them.
I would not be their victim.
They saw that I was a Fighter.
That I had a Beauty and a Beloved
To live for.
To this day,
I still hear the crows.
I still hear the buzzards.
I still see them.
They circle the skies above me,
From time to time.
But, I still see my wren,
I hear my wren,
From time to time.
And he says, “Remember? Remember?
Remember your healing. Remember Hope.
I will always be here to remind you.”
He is a constant reminder
I’ve always been fascinated by Job.
This story in the Bible, of how a man had EVERYTHING, and then, just like that, it was all gone. Taken away from him within just a few moments.
There is so much to learn from him. For me, by the end of the story, when he stays faithful to God throughout his great loss and suffering, I’m just in awe of his faith. In the end, he praises God, his faith and belief in Him is stronger than ever, and then he is blessed by God beyond measure. (“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10).
But it’s the middle of the story that I can’t forget.
Job didn’t just mourn for a day and move on.
He lost everything. He lost the ones he loved. He grieved. He mourned. Job even cursed the day he was born.
I wonder why this story is in the Bible? For me, Job seems so real. He seems like you and I. He has feelings and emotions. He does what I think we all would do if faced with his situation. Or if we have in fact been there ourselves…faced with loss or pain and suffering.
Job seeks counsel from his friends, and they accuse Job of doing evil – that perhaps this is why tragedy struck his household. God later reprimands his friends, by the way.
What I see, though, is a man who is doing what is only natural.
He’s asking “Why?”.
He is seeking comfort from his friends, and perhaps answers. Isn’t that what we do? “Why did this happen to me?” “Why did this have to happen?”
Or, “this should never have happened.”
Have you ever asked this? I know I have. I’ve looked up to the skies above and asked Him why, about many things that have happened in my life.
And when I’ve asked God this question, I have not heard a reply. The heavens have not opened up in that moment and a voice called down from me and given me the answer and I then say, “Oh, okay! That’s why God. Thanks! Now I know!”
I get goosebumps when God does speak to Job: “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer me.”Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” Job 38:1-7.
I don’t know about you, but just reading those verses and imagining that scene and God speaking to ME, I shudder. It puts me in my place. And it puts God in his rightful place. The Mighty One. The Creator of the Universe. The One who created me and gave me breath. Who gave me everything.
God speaks to Job for a long time. He uses Nature to show his power and that He is in control. That He runs the show. Not us.
I think it’s interesting that there isn’t necessarily a “why” answer from God. Yes, he shows Job who He is and that he maybe shouldn’t be questioning Him. But God doesn’t say, “Hey, here’s why I took your family from you.” Here’s why you experienced that heartache. That rejection. That suffering. That loss.
Sometimes I don’t think there’s a why for everything that happens.
Or perhaps we are not meant to know the why. Not in this lifetime.
That’s a hard pill to swallow. Hard to fathom. Hard to accept.
But, what are we going to do with knowing that? Does it mean that we aren’t going to wrestle with God and ask Him and wonder the reasons? Does it mean we put ashes on our face for a day, and then carry on and never look back?
I don’t think so.
Just look at Job. He did what is only natural, and probably what God expected would happen of Him. He mourned. He was sorrowful. He sought counsel and comfort from the world. He was left with questions and doubt.
But He turned to God. He had his time of this inner wrestling, yes, but He did not turn his back on God. One of the most powerful verses says, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:22
It’s easy to want to blame God. To blame someone. Anyone. To blame ourselves.
Though I think it’s natural to think and feel all these things, I don’t think we should stay stuck there. It’s easy to get stuck. To dwell. To turn away from God when bad things happen.
We can’t stay there. Can’t stay there forever. In that place of anger. Of doubt. Of questioning. Satan wants us to stay there. He wants us to turn our backs on God.
Sometimes there just isn’t as the saying goes, “a reason for everything.”
But there is a, what am I going to do now?How am I going to live the rest of my life? After the pain and hurt has happened, and you’re now living in the aftermath.
“There is a time for everything . . . a time to weep AND a time to laugh, a time to mourn AND a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4). I believe in this so strongly. There IS a time to mourn. We have to grieve and mourn what we lost; to grieve over what should have been. And that is a process. Sometimes a very, very, very long journey.
But, there is a time to laugh. To dance. To be happy. To move forward. I don’t like the phrase, “move on,” because it sometimes can sound and seem insensitive. Though we may not want to look back, I think we are still going to. We aren’t not going to come out of those painful times without scars and wounds that are triggered now and again, but, we have to keep walking on. We eventually have to move forward. If we’re always looking back, we are held prisoner, and we are missing out on the beauty that does lie in our future. The blessings that will come upon us again -even if we can’t see it now. If we keep looking back, we can’t see where we are going. We can’t see the present and be thankful for it. We’ll just see the darkness behind us, and miss out on the light in front of us.
In the end, Job ends up praising God. Despite everything, this is what he does. May we strive to draw closer to God during times of trial. To bring our questions to God. But may we never turn our backs on Him or curse His name.
After all, where was I, or, where were you, when He laid the earth’s foundation?
I felt it. I felt it strongly today.
Walking across the parking lot after dropping my daughter off at pre-school, I saw another mom walking my direction. Her hair and makeup were perfect. She looked cool, calm, and collected. She held the hands of her two children, who looked just as fashionable as their mother. She walked with confidence. She was gorgeous.
I became suddenly aware of myself. Aware of my hair, that was just thrown up in a messy bun that I tried to make look somewhat pretty this morning. Aware of my outfit. Aware of my own daughter’s clothes; aware that she was not wearing Uggs or whatever the latest, most popular fashion is at the moment.
I wanted to run and hide.
You see, before I had walked out the door of my house that morning, I thought I had looked pretty; that even though I hadn’t washed my hair that morning and it wasn’t styled, that at least my face looked good. My face covered in makeup.
But, now, standing there in the parking lot, I felt something entirely different than I had a few minutes before. I felt it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough.
I felt like I wasn’t pretty enough.
I was comparing myself to this other woman; this complete stranger, and debasing my own value and outward beauty based on what I saw looking at her.
Call it insecurity, call it low self-confidence, call it shallowness…whatever it was in that moment, I did not like it. I did not like that feeling at all.
It reminded me back to high school. There was a courtyard area at my school that was known as “The Bricks.” The bricks is where all the “preps”, as they were called, congregated after lunch, and where they waited and hung out before the school bell would ring. There were hundreds of them. I wasn’t in this group in high school. I didn’t hang with the popular crowd. Some days, I hated that I wasn’t in that group, but I had my own group of friends whom I loved and cared about deeply. I always found myself searching out the “outcasts”…,the “loners” and befriending them. The quote “weird” ones. Not all of my friends were this way, but I did have quite a few of the ones who were a little different. I found that the “outcasts” shouldn’t have been cast out. They were amazing people. Friendly. Genuine. Funny. Unique. Creative. Deep, caring souls.
But I remembered today what it felt like to hold your breath as you have to walk through the group of people who you see, and who probably themselves believe and see themselves as better than you. To just want to get past them, so you don’t have to feel that feeling of not belonging. Of not being good enough.
It made me think about myself and where I’m at now. Life is a journey, and so is the journey of loving ourselves. There have been the days and years where my confidence and love for myself was as high as Mount Kilimanjaro. I loved myself – inside and out. I was proud of who I was. I think those times, I had a place of belonging. My senior year in high school, because of the amazing friends I had in my church youth group. Because I was a leader that year, and my friends and peers looked up to me. In college, because I found another place and group of people where I felt I belonged. Who told me and showed me that there was every reason in the world to see myself as awesome. Also, my parents and sister have always shown me so much love and given me words of affirmation to know how truly special I am. And then, I met a boy in 2009, a boy named Josh, (who later became my husband) who sent my self-confidence all the way up to the moon!
I think during those times, too, my walk with God was close. We were “tight.” I talked to Him often. I felt my worth from others, but most importantly, from Him. I knew He loved me and was proud of me. I had my days of doubt, yes, but overall, I was secure.
Where am I at now? It’s a journey, as I said, and there are events and things that take place in our lives that forever change us.
Over two years ago, I went through an event like this. Going through postpartum depression forever changed me.
In many ways, as one can imagine or if one has gone through something such as this, you can see the ways it has impacted you negatively. I could make a list of how it did so for me, but that’s not the point or what I want to focus on with these words I am writing.
In my deepest and darkest time of my life, I turned to God. I clung to Him. I talked to Him and prayed to Him more than I ever had. Almost every minute of every day. Pleading with him to heal me.
And He did.
And from that day onward, after winning the battle, I have changed. I have changed for the better in so many ways.
I have risen. I have blossomed and flourished. When you go through something like that, your heart opens up to life more than it ever has. For me, I was so thankful. I decided to help others. I had a confidence in myself, because I had beat something that had tried to take my life. And I had, with God’s help, beaten Satan.
And I wanted to LIVE. To truly live. To take advantage of this healing that had come to me. To take advantage of this body of mine that God created and breathed life into. I didn’t want to sit on my rear and be a stagnant waste of space. I have stepped out of my comfort zone in so many ways that I would have never dreamed of.
For the past two years since getting better, I would say and others around me too, I think would say, they have seen the positive changes in myself.
My self-confidence, however, has taken its ups and downs during this time period. One of those things I blame that on is PPD. When I have been in my low of lows, it’s then that I know or start to realize that Satan has gotten in the way between me and God. I haven’t been talking to God as much as I should. I haven’t been in his Word.
Instead, I’ve been in the world.
I’ve been seeking my worth from the world. From people. From their words. From my friendships. From my relationship with my husband. From family.
I’ve been seeking what only God can give me. My beauty is not found on the label on my clothes. It is not found in how perfect I can try and make my hair look. It is not found in the bright pink lipstick that I sometimes wear.
Yes, God did make me beautiful on the outside, which I need to strive constantly to see and believe this. But, my beauty should be ultimately found from within. That my heart and soul and spirit be beautiful. That my thoughts be pure and glorifying to God.
And my worth should come not from others, but from Him, the Lord God above; “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
In God’s eyes, I belong. I belong to Him. I am his daughter. The daughter of a King. And in his eyes, I am enough. I am MORE than enough. And I am loved. I am loved and cherished by Him.
I should live my life every day with a grateful heart and where I can say, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)
And my hope is that the next time I see that woman or someone who in my eyes looks perfect to me – that I can say to myself, “She is beautiful . . .
And so am I.”