Classy Gal

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back to School!

Just weeks ago, I crossed a major threshold in my education and met the halfway point in my Masters Degree!  Last night I officially became a "Second Year" student in the Marriage & Family Therapy program, stepping ever closer to my goal.

Whoa.  Guys.  The first night of class is always overwhelming, and last night was no exception.  I've had many "first days of school" and yet it felt like the first time all over again as I held the fire hose - err, I mean Syllabus - and felt my brain numb inside my skull.

Assessments, Exams, Papers, Interviews, Videos, Community engagement, and books upon books of reading to accomplish.  Really?  All of this will get done in the coming weeks?  By me?

Yes. It will.  But, not without your support.  All of you - any of you - who read PARDYMAMA and reach out to me and pray for me and encourage me to no end....we are on the home stretch!  The final year is here!  But, at this very moment I can not imagine it all getting done.  The mountain is before me, and I'm weary, and I'm in awe, and I'm oh-so-curious what is on the other side.

I struggle with the insignificancy of my life/complaints/happenings/problems/issues.  I know that there are insanely unexplainable horrific things happening in the world that are far, far, far more urgent and important than my needs.  I am beyond blessed, and it feels selfish to pray for myself amidst the news that surrounds us all of someone else's pain or persecution.

But, our God is bigger than it all.  God is the God of "heal my friend from a terminal disease" and the same God of "help me not lose my temper with my toddler".  It's bewildering and humbling to me that I can lay my stress at the foot of the cross the same as I can a global crisis.  WHAT?!  Yep, He's the God of it all.  He cares just as much.  My needs are valid, even within the context of this crazy-fallen world full of mystery and evil and challenges that run the whole spectrum.

Do you have a significant need in your personal life that seems too insignificant to ask others to pray for?  I do.  I have many.  And I'm dumbfounded at the reminder of 1 Peter 5:7,
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Catch that?  ALL your anxiety.  All MY anxiety.  Not just the global crises, the terminal illnesses, the broken relationships, or the catastrophes...but, the stresses of work, the frustrations of motherhood, the never-ending to-do list that keeps you awake at night, and the financial concerns that keep piling up.  All of it.  And this gal is going back to class needing your prayers.

Would you pray for me in this season of crazy?  Can you let me know how I can pray for you?

I can't do this alone, and I knew that going into it.  But, at this very first day of my second year in, I'm overwhelmed with the duties before me.  The next 365ish days are going to push me to the edge, and I want you all there holding my hands, helping me remember why I'm here in the first place and helping me enjoy the view.

Please pray for my ability to maintain healthy boundaries, to be able to keep my priorities and time management reasonable.  Please pray for my family as they endure the brunt of my attention being spread thin, that we can work together toward this goal and grow closer through it again this year.  Please pray for mindfulness for myself, that I can be in the present and maintain a grateful heart amidst the chaos, not wanting to fast-forward through this experience and just skip to the end.  Whew.  Thank you.  THANK YOU.  Your prayers mean the world to me.

Prayer changes things...but more powerfully, prayer changes people.  And, it is such a unique and brilliant privilege to get to communicate directly to our Creator about our specific needs, no matter how great or small.  I would LOVE the privilege to specifically pray for you as well - we're in this TOGETHER after all!  Don't hesitate to shoot me an email with a prayer request.  I promise to lift you up to our great big God who will tackle all our anxieties better than either of us ever could on our own.  

Gonna be a great year - here we go!

Email me: to exchange a prayer request!

Depression and The Art of Brokenness

Friday, August 15, 2014

If there was ever a week to write about depression, this seems to be it.

I've debated for days whether to step into the conversation or not, or how to go about doing so, as the web seems to be inundated with expressions of honesty, grief, judgment, confusion, and all sorts of grasping-for-answers editorials following the suicide of Robin Williams.

With the genocide that's taking place elsewhere in the world, I'm both dumbfounded at the publicity one celebrity's crisis can cause, yet grateful for the moment being taken to address the seriousness of mental illness.  Horrific things happen.  Everywhere.  We are a broken world.

We are all living in a turbulent space where we can watch silly cat videos on YouTube one second and directly follow them up with reading an article about the beheading of Christians an ocean away.  Then we click our iPhone off and stir our spaghetti and send our kids to time-out and distract ourselves with the only constants we can depend on like laundry and dirty dishes, and the world continues to spin.  Messed up, right? This is the broken world we live in, and we're all doing our best to survive.

I don't have anything to say about Robin Williams.  I didn't know him any better than most of you, and while I'm incredibly indebted to him to have experienced narratives through his lens as an actor, I truly knew nothing of him as a person, let alone a fellow broken human being.  This is to say, I want to tell you about my depression, and I don't want to mislead you in anyway that I have an inkling as to what he felt or experienced in any way, shape, or form.

That's one of the mysteries of depression - there are enough commonalities with the diagnosis that we can draw a line in the sand and say "You need help, and You don't" (by the way, FALSE, we all need help) but it runs a wide spectrum of actual experience, and therefore confusion tends to build with each and every story that's expressed.

I can remember the day when I woke up and took my first Zoloft.  I remember thinking "Today, I'm a person who has to be medicated to function normally."  It felt awful.  There was nothing courageous or hopeful about it for me in the moment.  I felt weak, dumb, inadequate, and questioned the God I kept placing my faith in.  Where was He?  Why didn't I feel better?  How could this be His best for me?

I felt very alone. I had never known anyone who was depressed before, let alone someone who needed to be medicated for it.  In fact, it would be years before I would find out that I actually did know people around me at the time who had gone through similar experiences, but at this point in my life it was quite taboo to talk about such things, so I became as secretive as they had in my going to therapy and seeking help.  So, I created my own silo to heal in, and rarely let anyone in.

I didn't know how to feel, why to feel, or what to change in order to feel differently.  I could list reasons for days of everything I had to live for, be grateful for, to praise God for; yet the cloud would not lift.  I could smile at parties, put on a decent facade, and only hours later be fighting demons in the night that held my joy hostage.

The bottom line was, I didn't know what to do.  There were times when suicide seemed rational.  Times when building a time machine and going to live in a new universe seemed more plausible than ever finding actual healing.  Times when I wished God hadn't burdened those around me with my existence.  Times I have every reason to feel shame for, yet by the grace of God can only look back on with gratitude and heartache.

It's been a good ten years since those times.  I would not be so bold as to say "I'm healed."  I don't think I will say that until the day I meet my Savior face to face.  There are grains of depression still seeded in my soul, and there are battle wounds left to remind me of that from which I'm in remission.

Depression, for me, was a perfect storm which I survived, not unscathed.  It was biological, circumstantial, hormonal, environmental, spiritual, and psychological.  It's root was multi-faceted, and therefore, my treatment became mulit-sourced.  Every part of my life was affected by my depression, therefore, every part of my life had to be marked by change as I changed.

Little by little, the cloud dissipated, and I live a life free from the grip of depression today.  Let it not go unnoticed that for years, I thought this was impossible.  I thought this kind of freedom was reserved for those luckier than I - those who were privileged with extreme optimism, deeper faith, or extraordinary support.  Yet, here I am, a survivor and ever grateful.

We can't live in silos any longer.  I'm joining the conversation of depression with this post because I want to continue the exposure, and extinguish the stigma.  The shame that's attached to depression is rooted in an insecurity that we all have: the thought that I can't handle this.  That's right.  YOU CAN'T.  We were not meant to handle life alone.  We were not made to hide from help.  We were not created to shut out sources of healing.  And, as grisly or uncomfortable as this life gets, the only way to break down these silos is to share our broken hearts and stories of healing.

Christ alone has the power to bring recovery - but, He most often is gracious to include us in the process.  My recovery included dozens of people, books, therapists, science, medication, encouraging words, loving acts of service, prayer, and the list goes on an on.  Christ utilizes time, resources, and relationships.  He didn't create us to find power within ourselves, He made us to relate to one another in our weaknesses, finding Him through the process.

Guys - I'm becoming a THERAPIST.  I'm joining the professional industry of mental health workers out there, and I'M A BROKEN PERSON.  I hope this sinks in for you.  I'm not "fixed and ready to fix others".  I'm actively seeking help from multiple sources on a consistent basis, and I am honored to join in the process of someone else on their journey of reaching out for help.

A decade ago, I was embarrassed to admit I needed help.  I was ashamed I saw a therapist.  And now I'm becoming one.  Don't worry, I'm not trying to recruit you.  Not all of us were called to a mental health as a vocation; but ALL of us have a story, a voice, a time and place we can reach across silos and expose brokenness for what it really is:  LIFE.

This life is ugly, filled with doubt and horror, but we are not alone, and we are not without hope.  The stories that bring us together are often the hardest ones to tell.  Encourage bravery, seek help, and take confidence that our story is not yet finished.

Behind the Scenes

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

So, you may have seen that last week I wrote this article for Venn Magazine, titled "Divorce is Always an Option".  In it, I very vulnerably describe some emotions I felt when I walked through my own divorce several years ago, and how that has impacted my current marriage in a powerful way.

Choosing marriage daily is vital in a world where we are bombarded with options.  Options for who to love, where to invest our time, how to be a better person, why to choose a certain religion, or deciding what I think is best for me based on mostly feelings-in-the-moment.  Options are everywhere all the time.  THIS is why I wrote the article.  To help myself (and maybe others!) remember the COST of some of the options that are so enticing.

It was a hard article to write, and it had been in my brain and heart for a couple years - percolating and waiting to find just the right time and place to post my heart-on-a-platter story.  Venn does a great job at giving "both sides to a story"and uniting ideas that seemingly contradict each other, so I jumped at the opportunity when they liked my pitch for the article.

While I have zero shame attached to my divorce story (thanks to the grace of God and quality therapy), it's never easy to depict such a grief-stricken, brokenhearted time in my life.  I have to wade through the rolodex of memories in the back of my mind, plucking out emotions that I haven't felt in many years, and "relive" them in a sense as I do my best to genuinely convey an honest tale.

So, I almost didn't write it.  I mean, who wants to go there?

It's so easy to leave pain in the foreign land of forgotten memories and let it just rot and die there with the rest of my attachments to that time in my life.  It's long over.  I've obviously moved on.  So, there must be something wrong with me if I'm willing to pick at the wound that's merely a scar that's easily hidden.

Too easy.  And, just like that hidden scar, I kind of wanted to hide this article and not let anyone know about it.

Guys, up until the very day this article hit the web, I doubted it's impact.  Even though these words had been brewing in me for a long time, I was ready to let it skate by unnoticed and not very willing to let God use them however He wanted.  I thought "Eh, maybe I won't tweet about this article or post it on Facebook.  Maybe I'll just let strangers stumble upon it and see what happens."  But, God stirred my heart and so I threw those words out into the light - and oh, God used those words.

The day the article hit the web, I received more emails, more comments, more "shares" than maybe anything I'd ever written before.  Hearts were touched and reminded of the hope that pain and progress hold; and I was put in my place for ever having doubted God's timing for those words.

Satan LOVES insecurity.  Sometimes I think it must be his favorite game to play with us.  And more often than not, I find myself lost in the forest of temptation, bombarded by worries about "What if..."and soon traveling down the path towards "I doubt..."

I'm giving you this behind-the-scenes look into the wild mind of a freelance writer, because I don't want you to read or see that article and think for a second that "Wow, she can just unzip her heart and put it out there for all to see and never have any question!  She must be so confident and trust God all the time!"  Surprise - I'm human.  And full of irrational worries that God holds and molds into something useful that I can actually benefit from.

It's the ugly vessel that is used most often.  I'm learning this over and over again as I continue to ask God to pour and pour and pour through my fingertips.  The more I reveal, the more I fling back the curtain so you all can see the heart that's being molded, the more I feel God can actually use me for His purpose instead of my own.

It's not easy to get gritty and honest with ourselves.  It's even harder to share that with others.  But, looking inside is not the same as looking back.

The pain of the past changes us, and to put away that pain forever would be a misuse of an opportunity to further ourselves, reach out to others, and acknowledge the new abilities of a malleable heart.  Don't tuck away that opportunity forever if you have something in your heart that God is working on.  Ask God to give you the courage and time to reveal those wounds when they can be used for His purpose.  Maybe it's alone in a therapy room speaking with someone confidentially, or maybe it's on a public forum for everyone to see (I do both!)

I'm going to share with you one of my all-time FAVORITE passages out of the Bible.  Yes, it's long.  Ok, it's an entire chapter...but, if you've stuck with me this far, you can keep going.  Let the words sink into your bones.  Let the message reach your heart.  Let God work IN you.  It's uncomfortably comforting, and I pray you'll be blessed from it's truth:

2 Corinthians 4 New International Version (NIV)  [Bold added]

Present Weakness and Resurrection Life

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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