Of Tests and Wrestlings

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“He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’… So Abraham rose early in the morning…. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar…. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven…. ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me’.” (Gen. 22)

I shoved my Bible away in disgust. What sort of cruel loyalty test is this? Is God some sort of fraternity bully, demanding insane proofs of loyalty before He allows peons to join His exclusive club?

Abraham’s stomach probably dropped to the ground when he heard the words “burnt offering”. He probably did not sleep at all that night as he weighed his options… kill my son to appease the God of the universe or anger the God of the universe to save my son. Perhaps it was with shaky legs and a nauseous stomach that he rolled out of bed that morning, skipping breakfast because he couldn’t keep it down anyway.

For three long days, the war raged inside him. He pushed forward, while everything inside him desperately screamed to turn and run the other way. How it must have broken his heart when Isaac asked why they did not have a sacrifice. Did he stumble and choke over the words “God will provide”? It doesn’t say whether he told Isaac at all what God had asked of him. Only that he bound up his son and laid him on the altar. It probably took every ounce of adrenaline in his body to raise that knife above his son’s body.

And then God said, “That’s enough.”

Are you freaking kidding me?? You demand his son, but then when he’s fighting against every bit of humanness inside of himself to simply please You, You tell him to stop? Were You just playing with him the whole time? What kind of maniac God are You?

I shoved back my chair and began to gather up my things. I can’t do this. Why would God ask that of Abraham? Why was He asking that of me? What sort of weakling did He think I was? Was He trying to prove something to me? That I was but an ant to Him, and He could squash me and every one I love with a slight pressing of His thumb?

As I stepped between the towering walls of forest, following the trail into its depths, I listened to the crunch of my footsteps. “I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to be alone,” they whispered over and over again. I stopped, thinking that maybe if I didn’t hear my footsteps, I wouldn’t hear the desperate whispers.

I jumped as a bird called from somewhere in the heart of the forest. “Alone!” it squawked. A silent tear trickled down my cheek. “I don’t want to be alone.” The sound of my words barely made it past my lips, but my heart was yelling so loudly my ears were ringing. I could feel that yell bubbling its way up my throat. It would be stupid to scream into an empty forest, so I just shoved my body forward. First, a slow step. Then a few more, faster this time. Soon I was jogging my way down the trail, paying no heed to anything around me.

I must have worked off the pent up energy, because I slowed to a stop and looked around. I knew I passed many forks along the trail, but I couldn’t remember if I stayed on trail 3 or got off on another one. I had no idea where I was. The nice thing about hiking trails at state parks is that if you keeping following them, eventually you’ll find some sort of trail marker or another human being.

I gathered up my wits, found a trail map, and set off in what I thought was the right direction. But the more I walked and the more trail markers I came to, the more confused I became. The more confused I became, the more angry I felt. I did not want to be alone! I wanted someone here right now to help me figure out these stupid trails. I wanted someone right now to laugh with me over my uncanny ability to get lost. I wanted someone right now to share this adventure with. “I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE!”

It took nearly three hours to find my way back to the inn, but I did find it. There was no feeling of relief, though… only intense resistance. How dare God bring me to this place! How dare He ask such sacrifice!

I tried to calm my body and my soul. I soaked in the hot tub. I painted. I watched TV. I tried to sleep. But the war inside me would not stop. My chest burned. My nerves vibrated. My thoughts were like a speeding train constantly jumping tracks. All I wanted to do was run as fast as I could away from this place. And so I did, first thing the next morning.

It wasn’t until that afternoon, that I finally got the word, “Stop! That’s enough!” I melted into a pile of exhausted goo, just resting in that warm, safe place.

I don’t know if I passed the test. I never really reached a point where I calmly accepted and resolved to sacrifice what He was asking of me. And maybe Abraham never did either.

Maybe God is not so much concerned about the final grade, as He is in the wrestling it takes to make our way through the test. Maybe it’s in that intense struggle that our weak human resolve is put through the fire to make us more Christ like. Maybe it’s not about passing. Maybe it’s about wrestling.

If I had known…

Imissyou1It’s been two weeks and two days since I lost my brother, but the words still echo through my head everyday like the taunting rhythm of an oncoming train… “Peter didn’t make it. He’s dead.”

He’s gone. Forever. He’s not coming back. He won’t be at Dad’s next summer to set off fireworks. He won’t hop on FB to post crazy political pictures and sarcastic comments. He’s gone.

Oh Peter, if I had known…

I would have called you.

I would have texted you.

I would have told you that I love you.

I would have walked the 1/4 mile down the drive to your camper last summer and sat beside you, drinking a Mike’s, laughing, treasuring each minute, instead of waiting for you to come up to the house.

I would have told you how much I respected the way you were your own person, never letting anyone else control you.

I would have told you how happy I was that you chose such a wonderful woman for your wife.

I would have told you just what a great daddy you were to your little girl.

I would have listened to you ramble on about politics and electronics.

If I had known….

I’d give anything to have one more day with you. To have that chance to tell you how much I love you and how proud I am of you… a chance to say, “good-bye”.

When You’re Broken, and You Know It

brokenBroken. It’s a word that’s been running circles in my head for several days now.

Broken. It’s more than just admitting my childhood/early adulthood has adversely affected me. It’s more than just realizing I have issues, just like every other person in the world has issues.

It’s a personal admittance. I’m broken.

Sometimes I even whisper the words out loud… just to let the truth sink in. There are parts of my subconscious that are in dire need of repair before it completely takes over my entire being in a fit of selfish, angry rage.

And  you know what? It makes me feel weak and vulnerable. And I just want to go back to pretending I’m completely whole and happy, where even those who are closest to me have no idea what’s going on inside.

But I can’t. I’ve seen what happens when brokenness isn’t fixed. I’ve been on the receiving end of brokenness tearing out of someone’s soul and attacking my own. I don’t want that miserable life, and I certainly don’t want to spread that sloppy mess on my family and friends.

They need me. They need a whole-as-can-be me.

I need fixing, and I can’t do it alone. I need help. Because I’m broken, and I know it.

Your Story: A Girl’s Just Gotta Twirl

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Ginger is a dear friend of mine. She has walked the journey through the shadowy darkness and broke through the other side. She blogs of her experiences, as well as many other things, over at Just One of the Boys. Today, she shares with us a glimpse into her journey…

I remember twirling in my fancy dress as a little girl. Time seemed to pause just for me as I spun around and around on my tip-toes. My ruffled dress and I whirled about the room so fast that everything around me simply faded away. That dress transported me to my own little world where I could be a ballerina, a fairy princess, or Cinderella at the Ball. I wanted to dance in my special little place forever…

But what happened to the imaginative little girl that I used to be? Her heart had been bursting with endless hopes. The dreams that she held so dearly knew nothing of limits. Her little world was full of light – a beautifully magical place where good always prevailed over evil, no real harm could befall her, and where Prince Charming was coming to rescue her, dressed in his shining armor.

Dark shadows crept toward her, and she gradually stopped twirling. As she was confronted by these ghosts, she let her dreamland slip away. Over time she sadly gave into the idea that she would never be a fairy princess. When she stood still, darkness crept in to surround her.

Amy's flower girl

Other girls laughed at her. She buried her desire to once more twirl around and around. She tried to fit in…and failed miserably. “You’ll never be good enough,” the Shadow of Inferiority hissed.

“I’m not hungry.” The lies that she told herself over and over again were so ardent that she actually started to believe them. The lower the number fell on the scale, the closer she thought that she would be to perfection. She thought that she was almost there, but perfection never came. “Just a few more pounds. Just a few more inches,” lied the voice of Self-hate.

She felt in her heart that something was not perfectly right, but he seemed like such a nice guy. He sought her out. No one had ever paid her this much attention. He said that he couldn’t imagine life without her. Surely, this had to be her long-awaited Prince. The Shadow of Deception felt too good to be true.

“It’s your fault. You made him angry,” the Shadow of Abuse deflected the blame at her.

Crashing through her little home, The Storm of Infidelity left a trail of devastation in its wake. Once more she allowed her heart to listen to the vicious lies in her head. If only she had been prettier. Maybe then he wouldn’t have betrayed her trust. Maybe then she would have been good enough. If only…

As the shadows of Divorce and Loneliness threatened to surround her, she realized that she no longer had to be frightened by the ghosts of the past.  Wondering why she had ever stopped dancing through life, she worked to slowly unravel the darkness that had been her constant companion all of these years. She found courage that had sparked deep within her. She could now face the darkest of shadows without allowing them to overtake her. She gave herself the freedom to cautiously begin to twirl once more.

Days turned into weeks, weeks eased into months, and the months flowed into years. She gathered a strength and assuredness that can only come from staring down the darkness. With a new radiance, a smile graced her face for the first time in years. A deep and meaningful happiness welled up in her soul. She learned more about her true self as she grew as a woman, and she found that her real life journey far exceeded anything in a fairytale.

When the wounds of the past had started to heal, someone new entered her life. More than just a brave prince, he was a kind and selfless spirit. As their friendship developed, and then grew into something deeper, she found that she did not have to stop twirling for him, or anyone, ever again. He, too, was on a path of healing, and their separate lives began to mesh into one beautiful dance. She now had a partner, a friend, a Beloved – and the ability to keep twirling as life moves forward. Shadows will come and go over time, but she now felt confident that they no longer had the power to hold her back from pirouetting joyfully through life.

The little girl grew up, and as she fought, lost, blossomed, and triumphed, she began to twirl once more – and she vowed to never stop.

I vowed to never stop…

“Those who look to Him are radiant, 

and their faces shall never be ashamed. ~ Psalm 34:5

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*Photo credit: Top photo – by Joanne Funk. Post Header & Bottom photo – by John Zimmerman

10 Ways to Beat the Depression Spiral

depressedDepression can swallow you up before you realize it. Here are ten ways you can nip it in the bud or pry your soul from its grip.

1. Recognize patterns. Does depression rear its ugly head at certain times of the month or year? Do certain people or memory triggers bring it on? Knowing the things and times in your life that make you more prone to depression gives you the advantage. There’s no surprise, and you can fortify yourself.

2. Avoid depression triggers when possible. If you know that driving past the theater triggers painful memories and sends you spiraling into dark sadness, do not drive past it. Obviously, if its gloomy weather that trips you up, its a little hard to avoid those cloudy days, but you can turn on as many lights as possible to try to counter the darkness.

3. Take your vitamins. Your body actually needs nutrients to be happy. Your emotions are physical triggers that need vitamins D and B to keep you smiling. If you’re feeling continually sad and fatigued, it’s a good sign you may need some happy pills. A good multivitamin should give you what you need if your levels are normal. But you may need to visit your doctor and get some blood work done. He will be able to tell you if you need an extra vitamin D boost.

4. Fall in love with sunshine. Sunshine is the happiest medicine in the world. It’s bright and cheery and full of vitamin D. Spend at least 20 minutes in it every day that it’s not hiding from you. Hang up photos of sunshine streaming through the trees or playfully sparkling across a stream in your home or office for those cloudy days.

5. Get dressed. I mean like really dressed. Hide the sweatpants and baggy sweatshirts. Save them for camping. Put on your cute jeans, a nice (but practical) shirt, and some cute shoes. Put on some masacara and cute earrings. When you look in the mirror or catch a glimpse of your sleeves, pant legs, or shoes, you send electric pulses to your brain… “See me. I’m cute today. I feel good.”

6. Put your earbuds in. Music is pure medicine. Well, so long as it’s cheery music that strengthens your heart. “Lost my truck, lost my dog, lost my wife” music doesn’t count. Nor does break-up music. Listen to music that makes you feel happy and that inspires you to hold on to hope. For me, it’s contemporary Christian music, but it may be different for you.

7. Use your imagination. Our imaginations are powerful, powerful things. Think of the saddest thing you’ve ever heard of or experienced. Does it make you nearly tear up? That’s the magic. But we need to use it in reverse. Think happy thoughts. I’m not talking positive thinking here. I’m talking about not letting your mind wallow in the sad. Think of the things that make you happy. If you’re having a hard time thinking of any, make up happy stories. Watch happy movies in your own head. Read inspiring, happy books. Whatever you do, don’t let your brain wallow in the darkness. Do not watch depressing movies or read depressing news or stories. You don’t need to carry the weight of the world’s depression. Your own is enough.

8. Surround yourself with liberating words. Scripture or inspiring quotes trigger a psychological response. It sends the brain to the happy place and signals the emotions to follow. They inspire us to action and give us a resolve to reach beyond the blackness. Scribble them on post it notes and stick them everywhere. Scrawl them across the windows and mirrors with dry erase markers. Put them where you will see them frequently. Let them inspire you.

9. Talk. Find a friend or counselor that you can meet with on a regular basis. Let them hold your hand through this long, hard trek. Talk about the things that bother you. Talk about your resolve to move past the pain and sadness. Talk about your progress and your failures. Keep your appointments with them. Do not play hermit. This is not the time to wallow in loneliness.

10. Smile. Sounds simple and yet incredibly impossible. When you’re fighting depression, the last thing you want to do is smile. But sometimes our actions need to lead our emotions. Smile at strangers, at your co-workers, your family, your friends… at every human in the world. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Soon the forced smile on your lips will find its way into your eyes as smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin.

 

*photo credit