Thursday, May 11, 2017

It Is Well...and so am I


"They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul..."
{From Even If, by Mercy Me}



When I was a kid, I can remember hearing these words a lot…
“You’re going to do great things…”
“God has great things in store for you…” or “God has great plans for you…”
“You are so smart! You can do anything you want when you grow up…”

I’m sure there were more variations of this, but these are the ones I remember.

At the risk of making you think I’m bragging, I’m going to go a little further with this.

A few months before my 5th birthday (maybe only one month, but close), I became a Christian.  I’d met with the pastor of our church at least once (seems like more than that) & I absolutely felt the Lord tugging at my heart. I knew I was a sinner in need of a Savior, & while I was scared and shaking, I knew I had to walk that aisle & make that commitment.
My Mom had told me she would meet me at the altar, but that I had to make that walk by myself.  If I was old enough to make such a big decision, I was big enough to walk down to the altar on my own.


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I remember some of the details while others are blurry. 
For most of my Christian life after this, I too felt like God must’ve had great plans for me. After all, why else would he "call" me at such a young age?

I was mostly a good kid; I tried to be honest; I tried to be fair; I did well in school & mostly stayed out of trouble.  But as I got older, I began to let other people & situations influence me in ways I shouldn’t have.  I now know that I was born a “people pleaser,” & it really bothered me when people didn’t like me.  I wanted to be accepted…approved…appreciated…applauded (though not in the way that may sound).  I’m a complicated personality, because I’m an introvert but there are times when I need praise, even if I prefer private over public.

I’m not sure if I truly didn’t get that kind of attention I was seeking as a child or if the lack of it was simply perceived. I do know that at some point, I began to seek it from the wrong sources; friends, sometimes the wrong ones, & definitely boys (also the wrong ones in many cases).  Anyone who made me feel important – pretty – wanted – special – was who I spent my time with.  


They say hindsight is 20/20.  I see now that I spent so much time with other people that I was almost never truly alone.  At least not in a way that I could discover who I was on my own.  Somehow, as a young child, I’d decided I didn’t like myself very much.  Even though I was mostly a good kid, I carried a huge burden of guilt for every little thing I’d ever done “bad.” Every lie I told, every time I hurt one of my brothers (intentional or accidental), anything I hid from my parents, wrong answers in class or on a test – literally any little wrong I committed, I remembered & they haunted me.  God gifted me with an amazing memory; while I consider that to be mostly a blessing, there are parts of that blessing, I’d like to leave behind.

At some points, I was so afraid that other people would find out I was a fraud, that I just tried harder to be someone else.  I tried to be whomever I thought they wanted me to be.  If I was with preppy/popular kids, I tried to act & talk like them.  If I was with the punk rock / heavy metal kids, I tried to have an “edge” so I would look cool to them.  If I was with friends from church, I tried to appear as “good” as possible. If I wasn't quite sure, I'd be mostly quiet & hope I appeared mysterious.

I praise God for the handful of friends who really knew me.  The ones who stuck with me long enough to see through the façade.  It was a blessing to get to be myself (whoever that was) with a few people.



Why am I thinking about & talking about this now? I haven’t written in this space in quite some time.  There are a lot of good reasons for that & I can’t explain them all right now.  What I can say is that the need for approval from others still plays a ridiculously large role in my life.
The last two years have been the most difficult & trying of my life so far.  The BIG personal tragedy was the death of my father in law in late 2015; but on top of that many small hardships piled on until I felt like I was being buried alive.  

That’s another story for another day, but I use it as a vehicle to say this…no matter how desperate I was to journal my feelings, I was just as desperate to keep people from knowing what I was going through and feeling.  I was so paranoid about it, that I wouldn't write anywhere for fear someone,  sometime would find it & read it.
I lead a small group women’s bible study, what would they think if I actually said aloud some of the
fears I had? Some of the things I thought to myself?! Some of the feelings I was having were just so  heavy & I couldn't imagine confiding them to anyone for fear of being judged. I felt like my faith must be minuscule if I was allowing myself to feel this way rather than trust God for healing.

For whatever reason, during this time, I had people tell me that I always looked “put together.” I didn’t know what to make of that when, on the inside, I felt completely unglued.  I felt shattered & cracked and like my internal ugliness was literally spilling through the cracks.

With each new hardship, the dark cloud I was walking under grew blacker and darker.  Looking back now, I feel like I’d covered myself with a cape and hood of the blackest black.  I was hiding and trying hard not to let anyone actually “see me.” I guess I did a good job of hiding, because I continued to get those remarks about being put together. 




It feels ridiculous that at 40 and 41, I had reverted to the same façade I wore in high school.  I’m pretty sure even my husband didn’t know how deeply depressed and hurting I was. 
Part of what clued ME in to how deeply depressed I was, actually came very recently. 
After Christmas, I changed the way I was eating and eliminated a lot of toxic foods from my diet – sugar, grains, soy, artificial sweeteners, etc.  It wasn’t until I started to realize how much better I felt, that I also realized how bad I'd been. 

Since then I've read more about how mental illness & depression, among other things, starts in the gut. When your gut & digestive systems aren't healthy, it can cause a multitude of other issues in your body. I'm sure this was key for me, and I feel I've started to heal in multiple ways.

This morning** as I prepared for my weekly bible study meeting, I had to do some hard homework. The study had us draw a personal timeline; it had my birth and current points in time on it with a line in between. I was supposed to draw a cross at the point of my salvation & then notate other highlights of my Christian life. It wasn't lost on me that though God tugged on my heart at such a young age, most of the following 36+ years haven't been very full. I'm not dumb enough to think I've literally done nothing, but compared to that hope that God had big plans for me...the timeline seems a little sparse.

My timeline included 5 people who have been key in my spiritual journey. That part was easy.
What was harder was trying to find 5 people who I may have influenced in the same way. 
I'm not sure there are 5, to be honest. 



This particular bible study (Entrusted, by Beth Moore) is making me feel like my spiritual life is about to change paths. I don't really even know what that means, & I'm not sure I could put the feeling into words, but I have to tell you, it's unsettling. It's an odd feeling. I feel the need to say, "yes, Lord," but truly don't even know what exactly I'm saying yes to. I'm simply agreeing to be a vehicle for His plan.

This recent season of hard, & dark, & deep has tested me. It's tested my faith, but more, it's tested my confidence in my faith. It's made me ask myself, no matter what, can I truly still choose to worship? Can I truly still say, "it is well with my soul," when I'm physically unwell & my life seems a mess?
I know it's the right thing to do & I hope no matter what, I can have that response. But I've definitely wondered. 

This song is a current favorite and I love the testimony at the beginning...




I'm so grateful for a few close Christian sisters whose presence in my life lent an accountability they weren't even aware of. Just knowing what they WOULD say to me had I confided in them, gave me enough buoyancy to keep from sinking further on some days. I know they have my back. I know they all have traveling their own rough roads. 

I'm also grateful that God created me with an intense love for music. Praise & worship music has literally been my saving grace on more days than I can count. 
I absolutely believe that God sent me songs like "Thy Will" and the one above to remind me that "even if, "the hard times continue, I should remember that He has a plan for me. That His will for my life, is better than one I could've picked for myself. And that I can CHOOSE to say, it is well with my soul. 

I've realized that I have to put myself first sometimes, or I'm no good to anyone else. Not my kids or my husband, my bible study group, or lost people who need Jesus. I'm not saying that my health accounts for 36+ years of my life when I feel like I could've better lived Gods plan for me. I am saying that inner wellness has so changed me in a few months, that I feel the next 36+ years of my life will be different.
I don't want earthly accolades for surviving tough times. Everyone has those & most of us survive them. What I want is to know I've done my best with the gifts God blessed me with. I want Him to say, "well done, my good & faithful servant."

I'm not worthy of that just yet, but I will be.

If any part of sharing this can help someone else, I'm glad I did it. I definitely felt led to share, because being transparent is hard and I wouldn't choose it on my own. It requires a vulnerability that makes me terribly uncomfortable, but that's another reason I think I'm supposed to.  I want Christians and non-Christians alike to know that this walk with Jesus is blessed & it can be sweet, but it isn't always easy.

And that's ok and so am I.






Photo Credit     

*I found Armed with Truth just before this past Christmas & recently discovered their "Designer Tattoos." Phrases like "Thy Will be Done," "Be Still," & "It Is Well" were so appropriate for me in this season.  My kid who I thought would think they were "uncool" has really enjoyed them and applies them himself.  I bet your kids would love them too!
 
**I wrote this post over a week ago and it took me this long to feel comfortable with posting it. 😆

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