Emmanuel: God with us (DS)

"Give us an advent spirit," he whispered as he ended his prayer for our meal. And as we picked up forks and drinks and napkins, that phrase kept bumping around inside me. And it bumps still. I don't feel expectant or joyfully waiting, and so I'm struck by those words. Give me an advent spirit.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been my favorite time of year. No matter which side of the ocean I was celebrating on, I waited expectantly all year for the sights, sounds, and smells of this beautiful season.

But that was before the darkness creeped in, marring my whole world and tainting even the holidays I loved. Now this time of year feels like labored breathing. It's exhausting. Hard. Like I'm just waiting for it to end instead of wishing it would linger a while longer like I once did.

This year, I've been intentional to remember my power to choose. And right now more than ever I'm forced to remember that joy really is my choice. No matter the circumstance or the feeling. And while the holidays aren't as sweet or as magical as they once were, I can still choose to find joy within them.

There's a reason we sing, "O tidings of comfort and joy." Somehow, the two hold hands.

And so I put lights on the wooden giraffe by my front door. I placed a nativity on my mantle. I strung lights into wine bottles strewn about my apartment. I stare often at my star-topped tree that stands as a beacon of light, pushing back the darkness. Comfort and joy.

In the words of Elisabeth Elliot—"Joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God."

And what better time than right now to take comfort in that. To allow my heart to breathe, to hope, to anticipate. Because no matter what, God's presence abides...

Emmanuel. God with us.

And because He is here, I can choose joy.

For those, like me, who find the holidays uniquely heartsore, will you join me in choosing to discover joy and comfort in the presence of God, made visible in a manger filled with hay? Let's "lift our eyes", being purposeful to not only seek but also to be comfort and joy.

And for those who love this season, will you be intentional to remember that it is bittersweet for many? Open your eyes and hearts to see the heartsore among you. Extend invitations. Hug tightly. Through you, others can be reminded that God sees and knows and cares.

God is with us.

Comfort and joy, friends...

Originally posted on A Deeper Story. Read the comments there >

emmanuel: god with us

"Give us an advent spirit," he whispered as he ended his prayer for our meal. And as we picked up forks and drinks and napkins, that phrase kept bumping around inside me. And it bumps still. I don't feel expectant or joyfully waiting, and so I'm struck by those words. Give me an advent spirit.


i'm that girl who's drowning

I've heard that the biggest challenge with rescuing a drowning victim is how they instinctively fight against their rescuer. The sheer panic and fear is so great that they can't stop themselves from flailing, even at their own detriment. But trying to snap them out of it—to awaken them to their need to simply relax and lean into the arms of their rescuer—is nearly impossible.

I'm that girl who's drowning.

I've been fighting against my new normal, almost without realizing it. Maybe if I just surrender to it, I'll discover that rescue is only breaths away. But maybe if I surrender to it, I'll discover there is no rescue at all... That it simply is what it is, and no amount of fighting or accepting is going to change it.

A counselor told me that all I've been through in the past few years wasn't just traumatic. It was trauma. Leaving me with a sort of PTSD that is very real, and that lingers still. {To be honest, that's still a hard pill for me to swallow.}

One of the greatest challenges of my new normal is memory loss. {I can't believe I just said that phrase out loud. Memory loss. But that's what it is, even if I prefer to hide behind calling it Fuzzy Brain Syndrome.}

I used to be the girl who remembered everything. My ex-husband was notorious for forgetting that he'd seen a movie. Even after I described it in detail, explained where and when we watched it, and showed him the cover... Nope. He couldn't remember. Until about 5 minutes into the movie when he'd bust out an, "Ohhhhh yeah." We laughed about it all the time. And now... that's me. I can't for the life of me remember the moves I've seen.

I can't remember names. Or where people live. Or the names of their spouse or kids. Or details of the last conversation we had.

I can't remember much of anything.

It scares me. It brings tears to my eyes and sometimes even causes me to full-on ugly cry. It makes me hate my brain.

I knew I had blogged once about my Fuzzy Brain Syndrome and my battle with my new normal. So I went back to find it. You know what? I wrote it two-and-a-half years ago. Two-and-a-half years. {Here come the tears again...} That is a long time, people. A long time to not be feeling like myself. A long time of feeling like I'm living with diminished capacity. A long time of wondering if it's just a phase and hoping for old-me to surface again.

Two-and-a-half years later, I'm starting to think this may be reality from here on out. And that really makes me hate my brain.

So I just need to say this:

When I ask you again—for the eleventy-second time—what your husband's name is, how many kids you have, where you live, or how we know each other, please, please know I hate it more than you do. It hurts my heart because I know it comes across like I don't pay attention or don't care... and I promise you that's not true.

I realize now that my only choice is to surrender, even while I doubt that a rescue will ever come. But fighting it is just too exhausting. So I give up. I cease flailing, throw my arms upward, and let the current take me under.

And pray grace finds me there...

photo credit: Duncan Rawlinson

Originally posted on A Deeper Story. Read the comments there >

me 2.0

I just stumbled upon the beginnings of a blog post that's been collecting dust in my drafts folder since January. I am the queen of unfinished ideas and unpublished posts. Sigh...


Back in January I attended Dream Year Weekend here in Nashville. I was wrestling through my own feelings of dreamlessness, and didn't know how to reconcile that with all the amazing stuff I was hearing at Dream Year. I had some candid conversations with a few key friends to help me sort through my own heart thoughts.

Segments of one of those conversations (a text convo at that!) have been sitting in my dusty draft blog post folder all this time.

It is amazing to see the truth and strength of the words spoken to me almost a year ago, and how they have taken shape in my life over the course of this year.

The cliff-notes version of my friend's wisdom:

  • You don't need to find a new vision.
  • Your vision, purpose, and passion are the core of who you are. You are all about influencing people to change for the better and to pursue Christ. That is your heart, and that hasn't changed.
  • Your ministry in Africa was the vehicle and tool you used to express that and live that out for 13 years.
  • Now you need to discover a different vehicle and tool to express it. But your heartbeat hasn't changed.
  • That's why you've continued to be an influence through your blog, your relationships, & your Twitter interactions. That is simply who you are, no matter what.
  • As you look forward into the future, the vehicle for living that out and expressing it will need to change. But the essence of who you are and what your passions are won't.
  • Let's work on discovering a new vehicle...

That was a whole lotta wisdom and a whole lotta truth. In a text conversation. That my friend probably doesn't even remember having.

You know what I titled the draft post I had those bullet-points saved in?

"Me 2.0"

And a year later, I find myself finally realizing and embracing that.

Me 2.0.

I've begun recognizing ways that my passions and heart can continue to be lived out, even though my ministry in Africa closed. Even though it looks totally different than anything I'd ever anticipated.

So as I sit here thinking through all this, and finally turning this dusty draft into a real, live post... all I keep thinking is this:

You really never know how impactful your words can be in someone's life. Even a simple text message can make a world of difference.

So, today...

Speak into your loved ones' situation. In person, on the phone, in an email, via text... whatever. Just speak life into their heart.

They need it even more than you'll ever know.

i'm sorry

When my husband confessed to his affair, my world began crumbling out from under my feet. Actually, the crumbling started almost two years before, when the infidelity and incessant lying began. With each piece that shattered, I withdrew into myself a little bit more.

When all this started, and all I had was a gut feeling and doubts and stories that didn't seem to line up, we were the leaders of a non-profit organization. I didn't know how to deal with what I feared might be going on, and I certainly didn't know who I could talk to.

So this quiet girl grew even quieter.

Then doubts gave way to undeniable proof...

And then the bombshell was dropped that he was done. With me. With ministry. With all of it.

And he walked away.

And while it didn't seem like it was even possible, I withdrew even more.

In the past few years, I have fought through divorce, depression, chronic health issues, the closing of our ministry, the loss of my home, the seeming loss of me... And while I am ashamed to admit it, I haven't had the energy, strength, time, or resolve to pour into my friendships. Not like I used to. Not like I'd want to.

I simply haven't had it in me. Leaning into people seems to demand more of me than I've had left.

So emails and Facebook messages have gone unanswered. Calls have been unreturned.

In a lot of ways, I fell off the face of the earth when it fell out from under me.

And in the process of that, I know I've hurt some people. Some people I care deeply about. People who mean very much to me. People who infused me with strength through their emails and texts and voicemails, even if I didn't know how to reach out and respond.

My lack of communication has communicated that I don't care, and that's the farthest thing from the truth.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry for any way I may have disregarded, dismissed, or ignored your gestures of love and friendship.

I'm sorry for not speaking up, even if it were only to say that I have no words.

Please forgive me.

Anything YOU want to get off your chest?

a thousand deafening decibles

I don't have words for so much of what I'm dealing with and attempting to process through. I know some will misinterpret my silence on certain things to mean a lack of feeling or caring (I know, because some already have). And to that all I can say is... Usually the hardest, most deeply-felt things, are those I simply cannot talk about. Do with that what you will.

I went to South Africa last month for a couple weeks. I was there for our final week of ministry. I packed up my home. I said heart-wrenching goodbyes.

And in between all of those things, the greatest heartache I've ever known steadily grew.

Even now, I can't even just think about that time in Africa without tears overflowing down my face. It's just too hard. It's just too much.

I don't think I will ever be able to explain to a solitary soul all the layers of hard that were in those two weeks. Or anything that's taken place since then.

It makes my breath catch painfully in my throat. It feels as though someone is sitting on my chest. I can hear my heart pouding in my own ears.

Breaking hearts are anything but quiet. Under the surface at least...

Every shatter, every crack, piercingly resounds, echoing over and over again.

So know that for every second of my silence, there are a thousand deafening decibles resonating from my broken heart.

And because it's trapped inside, it reverberates around the hollow shell of me.

It's crazy-making.

And I wish I could deaden the sound...

The sound that only I can hear.

hope again

I'm sure you're familiar with this story. But bear with me for a moment... Mary and Martha's brother was sick, and they sent word to Jesus to let Him know.

"When He heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.' Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days... On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb..."

Jesus had told his disciples that "this sickness will not end in death". And yet... Lazarus died.

We have the benefit of knowing how the story progressed from there---that Lazarus would be raised from the dead---but no one there did.

All they knew was that Lazarus died. And that Jesus could've healed him---that He even implied He would---and yet He didn't...

In those moments, I'm sure it was impossible for them to imagine that "will not end in death" could possibly still be true. Lazarus was dead, for crying out loud.

But even still, Jesus' words were truth. And everyone eventually saw them come to pass when Lazarus was resurrected.

Smack in the middle of the story though, while they were all grieving the death of their friend, Jesus spoke some words that make me stop breathing for a moment:

"For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe..."

He was talking about the fact that He hadn't been there to heal Lazarus before he died. "I am glad I was not there..." Wha? He's glad His friend died? He's glad his sisters' hearts broke in grief? He's glad??!!

"For your sake... so that you may believe... it is for God's glory..."

Often what God does and allows in my life does not make sense to me. Yet His promise is that it's for my good and His glory. Even when it doesn't seem like it.

Even when death has already sunk its teeth in. Hard.

In those moments, He still says "I am glad... for your sake." And while that pains my heart in so many ways as I think about my life right now, I want to believe there is pure love in that statement.

I'm no longer hoping that I'll be spared from the agonizing pain of my journey. I'm not asking to be saved from the fiery furnace... because I'm already in it. I've been in it for a long time.

I want to believe that it "won't end in death" even though death is already here.

I want to believe that He loves making beauty from ashes, life out of brokenness, and a new beginning where there is nothing but finality.

I want to somehow find hope again.

Not in rescue, but in resurrection.

the greatest regret of my life

Those months of being emotionally beaten and battered changed me. They turned me into someone I despise. Someone who is gripped by far too much fear.

I became scared to death of sudden changes in my relationships. I doubt people's intentions, trustworthiness, and loyalty. I fear that those I love and hold close are going to leave or replace me. I don't believe that I'm worth loving, even when others say I am.

Those four months left me indelibly scarred.

And in those fleeting moments when I am completely honest with myself, I am forced to admit:

I wish I'd loved myself enough to get out.

Somewhere in that four month period, I should have made the choice to leave.

But I was too afraid.

Afraid of the people who wouldn't understand my decision. Afraid of being alone. Afraid of not being the good, Godly wife. Afraid to stand up for me.

And while I knew what I would have told anyone else in my position, I couldn't bring myself to make that same decision for me.

So I stayed in a situation that was harmful and unhealthy. I allowed him to continue his cruel and intentional abuse of my heart.

I sacrificed me for the sake of us.

An us that didn't even exist anymore. An us that he'd walked away from a long time ago. An us that was an ideal rather than a reality.

While I ultimately desired restoration in my marriage, I shouldn't have clung to that hope at the detriment of my own heart.

Because it just about ruined me.

My greatest regret is that I didn't value myself enough to leave.

And yet I can't help but wonder...

If I were back in that position right now, knowing what I do, would I be able to make the hard choice to get out?

I honestly don't know...

Abuse (of any kind) is manipulative, controlling, and strangely "comfortable" like that.

And that leaves me feeling sick inside.

i'm talking to the devil

I had lunch with a friend a few weeks ago, and with tears in my eyes I told her I didn't know why I was having such a rough time. As we talked, she quoted this passage from Psalms: "He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support."

She reminded me that the enemy of my soul is ruthless.

He confronts me in the day of my disaster. He kicks me when I'm down. He comes at me from all sides when I'm feeling like I'm at my lowest.

I know she's right. I've seen it. I've lived it.

While there are many Christians who blame the devil for far too much, I know I don't blame him nearly enough.

I need to get better at recognizing his schemes.

I've got to realize sooner when he's attempting to steal, kill, and destroy in my life.

I need to catch on quicker when he sends my heart spiraling with false accusations.

Because I can't fight an enemy I don't acknowledge.

And though I've been fighting, I haven't actually been fighting against the enemy as much as I need to be.

So I'm gonna be talking to the devil more than usual today.

I'm gonna call him out for the thief and liar that he is. I'm gonna remind him of the truth God says about me. I'm gonna look him in the eye and declare, "Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise."

This battle's not over yet.

And I'm staying in the ring.

maybe this is my new normal

I still choose indoors over outdoors, even on a gorgeous day. I still come to life when I talk about vision, passion, and Africa. I still make strange faces (and noises) without even realizing it. I still love deeply.

For the most part, I'm still the same me I was before my world shattered out from under my feet.

For the most part.

But there are a lot of ways I'm a different person than I was before my husband left me.

Emotional trauma changes us.

It changed me.

My life is forever split between before and after.

And after-me isn't the same as before-me.

Some of the changes are healthy, good, freeing.

But many aren't.

I "lived tired" before, but I still kept a fast (and full) rhythm in life and ministry. Now I simply don't have the energy to keep even half that pace. I've taken living tired to a whole new level while doing far less in a day than I've ever done.

My heart is more tender and my skin is less thick. Things that shouldn't hurt me, hurt me. My emotions are all over the place. I can spiral from high to low very quickly. And that scares me for a long list of reasons I'll never be able to share in this space.

Trust has always been the Achilles' heel of my life. But now I physically feel the fear of trusting in a way I can't even begin to describe.

I get overwhelmed far easier. By to-do lists, emails, appointments, the pile of books I want to read... everything. It all just overwhelms me. And by overwhelm, I mean incapacitate.

I tell people I have Fuzzy Brain Syndrome. I lose my concentration. I'm constantly distracted. I can't remember things---things I should remember. Things I want to remember. I so often can't even think of the word I'm trying to say. Not just occasionally. Frequently.

I'm just not the same person I used to be.

And, to be honest, I don't like who I've become.

I'm living with diminished capacity.

It's frightening, frustrating, angering, and crazy-making all at the same time.

And I'm starting to think it might not be temporary.

Maybe this isn't something I can bounce back from.

Maybe this is my new normal.

Which means I need to face yet another loss.

The loss of ... me.

Of who I am. How I am.

Before I can accept who I've become, I need to grieve the loss of who I was.

I need to let go of before-me.

And trust that God can still make something beautiful out of after-me.


Re-entry's been rather bumpy. I don't know if it's that my heart hasn't caught up with the rest of me yet or what. But I've had an emotional few days since getting back from my dreamcation.

Actually it started my last night on the cruise ship.

The moment I put my head on my pillow to go to sleep, my mind started reeling. My thoughts bounced between Africa and Atlanta. They ricocheted between past, present, and future. And I felt anxiousness taking over my heart. Physically felt it.

It was as though someone was sitting on my chest.

My eyes kept filling with tears even though I was willing myself not to cry. No amount of melatonin or prayer worked to knock me out. I was up all night, tossing and turning.

As we pulled into port and I began the long day of traveling back to the east coast, I was overwhelmed with a sense of not belonging. Anywhere.

And all week I haven't been able to shake the anxiety, doubts, and insecurities. The panic-attack-esque chest pressure keeps returning. And yesterday I just couldn't seem to stop crying.

Tonight is a bit better, after a worship service at church. As "my song" started, I heard God's whisper in my heart. Even when I feel unwanted, unneeded, and like I don't belong, it's okay. Because even when no one else is, He is jealous for me.

He is jealous for me.

I'm gonna be repeating that over and over as I head to bed. And as I start my day tomorrow.

Because my heart still feels very tentative. Tender. Sensitive. My emotions are still brewing just beneath the surface. And the tears keep coming.

But my battle-weary heart feels a tiny bit stronger than it did this morning.

And for that I'm grateful.

now i get it

This week last year was hell on earth. I honestly don't know how I managed to stay standing breathing. I'd finally found irrefutable proof of my husband's affair---evidence I knew he wouldn't be able to deny or push back on me. But for a long list of complicated reasons, I had to wait until the end of the week to confront him with it. I had interns who deserved the best debriefing possible. And I had Thanskgiving to cook for 30-some-odd people.

So I said nothing to him about it.

I told only my Kitty, and her frequent phone calls and texts got me through the seemingly never-ending week. Somehow I led debriefing sessions, prayed over my beloved interns, drove 16 hours home, cooked for a small army, and hosted a holiday meal. All with evidence of my husband's lengthy unfaithfulness tucked in my back-pocket.

And the morning after Thanksgiving, I pulled the cord.

The weight of that week---that I couldn't express or let out last year---is weighing on me now. And it's crushing me. If my sweet friend were here, I'd cry it out on the bathroom floor yet again.

But still I know, just like a year ago, I will keep standing. Keep breathing. Even when I don't know how. And even when I don't want to.

God, You are Redeemer. Redeem even this.

Redeem even this.

my heart is tired

The past few weeks have been full of some really great things. But when I landed back in Atlanta last night, I knew I was more than just physically tired. My heart is weary, too. And that frustrates me. I've spent time doing things I love with people I love, and yet... my heart has settled back into this valley-like funk. Hmph. The past two years have destroyed the holidays for me. I hope they get redeemed at some point, but right now they just feel... hard. And my eyes can't help but fill as I let my thoughts wander to the days ahead (and the days past).

I wish I could fast-forward through the next six weeks. A time that used to be my favorite of the whole year now just amplifies my loneliness and heartache. I hate it.

I'm already tired of it and it hasn't even really started yet.

I know all the things I'm supposed to do to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get through this. I know. I know. I KNOW!

I'm simply too tired (inside and out) to do it right now.

Thankfully "God helps those who helps themselves" isn't in the Bible.

But this is: "He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along."

While I don't have it in me to do anything right now, I'm hoping that God will show up and once again do what He does best:

Rescue the helpless.

i owe you an apology

The past two years of my life have been hell. It's taken everything in me and then some, to simply still be standing  today. But in the process, I became someone I'm not. Someone I don't like. I've always wanted people to walk away from an encounter with me knowing that I genuinely care about them. I want love to be seen in my eyes, heard in my words, felt in my touch. But that stopped happening. People walked away wondering if I even liked them.

I was too tired to think of anyone but myself.

I was too absorbed in my own mess to help others in theirs.

I was too focused on my pain to let people know how much they mean to me.

I was too sad to leave joy, too anxious to leave peace.

I was too caught up in my stuff, in myself, to let others know I care. Or maybe even to care at all.

I cried myself to sleep, but I had no tears to mourn with others.

I became touchy and edgy. Paranoid, sensitive, snappish.

I put walls up around my heart and believed the lie that I could protect myself from further hurt.

I was wrong.

And now I look back on who I've become, and it makes me so sad. How anyone has loved me through this backwards metamorphosis is beyond me.

Pain is no excuse to not show love.

Those who've been in my life over the past two years, know this:

I'm sorry.

And to those who've stuck with me in spite of me, who've even leaned in and drew me closer, thank you doesn't cut it. But it's all I've got. I'm overwhelmingly humbled.

Thank you for loving me still...

mine to tell

I kind of hate what my blog has become. I write from my heart, so my blog reflects the heaviness that's been my life for the past six months. And while I haven't felt ready to share details of what's going on, I've tried to write with openness and authenticity about my journey. I just hate that the result has been a lot of heavy, weighty posts.

I know my ambiguity may be confusing at times. But I assure you I'm not trying to be dramatic. I'm not seeking to create an air of suspense or intrigue. It's not a publicity stunt. My life simply is what it is. And, even void of details, my writing is unavoidably colored by it.

Sometimes I wish I had a poker face.

But most of the time, I'm glad I don't.

My story is mine to tell. I still can't right now, but someday I will. That thought brings both freedom and trepidation. Telling my story means owning my story. And I'm not quite ready to fully accept that it's real. That it's mine. That it is permanently woven into the fabric of my life.

But it is.

Whether I like it or not.

And although I hate what my blog has become during this season, I'm gonna keep writing masklessly. Because the real me is all I've got to offer.

Take it or leave it.

Take me or leave me.



I've written less emails in the past month than I used to write in a single day.

You gotta understand something about me: I'm a doer. I manage to get stacks of things done in a day. I figure out ways to tackle the to-do lists and push through the projects, even under tight deadlines. I know how to work my tail off when I need to. And even when I don't.

At least I used to anyway.

Right now, I simply don't have it in me.

My days are fairly empty, so I find myself with more time on my hands than ever before. But what I've gained in time, I lack in motivation, energy, and concentration. And one result is an overflowing inbox.

It's difficult for me to reach out right now. I feel unable to be the kind of friend I used to be and want to be---the kind of friend you deserve.

If you're one of the many who've emailed me but haven't heard back yet: I'm sorry for making you feel unimportant to me. I'm sorry I haven't explained until now.

Your emails aren't burdensome. My inbox is filled with reminders that I'm loved! So please don't hear this as a request to stop writing.

I guess it's just a request for patience. And understanding.

Because while I'm struggling to show it well right now, I still love and care deeply.

Even when I don't answer your email.

time to talk about it

Depression is a sign of weak faith. I don't know that I was ever told those exact words, but growing up, it was certainly conveyed to me that a depressed Christian is a bad Christian. A depressed Christian obviously lacks a strong relationship with God. A depressed Christian just needs to pray more, speak words of faith, and spend more time in the Bible. A depressed Christian gives Jesus---and the Church---a bad name.

That kind of thinking kept me bound in a prison. Forced me to suffer quietly. Because... Well...

I'm depressed. And I have been for a while.

My life is rich in many, many ways. I love God; I've followed Him my whole life; I've served Him passionately on the mission field for over a decade. I have people in my life who love me deeply and whom I love deeply in return.

But I'm also facing the hardest thing I've ever had to endure. And it's left me struggling with depression for almost two years.

Do I have weak faith? Sometimes. (So thankfully all I need is a mustard seed sized dollop of it.) But I know now that my depression isn't a reflection of my faith.

And I'm so sorry for ever thinking anyone else's was a reflection of theirs.