Thursday, 20 November 2014

Depression is real (but so is God)

The Lord God is my bravery habakkuk 3:19
The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]! Habakkuk 3:19 (AMP)

I used to be a paramedic. 

For a year I pulled on a blue overall and spent two 12-hour shifts a week on an ambulance. 

Before I started working as a paramedic I loved the idea of riding in to save the day, of rescuing people, and making everything okay. 

But the reality of being a paramedic in South Africa was very far from my ideas. 

The first case I worked was with a newborn baby that passed away. A baby who I had been assisting to breathe for an hour before God it passed away. 

My heart grieved that little child. 

As the year progressed I grew more and more reluctant to pull on the uniform, and go out and work, more anxious about what the night would hold, about the domestic violence I’d face, the vehicle accidents and the homeless people I’d attend. 

About half way through the year depression and anxiety became my friend. Most shifts I didn’t know how I would make it through. I felt constantly nauseous. I wouldn’t sleep and then I’d sleep for days. I lost my appetite. 

The only thing that pulled me through each long dark day was God. 

Brave quotesGod was my strength when I had to hold my hand against the neck of a man who was pumping blood out his body with each heartbeat.

God was my bravery when I had to walk into a domestic violence situation and treat a wife quickly before the husband returned. 

Every time I felt like I would never make it through another shift I’d feel God helping me to walk – not stand still in terror as the amplified bible puts it – but make progress through trouble and suffering. 

Before I had depression that year I thought it was something I could shake off, something that just needed prayer. But depression is real, and it is hard and it requires God – and an entire army of people who love you unconditionally, and healthcare professionals, and often medication – to find your way through it. 

It took me over a year to shake that cloak of darkness off, to learn how to live when depression no longer lingered, but what I learnt in that time has remained with me. A decade later my depression taught me that even on the toughest days God is my strength and bravery. (tweet this)

It is God’s strength that bolsters my weakness.

It is God’s strength that makes me brave. (tweet this)

God’s love that will never leave me or forsake me but help me to make progress through suffering, through the darkness that is depression. 

Ponder: What experiences in your past have taught you that God is with you on your darkest days?

Pray: God, when I feel weak, give me your strength, when I feel afraid be my bravery, help me to walk through the dark places and remind me that I am never alone. Amen.


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Monday, 17 November 2014

One thing to remember when you're about to unravel

You hem me in
You hem me in behind and before. Psalm 139:5 (NIV)

I feel so tired. 

Since 1 November Xylon and I have been gypsies. We've moved out of our old home but can't yet move into our new place. 

Everything we own is in storage except for a few bags of luggage that we'll rely on for the next 3 months. 

In less than 3 weeks we've slept in 8 different beds in 4 different towns. By the end of the month that count will be up to 10 beds in 6 towns.

And each time things get hard, each time I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself: 
God hems me in: behind and before.

The image of God hemming me in when I'm unraveling makes it easier to do the next small thing.

God is all around me. Behind me, before me. I'm not alone. I am held.

I am hemmed in by God. 

Ponder: What areas of your life do you need God to "hem" in?

Prayer: When I'm unravelling God help to remember that you hem me in.

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

We are not as happy as we look

Anne Lamott quote
Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Romans 5:6-8 (MSG)

Browsing through Instagram the around Halloween I noticed a picture by Lesley Miller with the following caption:
Princess, dragon, and mama. I feel the need to confess that I may have threatened Anna [her daughter] in order to capture this photo. #wearenotashappyaswelook 

I loved the hashtag the moment I saw it. And it got me thinking about appearances and the masks I wear to the world. 

The number of times Xylon and I might have been arguing in the car and then walk in the door and put a smile and a laugh on our face as if everything is fine. 

We are not as happy as we look.

Then there was a post a friend wrote on Facebook this week about how hard being a new mother is. And how she thinks moms should stop just presenting pics of happy, smiling babies and rather tell the cold-hard truth of being up for 3 weeks in a row at 3am. And I thought about Lisa-Jo and her honesty about motherhood. And I thanked God for it.

This week I’ve chatted to a number of friends who smiled and laughed and joked with me. And then a few days later someone has asked if I’ve seen that friend recently and told me about some hard things the smiling, laughing friends have been going through. 

Jesus loves me at my darkestWe are not as happy as we look.

I’m guilty of it too. While Xylon was having cancer treatment there were many times the tears would stream down my face in the car and then I’d arrive at work, clean myself up and smile and laugh my way through the day, hiding the hurt inside. 

We are not as happy as we look.

Jesus never called me to portray a perfect life, he called me to follow him, to walk with him, to be real with him. 

I wonder if in my desire to be a light to the world I've forgotten that Jesus loves me at my darkest. (tweet this)
That Jesus loved the sinner. 
The broken.
The down and out.
The prostitute.
The thief.
The liar.
The fighting couple.
The mother who has not slept for day. 
The women yelling at her kids.
The dad who can’t figure out how to pay the bills. 
The daughter who feels like she failed her parents. 
The girl who looks in the mirror and hates herself. 
The man who feels like he’ll never measure up. 


Last week I read a tweet by author Anne Lamott that expresses this well: 
“I think God loves what is real, especially in us. Not the stuff we've tricked out with cute rugs from Ikea. What's really in our hearts & minds. Wow.”

The bible says in Romans 5:6-8 that “Jesus didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”

light and darkIf Christ did all of that for me when I didn’t have my act together why do I think it’s so important to make sure I look happier than I am?

And maybe I hide the tough stuff because I get that God could love my broken ragged edges but I think that others won’t understand. 

I’m realizing that everyone has a hard thing, everyone is fighting some kind of battle and most of the time the people I meet are not as happy as they look (me included).

I wonder if more of us revealed our darkness if there would be more light? (tweet this)

Maybe it’s time to stop sugar coating our lives, and step out into the grace that Jesus offers, and let him love us at our darkest, and allow others to see the cracks in our lives filled with his hope. 

Ponder: How do you think admitting that you’re not as happy as you look to others would deepen your relationships with them? What prevents you from doing this?   

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for loving me at my darkest. Help me to be more honest about the hard parts of my life so you can keep meeting me there and I can encourage people with the grace you give. 

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