World Mental Health Day

It is hard for me to open up about this. But God’s word tells me “they defeated him (Satan) through the blood of the Lamb and the bold word of their witness” (Revelation 12). Wild that Christ’s sacrifice and a believer’s bold witness can work together to bring light into the darkest places.

Speaking of dark places… anxiety/fear has been and still is a ribbon throughout my life. I don’t have many memories without it. We could sit and talk for hours about what that means and how that is and why it came to be and how I should treat it. But I have always sensed God calling me deeper into Him through anxiety. It’s almost been like a pull into Him, instead of picking apart the why and the how (although I’ve done more than my fair share of analyzing the why and the how and have actually gotten some legit clarity on the why and the how, for which I am thankful). The book of Job stands out to me in this respect… Job and his friends TALK for 34 CHAPTERS about what they think is going on with Job’s life. 34 CHAPTERS. They analyze God. They analyze themselves. They analyze God some more. They analyze Job’s life. They analyze Job’s circumstances. And it actually gets them nowhere. Praise God for His response starting in chapter 38… read it!!! Too good.

As humans, we have such a strong desire to be independent. To understand all the things. And then to fix what’s broken. We don’t like the idea of being needy, troubled, weighed down. But just a thought – maybe that weight you’re carrying is to bring you to Him to lay it down? An avenue for introduction and continued intimacy? All through God’s word He makes it very clear that we are very weak, needy, creatures made strong in the arms of a good God.

I picture my life of faith a lot like this:

Jesus walks up and introduces himself to me as a little girl. He explains that my parents were chosen by Him, and they have gifts and flaws, and a key gift from them would be a love for the Word and for Him. But that anything He allowed in my life passed through a filter of LOVE and desired relationship with me. I learn to trust Him a little more and eventually we go for a walk, find a sweet spot by a gorgeous lake and sit down. By now I am actually crying sweet tears of rest and peace and calm. Still a little girl though. As I grow up I get this habit of independence. I leave our peaceful setting and I go do my thing! And what do ya know, I get all bumped and bruised up and come back and find Him and He comforts me. Repeat 1,000,000 times. Not exaggerating. I am never not His, I am just not always available. When life is smooth, I rarely go find Him at the lake spot. When life is rough, I sit with Him often and He teaches me, comforts me, makes me smile, laugh, reminds me I can really do all things with Him. This pattern continues for years, and unbeknownst to me still lacking a lot of intimacy with Him. It’s a pretty one sided relationship: I show up empty, He graciously fills me up. Then I go do my thing. These are the years I believe where I learned to trust Him, bit by bit. Then something happens. Life takes too many turns (see list at very bottom of the too many turns). Almost takes me out of the game. I am reeling. No one seems to understand. Can’t find my equilibrium. I go, find him at our lake spot. He calms me down. He goes over His love for me LINE BY LINE. Spells it out, clear as day, over and over and over again. How much He delights in me, and I realize how much more I want to know Him. We spend more time together. It’s glorious. My heart is being made new, I can actually feel it! Then He tells me it’s time to get back in the game but I’m hesitant. Being with Him at our lake spot is a lot safer than going back into the world that sent me reeling. I look at Him nervously and answer that I’ll go but beg Him to just come with me… to which He replies, with a warm smile: I thought you’d never ask…

So often we think the answer for what ails us is an equation of flesh management. I do believe in doing our part, but not while neglecting our Spirits. How can I neglect my Savior and my Spirit – yet expect peace? It doesn’t work like that. I believe all of our inner lives would be vastly improved by gazing at Him, instead of our world and ourselves.

Last week, we were at an event and the bracelet Walt got me for the birth of Emerson (that I am obsessed with) came off. I wear it literally every single day. I did not realize it until the next morning and immediately felt nauseous. I looked for HOURS – under every single thing in this house, I called friends, I went back to the event spot, looked for another hour. No luck. As I was driving back home discouraged, I felt a little nudge… what if God’s people searched for Him the way I just searched for that gold bracelet? I changed my plans that day, I inconvenienced myself, I even skipped my shower (TMI). What if God didn’t just get our convenience and leftovers?

Last story I will share… a few years ago, post Fenley but pre Wills and Emerson, Walt and I were flying home from NYC. To say that I am a white knuckle flyer is a gross understatement. Anyone that has flown with me can attest to this fact! We got on the plane, buckled up, ready to take off, and suddenly the plane goes into Park. WHAT. No no no no no. Mr. Pilot sir, I am going to need you to take off. Panic pulsing through my veins. Then, the lovely New Yorker sitting next to us tells me that the last time this happened, they sat on the tarmac for 3 hours. WTHeck. NOPE. Ain’t doing it. I grab my purse, containing my Xanax bottle, go to the bathroom to take my “peace pill”. I had just finished the book “Heaven is for real” and the story about the Russian girl who had a vision of Jesus, who then painted it, and that was the Jesus that the boy from the book said was Jesus. Anyway. The book moved me, okay??? 🙂 And that portrait of Jesus was the background of my phone. I am getting the pill out of the bottle, look at my phone, and I feel the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart… “because I did what I did, you can do this.” WOW. Perfect peace replaced panic pulsing. Only God can do that. I said “Okay, God… I can do this, but would you please help this plane leave SOON!!!” I put the pills away, went back to my seat and actually felt calm, even engaged the New Yorker in conversation. Do you wanna know how soon after that prayer we were in the air? FIFTEEN MINUTES. Just the beginning of marvelous for me…and this little story helped prepare my heart for the bigger challenges that were just around the corner.

All of this to say… I am not hating on professional help and medication. I am not saying they are not good, useful tools that help many people. I am simply sharing my own story and highly recommending some quality lake time with the Lover of your soul, it would do your mind, body, soul and spirit good… this I KNOW.

LB

Also some scripture He has highlighted in my life in the last year… Deuteronomy 6:5, Romans 12, all of Job, Romans 8, 1 Peter 5:10, Ephesians 4, Luke 10:17-20 to name a few 🙂

My list of too much that sent me reeling…

Married 3 months, unexpected first positive pregnancy test (Fenley Grace), could not get words of affirmation to save my life, very discouraged, financial struggle, lots of drama, a second unexpected positive pregnancy test (Wills), 25 weeks pregnant diagnosis of Trisomy 18, more financial pressure, death and burial of our son, more drama, self employment tax miscalculation that kicked our butts, third but not unexpected, rather very excited positive pregnancy test (Emerson), on my birthday at 8.5 weeks pregnant we were told she had no brain or skull and would definitely die (horribly low point), lived 2.5 weeks thinking I would go into another c section expecting death while I am wide awake but completely helpless, 12 weeks pregnant we were told she was perfect (thank you God), nursed her for 14 months (mama be cray cray), mama had oral surgery, one of my grandmothers died, switched schools for Fen (really hard decision), Emerson age 2 diagnosed with speech delay, shortly after told she has a syndrome of some sort causing speech delay and height being off the charts but then in same meeting 30 minutes later told she actually would be fine but of course at that point the damage was done (don’t even get me freaking started) all on the 4 year anniversary of Wills’ death (fall 2017), Fenley had strep 6 times, I had strep and flu (diagnosed by me) and still had to give 100% at home as Walt is self employed and busy busy busy, both girls got strep and flu which then led to Fenley’s tonsillectomy, basically had a 2 hour long panic attack when she wouldn’t wake up from anesthesia, she recovered by Christmas Eve, Walt had surgery/procedure done a day or two before New Years, and I would not give myself any space without guilt, I felt I had to be “on” all the time. One particularly anxious day I looked back at my calendar and realized I had had 10 coffee/lunch dates in 12 days… God whispered: “you’re trying to serve everyone filet, while you’re living on crumbs.” By spring 2018 I was waking up at 4am sick to my stomach every day which led me upstairs to my bonus room by myself with Him and His word which led me to where I am which I wouldn’t trade for a billion dollars. Still struggle but that’s not the point – the point is I am HIS and I am LOVED and I am being made new day by day. And to circle back to Job…God answered Job “from the whirlwind”… sometimes I wonder if the whirlwind is just God trying to get our often very fickle attention 🙂

Advertisements

How Sweet It Is

I  have been through a hard-to-find-words-for-particularly-trying-and-complicated season. It’s not one that I could pinpoint exactly what was so trying or complicated… the only way I know to describe it is that I have felt a cloud or fog around my heart and mind. I’ve still gone about my business, doing my gig, but inside at times have been in much turmoil. A lot of question marks – about God and about myself and about this life He has given me. A lot of reading and praying and searching. It has been nothing brought on by another person. I can see some stressors for sure but nothing to cause so much angst.

Finally after a few months of this intense turmoil, I carved out some space upstairs in our bonus room for seeking Him. All through His Word it says seek me and you’ll find me when you seek me with ALL of your heart. Keep asking and the answer will come. He says that those who worship Him will worship in Spirit and in truth. But I found that my daily life had little room for His Spirit and truth and for seeking Him. We run at 100mph 14 hours a day and then wonder why we have run out of gas. We sign our kids up for everything under the sun, scroll social media for hours on end (just check your battery daily usage status – my phone use was at 8 hours a day between calls and email and social media – the same amount as a FULL TIME JOB!), schedule girls nights, obsess about our bodies, work endless hours, go on dates with our husbands, make time for movies and the newest restaurants. And then are left scratching our heads at our lack of peace.

Shortly after Wills died, I was praying about whether to go back to baking. I felt that I would jump in too quickly and then not grieve him properly but my heart was ACHING to get back in the kitchen. One morning, I said heck with it I’m just gonna bake but felt overwhelming guilt for feeling so much joy in baking. So I took it to the Word, went to my knees crying, asking God to confirm if I could start back to baking (don’t always trust your conscience!!!) and opened my bible and it fell to Haggai and this is what I found (emphasis mine):

Then on October 17 (WILLS’ BIRTHDAY! WHATTTTTTT!!!) of that same year, the Lord sent another message through the prophet Haggai. “Say this to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of God’s people there in the land: ‘Does anyone remember this house—this Temple—in its former splendor? How, in comparison, does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all! But now the Lord says: Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And NOW GET TO WORK, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.’

So naturally I started back to baking – gladly minus the guilt… but the book of Haggai has stayed a thread in my heart and mind over the last few years and I haven’t understood why. In this season of seeking His kingdom first (not perfectly but definitely trying to prioritize my relationship with Him over any other in my life) He has brought some clarity to this book and it’s thread in my heart and I wanted to share it with anyone willing to listen.

A remnant of Israel has returned to their ruined city to rebuild the Temple and are so overwhelmed at what needs to be done to the Temple that they stop working on it. And then start building fine houses for themselves while His Temple was in ruins.

“The word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses (Old Testament shiplap?!?!?!), while this house lies in ruins?’ Now the Lord of Armies says this: ‘Think carefully about your ways…'” Haggai 1:3

Personally, I have read that many times and assume He is still using this book of the Old Testament to talk about the Church today, but I look at where we go to church and it’s growing! People are tithing and showing up and serving and making room! The building itself is not in ruins and it’s full as a tick every Sunday. So I’ve been at a loss of what this could mean for me. And then one day in my carved out space upstairs it hit me like a bolt of lightning…

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

He’s highlighting the neglect of His Spirit in ME, in His people, in this generation. We are so busy serving and going and doing and fretting and looking to the left and to the right that we have lost the art of being still in His presence. He has not called us to anything but Himself. There may very well be a call on your life – a very specific one – but it will pale in comparison to the call to delight yourself in Him and let Him be your all in all. Any and every purpose will flow from that place.

I believe with every fiber of my being that as we keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking that He WILL show Himself to us in our many question marks. Our pursuit of Him absolutely requires turning our face to Him and away from the world and oh how He will reward that turning!!! As Ruth reminded me many times, it is HIS work to do, our job is to remain in Him and to fix our gaze on Him. Only took five years to sink in (#dumbsheep)!

All of this to say – I have not been in a place to write the last few months but this morning, it washed over me like a fresh wave and I knew I could finally share this little tidbit to encourage anyone reading that may feel a desire to more of Him and less of this world… I have found it so sweet to be loved by Him in the midst of my fog. I have never tasted anything sweeter. Turns out, all He needs is a little time and a little sitting still and a little faith and a child begging for more of HIM… hope to share more at some point but for now, will leave it at this 🙂

Lauren

4 years…

Four years ago today I heard the term “Trisomy 18” for the first time in my adult life. Four years ago today we started a journey that began with a crash course in genetics. Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), Trisomy 18 (Edward’s Syndrome) and Trisomy 13 (Patau Syndrome) are the 3 most common genetic abnormalities – the last 2 being not compatible with life. I remember it like it was yesterday, my heart was pounding so hard that my vision was pulsing. Remember that song about wearing sunscreen where the guy just gives advice the whole time? He said the real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never cross your worried mind and blindside you at 4p.m. on some idle Tuesday. Ours was August 2nd, 2013, an idle Friday at 9a.m. but blindsided nonetheless.

This year is different and I can finally see some of the long term fruit of our grief. A little container of vaseline they gave us for Wills’ lips at the hospital has an expiration date of 6.1.17. I wore it on my own lips for probably a year after he died. Every night I would put it on before bed and think, will I expire before this little jar of vaseline? I honestly doubted that I would make it. Grief is so immovable and heavy and permanent. Yes, you learn to move forward and you navigate the trying waters but it’s always there. I cannot emphasize this enough – you are the same person, but you are eternally different. I cannot go back to who I was before Wills, nor would I want to. But I’m not going to lie and say sometimes I don’t envy her. She had it pretty easy and didn’t even know it. But life isn’t about easy is it? Then I come full circle and I thank God for the story He has given us. While we were in the thick of it with Wills, someone said you are either coming out of something hard, in something hard or about to go through something hard. That’s a tough pill that quite frankly at the time I wanted to spit back out at them. But if you can choke it down, it sobers and steadies you.

A few things we’ve learned in life after the darkest valley…

1.) The mundane is where character is forged. Embrace it. Hard things with God do change you but I guarantee you He has a slow, steady work He wants to accomplish too. Yes, the season of having and losing Wills changed us drastically and practically overnight. But I still had a lot of heart issues lurking around – still doing heart work with my counselor, friends and family and it’s so worth it. But mundane. I think if Walt hears me say: “for the sake of being honest and loving, I’ve got to say…….” one more time he may kick me out of this house!

2.) God directs. When Wills was here, we had to make a lot of decisions. We would get alone, pray, talk, reason and then decide. We still do that and He is still faithful to lead us.

3.) God STILL speaks. Sometimes we want God to write on a billboard to us. However, I read this the other day and it blew my mind. One of his most recited sentences (among women) is when He tells Martha that she’s worried about many things and that Mary has chosen what can’t be taken from her by choosing to sit at His feet. But guess how all of that happened…… It was only when Martha took her frustration to Him, that He responded. He did not initiate the interaction!!! He didn’t pull her aside and say look Martha, you’re troubled, sit down, let me rub your feet and scold Mary for not helping you. However, He was 100% available and responded in truth and love to her when she brought her frustration to Him. He responds to us too – when we SEEK HIM!!!

4.) Other children don’t replace the child that is gone – makes me think of Jesus being the shepherd that leaves the 99 to go after the 1. He understands how special each life is and now I do too. All 3 of my kids each have my whole heart in their own way. I miss Wills as much today as I did the day after he died.

5.) We’ve traveled a lot (for us). Would any financial advisor have told us to go to Disney World for 8 days last May? Nope. But we splurged and went while Fenley was still super into princesses and we had the best trip that we still talk about probably weekly.

6.) We’ve learned to ABIDE. We both try to read and pray daily – even if it’s just for a few minutes. Jesus said apart from Him, we can do nothing. And we can attest to the times when we are most dry spiritually, that we are most irritable relationally.

That’s all for now. Wanted to write to honor Wills in this season of remembering for the Bowie house. And to give God all the glory for the marvelous things He has done. And to officially report, the vaseline expired before me 🙂

Lauren