Enough. 

I called one of my best friends around 9:45 pm last night. Sobbing.

My heart hurt so bad that prayer wasn’t enough. I knew I needed a friend to speak truth into my life.

She listened to my laments quietly before responding.

“Jesus has got to be enough. He has to be.”

She was right.

***

A few years ago, I had a chance encounter with a woman with a background similar to mine. She was in her late 40’s, early 50’s, the wife of a church elder and a mother. She had been to counseling for the abuse she had endured and someone suggested I talked to her.

I was sharing my struggles with her when I said, “I just want to get to a place where I’m a whole person.”

She shook her head fiercely. “You won’t be whole this side of heaven. You’re just in the process of being made whole.”

She went on to say that even though it had been almost 3 decades since her abuse, she still struggled.  And she had found a man who loved her anyway. She had found someone who pointed her back to Jesus. She was a loving mother and had a successful career.

I saw what my life could be and I was relieved. Realizing that there was no pressure to be fully healed in order to have the life I wanted was the relief I needed.

***

My friend went on to tell me she reached a point where Jesus was enough. She had struggled with loneliness for such a long time when God finally asked her, Am I enough?

I sat there, listening, everything in me breaking. My heart was crushed. What if God made me wait longer? What if I just keep tripping over feelings and lost hope?

Will Jesus be enough?

***

I demanded an answer from God. I wasn’t interested in a sign or some prophetic message. I wanted Him to speak through His word. What was He doing in my life?

He showed me Genesis 32. In the story, Jacob makes his way back home when he gets word that Esau is headed his way. Jacob stole Esau’s inheritance so Jacob is sure Esau will kill him upon arrival.

 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted. – Genesis 32:11-12

Despite God’s promise, Jacob sends gifts to Esau to protect himself. Before he meets with Esau, Jacob wrestles with God and prevails. In Genesis 33, Esau greets Jacob with forgiveness and compassion. God honors the words He spoke in Jacob’s life.

Everything in me is terrified right now. I’m scared of giants I can’t see. But God is faithful.

***

I hung up the phone with my friend, her question ringing in my ears.

Is Jesus enough?

He is. He really is. He’s enough through every heartache, every disappointment, every lost dream. He is my greatest comforter. He knows me and loves me anyway. He’ll love me more than any husband or friend will.

He is enough.

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He loves me

Once a month, I attend a women’s group through my church. We share what’s going on in our lives, what we’re struggling with, what victories we’ve had. Slowly but surely, I am learning to let these girls into my heart.

There’s one thing I haven’t shared with anyone. It’s not that I stopped believing in God; I just stopped believing I mattered to Him. My prayer life was dry and my bible reading was a headache. I started to doubt that God cared about my coming and going. I felt insignificant, like I wasn’t on His radar. And why should I be? I have nothing to offer Him.

So I’m sitting in this women’s group and we’re talking about marriage and someone asks me why I want to get married. And I respond by saying I want a partner to help me do the dishes and pay the bills, pick up the slack so that I don’t have to do it alone. And she responds by saying those aren’t very good reasons to marry someone. A maid could do most of what I’m looking for. She doesn’t tell me what I should be looking for but I break down anyway.

I don’t believe anyone will love me. I don’t believe anyone will be jealous for me. I can’t imagine anyone thinking of me and smiling or praying for my well-being. I give so much of myself to other people, encouraging, helping, praying but I never expect anything in return. It’s not selfless. It’s because I don’t expect anyone to love me back.

My friend suggested that I ask God why I would need a husband. What His heart is for marriage. Because I’ve studied marriage at length but something isn’t connecting. So I asked Him.

A few days later, I was sitting in this meeting surrounded by sixty plus people when I felt God in the room. And He was beckoning to me, I love you, do you not know how much I love you.

In this room full of people, I started crying. I felt like I was 13 again. I remember it vividly, sitting in that church and the pastor was talking about grace, that I didn’t have to earn God in order for Him to love me. No one had ever told me that before.

God loves me. He is jealous for me and chases after me when I stray. He takes care of my needs and considers my wants. He loves me because He wants to, not because of anything I’ve done.

No one can love me like God does but could I believe that my friends and family love me? Could I believe a man would love me? Honestly, I believe the reason I’m not married is because I don’t ever believe anyone loves me. I don’t believe anyone thinks fondly of me. I love others because that’s what God has done in my heart. Could I allow others to love me? Could I be that vulnerable?

It’ll be the scariest thing I’ve ever done but I think God is asking me to go there.

Inconvenient.

All life-changing love is inconvenient. – Tim Keller

I could probably just begin and end my blog post with that.

A few months ago, God started to ask me to get involved with prison ministry.

My answer was a curt “no” and nothing more.

God just got louder.

If I’m honest, I just felt myself sinking into this wonderful, comfortable place I had never been in before. I’m the girl of chaos, starting waves wherever I go. My hope was that one day, I’d reach this place where I could learn the discipline of contentment, settling into the season God had me in without me trying to make messes of nothing. And I had finally achieved that! Maturity had arrived within myself. I was growing up. I was becoming the type of person I had always been baffled by. The kind with community and steady walks with Christ. The quiet, insightful woman I knew I could be.

But something was missing. The interesting thing about treatment for schizophrenia is that it reconciles you to yourself. I have felt the pieces of myself come back over the last year in beautiful ways. I touch my heart and I know it’s me inside. I found another piece of myself a few weeks ago. It’s a piece of myself that I haven’t seen in over ten years.

It was the story of me and Robbie, a guy who is really just a representation of the type of person I always seemed to engage with. Robbie had an awful reputation. He was violent, addicted to hardcore drugs and had schizophrenia. Classmates would comment that he was sure to shoot up the school. Teachers were scared of him and avoided any sort of confrontation. He was a bad guy.

He was also my friend.

I remember people warning me about him, how dangerous he was. I wasn’t stupid. We never hung out alone. But we talked a lot. He talked about wanting to die, his home life, what he thought of the world. I shared my faith with him, validated his feelings, listened. Outwardly, we were so different but in getting to know him, I saw he was a kindred spirit. Particularly now with my own diagnosis of schizophrenia, I saw there was more common ground than not.

I had a knack for befriending people who start trouble. Most of the friends I had with Robbie’s pedigree have died, many by murder. It was the nature of the lives they chose to live. I never did find out what happened to Robbie. We lost touch after a few years. The last time I saw him, he was happier. He looked healthier.

People were still scared of Robbie. Some people will always be scared of people like Robbie.

All life-changing love is inconvenient. That statement keeps running around my head. I have been so comfortable in the last few months. But God doesn’t ask us to stay there. We don’t grow that way.

All life-changing love is inconvenient. I don’t know what to expect from getting involved in the lives of prisoners but I don’t really need to know in order to be obedient. All I need to do is say yes.

Nothing is ever wasted

One of my favorite prose pieces is “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros. In the piece, she proposes this idea that we are not merely the age we are but a collection of the ages we have been. We experience the ages we have been in response to situations we are in

I am 27.

I recently went home for Thanksgiving. It was my first holiday with my family. I expected flash backs and hurt feelings over past memories but that didn’t happen.

I kept having flashbacks to being 19.

I’ve felt 19 on numerous occasions over the last year. I’m not really sure why. I think it has to do with that time in my life feeling so new, ready to embark on a fresh adventure.

 “Tonight feels like the last night of camp. 19, bare feet in wet grass. The sky red with a light breeze. I remember how sweaty I was, my cotton shirt clinging to my back. My hair a greasy mess. I had never felt better. I had spent my last $25 on this treasured Bible that I could carry around everywhere. $22 and some change if I remember correctly. And in that moment, when everything was silent and peaceful, I wasn’t thinking about what 7 years later would look like. I was only thinking about what it would look like when it was over. What redemption would look like.

Tonight, my only emotion is a memory.”

Redemption 7 years later didn’t look like what I thought it’d look like. It was different. I didn’t get married this year or end up where I had wanted to be. What I got was so much better.

I got my health back. Because of medical treatment, I get to have a future. A real one, full of plans and dreams. All with a fully-functioning brain and a heart for Jesus.

For 7 years, I weathered storms of illogical thinking, hallucinations and erratic behavior. I made plans I could never finish, dated men I could never commit to and talked faster than a Gilmore Girl.

Redemption didn’t come the way I thought it would. Instead of a knight in shining armor, it came in the form of a hospital gown and proper medication.

I remember being 19. I remember having my whole adulthood before my eyes and the wild uncertainty that I experienced with elated joy.

Wistfully, I regret the time I lost because I was sick. It would have made my life easier had I had been diagnosed earlier. But God ultimately allows what will bring Him the most glory. Somehow, this mess of a life that I’ve endured is not wasted time.

So as I move forward with making plans, forming commitments and nestling into God’s promises, I’m grateful for the future I get to have. I get to finish my undergrad, go to law school (hopefully) and learn to love this messy life God gave me. I’m grateful for the way things didn’t turn out.

Nothing is ever wasted.

Doppelgangers

I’ve been binge-watching How I Met Your Mother for the last week or so and what I find so fascinating about the show is this idea of doppelgangers.

A doppelganger is someone who looks like someone else. A twin of sorts that is not biologically-related to the person they look like.

In the show, the main character says that we all eventually become doppelgangers of who we used to be. People that look like us but aren’t our old selves.

I was staring at myself in the mirror the other day with this eerie feeling that I was staring at a doppelganger of myself.

I’m not who I used to be.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any given amount of time, you know this year’s been rough. You can’t come out of a mental health crisis not changed.

I’ve been bent and broken, twisted and undone in ways I never imagined. I was recently asked to detail the whole ordeal for a major publication and while what I wrote was probably one of the most heartfelt things I’ve ever written, it left me in a puddle of sobbing goo.

This is what life does to us. It bends and breaks us, twists and undoes us until we come out as doppelgangers of who we were before.

I’m a bit more serious than I was. A little bit less self-involved. I serve differently, talk differently. I’ve become more reserved. I pull back a little more.

This week a year ago, I was starting my life over. I spent the days before crying over how much I was going to miss my home, my church, my friends. I cried over a guy that wouldn’t pursue me. A guy I still wish would make a move. I cried because leaving meant he never would.

I didn’t know how bad it was going to get. I didn’t know my life was going to head the direction it did. I just knew I was doing what God had asked of me. It was all I could do.

A year later, I’m healthy for the first time in years. My heart rests in ways it never has. The dust has settled.

I’m not who I used to be.

Neither are you.

The woman who dared to touch Jesus’ cloak

 

 One of my biggest struggles when it comes to faith is believing truly that I’m saved. While intellectually, I understand that I am saved by grace and not by works, I often wrestle with the fear that I have not done enough to earn God’s love or favor. I was told once that our understanding of God is directly related to our relationship with our fathers. My father is not a gracious man. It has taken years for me to even begin to understand what grace is or does.

Going through my recent mental health crisis impacted how I viewed myself in God’s eyes. I questioned whether or not I was truly saved for months. I doubted I loved God or even believed He existed.

For twelve years, I walked around with an undiagnosed mental illness. I saw several doctors and counselors. I took medication I didn’t need because it fit diagnoses I didn’t have. By Spring 2014, I was off all medication. It was determined that I didn’t need it.

My condition got worse. I isolated myself from others, pushed friends away, did things out of character and lacked an ability to self-care. And while some people have continued to run this race with me, most people gave up. I was yelled at, disciplined and accused of the very thing I feared the most: I must obviously not be saved.

And a woman was there who had been afflicted for twelve years by an issue of bleeding. She had suffered greatly under the care of many physicians and had spent all she had, but to no avail. Instead, her condition had only grown worse.

When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up through the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she kept saying, “If I only touch His clothes, I will be healed.” At that instant, her bleeding stopped, and she sensed in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

At once Jesus was aware that power had gone out from Him. Turning to the crowd, He asked, “Who touched My clothes?”

His disciples answered, “You can see the crowd pressing in on You, and yet You ask, ‘Who touched Me?’”

But He kept looking around to see who had done this. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him trembling in fear, and she told Him the whole truth.

“Daughter,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you; go in peace and be free of your affliction.” – Mark 5:25-34

I understand this woman’s struggle intimately. To continue to get sicker and not know what to do is a nightmare. I felt like I was a burden, a problem. People were better off without me. I read this story recently in a bible study I joined and started sobbing.

Because I get her. I understand the desperation.

That moment when you have exhausted everything you have within you and you cannot go any further. When you are down on your knees and the last thing you can grasp onto is the bottom of Jesus’ cloak.

Her faith made her well. Believing that not only could Jesus heal her but that He would is what healed her.

I don’t think she earned the healing she received but I do believe that it is impossible to please God without faith. I’m learning that the Christian life is not simply a decision you make once but a lifelong journey of daily choices to walk in faith. Sometimes they’re big choices. Where you live, who you marry. Mostly, they’re daily decisions to take one step at a time towards the bigger story. Send that email, pay that bill.

Everything we do takes faith. When we choose faith over what is known, we trust our futures to the God that knows us best.

I am understanding that I am a daughter of God as I continue to walk in faith with the God that rescues me daily.

Biblical justice (For Someone with a Mental Illness)

By Day 3, I know God is fighting for me. For someone with a mental illness, treatment is justice. I tell the doctors that I never knew a brain could feel like this. So clear, easily untangling the irrational thoughts that float into my head.

You need to go to the hospital.

The words cause a stir of panic. I can’t do this, but I’m running out of time. Somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear my friend’s voice. How you handle this will determine if you’ve learned from the mistakes of your upbringing.

I look up at the counselor. It’s a rarity for me to make eye contact with anyone. I’ve never understood why.

You’re declining fast. I can’t force you to get help but I can encourage you.

I decide to go.

The ER feels like a memory. They draw blood and take vitals. My legs won’t stop moving. They kick back and forth while the nurses feed me and tell me how sweet I am. My voice sounds childlike.

It takes two hours from the point of entering the ER to admission into inpatient care. Unheard of, the ER nurse says. Someone upstairs must be looking out for you.

God is, I think. God is providing. 

Inpatient care is no joke. They take away my belongings and fit me in donated clothes. I didn’t bring anything with me. I want to leave within minutes of arriving. I don’t want this. I never wanted to hurt myself. I’m just not well. I don’t know why.

This is the hardest choice I’ve ever made. The doctors and nurses are kind and compassionate. We are all trying to find out what is wrong with me. Because I am the most positive person I know but my thoughts speak darkness over my life. Even as I walk around the ward, my heart is abounding in hope by the Holy Spirit as I trust in God. I know nothing happens without His permission. Something about this screams justice, that God is outpouring His light to take out the darkness that has overwhelmed my life for the last few years. I’m just not sure why it feels this way.

The diagnosis is not a surprise. By the end of Day 1, we know I am on the spectrum. I am sick. I have a new(ish) disability. The friends and family I call are not surprised. They are happy for me. They say my behavior makes sense now. The disconnect between my emotions and thoughts make more sense.

I am fighting for my health in a way that I never have before. Cerebral palsy has nothing on my new diagnosis. It is the end of Day 2 when I start to feel different. My brain feels different. It doesn’t hurt anymore. It feels less cluttered. One little pill has started to change the way my body thinks.

I start talking to the other patients, asking them questions about their lives. I find out quickly where all my experience working with people with disabilities comes to good use. I give the other patients advice on navigating services. I’m teased lovingly for offering help when I’m here to get better.

I can’t help it, I think. No matter where I am, I will always be an advocate.

By Day 3, I know God is fighting for me. For someone with a mental illness, treatment is justice. I tell the doctors that I never knew a brain could feel like this. So clear, easily untangling the irrational thoughts that float into my head. I cry grateful tears. My brain is not typical but it is becoming well at a miraculous speed. This, I am not surprised at. God has always been quick to heal me when I have agreed to surrender.

I get to leave the hospital early. The follow-up appointment has already been made and my brain feels amazing. It is not until I am home the following day that it hits me what God has accomplished in a matter of days.

It is when I realize that I can feel the carpet under my bare feet that tears come rolling down my cheeks. The only words that come out in prayer are Thank you.

I never knew that because of an undiagnosed mental illness, I have never truly felt the ground under my feet. I have not been fully connected mind, body, spirit. As I experience the joy of feeling every fiber of my bedroom carpet, I know God has proclaimed justice over my life. I feel His victory. He won.