Worship

In May I was diagnosed with clinical depression.

Depression looks different for everyone. I had a friend one time who described his as “walking around with a lead x-ray vest on.” I can relate. One day the lead vest is Gorilla Glued to my body…and then the next day I will be cracking jokes and asking friends to grab lunch. On the whole, I am having many more “good” days than “bad” days (PRAISE HANDS) and I celebrate the healing. I also celebrate that I get to return to a culture that similarly wrestles and share with them the hope I have in Jesus!!

When I was diagnosed, I was relieved to have an explanation for my symptoms but I also knew there was a long road ahead. My doctors and I were all in agreement that although there were many components at play, the chemicals in my brain simply were not playing nice and needed some help in ways I couldn’t control on my own. So I started medication. My doctors and I came up with a treatment plan that has additionally included counseling, more rest, wisely reducing commitments, exercise, and healthy eating.

But I knew that would not be enough. The ache in my soul was even deeper than my exhausted and depleted body. My soul needed care.

I’ve closely monitored what media I am consuming: television, podcasts, social media, movies, and music. I’m aware of my need to have honest conversations about what is going on inside my head, speaking Truth to lies. I’ve been more purposeful about the Books I read, as well as setting aside time for prayer and cracking out my journal more often. I find the most comfort in the Word of God (especially Psalm 30) and have found that my heart needs a way to proclaim this Truth of who He is.

I know worship is so much more than just the songs we sing, but in this season I’ve needed the literal psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. (Eph. 5:19).

Pause for a sec: Let me be up front about this –– I do not only listen to Christian worship music. I will debate you all day long about how a good dance party to Yeah! by Usher or Perm by Bruno Mars can be highly therapeutic. (For the record, this is my favorite performance to date.) Plus there’s so much value in being part of culture through music. There’s a wise way and a wrong way to engage with secular music and everyone has different boundaries. So I am not saying that a certain approach is better than another, but rather this is just where I am right now.

The hardest part for me has been that I can’t be all for all. My capacity isn’t what I’m used to. I’ve dropped the ball with friends, forgetting birthdays and anniversaries and other special days. I’m used to being the one giving help, not asking for it. I have no problem admitting that I’m not perfect, but when it comes to asking for help that’s a different story. I love helping other people, but for some reason when I ask for other people to help me I immediately think that I am being a burden. It’s really sad how that’s transferred over into my relationship with God.

What I love about hymns specifically, or other Gospel-centered songs, is that they remind me how God saved me and chose me when I was broken. It gets better…He keeps choosing me and won’t ever stop. My counselor this week asked me if I ever think about how God is happy that He chose to create me. It’s hard for me to ignore the subconscious mantra of “my brokenness is too much” and instead walk in the freedom that God is infinitely bigger than my brokenness. He delights in me, whatever my state.

The beauty of brokenness is that there’s that much more room for Him to shine.

The following are some of my favorite lines from hymns. I need these sweet reminders to replace the nasty lies. These songs remind me of how God delights in me. I am not too much. He’s got this all under control.

“I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small; Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.””
Jesus Paid it All

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”
Great is Thy Faithfulness

“All to Jesus I surrender, Make me, Savior, wholly Thine; Let me feel Thy Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine. All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee; Fill me with Thy love and power, Let Thy blessing fall on me.”
I Surrender All

“Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch; like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed!
The Lord hath promised good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun.”
Amazing Grace

 

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Grace

As kids, my sister and I loved doing puzzles. Our lineage is almost exclusively engineers and teachers, so we were destined to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. Whether the puzzle involved numbers, words, or pictures, we were all over it. On more than one occasion we have been known to snatch the last piece out of the other’s hand (Rebecca’s favorite trick) or to hide the last piece until the other sister was haunted by the glaring gap (my specialty). When we would go to a restaurant, we would try to stump each other with math problems. (I know, we were cool kids.) Whatever the puzzle, we saw chaos and wanted to bring order.

I treat life much the same way.

I dump out the puzzle of life and begin searching for the edge pieces to help frame the lesson God is teaching me. I write out the problem, determine the variables, and balance the equation. I talk out the situation, filling in all the boxes to the matrix logic.

Always sorting.

Always searching.

Always striving to make sense of things.

There has always been one type of puzzle though that I do not indulge in: knots. Untangling Christmas lights? Nope. Matted balls of string? Get away. Cords that have been jumbled? Send help. I think one of man’s greatest inventions has been electronics with retractable cords.

I don’t like knots because there’s no clear starting point. You just tug and hope something gives. It is inevitable that you will get the string 99.9% untangled, only to discover a small pretzel-shaped knot in the dead center of the line. There is so much doubling back and gathering and scrunching and I’m convinced that half of the time I’m just tripling the number of knots. I am only adding to the chaos.

My life is currently a knot.

I have no picture on the box or number on the opposite side of the equal sign. When I tug and pull there is no movement; I am well aware that the knot is only tightening. I am left with a clump. It feels useless.

It’s not uncommon for someone to comment on how self-aware I am. I’m grateful each time He opens my eyes to see how different aspects, events, or characteristics relate and influence one another. I like to see the puzzle making sense. But right now the only thing I’m aware of is that there’s a lot I don’t know and can’t figure out. So what now?

GRACE.

I’ve written nothing short of seven alternative paragraphs to follow that one simple word. Each paragraph gets carefully typed out only to be deleted, always falling short of what my soul longs to convey. So rather than fumbling towards what my heart is trying to express, I will lean on Truth. The phrase that God keeps bringing to mind is the beginning of 2 Corinthians 12:8: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I am very much in the midst of the beginning stages of this whole grace thing. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve tried to recruit friends to help me untangle this knot, only for them to gently urge me to accept the grace that has been given to me.

So here I stand. With a knotted, jumbled, imperfect lump of what I think at one time resembled my life. What I am quick to deem as worthless, God embraces as precious. He doesn’t expect any different of me. Why should I?

 

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Friendship

The saying, “it takes a village” has never been truer. And let me just say that I have an incredible village.

I saw someone recommend a book called Messy Beautiful Friendship by Christine Hoover. After glancing at the table of contents I immediately purchased it. I’m the kind of person who continually has a list of books to read, so it was interesting that this one didn’t sit on the list for a few months before I decided to dive in.

Let me admit right here that it is going to be hard for me to not just copy her entire book below. You can thank Copyright laws for that one 😉 But really and truly I was so encouraged by her words. Over and over I just kept being reminded of how great of friends I have.

Here are some of the main takeaways I had from her book:

We need to ask for help. I love how Christine points out that “relying on the help of friends is one of the greatest catalysts for deepening friendship.”

We need others to remind us of Truth. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together (go read it!!) says “the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged. And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.”

We need to be faithful. And here’s the big one (thanks Christine): “The goal, ultimately, is faithfulness rather than friendship, but our faithfulness to God is evidenced by how we love others, and this love of others inevitably attracts people. Friendship is a happy by-product of faithfulness.”

Support raising has provided lots of opportunities and experiences. I’ve had to trust God to provide in ways that simply seem too impossible. I’ve quickly learned that I cannot do much of anything on my own. I’ve packed up and moved 31 times in 19 weeks. But I’ve also gotten to catch-up, reconnect, or meet y’all. Thank you for sharing your time with me! You have encouraged me in countless ways.

Romans 12:10 says “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” When we are seeking the good for others, we bless them immeasurably.

Whether you’ve prayed with and for me, opened your home to me, or taken me to lunch: thank you. Whether you’ve sent me a random text, listened to my tearful phone call, or shared a funny YouTube video with me: thank you. Whether you’ve simply sat with me, written me thoughtful notes, or pushed me in a wheelchair: thank you. You love me well. I am blessed immeasurably. You have reflected Christ to me and have been examples of selfless friends. You have shown me honor.

But there was one line specifically from Messy Beautiful Friendship that just really rang true for me right now: “And if you truly don’t have people yet because you’ve just moved to town or you’re in a new situation, go be the people for someone else.”

 

It’s time to be the people for Greeks.

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