Depression: The days no one talks about.

We all know that fun-loving girl who loves to get a crowd laughing. She isn’t above embarrassing herself to create joy, laughter and bonding with others. Connecting with others causes a euphoria, a false high to bottoming out lows.  The connection and camaraderie feeds her soul. Communication, sharing, and involvement makes her feel heard, necessary and valid. But when the last person leaves and the silence sets in – she waivers between appreciating the silence and depreciated worth. She laughs more than anyone you know, but cries when the world can’t see.

Depression belongs to very convincing actors, often comedians, class clowns and lighthearted people who mostly are fun and overly selfless. Because in selflessness, making someone else happier, someone else whole– we forget temporarily that we are lacking and broken. And, no one wants to be or admit that we’re broken. The truth though is that we are all broken.

Broken carries a stigma, broken doesn’t feel fixable, broken feels heavy, insurmountable, and nearly impossible to share. Depression sometimes feels like screaming as loud as you can, and no audible sound comes out. Your body is paralyzed, your voice is mute and your mind deceives you and plays games that only the enemy can win. We need to know people feel this way. We need to make others aware that depression exists and what it looks like. Depression is not taboo, it is real.

Stop for just a moment, right where you are in reading this and think of a time that you felt the most alone, that you felt hopeless, unlovable, unreachable and non-existent. If you’ve never felt this before, I am asking you to imagine it, imagine your child feeling that way, a spouse, or a friend, a co-worker, maybe a neighbor even. And, then think how often you didn’t even realize someone was battling depression. Battling – suffering – living… these are words used to describe it

Most people won’t recognize depression. That is why so many are shocked when they learn of a loved ones suicide attempt or death. People won’t always understand you or me. They can’t see the feeling in your eyes, when life pulls you down as if it swept your feet from you in an undertow. They won’t understand that your heart is not built like theirs and even though you’re stronger than most and have made it through some awful things, you still get hurt. Words hurt, silence hurts, absence hurts – not being visible to other’s hurts, but the hardest is not being understood.

If you know me, I am willing to bet that you wouldn’t consider me as someone who lives with depression, but I do. Depression exists in a menagerie of personalities and those it affects can range from suffering from or living with depression. I live with it. The days I am speaking of are the very days getting out of bed is more difficult and truthfully sometimes impossible. Are those days often? No. I’m fortunate that when my depression hits, I know my lows intimately enough to know what I feel, is not always actual and I trust my God.

Depression robs us of hope, the heaviness of this spirit is meant to crush you, and wants to steal your faith, and isolate you. If I am feeling something that is heavy, I feel it only to process it and then to release it. The healing is in the release of the lies, the release of the shame and the release of the enemy’s hold on us. 2 Tim. 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Depression is the devil’s playground, he makes you think, say and act like someone else. He pulls you into a swinging motion of highs and lows and moments when he fools you into thinking you’ve beat it, only to celebrate and feast at the moment you fail again. Resilience is tricky, it manifests in you a sense that you can just pick back up where you left off and try to get further this time. And some like myself, can. But some don’t. And a few of the ones that can’t will never speak of it until it is found in a scribbled note written with fear and pain in a moment they feel completely alone.

I don’t want you to write that note, or find that note. I want the idea of that note to fade away as an option. It is not weak to admit having depression, it is not weak to ask for help or to talk to someone who can help. That is strength and powerfully beautiful. That is loosening the enemies grip and reminding him that God is in charge and what he has set you apart for, is no longer the enemies playground for deceit and pain.

Resisting the enemy, places you in faith. Action creates faith, and with courage you can make the enemy flee. The opposite of depression is gratitude. Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness – Isaiah 61:3

Take back your life, minimize the suffering and know it gets better. You can call these numbers below, and visit these sites for more information. You are fully loved and deserve to feel safe to heal.

Sucide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/ TEXT: HOME to 741741

National Helpline: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

Does God Still Perform Miracles?

We don’t know why God saves and heals some and not all, but he knows why he does and that is enough for me. Faith, that feeling deep in my heart, tells me that healing doesn’t always mean life being breathed back into a body here on earth. Healing means freedom from pain, it means restoration and peace, and sometimes that only exists in heaven. And sometimes loss heals and restores those left behind.

Yesterday I sat and listened to Pastor Jason Noble speak about the power, blessing and thankfulness for a God of fresh starts.

A fresh start is a beautiful gift that allows us to join the fight, to align ourselves with God, believe in his purpose for our lives and throw our plans out the window. Blind faith takes risks. Blind faith trusts God. And, blind faith believes for miracles.

We take risks in moments of desperation, when the only thing left to hang onto is your faith and trust in God – because God wants your heart. He wants to make a way for you to come to him. Desperation finds the lost and leads them to salvation.

The pastor told us of a story of a twelve-year-old girl who was life flighted to a Missouri hospital. Her father wasn’t actively seeking the lord, but he had asked for the pastor to come in and pray. The next morning he was on his knees in tears, giving his life back to Christ. He whispered to his daughter that Jesus is a much better father than he could ever be and that he would be okay. An hour later she died.

Weeks later at the funeral the Pastor learned that this mans daughter who had died, had been praying for her father every Wednesday night at church. The children’s pastor shared that she would pray these words, “God whatever it takes to bring my dad back to you, do it.” At 12 years old. And, on this day, the day of his daughter’s funeral, her father was praising a loving and good good father.

We don’t always know why people die, especially children. Personally, I can’t imagine that loss and pain. It made me think of Olive Heiligenthal, the two-year-old daughter of Andrew and Kalley Heiligenthal. Kalley is a worship leader at Bethel Redding and a songwriter. They believed God for a miracle; they stood firmly rooted in the belief that God would wake up their daughter and bring life back. They withstood criticism, negative publicity and controversy yet never wavered in their faith and belief in God’s word that with him we can heal the sick and raise the dead.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Matthew 10:8 (NIV)

People all over the world stood with, prayed alongside and online using the hashtag #WakeUpOlive, the church as one body, united all over the world believing for a miracle. I prayed. I prayed knowing God could absolutely breathe life into dry bones if it is his will. If you have watched the movie Breakthrough, you know God is still a God of miracles, a God who saves. I know that prayer changes things, and a mother’s prayer can restore life. Not just her own child, but lives all over the world.

Whether you disagreed with the Heiligenthal’s beliefs. Maybe even questioned why their child was more deserving than another. Or wondered if suffering a loss of this magnitude had the parents thinking unclearly for an impossible breakthrough restoring life, I say, it restored life. Just like the story above about the twelve-year-old girl who prayed for her father, just like the 2015 true story of Breakthrough, Olive Heiligenthal’s story and her parents’ faith restored lives all over the world. She did not wake up, but others did.

We don’t know why God saves and heals some and not all, but he knows why he does and that is enough for me. Faith, that feeling deep in my heart, tells me that healing doesn’t always mean life being breathed back into a body here on earth. Healing means freedom from pain, it means restoration and peace, and sometimes that only exists in heaven. And sometimes loss heals and restores those left behind.

To answer the main question of whether or not God still performs miracles, the answer is without a doubt, yes!

Comparison

God wants you to know that you are not disqualified, that he never compares you to anyone else because he created you to be set apart and unique on purpose. There is not a person, career, monetary amount, sin or any other factor that can disqualify you for his love and purpose. God is not in the business of crushing dreams or hearts, he is in the business of crushing us into position to bear the fruit he planned for the purpose of his glory. There is no glory in heartache, only in love and multiplication.

This year I went to a Christian women’s conference, it was the first one that I had ever attended, and to say I was excited was an understatement. As I opened the flyer to read about the speakers, I did the unthinkable; I compared myself. It was unintentional at first, I was searching for any connection – something that would validate my past. Reading the snippets of their bios beside their head-shot, I stopped dead in my tracks. All I could focus on was their qualifications. The things that qualified them to be a speaker, to stand on the stage doing exactly what I want to do and what disqualified me. And, it is ironic because I am very aware that God does NOT work through “qualifications” and that the enemy was leading me to believe the lies that I was disqualified.

Each one of these women stood up on stage and shared stories of vulnerability, stories of fear and stories of how God had shaped or changed their lives. Truly beautiful and honest accounts of transformation in some form. The trials they had suffered were difficult, terrifying and significant. As I sat there listening to them 75% of me admired and respected them and the other 25% told myself “your dream is over, sister! You can never do this. You have too many.” Too many of this, too many of that – just too many!

They had been married for 10 to 25 years. All appeared to have a godly marriage, no mention of divorce or remarriage. There was not a testimony of addiction, sexual sin, anything that would carry a sin-shock once revealed. What would my bio read? Jessica Griffiths. Married & Divorced. Re-married & Re-divorced Again. Blended Family. Sex before marriage … oh ya, I can see the empty arena now. No thanks, I am good!

What impacted me the most though was watching one woman in particular ramping herself up to share her most shameful truth. It was crushing because of the heaviness of her shame, the things that made her feel unworthy or fearful were so minor in comparison to my own past. It showed me that we are so unforgiving of ourselves for the slightest infractions. And, that even someone with her qualifications, her education, status etc. was still fearful to some degree of judgment.

Sitting there impatiently waiting for her to work up the courage to share whatever carried such humiliation and embarrassment for her, I prayed. I prayed for her past to be even the slightest of something that mirrored my own. Is that awful? It sounds terrible to me to pray for something like that – but it was for a good reason, kind of. I wanted her to say something that would pull me into her heart, something that screamed – you’re one of us and welcome here. My need for it to be significant, something that would whisper “I’m just like you” was vital to feeling human, and still worthy of being a christian.

I prayed she would share something that proved that I was not disqualified. That I could share my story with other women, encourage and motivate them, become an author and not just be a flawed woman. But when she shared her truth and testimony, it was nothing like my past, and nothing I would have ever faulted her for nor condemned. In fact to me I would not have even categorized it as a sin. I honored her vulnerability, but dishonored Gods promise to myself. I ended up leaving the conference feeling disqualified. And, my heart broke.

For the next week I wrestled over my feelings. I wrestled with the idea of truly being disqualified. Would God call me to write and share my testimonies if I were truly disqualified? And as soon as I said that out loud, I realized I’m not sharing my testimony. I’m sharing how I survived, how I am saved by Gods grace and how he loves me. But I haven’t told you my actual mistakes. I’m safely tucked behind a computer, a quote or a blog post saying, “I’m a Christian”, “God is real” and that I know that I’m forgiven but I’m not sharing why or how I know this.

Here I am dreaming of the day I am able to speak life into women who are needing validation, desiring acceptance, and deserving of forgiveness – and I am already letting them down because my testimony is incomplete. And, God called me on that, right there in my car. He said, “Show them why and how YOU are NOT a disqualified Christian. Show them what disqualified you before the grace of God. Show them what qualifies YOU and THEM in my heart and that my mercy never fails.”

It was in that moment my heart softened, that overwhelming feeling of clarity and joy overflowed and replaced any ounce of doubt I had. It was in that moment the enemy was silenced and the series – The Disqualified Christian, was created.

There are times what God speaks to us it not meant for sharing, but there are also moments when it is meant for others to know. God is very active and alive within me and I would be disobedient if I did not share this with you today.

God wants you to know that you are not disqualified, that he never compares you to anyone else because he created you to be set apart and unique on purpose. There is not a person, career, monetary amount, sin or any other factor that can disqualify you for his love and purpose. God is not in the business of crushing dreams or hearts, he is in the business of crushing us into position to bear the fruit he planned for the purpose of his glory. There is no glory in heartache, only in love and multiplication.

 Romans 12:6 (MSG)

“Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” 

There before the grace of God, go I.

There are days when I wake up and all I can muster are the words, “I’m thankful I woke up today”, or “I’m thankful that my being alive today means I must still have work to do for you God, that I must have purpose.” Even if I have no idea what it is. I trust he will clue me in when his timing is right, and most likely when my mind and heart are still.

“and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”  (1 Corinthians 15:8-10, NIV)

My grandfather used to say “there before the grace of God go I” during moments of tragedy, mourning or suffering. As a teenager and young adult, I would catch myself following the sentiment without realizing the weight behind the words I was reciting. There before the grace of God goes I, was how my grandfather spoke it, however the proper written statement is, ‘There but before the grace of God, go I – but still what does that mean, I asked myself one day.

Isn’t it ironic how we mimic what we hear growing up without analyzing the meaning behind it? I began to question the words, what they meant and what it was that I was repeating. Was my grandfather saying we were better than the homeless man sleeping in the bushes at the park, because we go to church? Was he saying that God loved us more than the people suffering in the car accident we just passed? Was he saying that if I don’t go to church and follow God that I too deserved to suffer? Until I read what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians – the power, love and meaning was lost on me.

Paul felt as though he was undeserving and admitted that if it were not for the grace of God, he would still be the same Paul who persecuted Christians. It is a verse of humility and love. My thankfulness is rooted in the same manner as Paul. It was only for God’s grace and who he created me to be that I am the mother, wife and person I am today. He created me with intent, purpose, a heart that loves more than ever received and a mind that dreams of God making my impossible, possible.

God knew I would follow my heart instead of listening to him at first. He saw ahead to the moments I would fail, resist his help or the help of anyone else. He knew I would disappoint both he and myself when I would surely proclaim the lie that I only needed myself. He would be patient as I took the lead foolishly thinking that I was alone, and in charge. He continued to pour his love into me even in the moments that I denounced his purpose and plan for my life. He used these moments in his infinite wisdom, in his pursuits and how he would reveal when the timing was right, that he was whom my strength originated. His Grace is love, and there will not be a day that I am not thankful for that.

We are so naïve in what we so blindly refuse to acknowledge is him. Looking back now I see his hand helping me up to my feet, his arms lifting me up and out of whatever mess I created this time. His love for me when I couldn’t stomach my own reflection let alone the idea of loving myself, was abundant and refreshing. If it weren’t for these moments, I would not have three teenagers that have shown me a love that I never knew was possible and test the patience in me at the same time. If it weren’t for his grace, I would not have a husband who chooses me every day, despite my past and makes me feel the same safety I do in trusting Jesus.

My life afforded by his grace is not a based on whether I go to church, it is not saying that I am more deserving than anyone else or that I will escape my own tragedies or hardships. It is saying that I won’t be alone in them. I’m thankful to be aware of that. To humbly admit that I need his grace, that I want his grace and that my strength, love and faith are deeply rooted in him, is a gift in and of itself.

We all falter, we all have moments of pause and question – and we all at one time in our lives have felt undeserving of God’s love and grace. That is what creates the humility and compassion in our hearts for one another. Imagine all that God has witnessed, imagine all the people he consoles as they suffer, all the ones who at times question his abilities, his intentions and even if he is real. Imagine that for one minute and then picture him loving them anyhow. Is there anything more beautiful than that? I don’t believe there is.

Thankfulness is a choice just as is love. It is an action word; it requires movement, it requires flexibility and an intentional heart. It is easy to get stuck in the ruts of life and take things, people and even God for granted. There are days when I wake up and all I can muster are the words, “I’m thankful I woke up today”, or “I’m thankful that my being alive today means I must still have work to do for you God, that I must have purpose.” Even if I have no idea what it is. I trust he will clue me in when his timing is right, and most likely when my mind and heart are still.

Today I encourage you to take deep breath and think of one thing or person you are thankful for. Something or someone who gives you the feeling of relief or that pleases you. Whether it be a simple as a baby sleeping through the night, enough money in your account to keep the power on, a spouse who decided to unload the dishwasher or a puppy who didn’t chew another hole in your brand new couch. Or something as significant as a lost son or daughter coming home, the blessing of a positive test result or clear scan saying that cancer is gone. Whatever it may be, whatever you can muster up in the pits of despair – speak it, feel it and choose to be actively thankful for it and know you are never alone or undeserving.

Empty me of me, and fill me with you; I got baptized.

As we were turning into the church this morning I prayed aloud in the car, “Dear God please let this be a good service” because sometimes the message just doesn’t hit us the way it’s intended, you know? I needed a good message today, because I crave the holy spirit and thrive on the word hitting me in just a way that invigorates and encourages my soul to keep fighting.

God knew what I needed, as he always does.

Today is the last Sunday of my thirties. It’s the end of a decade which I began lost, angry and hurting. In the midst of heartbreak & failures, when everything was falling apart, and everyone was walking away – I was still so richly blessed. I know that was God. This decade is also when I found myself, forgave those who hurt me, became a better person, a better mother, the wife I always wanted to be and re-dedicated my life to Jesus.

In January, God spoke to me very clearly and the holy spirit filled me with a desire for God that I can’t fully explain. At first, I thought I was losing my mind and I was in a state of immense joy and excitement. I actually contemplated that maybe I was Bi-Polar, coming from such lows at times to this new high, felt unreal! That’s how intense this was. During my morning commute to work shortly after – it hit me that what I was feeling was salvation. As I sat in my car with tears streaming, asking forgiveness for every sin I could remember one by one, he reminded me that was unnecessary. I was forgiven as a whole. In that moment I felt an actual physical and emotional shift and a release that changed my life.

When we walked into church today, the baptismal tub was by the stage. As we found our seats, I told Gracie, “if they are doing baptisms today, I’m doing it.” I’ve been wanting to be baptized for months now and signed up once only to back out. Baptism is a public declaration of a very private relationship, and the thought of standing in front of strangers felt uncomfortable and honestly I felt unworthy of their time and attention.

Today was different. Today, I knew what God was doing, I knew this was the “service and message” I needed to experience in order to thrive in this new life with God as the head of my table. Being baptized was about Jesus and I, not anyone else, although I understood that it was an open request for those who witnessed to hold me accountable in my future as a christ follower. I was choosing to dedicate myself to him and I finally wanted everyone in the room to know I was proud and confident in my decision and acceptance of his love and forgiveness.

Thanks to my cousin, BJ, Kayla and our Pastor, I got baptized today without notice, without any planning or even a change of clothes. It was perfect. A little cold, but still perfect. I can’t imagine a better way to welcome 40 and the beginning of a new decade than to be emptied of the dead weight of the old me, and filled with the holy spirit, a new heart, a new name and cleansed soul.