I am at stay-at-home mom hoping to turn blogging into a way to support my family. Eventually, I would like these stories to become a book. If you would like to be a part of my journey we would love a donation. God Bless.
I am at stay-at-home mom hoping to turn blogging into a way to support my family. Eventually, I would like these stories to become a book. If you would like to be a part of my journey we would love a donation. God Bless.
Song of Solomon 8:2 – “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”
I followed my grandmother’s casket out of the chapel and to the hurst. It was a terrible moment and my heart ached. At the same time, I couldn’t shake Brian. He had caught my attention. I assumed he had left the building. Saddened, I walked forward to the chapel doors. I glanced around the corner and BAM! There he was, making eye contact with me. I jumped back like a two year old hiding from it’s mother. I retreated back to family, knowing he was still around. I stopped to talk to his mother. She was delightful and midway through paused to invite Brian into the conversation, just as I mentioned Campus Crusade for Christ. He was kind-eyed and attentive. My strategy was to ignore him completely. I, later, found out this really worked because most girls gave him their undivided attention.
Lisa directed the conversation back to Brian, mentioning that he was involved with Cru and was planning to travel overseas with them. Now, my heart melted. Missions was my passion and he was involved with the same organization! I had decided it was fate. We went downstairs to eat and agreed to sit with one another. As I got my plate, he had wandered off and was talking to someone else. I was now sure that connection was imagined, until he turned and smiled at me. I knew in that moment, he was something special. He smile made me feel safe and connected.
We met up in the parking lot to say goodbye. My dad tried to back over him with the car. We exchanged phone numbers. I decided to stay for the week and get to know him better. My dad assured me that our lives being so far apart, the relationship was doomed from the get go. I didn’t listen. In fact, it probably made me more interested in him. We went on some dates that week and spent some time together. As I headed back to college, I assured my mother it was okay, if he decided to date other girls, but I knew in my heart it was not.
We communicated via Skype for the next few months and he planned to come visit. He took me on a date to a spring formal, and I was smitten. I went overseas to North Africa on missions. We continued to communicate via phone. He wrote me letters. They were organized so I would open one every few days until I got home. Then, the last one said he was at my debriefing to pick me up! I was so excited. I went to Tennessee to visit him again. Then, it was time for him to head to Argentina. He spent fourteen long months over there. It wasn’t too hard for him, he was doing something new everyday. It was, however, extremely difficult for me. I was a senior in college and simply waiting. We had hour long phone calls on Skype that would drift in and out. He would get on at times for just a moment, or even miss “date nights” altogether. I could tell he wasn’t certain I was the one. As well, I found out he had sworn off women weeks before he met me to focus on his relationship with the Lord. I, however, knew he was the one and was getting tired of fighting for our relationship. I made a final plea, when he told me he wanted to stay another year. I told him that Io would support him, but not be there when he got back.
He panicked and came home. He, later, found out I didn’t mean I would never date him again but I would have moved forward for a season. This led to resentment in our early years. Brian looked at me and was reminded of what could have been, if he had stayed in Argentina. He felt I had robbed him of that. With the passage of time, he has changed this opinion, but it was a real sticking point for awhile.
Brian returned home, and I couldn’t wait to see him. I was leaving an AA meeting I was attending for a college course, when he met me outside. I was over joyed, but I also felt a disconnect I didn’t expect. He seemed a lot like a stranger. We were used to talking on Skype but talking in person was strange, and his adjustment back to the US was difficult. I had missed him for so long, I expected everything to pick up where it left off, but it didn’t. With time we got used to each other again, and he got used to having more than one shampoo to choose from at Walmart.
We spent all of our time together, and Brian moved to State College to be near me. In February I was sure he was going to never marry me and my heart broke. That same day he surprised me and picked me up from work. I was sick as a dog and not wanting to do anything. He, however, had different plans. He had my roommates pack my bags, had my passport (I was still unaware of this), and was taking me on an adventure. We drove the night to Philly, while I passed out in the car. Sick, sick, sick. We pulled into the airport and I was befuddled. What was this man doing? I assumed we were taking an airplane ride or going to pick up a friend from Argentina, who was coming to visit. He got out the video camera and videotaped me as he revealed that we were going to Paris! I had taken a semester long course in Parisian culture and architecture that was so hard. He wanted to let me see these things for real in the City of Lights. We were just going for the weekend, and I couldn’t wait!
Deuteronomy 32:10 – “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.”
After the break up, I finished my semester with a 1.3 GPA. I went home ragged and discouraged. I continued to eat too much and sulk. I started a job at a local nursing home, which was not a positive place to be. I woke up at 5 am and worked until 2 pm in a hot, dark, basement. It was working in food service, and I had a new respect for people who work so hard. These women had really rough lives and they complained a lot, with good reason. This actually ended up being a blessing. I was drawn to people I could encourage. I loved reaching out of my pain and trying to spur others on. It was so cathartic.
I joined Weight Watchers with my mom, after reaching a new low in my self-esteem. It involved me trying to eat an entire 9×13 pan of dirt dessert in the middle of the night. There were tears and shame. Those tears and pain were, however, leading me to a place of taking care of myself again. I was able to turn around me eating and lost twenty pounds that summer. I returned to campus with a renewed joy in exercising. Exercise for me, was then, and is now a great way to combat my depression. When you exercise you have a release of endorphins that are “feel good hormones.” They work on the brain like medication does, at the chemical level. It, also, offers distraction. Your brain will reset itself, while you exercise, and can help break the cycle of negative thinking. Of course, I knew none of this at the time. I didn’t even know I was depressed. I just thought I was taking care of myself. It wasn’t until I was into hospital for post part depression that I put a label on what I had experienced. Faith was another huge component of my healing.
I began picking up books and reading again. The Lord led me to books by Elizabeth Elliot. Passion and Purity was a book that really changed my life. Elizabeth’s story is one of longing but trusting. Doubt and faith, all at the same time. Despite the struggles Elizabeth had, she always trusted the Lord. She was a woman that had to wait so very patiently for marriage. Then, she and her husband finally married. They had a precious child, and her husband was murdered by the tribe her family was there to share the gospel with. Not only her but multiple other families. She waited so long to be married and it was ripped away. The part that was so transforming was what she did after. She didn’t fall into a pit and never get out. She and other women went back to the tribe. They lived among them and shared the gospel. I knew that, if she could survive her pain, then mine paled in comparison. I could come out of the pit. By the grace of God, it worked. My life and out looked changed. I went back to college and made dean’s list. I would actually change my major from pre-med to Biobehavioral Health and never come off Dean’s List again. I had a few months of healing under my belt, when my grandmother passed away from Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
I was horribly sad, but we had known and been preparing for awhile. As I arranged to go to the funeral, I had the weirdest thought. For the first time, since childhood, I reminisced about a boy I had known since birth. He lived in the asme town as my grandmother. I remembered seeing a picture of him at his great aunt’s house a few years prior. He was handsome. Maybe he would be at the funeral, I thought. However, I had more pressing issues and dismissed the thought.
The day of the funeral, I opened the program and looked desperately for the name Lisa Leeper. It was this gentleman, Brian’s, mother. My grandmother loved her singing, and I couldn’t imagine her not singing at her funeral. However, no Lisa Leeper. Again, I dismissed this distraction. During the service, I finally saw her. His mother, on the stage. I looked at the program, again. Williams. Leeper was her maiden name. After all of this time, I had forgotten Brian’s last name. Williams. Maybe he was there. Suddenly, a phone rings loudly. Surely, it would be quickly silenced. No, someone was answering this call and making their way out of the service. I turned around, and there he was. Dashingly handsome in bright blue and orange, answering his phone. He was clearly pompous, and I turned around disgusted. But he was cute.
Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I wish I could say that this played out in my life the way the verse describes. For me, it held true but with a few bumps in the road. I arrived at college and was super excited to get the full college experience. However, I was determined to do so without following my dad’s plan. He had brought me to campus a few weeks earlier to scout out what faith based organizations I could join. He highly encouraged me to join Navigators or Campus Crusade for Christ. This, however, just made me want to buck against the system even more. I had no plans to attend any such organization, when I arrived. I had one driving force, and it was cute guys. So, it was the Lord’s hand moving, when I walked out of the cafeteria that fateful afternoon. There was a group of some of the cutest guys I had ever seen. They were handing out fliers, naturally, I took one.
Campus Crusade for Christ. I literally laughed out loud. If these guys were a representation of what could be found in the campus Spiritual Center, I was in. I went with a group to the first meeting. When I walked in, all of the guys I had seen were standing at the front. They were all staff and interns! It was too late, though. I loved my first night of Cru and never left. It would be my center for the next four years. The Lord would use this organization to make my faith, my own. He would even use it to lead me to my husband, but more on that later.
As I started my first few weeks on campus, I started gaining weight. It was abnormal for me, because being a competitive gymnast, I could eat whatever I wanted. Another side effect was that I never went through puberty. I was 18 years old and starting birth control, I was told I would likely never have children but this would help me regulate my cycles. This just wasn’t helping me to not gain weight. I called my mom in tears two months into school. I needed new clothes and new bras, and I couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving. She arrived at my door, skeptical, but lovingly. Her jaw hit the floor, when the door opened. I needed clothes two sizes bigger, I went from a negative A cup to a D in eight weeks. This took a huge toll on my self-image. I was always self-conscious because I didn’t look like the other girls I knew. I looked like a prepubescent 16 year old until this point. The transition was devastating. My years of longing to get boobs smacked me right upside the head. It wasn’t the dream I had hoped for. This coupled with me living in dorms that were far away from the other freshman (my dad had made sure I was in the music dorm for upperclassman so I wouldn’t be distracted from my studies) was a disaster. I was feeling lonely and vulnerable, save for a great friend that lived in the dorm upstairs.
At Christmas, I was failing Calculus, something that I never dreamed possible. I begged my parents to let me drop the course to save my GPA, they did. At least my grades weren’t failing but in all other aspects, college life was not looking like I dreamed. I had already decided to attend a winter conference with Cru over winter break. I hoped to make more friends and have a great time. Little did I know, I would meet a great guy.
He was not on my radar at all. I actually kind of ignored most guys, due to my insecurities over how I looked, but I couldn’t seem to get away from him. He was very persistent and part of me liked that. It felt nice to be desired. We hung out at the conference, and went on our first date when we got back to campus. We went swing dancing and then out to the famous Ye Olde College diner. It was great. I was skeptical but open. I wanted that affirmation that I was still desirable and the joy of knowing someone was interested in me. It just seemed to all fall into place. The longer we were together, the more attached I became. I wasn’t aware yet that I struggle to find my identity in Christ. I had found it in other things, mostly, other people’s opinions and approval. So, this relationship became toxic.
We ended breaking up because we were at his house and his mom was telling us how she and his dad had prayed for his future relationships and purity everyday. This hit hard for two reasons. One, we weren’t being pure. I gave into all of my desires and drive. I wouldn’t sleep with him, but that was my only boundary. The shame the two of us together felt was unbearable. Two, his dad had passed away years before. Knowing how important purity was to his dad, it crushed him. He broke up with me. My world came crashing down. He was the glue that was holding my life together. He was my friend. He was the barometer for how I felt about myself. In an instant, he was gone. All I could see was my broken life. I was shamed because we had given so much of ourselves physically and emotionally to not end up married brought deep shame. I felt extreme rejection, I assumed it was based on how I looked to some degree. Finally, I was failing two classes. My parents refused to let me drop them this time, not wanting this to become a pattern.
Everything that I used to gauge my worth was gone. I didn’t understand that God was there. He cared, he loved me. He didn’t feel ashamed of me. He was my proud Papa. If only I could have learned these lessons then. Maybe the next months of depression would have never happened. However, that is not my story.
These next few posts are going to be a look into my past, what came before the depression. My life came to a head the day I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. However, my problems had been building my whole life. What I believed was a normal childhood and the way most people felt was erroneous. It wasn’t until my world came crashing down that I saw that my trajectory toward mental illness was not triggered by a singular event, but had been brewing inside of me all along. The Lord was good always good, however, he knew how he created me and refused to let me stay in my anxiety. He used suffering to begin to show me freedom.
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
I was born in a small town in Pennsylvania. I was raised by two loving parents who loved the Lord with their whole heart and encouraged me to do the same. I, also, had an amazing little brother that was four years younger than I. I mothered him right from the start and loved him to pieces. We fought like normal siblings do, but our bond was different than most kids and became stronger the older we got.
I was an overachieving perfectionist from the beginning. When I was three years old, my daycare went to a gymnastics class. I was in love. My parents were kind enough to enroll me in more classes, and I joined competitive team. I loved it. I was practicing twenty hours a week at one point. Traveling on weekends to meets. I was fiercely competitive and loved that it was an individual sport. I worked hard and did well. It was the played perfectly to my strengths. You put in the work and you see results. You slack off and loose focus and you fail. Works based sports, it was my weakness that I could not yet see.
When I was a teenager, I was doing a tumbling pass, when I heard and felt my fingers snap. I had landed with my fingers splayed apart and injured my hands badly. For the first time in my childhood. I stopped gymnastics. I learned that there was a life outside of the gym that I was missing. There were birthday parties, sleepovers, sports, tv, playing outside just for fun. I decided I didn’t want to continue anymore. My parents encouraged me to keep going, we had all invested so much time and energy into the sport. My stubborn side would not listen, and they let me quit. This was a decision that I did later regret, but gave me a chance to experience parts of life I had previously been missing.
I began to spend time in the youth group and went with them to a summer concert festival known as Creation. It is a weeklong Christian Woodstock. You camp in tents, shower in cold water (if you shower), sit in the heat, listen to bands and speakers. As a teen away from home, it is quite the experience. This is where I first found my love and desire to be a missionary. Compassion International set up a booth where you could sponsor a child for a monthly contribution. They had hundreds of pictures of children that were overseas suffering, and there was something I could do to help. I decided to sponsor a child that summer (I still sponsor her today). It has been a joy to communicate with her over the years, and I highly recommend giving to this organization. That same week, I do not remember the night, the Lord spoke to my heart. The speaker gave an invitation to come forward and give your life to Christ. I felt an overwhelming urge to stand up and walk forward. Hundreds of people were doing so, and I couldn’t resist the feeling any longer, I grabbed a friend went to the tent. A pastor prayed with me and I felt tremendous peace.
This was not the first time I accepted Christ. I had as a young child and was baptized at the age of eight. I completely meant it then, but something was changing in me. I felt that the first time, I was acknowledging that Jesus was the son of God. That he came and lived a perfect life as fully God and fully man. Then took on the sin of the world as he died as a sacrifice. His sacrifice was for me and for you. He was buried and raised to life three days later, conquering hell and reigning in Paradise until he returns for me again. This time, though, it changed me. It was not just a head knowledge, my life had begun to change. I expressed to my parents that I wanted to be a missionary. My plan was to become a doctor, never marry, move to Uganda and work with orphans. Oh, how God’s plan for my life would point me on a different path.
I returned home with a renewed faith, but still with a loss of identity. Gymnastics had been such a big part of my life, I didn’t know where I belonged anymore. So, I asked my friends what they thought I should do. As a result, I joined every club, group, and sport they recommended. I was in student government, French Club, Chemistry Club, Competitive Color Guard, Traveling Choir, regular choir, Drama Club and productions, and Field Hockey. I was seeking something that I would never find in perfectionism and trying to fit in. I needed Christ to reveal who I was to me and save me from my overachieving self. It would take almost two decades before God would rewrite my identity. One that wasn’t tied to what I did or how I performed.
I graduated high school and applied to colleges. I planned to go to every college but the one my parents wanted me to go to. I was determined to be independent. In the end, I toured other Universities but settled on Penn State. It was where my parents wanted me to go, and I would do anything to please them. They never asked me to. They accepted me for who I was, but I didn’t. These feelings would plague me in relationships for longer than I could imagine. That constant striving to earn others affections, approval. I didn’t realize that path was paved with heartache. You can’t ever be good enough on your own. Satan follows you like a snake in the weeds. He whispers lies. He did it from the beginning. He told Eve that she wasn’t all she could be. He told her she could be better, if she would just eat the fruit. The lie that she listened to only opened her up to feeling like a greater failure. He took God’s word and twisted it. Just like Eve, I listened. I believed that lie that I wasn’t good enough, that I needed to do more to be complete. That lie would nearly break me.
John 4: 10,13 – “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
This is the story of my journey. The brokenness, the pain, and the joy. A story of redemption. A story of brokenness, healing, brokenness, and rejoicing. This is about being in the hard places, the suffering and coming through with a renewed spirit. This is my story broken, ugly, and beautiful all at the same time.
Jesus met me in my brokenness, just like the woman at the well. He came to see me in the middle of the day, when everyone else stayed away. He revealed the brokenness in my life and healing that lay on the other side. He gave me a new understanding of who he is and where he is in the midst of his children’s suffering. He revealed himself to me in a painfully beautiful way that gave me a new understanding of who he is and what he life he wants for his children. If you are looking for a story that ties up in a pretty package, you need to look elsewhere. That is not my story. My journey is long and hard, and not over. However, I believe that may be your story. Your story may be hanging on a comma. I want to come along side you and share some encouragement. I want to let you know that your best life can be found in the here and now. Living water can be yours today, come along with me and share my journey.
The sliding doors opened. I stepped tentatively inside. They were waiting for me. My husband had called earlier to let them know we were on our way. Their eyes were not kind, filled with compassion, they were distant and separated. I wondered if I had made a mistake. I was told this facility was not like the others, here I would be treated with dignity and respect. I could trust these people, they would bring me healing. Then, the doors closed.
They convinced me that I was just giving my intake information. I left my husband, my baby, and my dad in the waiting room. I gave them my information. “Are you wanting to harm yourself?” they asked. “Yes,” I responded. “Do you want to harm your baby or others?” “Absolutely not,” I said. However, I could understand how someone would, if they felt this way. There was no judgment from me. A door opened on the other side of the room. “Can I say goodbye to my baby?” The doors locked, “No.” “Please,” I begged. Not sure what would happen next. There was no apology, just asking me to follow them down the hallway.
I stepped into a 4ftx4ft room. There was a small green chair. “Take off all of your clothes,” she demanded. “Can I please keep my bra? I am nursing and I need the support.” She inspected it, gropping me. “It can stay.” What a relief. She handed me a gown. “Where are you taking me?,” I inquired. “To a room like this.” Bright lights, a small chair, white walls. I was beginning to panic. However, I knew I couldn’t break down, couldn’t loose it because they were gathering evidence. Wanting to know how sick I was, how long I needed to say. My rights were gone. I followed her out of the room and down to the psychiatric ER. The rooms were padded, there were cameras everywhere. There was a hard bed, and a small chair for family to sit in. There were no locks, not even on the bathrooms. I had to have my husband keep watch so I could use the facilities. I had been in for about 30 minutes, when I felt like I had made a mistake. Surely, how I was feeling before would only get worse, when you add in a dose of terror.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton