To You on Mother’s Day

You carried me,

combed my hair,

snuggled in when days were hard,

You wiped my tears and spoke kind words,

carried me when I was too weak to stand,

You stayed up late,

clothed me in love,

held my hand,

sang me songs,

You tucked me in,

You held me tight,

made my lunches,

educated me,

You walked with me through dark days,

You bought my prom dress

planned my wedding,

gave me courage when I had none,

You held my babies,

wiped away my tears,

You were there for me when others won’t,

You sacrificed yourself, devoted your life to mine,

You grew me, raised me, set me free to fly,

You were and are my biggest fan and best friend,
You gave me all you had,

You are mine

This Mother’s Day, mom, I want you to know how much I appreciate you. You have given me all of you. You have been my rock and my best friend. You are my constant. I love you more than words can express. This day and all days, I love you.

Love,
Your Daughter

Oceans

April 17, 2016

“I miss Hunter. I miss him so much I feel as if I can reach out and touch the sorrow. I want to touch his hand, hug him, talk to him for a few minutes. I don’t want to do life without him. It still takes my breath away. I wish he could see this and interact with me some way, any way. I started reading The Shack. It is powerful but hard to read. The storyline is so relatable.

The medicine is helping. I feel like myself almost completely, minus a stomach virus. I am hoping to go home in the next few days. That way, we can go to “Dayout with Thomas” in Chattanooga next weekend. I should find out tomorrow.”

The grief was all consuming and unbearable. There is a song by Hillsong United called Ocean.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

It was what I felt I was being asked to walked through. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of sorrow, no longer even coming up for air. I was sinking. I felt like the Lord had found an area where I wasn’t able to trust him and he was calling me to walk through this. I felt like he was taking me past any place in my faith I would accidentally stumble into. I felt that he was dragging me down into the depths. I truly felt he had a lesson to teach me there. This place that I would never chose to go on my own. This place that was painful, and ugly, and humiliating, and beautiful. I couldn’t yet see the beauty. I couldn’t yet see how my faith would be made stronger. I was angry. Very angry with God. I used to say that if he and I were in a room, I would run full strength, crash into him, and start pounding him with my fists. I couldn’t see the light for the darkness. It was all consuming. I couldn’t understand how my Savior would not only take my brother, but my sanity, my chance to breast feed, eventually he would take my job. I was completely incapacitated. I would learn, with time, this was the place I had to be. That my Savior loved me so much, he couldn’t let me live in my crippling pain. He couldn’t allow me to continue to be self-reliant. He couldn’t allow me to continue in my anxiety and stress. He was going to deliver me into a place of freedom. It was, however, going to take time and pain and struggle. The fight was going to to get harder before it got easier.

If you are in a place of pain and struggle. I promise it will eventually get easier. I want to encourage you to feel what you need to feel. Ask questions of God, yell at him, be angry, step away for awhile. He loves you and he is there for you. He is not afraid of you pain and sorrow. He is not afraid for you to take time away. He knows your pain. He is not afraid of your questioning or seeking. He was the father to the prodigal son, waiting for him to come back. He was the Savior that spoke to Peter with love and compassion even though he would deny him. He is there for you. He will wait for you. He will sit with you, even when you can’t hear him. He will welcome you back with open arms, when you are ready to face him again. He loves you.

Unveiled

Ephesians 5:8 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”

Darkness

It hangs like a blanket, heavy over my head,

I can not stand up straight, I bend in submission,

My choices are not my own, my mind is not my own,

the darkness is like a puppet master, moving me at its will,

I am powerless to stop it,

Crushing bending, twisting under its weight,

There is only one end in sight, to submit to the darkness,

the fall under its spell, to allow it to consume,

then there will be nothing, I will be nothing,

Return to dust,

BUT THEN;

The darkness fades, like a fog leaving the surface of a lake,

images arise,

there are people here,

something outside myself,

I see unclearly at first but these lives take shape,

the veil turned grey, then white, then,

they are my family, my friends, strangers,

they are reaching for me, crying, arms extended,

they see my veil, they have been calling to me,

I have been deaf and blind,

one person lifts the veil, it is my Savior

now they can see me and I can see them,

I feel warmth on my face, it is the light

my body feels weightless, I can stand upright again,

I smile, I embrace,

I was never alone,

I just could not hear, I could not see, I could not feel for the veil covered me

Now it is gone, I step into the light, into love

I AM FREE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Flesh

Mark 10:8 – “and the two will become one flesh. ‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

August 9, 2008. We were hoping for 08/08/08. However, my mom assured me that no one appreciates going to a wedding on a Friday, so we gave away the perfect wedding date and settled for 08/09/08. It was a beautiful day. We decided to have a local destination wedding. It was at the Lodge at Blue Ridge Summit. There was a hotel on site. So, the whole bridal party and most out of town guests came throughout the day on Friday. There was a typical rehearsal dinner and a huge celebration. There were massages for the girls and skeet shooting for the boys. A cold front and storm came through that evening. So, the hot summer day we anticipated turned into a 75 degree day with a slight breeze. Our August wedding day could not have been more perfect, if we had hand picked it. We were married overlooking the mountains underneath a canopy of flowers. We were both over joyed and scared, to be honest.

Both of us knew the gravity of what was being asked of us. If we had known what those vows would have meant, maybe one of us would have bowed out. That is beauty of the celebration wedding day. It is full of joy, hope, and anticipation. But it is, also, a covenant with the Lord. I agreed to love, honor, and obey. He agreed to serve, protect, and love me as Christ loved his church. As we ran out under a blanket of sparks to our get away car, full of anticipation of our first night together, if we had only known. If we had only known that the day where my loving husband put me in a full headlock and smeared cake in my face would pave the way for miscarriage, pornography addiction, my fierce independence, loss of an adoption, death of my only sibling, and postpartum followed by lingering depression, would our vows have been different? Would we have said them so boldly? We lived them out, but it has been hard. We have walked through many storms. As we came back from our honeymoon, the journey had just begun.

We had moved into our apartment shortly before the honeymoon. It was a cute little apartment in a fairly safe complex in Nashville. We were four hours from Brian’s parents and eight from mine. We were out in the world on our own and excited by the prospects. I started in the Midwifery portion on the Nurse Practitioner program at Vanderbilt. It was a two year program, where I would take my undergraduate degree and transform from a BSN equivalent into a Master’s degree. Things were starting off smoothly. We didn’t have much money, Brian was our only source of income and he was working diligently as a landscaper. A few weeks in, I got pornography spam on my Mac. I didn’t know a lot about apple products, but I knew they weren’t prone to spam. So, I confronted Brian. He lied and told me he didn’t know how that had ended up in the history. I was heartbroken, but I so wanted it to be true that I ignored it. I called my tech savvy brother and asked how this could accidentally end up in my history. He assured me that Brian was lying, but I trusted Brian.

We had talked about his struggles with pornography before marriage. It had started at a friends house when he was a preteen. He, then, looked it up on the family computer. His parents put blockers in place but it just became a game to get around them. Soon, it was an unstoppable force. It transferred into him sleeping with girls in college. This confession left me hurt but sure I would marry him. I had been the Pharisee my whole life and tried to follow God’s rules to earn my salvation and prove to God that I was worthy. So, I deemed that I was worthy of an abstinent partner. However, when Brian confessed his past and his pain, I felt compassion and love. I knew I wanted to be with him anyway. People had warned me to not marry him. They said they had seen pornography wreck too many marriages. We would end up seeing this too. Not only the toll it took on our early marriage but as we counseled other couples walking similar paths.

So, here I was. Newly married and naive. I truly believed that once we were married and sleeping together, it would be enough for Brian. I think he even bought that lie, as well. The enemy, however, is so crafty. He lurks in the bushes, waiting to attack at a moments weakness. We started spiraling for awhile. I lost my trust of Brian. I was humiliated. I felt like it was my fault, that I wasn’t enough for him. He was kind and compassionate, but it left a painful void. This void would linger. This trust, broken, hurt our intimacy, which only made things worse. It would take time, and the holy spirit to heal my husband and these wounds. But that is our story. The Lord redeemed. The Lord healed. My husband was humble and got help, God pulled him out of the pit and restored him to a place of righteousness. This is not because of Brian earning it, it is because our Savior died for him and reconciled him. This work is ongoing, Brian can’t let his guard down for a minute. But we are united to fight for our marriage and purity. When I stopped standing against Brian and waiting for him to fix his own broken places, deliverance began. It has been a long painful process but I want to assure you that healing can come. Your marriage can be restored. You can survive this. There is beauty in the ashes.

Then I asked Brian to go to the grocery store and get bacon and skittles.

All Because Two People Fell in Love

Song of Solomon 1:2 – “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;”

So, we sat in that airport and Brian gave me a card. The card was from my mother and read, “If you are reading this, you are engaged and in Paris!” I closed the card casually. Brian asked what it said, and I didn’t lie. However, I already suspected we were going to get engaged. A weekend trip to Paris didn’t sound like something you do for fun. I decided to suspend reality and pretend I still was oblivious. We hopped on a plane that night and flew across the ocean. We arrived the next afternoon.

We went straight to our hotel and confused the gentlemen checking us in. We had arranged to stay in separate rooms, something that gave me anxiety the whole trip. Brian was such a gentleman. However, this was not very European and the concierge almost refused to give us the separate rooms. We got ready in the room and headed out to Notre Dame.  It was absolutely spectacular, until I had to rush to the restroom and got sick as a dog. Suspecting what was coming, I pushed through and we continued to the Eiffel Tower. When the gentlemen looked in Brian’s bag, he winked at Brian. I assumed that this meant he had seen a ring. Engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset.

Perfection! It took forever to get to the top and it was night, when we arrived. The City of Lights earned its name. It was gorgeous. It was packed inside, so we went outside. As soon as the door opened the wind grabbed it and slammed it open. It was so windy we would have nearly blown off. So, we went back inside. All of the sudden Brian says, “Are you ready to go?” I was flipping out inside. A million things flashed through my mind. Most of all returning home with everyone ready to see my ring and I am empty handed. Luckily, someone right behind us was getting engaged at that moment. I said, “Babe, look at that cute couple getting engaged, hoping that it would remind him to propose.” “He replied, “That is so cool,” and began his descent.

It was late, and because I was sick, I didn’t think about eating all day. Brian, probably nervous, hadn’t either. We headed to get a crepe and some hot chocolate from a small cart. Then, we walked over to the palace across the street from the tower. Every hour the Tower lights up, on the hour. We waited patiently and got to see the spectacular display. Afterward, Brian walked me down the stairs and explained that he didn’t want to propose at the tower, with all of those people present. He wanted something more private. He read me a passage from his Bible, told me how much he loved me, and lots of other things I can not remember at this point. He pulled out his grandmother’s diamond in the setting we had chosen together. It was an absolute treasure, and I was and am so honored to have it.

That night we went back to the hotel and slept. We woke up the next morning and decided to spend the day at Versailles. We ate a quick breakfast at a cafe and then took the train to the palace. It was so gigantic and elegant. An architectural feat.  We toured the buildings, ate lunch at a cafe, toured the gardens, and I got so sick again. We were asking where the bathroom was to an orange juice vendor. We were lost in translation. Other people were around and could understand what I was saying, despite also speaking different languages. We were all yelling, “Bathroom!” at the gentleman. He finally got the message, and we were on our way. I finally felt better, and that ended up being the end of my illness.

We traveled back to the center of the city. We quickly toured an open area of the Louvre until it was closing time. Then, we saw the Arc de Triomphe. It didn’t look to far away and who wouldn’t love to see the entire Champs Elysees? Oh what a mistake we made. I think we walked for hours. We stopped at a restaurant and at some shops. We finally arrived at the Arc and it was as spectacular as I had imagined. We hoped on the train and went back to the hotel. The next day, we traveled back home and slept the whole way. It was just the beginning of our adventures.

Today’s the Day

Psalm 23:4 – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”

Today is the day I pause from the story line. Today is the day this gets real. Today is the day I try to let you in. Today is the day I reveal and expose myself. Today is the day I am real. Today is the day I struggle with my depression.

It has been building for weeks. There were triggers, there always are. For me it is usual conversations revolving around finances. Finances are my security. Finances were tight in my house, as a child. As I grew, my dad became more successful, and I wanted for nothing. I grew up and went on to college. I, then, went to graduate school to become a Nurse Practitioner. I was set. My husband and I would both work, and we would be financially stable. Therefore, myself and my kids would want for nothing. That was until I lost my job. There it was, me reliant on my husband and those around me for financial security. This is something that I am terrible at, relying on others for help. I am a fiercely independent on contrasting individual. I am self-reliant and don’t even fully depend on the Lord in a sold out kind of way. Enter, financial insecurity.

Loosing my job put a financial strain on our family, add in needing round the clock babysitters, psychiatry appointments, and psychologist appointments, and things were a challenge. My parents were and are super helpful about relieving most of this strain, but I still need to rely on the Lord and my husband. As this is such a trigger, I prayed for the Lord to take it away. That way, I never had to experience the difficulty of surrender and self-sacrifice but could continue as I was, holding on to self-sufficiency. As I got better, I didn’t need as much help. I saw hope on the horizon, hope that we would be back to a place where we could save and prepare for the future. Then, my world began to come unraveled again.

Two or three weeks ago my family came to town, I had already been struggling with some depressive type symptoms. I  can feel episodes starting to come on. I become fatigued, I don’t want to exercise, I want to lay down all day, little things that wouldn’t normally stress me do, I stop wanting to eat foods that are good for me if I want to eat at all. The last one is always a sure sign. Fast forward to Easter, throwing in a larger Easter party than I expected and some financial conversations and I was blowing my top off. I yelled at my parents like a teenager, I went back to bed. However, I had to come back out, because I was having suicidal thoughts. This is such an easy statement to hear and to read, but the reality is much more severe. Imagine if the smallest trigger made you want to pick up a razor blade and start slicing your body to pieces, and not just think it but fantasize about it. That’s still considered non-suicidal. Then, throw in visions of seeing yourself laying in a bathtub with your wrists cut open and slowly closing your eyes as you bleed out, or picking up a hand gun and blowing your brains out. It is terrifying to think you could do something like this to yourself, but you know in there is a part of you that wants to. Please don’t think this is anyway selfish. People have told me this more times than I can count.

Imagine that you are trapped in your own mind. Your own mind is trying to kill you. It isn’t just a perceived threat, you have flirted with it enough to know you could actually do it. I call it suicide practice, testing the waters. Knowing that, if you really needed it, there is a way out. Then, the practice isn’t enough. You start to think of it as a way to not just give you an out, but give everyone else you love a way out. That is when I really tip over the edge. That is the thought that can lead you to carry out your suicide. You see the pain in the faces of your parents, your kids, your husband, you aunt, your uncle, and friends every time you relapse. Sometimes they start saying things and behaving in ways that show you they are tired. Their resolve is wearing off. They are ready for you to be healed, and you know you are not. They want a break, you know you can not give it to them. You are the source of pain everyone’s pain. Not just yours, everyone’s pain. If you died, you would be with the Lord. That is the thought that leads to suicide completion. The world would be better off without you. Those you love would be free of you, you would be free, and it happens in an instant. It wouldn’t happen tomorrow, or next week, but this thought for a few seconds is all it takes.

So, that is where I go. I sink into that place, full of shame. Knowing that others don’t see me as a burden, that they are enduring this with me. That is what will save me. The love and acceptance of my family, friends, etc. For me, this will only ever come from God. He is the only one who signed up with me for this journey. He is the one who sees and understands my pain. He is the one who walks with me through it every day and never gets tired. He is the only one who wants me to stay on Earth and struggle with him. He alone is my solace. He alone is my Savior. He alone never fails. Anything and anyone else is weak and fleeting. This is what he wants to teach me. To rely on him and him alone. To go through this pain to reach a place of peace and healing that can only come from him. In all my suffering Jesus is better, make my heart believe.

So, that is where I am. I am falling apart, my husband and family are struggling to go through another relapse with me, we are preparing for another long stretch to healing. The only one that can sustain us and heal us is Jesus. If we look to ourselves or other humans to fill in the pit of despair, it will never happen. Eventually, we will give up. I encourage you, if you are the one struggling today, or the loved one of someone struggling, reach out to the Lord. Be honest with those around you, about what this struggle looks like. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to share about this. So, this community and their loved ones remain in the dark and on the sidelines. If you know these people, grab their hand and pull them towards the light today. You may just save their lives.

A love Song

 

 

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!

In the Desert

 

 

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.