I love Kate’s story so much. When she sent it to me, tears filled my eyes- THIS was exactly my vision for the Freedom Stories series. Kate’s story is one of motherhood, and of postpartum depression, yes, but even more than that it’s about finding a sense of belonging that is lasting amidst all of life’s changes. Her words are strikingly beautiful and honest. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share them here.
Here is Kate’s Freedom Story.
I lost my way for a long time.
About 3 years after my son was born, maybe a little longer.
I left my career to stay at home, a blessing to be sure. But, all at once I had this little human that I was responsible for, a marriage that morphed into a full-fledged family, and a new life in the span of 12 hours. As I labored, my husband and I grew up.
Too fast, and not fast enough — all at the same time.
Drowning in hormones and the recovery of a tough birth, I experienced the identity crisis that had been chasing me my entire adult life.
I’m lucky, really. I’ve always had someone, someone has always stood the gap for me. Being young when my parents split, there were grandmothers and aunts and a stepmom that shaped who I was as a woman. I’ve never been without a guide or a protective wing. But I still struggled. I struggled with identifying with my family, with my friends. I struggled to belong to anyone or anything.
In the tumult, I found Jesus. And while He filled a lot of holes in my heart and mended many of the cracks; I still didn’t quite understand.
I was a believer, sure, but where did I fit in?
And then marriage, and then kids….
Was I my husbands? Was I my parents? Was I my kids? Did I have any right to claim family in any of these instances? Where did I belong?
These questions might seem silly to some, but if you’ve ever struggled with belonging, then you’ll feel right at home within my crisis. It’s as if I was a walking, vibrating, sandcastle. The winds and waves of every day threatened me, and so far I’d held up nicely.
But the storm of becoming a mother, myself, made landfall, and I collapsed.
Making it out of bed only to care for my newborn and lay on my family room floor, I was nothing but shell. I couldn’t sleep, I ate terribly, and I felt and cared so much with nowhere to place it.
It goes by many names. Generalized anxiety disorder, postpartum depression, panic, full mental breakdown, whatever you want to call it; it was all of those things and more. It felt like I was responsible for and incapable of everything. All at once. My body physically hurt and my brain swam and spiraled about with everything that could possibly go wrong at every minute. I was too full of worry to fit anything else, but at the same time, I was so desperately empty. It was as if I was living with my body turned inside out. Every nerve exposed to the dangers of this wild world. Every minute I was just waiting for something that would cause me pain.
That’s what depression and anxiety felt like to me; like everything was broken.
The meds helped.
They cleared the fog, removed the 400-pound elephant that sat on my chest, released my body from the suffocating imbalance it was experiencing so that I could lift my head. I’m so thankful for meds. I’m so grateful for doctors that listen, best friends that call out our pain, and husbands that don’t give up.
I’m even more so thankful for a Savior that doesn’t just remove pain and fix brokenness, but uses it to build and grow; to strengthen and prepare.
Meds, however helpful, would not solve the problem that still remained. That had always existed. I needed a place to belong.
I wish I had the perfect 5 step plan to find belonging, but I don’t. It’s a winding path that looks different for everyone. I know that it took time. It took honesty. And it took scripture.
When I finally lifted my eyes off of my own self-service, there He was. Waiting, as He always is.
Soft-eyed, and soft-palmed; He lifted me and branded my heart with His name.
Here was my place. Here, in Him, I find belonging.
It feels whole. It feels mended, and full of good things, and strong, and healthy. It feels like full breaths of fresh air.
And it also feels like my body is turned inside out. Every nerve exposed to the dangers of this wild world.
All of this was my path to this type of living I do now. This words on a page, bleeding from your fingers, the front door always open, heart ready to break for you, arms ready to receive you, beat up, bruised, and bandaged life that I am so gloriously sitting in. It is mine because He found me, branded me, called me, and comforts me.
My pain and my trudge to this place, that’s my freedom.
The world seeks belonging. It’s craving honesty, vulnerability, and authenticity. The world is looking for Jesus, whether they know it or not, and it doesn’t need any more telling. It needs showing and doing. This is the call that needs answering now.
The lost are searching. Searching for the patched-up ones, with still fresh wounds and bandages and bruises like ourselves. People who can be honest about where they are from, and gentle about where to go. People who live inside out, with every nerve exposed. And before any of us can answer this call, before we can live heart open like this, we need to belong.
We need to belong to Jesus.
Living vulnerably is not easy, it comes at a price. We give the world our worst moments and use them to point people to Jesus. We lead the charge into battle. We make ourselves vulnerable to judgment and ridicule.
And it takes a toll on your soul.
But the toll is a small price to pay. An investment in eternity.
So do the work. Lift your eyes to meet His gaze. Let Him brand His name on your heart so that your identity is firmly found in the hope and promise of Jesus Christ. The armor you wear into battle is a composition of His Spirit and His Word and His Salvation.
Be branded with His name and pay the toll from His pocket.
Because when He’s the bank, the toll on your soul is never too high.
We are all promised trouble in our wild world.
But also, victory.
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Kate Radcliffe is Nothing Fancy. She’s a wife and a mom to two Wild Things. Out of her broken and restored soul, she writes. She’s honest, real, and extremely loud. She exists to gather people around her table and send them home bellies full and steeped in the aroma of the Spirit.
Her blog, Nothing Fancy, exists to encourage and inspire women to live free and full in the goodness of the Lord. Friendship, fellowship, and refining fires are her bread and butter. She lives loudly, loves wholly, and exists simply.
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Special thanks to Daiga Ellaby for her gorgeous sand castle image that she donated to the public domain via Unsplash.