• freedom stories

    Freedom From Darkness- Kathryn’s Story

    Sometimes when you meet a friend with incredible strength and faith, it’s just a hint that they have been through something deep or hard to bring them to that place. Kathryn is a friend of mine who points to the hope and joy of Jesus in her daily life, but also beautifully tells the story of the darkness He delivered her from. Her story of postpartum depression, anxiety, and grief is one that shows the depths of pain we might experience here on earth, but also the freedom that can be found here when we walk closely with Him and allow Him to breathe life and healing into our hurts. 

    This is Kathryn’s Freedom Story.

    – – –

    Kathryn! I’m so grateful to have you here! Before we get into your story, I want you to share some of the fun stuff! Tell us about where you’re from, what you love to do, and anything else that will give us a little slice into your life.

    Well I’m Canadian gal living in a small country town surrounded by farmers’ fields and a winding river. I’m an avid reader with a tendency to mark up the books I own with underlines mixed with circles, and regularly get the stern glances of librarians because I’m almost always late at bringing the borrowed books back on time.

    I’ve been married for almost ten years to a guy who saw me over the camp fire and told his friend he wanted to marry me some day. I’m a stay at home mom to four wildly wonderful kids and am a slight coffee nerd –something about a slow pour-over sends me to heaven within seconds. I love gardening but I’m still learning those green thumb ways as I’m a not-so-green thumb over here.

    Most days I can be found on mission doing dishes, making snacks, trying to keep up with folding laundry or our fiery three-year-old. But my passion lays in writing about what God is teaching or growing in me with hopes to encourage women for where they are at in their life, which is where my freedom journey takes us too today.

    Galatians 5:1 is a key verse for our Freedom Stories. It says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Therefore, do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” What was the old yoke you were living under? What was that slavery like for you?

    I feel like I could say my yoke that I sat thick under was postpartum depression and anxiety, yet I want woman to know that having postpartum depression, depression or anxiety is not a sin. I didn’t desire to be within it or hold it to myself. But it enslaved me for a period of time where I didn’t choose to keep my eyes out of love on God and therefore grew a brazen attitude toward Him.

    While I was going to counseling sessions for PPD I learned that I had subconsciously carried out this viscous mind cycle—for every time something went wrong in my life, I’d blame God. That would then cause this hardening of anger and heavy doubt toward Him.

    That was my yoke. So, having to come out from underneath that yoke took a heap of time and repetition to learn that while being angry is okay, it was what I did when I was angry that counted. By learning to break that cycle when I was upset with less than ideal circumstances and coming to God out of reverence and love with my burdens, it slowly lessened the tension and allowed for so much freedom to know that God has me taken care of regardless of life events and outcomes.

    I’m so grateful it sounds like you’re walking in freedom now. But when you were in that place, what were some of the old narratives you absorbed?

    The narratives were endless but the main three were:

    • that I will never get better.
    • that I’ll always be alone and ashamed of what I’m walking through.
    • that I’m too messy and mucky to be used by God.

    I resonate with all three of those. Those are hard narratives to break or change! What was the turning point? Was there a rock bottom or a point that you realized that you couldn’t live like that any longer?

    When you’ve lived or live with depression, most days can feel like a rock bottom. But there were probably three separate times I remember feeling like this has to get better because I can’t do another day of life like this. I had a feeling of hope because God always met me within those moments and reminded me that this mess of me can be used. I never believed Him because I thought if He was going to use me then He would have to make me better in that moment, with a full-on miracle on the spot. Looking back, the miracle wasn’t the depression or anxiety getting taken away in those rocks bottom times, it was the fact that He always met me within that. He never abandoned me.

    But before I speak on the actual rock bottom moment, I should give a background story on how I got there.

    For four years I dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety attacks that stemmed from a tumultuous pregnancy and hidden grief from a baby I lost that should have been growing beside her twin sister.

    While I was pregnant with them I knew for sure I had lost a baby. She never fully formed into a little body but was actually a mass of cells with no heart. Contrary to what is said about the tiny new human that grew within me, she mattered. But we were told she wouldn’t survive at all. She wasn’t compatible with life outside the womb and if I continued with the pregnancy she would put my life fully at risk. High blood pressure. Low iron. Cancer. The list went on. The word abortion was thrown at us too many times to ever count, convincing me more that those who said it probably didn’t feel the weight it presented to my own being. It was said easier than the word coffee or the question of what’s for dinner.

    The choice to not go through with that came flying out of my mouth at the social worker who didn’t understand our choice. Instead we chose to take the weight of all that was before us & we put it before Jesus—relying fully, unwaveringly, undoubtedly on Him to heal whether it be here on earth or in heaven.

    At 15 weeks I went for an amniocentesis and was still being forced into the corner of abortion. She had hands, feet and a heartbeat— but they never let me see her on the ultrasound. “It’ll be too painful if you lose the baby,” they said. Their opinion trumped our grief, end of story.

    But God. And through no ordinary way of things —quietly behind the scenes, God healed our tiny baby. At 22 weeks they let us see her body on the screen for the first time and ironically enough, her feet were flung high up into this stretched out pose of resilience. She was born exactly 22 weeks after that which then thrust me straight into postpartum depression.

    For four years I walked, dragged and breathed through it. From one postpartum period to another pregnancy and then into another postpartum period.

    The day I cracked and broke wide open into a thousand tiny spinning pieces was two weeks after we had moved with four kids under five.

    I woke up that morning the darkest I’ve ever felt and told my husband I couldn’t do another day—He took me to the doctors that day and I got the help I really needed and actually wanted.
    That night I held the anti-depressants in my hand at the kitchen table for an hour while my husband stared at my shaking hands while holding them still. I remember asking God, why these? Would they actually help? I so badly wanted to swallow them and know that two or three weeks from then that I would feel back to normal. My heart kept on saying yes but my God kept saying, there is something more held within this to help you.

    ((This is not to put anyone in the corner of shame. If you need to take medication on a daily basis to help you function and feel more yourself, girl that is so incredibly courageous! Keep doing that – your daily normal doesn’t mean you believe in the One who created and sustains you any less. I admire your bravery in this, keep going!))

    Thank you for that qualifier (I’m one of the ones who takes medication); but also, I loved hearing your heart for seeking His healing, no matter how that needed to look for you. What changed from that morning? What actions did you take or truths did you discover to help you find freedom?

    Five months before coming out of the depression, I sat bundled in my coat on my front porch as fireworks went off in the distance at midnight of New Years. The snow swirled around me as my earnest breath etched on the bitter winds as I prayed. I remember so vividly making this decision by just saying out loud to God, “Whatever it is you do this year, whether you allow me to stay in this or come out of this, I want to do this well. I just want to praise you even when it hurts. Like Paul with the thorn in his side, your grace is enough for me too.”

    That shifting of my mind followed suit toward my heart, causing my entire body to feel a change in trajectory—one filled with peace and resting which was something I hadn’t felt for a while.

    As I continued on after that night, it become a more of a lean in relationship than a run away from His every whisper. Slowly under the surface it planted seed after seed, watered from His promises and presences.

    A few months after that porch night moment, hundreds of raw spilling prayers and counseling sessions later, I was folding laundry while watching a movie. Something in the movie triggered me and I began to cry. Which then turned into uncontrollable, full on sobbing. I hadn’t cried like that for over three years! Through the sobs I cried out to God asking, “Why? Why do I feel this way now? I can’t stop crying!”

    He answered, “Because you lost a baby. It’s time to mourn.”

    Like that, He took me from this veiled darkness into the land of grief. And how you do that without being able to tell people around you a piece of you was lost four years ago and should have been born with her twin sister who is alive on earth? It was so, so beyond me.

    Once I began to grieve her loss though, I no longer felt the sadness and veil of depression. Instead, the heaviness of grief took its place. Yet it was something I could finally put my hands on to work with, which gave me slow steps toward healing.

    Counseling helped me immensely by being able to speak it all out loud. But I also began to dive deeply into His word, which was this desperate nourishment I’d been wanting for so long. Growing up in a Christian home, the Bible had been completely accessible to me throughout my entire life, yet once I came out of the darkness of depression it’s like everything began to click into place when I read it. I literally couldn’t get enough—drinking it to the most parched areas within. Stories I knew beforehand blew me away now because Jesus had been so real, present and near to me during the depression. Being on the other side of it felt like this fresh wind and freedom from chains that held me away from it. I knew God within the darkness but wanted to know Him more outside of it. I wanted to just keep running with this fresh breath held within my lungs!

    What a beautiful and freeing image, Kathryn! What does your life of freedom look like for you now?

    Every single piece to the puzzle in the way I healed was God and God alone. He saw every part within this to know that it would bring Him the glory, through every weaving way He worked within this entire story. The brokenness was necessary because in the brokenness, He never left me but met me there. I grew to know Him, leading me to cry out to Him and Him alone.

    Within the mourning He became all the more evident, creating every opportunity for me to lean in with equals parts of sadness splitting into joy. I began to journal and write each thing that God was doing inside of that—showing up in the forget-me-nots out in the back garden, or the way a warm summer wind reminded me of that summer I carried the girls. But the most restorative part was knowing that He gave my child a holy collective wholeness I could have never given her here on earth. And the very fact that I know she opened her little eyes to see Jesus face way before mine— oh my, to think how badly I wanted it to be my face instead. Yet the comfort in knowing just that brings peace. She is with Him and I know she has her sister’s hair and laugh to match.

    The freedom I feel spills into every part of my life in the most amazing ways! Because the darkness doesn’t weigh me down any longer, I feel the freedom to walk with Jesus and learn more about Him which leads to more root within Him. To love Him in all I do on a daily basis as a mama, through writing and in sharing my story free of shame or masking what I walked through, makes me so excited! It’s such a gift to share openly and vulnerably while continually pointing back to Jesus. Because I know that there are women out there who are going to feel less lonely in knowing that they to have a similar story but also can find a hope-filled freedom in Him.

    Often times we think that freedom can’t happen to us because we might slip back toward an old pattern we once pulled out of. But what needs to be known is that if we slip back into an old pattern or way of mind, that God still will meet us there. Think about Paul (2 Corinthians 12: 7-9) and how he prayed for freedom of pain within his body three times, but God didn’t give him that. What He instead chose to do was allow Paul’s mind and heart be transformed for His purposes to learn that God’s grace is sufficient enough for him. This also means for us too—regardless of whether we are completely free (which I believe with every fiber of my being is possible) or we catch ourselves within that old way, if we lift our eyes back up to Him, He is there. He is present, and He knows all our struggles and heart.

    YES! I believe that too! What about you—if you still wrestle with those old ways, what do you do on those days to fight for your freedom?

    What’s so interesting about finding freedom is that you have to RE-remind yourself of the who and why. So, for me when I feel my ground shaky with anxiety or I feel the moments of darkness tugging me toward the shadows again, I remind myself of where God brought me out of. And I start to pray with grit knowing that Jesus is going to meet me still in the here and now with an abundance of grace. I also have to get to the bottom of why I might be feeling like that— possibly my own expectations, the expectations of others, lack of sleep or maybe even some areas I still need to find healing. But laying it all before Him, trusting He is going to meet me there and praying my little heart out, always puts my eyes back on Him.

    Are there any key scriptures, quotes, or books that have been helpful for you on your journey into freedom?

    Music was actually a really big part of my freedom and healing. I cut out all secular music and only played classical and worship music. My favourite was a Hillsong Worship Album “Let There Be Light” on repeat, which became this daily anthem for the entire year after walking out of the depression.

    As for Bible verses, I came across this verse while literally fumbling through scripture for an answer on day one of this entire journey and held it on repetition as I navigated through the pregnancy and then PPD:

    “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 (CBS)

    Hope comes from God, who also gives us joy and peace within any circumstances we face, which then in turn spills hope by the power of the Holy Spirit all over us. He is so good!

    And then Mark 5 —the Mark 5 gals! These were the very first verses I read while in the mourning stage and they gripped me fiercely in such a way that I ran all the way down to the basement to tell my husband who gently said “yes Kat, I know. I do know!” I thought, “Wait but I didn’t. Because now I know this Jesus too! And He touched these gals too?” I was completely blown away —it just felt like this drop it all to hallelujah healing kind of moment. Again, He is good!

    The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp was so real and relatable for me. I’ve read it about five times since it came out because every time I open it, it feels like a friend reaching across the table saying, “I get it.” The really hard stuff can break us wide open, but it’s Him who allows goodness to come out of that which puts us back together.

    You Are Free by Rebekah Lyons. Through her own testimony and life experiences, Rebekah beautifully points us toward the fact that our freedom is always possible in Him. That we are not alone in feeling bound and tired while trying to get there, but we will get there. We can and will be free in Him.

    Wild and Free By Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. This book was life-changing for me to read, especially after coming out of depression. It allowed me to realize that I needed freedom in order to run wild on a mission for God and that if I was going to do that, I needed to heal inside out from my own insecurities shaking deep inside.

    I love that list! Thank you for sharing those with us! Okay, because I’m a big believer that gratitude lists help us remain present and fight our battles, tell me 3 things you’re grateful for right now.

    1. My feet and where they take me every day, whether it be within my kitchen to cook, the laundry room to sort, or driving my kids to school. Sometimes it’s to volunteer or to rest them to read books—I love that I can choose to show up with them firmly planted in Him.
    2. Friends. Friends that are willing to share deeply in each other’s struggles and celebrations all while cheering one another on.
    3. My front porch. No matter the weather –snow or sunshine, day or night. I love being on it to watch the world from there, just praying the day out to Him.

    – – –

    Kathryn is a stay at home mom to four and a to wife one ambitious entrepreneur.  Reading  is her love language but writing has become her passion toward a greater healing that she found within Jesus after walking through and out of postpartum depression just over two years ago. 

    She admits that present day struggles can make shifts within her story but don’t prescribe the cure —clinging to the hope she found within Jesus does. Her prayer is that we all yield the opportunities in sharing our story with someone else because we never knew how that will meet her.  Regardless of the yesterday messy puzzle or the restless moments of today— there is rest, comfort and hope found within Him.

    To connect with Kathryn and read more of her story, follow her on Instagram

     

     

     

    P.S. Want to read more stories of hope and freedom? Check out the other 25+ Freedom Stories here

  • anxiety,  weekly prayers

    A Prayer for the Anxious One

    Dear Lord,

    Be close to us, Father.

    I come to you right now and ask for prayer for my friend…

    For the one who is paralyzed with a daunting decision.

    For the one who desperately wants to know the future, but cannot see past the fog of tomorrow.

    For the one who is crippled by debt and financial concerns.

    For the one struggling with deep fear.

    For the one starting something brand new, terrified of messing up.

    For the one who is scared to let others down and fearful to disappoint You.

    For the one who is overwhelmed with the chaos of the current season.

    For the one who wonders when things will ever feel “normal” again.

    For my friend who wants peace but cannot imagine what that would even feel like…

    Be close to us, Father.

    Light the path.

    Take our anxious hearts in Your hands and bring calm.

    You are the God who sees us– help us to know that. You know every single detail of our lives, Lord– from the number of hairs on our head to the deepest longings of our hearts. And You are the God who loves us with a deep, wide, everlasting, unconditional love. Be close to us, Father.

    Help us to breathe deep the incense of Your presence with us, in the midst of the unknowns and the fear.

    Increase our trust in you, God. Help us to know in our minds and our hearts that You are a good father and a gentle shepherd. Help us to believe that You will make the way clear, and that You want our best.

    Be close to us, Father.

    Light the path.

    Lord, when we cannot seem to move in any direction because we don’t know the right decision, help us to remember to take things one step at a time. Help us to reflect on something small and manageable right in front of us, rather than fixating on the whole big picture.

    When we cannot see through the fog, help us to cling to You; be our guide. Light the path, one step at a time.

    Lord, when we don’t know how we will pay the bills or pay off the debt or provide for the big things right over the horizon, help us to trust and know that You are our provider. Help us to remember, Lord, your faithfulness. Remind us what we can control for now, and in the meantime, be close to us.

    When fear is loud and daunting, quiet our racing thoughts of the unknowns and our imagination of the “what ifs.” Strip away the layers of fear built around our hearts, and bring us to a place of resting in Your protection. You are our shield. Lord, let Your Truth be the loudest thing, over the enemy’s lies and our deepest insecurities and the fears that threaten to overtake our sanity. God, quiet our racing thoughts and bring peace.

    Help us to remember that You care for us. Wash Your peace over us, from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes, and to every aching part in between.

    Breathe Your peace into our exhausted bodies, tired minds, and these weary hearts. Lavish Your love on your sweet child.

    Be close to us. Light the path.

    Lord, when we cannot see the goodness in the midst of the hard, train our eyes to see You. You are good, even when we’ve lost sight of that. Lord, we ask Your guidance in seeking out the blessings, focusing on the gifts, and noticing the sweet moments that are from You. Be close to us.

    Father, more than anything else, show us how we can glorify and praise You, even in the midst of our pain and anxiety. Bring us closer to You, and remind us that You are close to the broken-hearted. We love You Lord.

    Amen.

     

    Some additional resources to encourage you today:

    Psalm 34 (v. 18 is my favorite: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”)

    Matthew 6:25-34

    Matthew 11:28-30 

    Isaiah 40-41

    When you just don’t know how to ‘be still’ 

    Stand firm when your life is in chaos

    What does God think of OCD?

    Learning to let go of shame spirals and self-condemnation 

    Printable Scripture cards- “11 Powerful Truths for when the lies get loud” 

    *NEW: The Peaceful Playlist (20 songs chosen by me, just for you. Open up this free Spotify playlist on those hard days.)

    – – –

    P.S. Special thanks to Ben White of the Unsplash community for the photo to accompany this post.

  • freedom stories

    Branded: Found and Freed in a Wild World – Kate’s Story

    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.

    Lost.

    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.

    Nothing Fancy.

    – – –

     

     

     

    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.

     

     

     

     

    – – –

    Special thanks to Daiga Ellaby for her gorgeous sand castle image that she donated to the public domain via Unsplash.

  • anxiety,  faith,  identity,  mental health

    What does God think about OCD?

    I- Chipped Paint

    You have searched me, Lord, and You know me.

    You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar.

    You discern my going out and my lying down;

    You are familiar with all my ways.

    This week, I sat on a familiar couch across from the familiar face of my counselor and talked about my recent anxiety struggles. About flare-ups in my people pleasing and old thought patterns that sneak up way too fast and overwhelmingly. About my shame for still struggling with OCD, and codependency, and sin, and basically … not being perfect.

    When I was a child I have vivid memories of spending time on our wooden swing set that my dad built in our backyard. My siblings and I would go outside to play after school while mom cooked dinner. Instead of playing on the swing set, I would sit on the landing above the slide and fixate on the peeling paint. It would bother me greatly if an area was starting to chip or peel, so I would hyper-focus on peeling it away in strips to remove those seeming imperfections. Lost in thought, in somewhat of a trance, I would pull away the old gray paint to reveal the red wood underneath. It was strangely satisfying and calming but also a little unsettling in the aftermath — when my mom called us in for dinner, it would snap me out of the trance. I’d look down at the grass and see far more dried and chipped paint than I had intended to remove, and would be embarrassed for this strange habit. Eventually, in later years, I developed a form of OCD as a way of coping with my anxiety called trichotillomania, a rare disorder on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum that leads individuals to pull out their own hair. The trances with this reminded me of my paint peeling days, though the impact was far more damaging than an old backyard swing set missing its paint.

    II- Tears

    Before a word is on my tongue, You, Lord, know it completely.

    You hem me in behind and before, and You lay Your hand upon me.

    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

    For most of my life I’ve been a writer. It’s often been private, in diaries, journals, short stories not shown to others [I’m just getting brave enough to share it]. In my bedroom, I have a box full of old journals, and on the nightstand next to my bed, I have a stack of the three most recently filled within the past year. Each one represents so many stories and wanderings and prayers and tears worked through quietly, mostly on my own or with the Lord.

    My counselor and I have walked together through 5 huge years in my life. These 5 years have carried total humility and honesty, growth, forgiveness, and transformation. She knows me better than anyone on this side of heaven. In the beginning of our time together I remember sitting on the edge of my seat, leaning forward with knots of fear in my stomach– fear of saying some things out loud for the very first time, showing someone else the way my brain works, fear of judgment, and overwhelmed with where to start in processing my heavy burdens. When I would begin to cry in those earlier sessions, I would quickly shut off the tears and put a smile back on my face, saying, “But I know it’s going to be okay.” Yet, every single session my counselor has met me with gentleness and grace. And at the end of every session, no matter what I’ve shared, we have ended our time together with prayer. These days, I sit nestled into the couch with comfort in this safe place. I let the tears flow freely, knowing that there is healing that comes with the fullness of that expression of overwhelm, grief, confusion, sadness, anger, or whatever those tears represent. I come into our Tuesday evening times together, able to share with her what I’ve noticed lately, what I’m learning, ready to share the newest pages of my journal out loud, with no fear of what she thinks of me.

    Once, when I showed her that I was about to finish another journal after only 3 months of starting it, she asked if I was proud of that fact. I said without hesitation, “yes.” We both knew the hard work represented in those pages. But even more than that, they represented for me the bravery of saying the words out loud. There was freedom in that.

    Lately we have been talking about this work we do, of retraining the brain to take on new thought patterns. And how even after 5 years of work there can be new work to keep fighting against 25 years of established patterns. But now, I AM doing the work of creating new patterns. This week, on that couch, I sat with tears in my eyes about my obsessive thinking and how it has gotten out of control lately, sometimes about great things like writing and creativity, and sometimes about things in my past or worry for the future. I asked her to be frank with me (I’ve asked her this question before too, but sometimes just need to hear the answer out loud)– is there something really broken with me? Is the way that my brain works really messed up?

    III- Light, Tea, Psalms

    Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?

    If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.

    If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

    Even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.

    If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

    Even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day,

    For darkness is as light to You.

    To my question about my brain… my counselor met me with gentleness and grace, as always. She affirmed that the quirks of my personality {obsessive thinking, extreme motivation, my empathy, my creative brain, even my perfectionism} are part of how God made me and formed me and loves me. When these qualities and thought patterns get out of control and go into overdrive, I enter into discomfort, darkness, pain. But these quirks? They are also some of the qualities that make me an excellent researcher, someone who is innovative and bright, good at coming up with new and creative ideas, fiercely loyal, strong in my faith, a wonderful friend/sister/group member, a good communicator, and a tender-hearted human with a heart for serving others in this world with love and kindness. When I become aware that those quirks are in overdrive or are blocking me from putting my full identity in Christ, I can take a moment to breathe and have compassion for myself. Then I can use one of the tools in the toolkit I’ve assembled in these 5 years to get back to being grounded and centered, knowing that I am loved for exactly who I am. To let the light back in.

    So this week, I pulled out some of those tools. I spoke with my loving dad on the phone. I ate a healthy black bean burger and sweet, fresh pineapple for dinner. I played the piano. I am drinking peach ginger tea or a spicy cinnamon variety of hot tea in my favorite mug in the evenings. And I’m going back to my favorite Psalm- the one that reminds me of the Truth of who God is and that He loves me no matter where my mind goes (Psalm 139, written throughout this post).

    IV- Paper and Stained Glass

    For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    Your works are wonderful, I know that full well…

    How precious to me are Your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!

    Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—

    when I awake, I am still with You…

    Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

    See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

    The other night, while on the phone with my dad, I looked over and saw this piece of art that I created a few years ago. When my OCD was probably at its worst and my life felt utterly out of control, I discovered an interesting world of paper cutting and the art of scherenschnitte. This folk art form from Germany which literally means “scissor cuts” became a new creative outlet for me to channel my perfectionism, anxiety, and OCD. In those moments of digging into my artwork, it is me, the paper, an exacto knife, and worship music. Entering into a new kind of trance, I get to hyper-focus on slicing straight lines and chipping away at the pattern before me. My favorite designs are ones like this with symmetry, order, a calming pattern to cut out–the ones that remind me of stained glass or a fractal. This design, created out of a season of disorder and darkness, is such a clear and tangible reminder to me that I crave order, creativity, and color. And that hard work, generosity, and hyper-focused motivation and thinking are part of the fabric of who I am. I am working on having GRACE for myself for how much I have grown and for who I am. And reminding myself that He is crafting me into something beautiful, even in my brokenness.

    The mind of God and all of His ways are mysterious to us–I don’t believe that any man will ever be able to comprehend the Lord’s thinking fully here on earth. Here’s what I DO know though, from spending the past 5 years digging further into His word, praying, and pressing into His truth:

    • He calls us to “be still” before Him, for He is God (Psalm 46:10)
    • We were created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27)
    • He calls us fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)
    • He has so much grace and mercy for us (Romans 3:23-24; Hebrews 4:16)
    • He is a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9-10)
    • He rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17)
    • He refreshes and restores our souls (Psalm 23)
    • He bears our burdens for us (Matthew 11:28-30)
    • He knows every thought in our hearts/minds (Psalm 139:3-4, 23)
    • The peace that comes from Him is far better than any peace I can find in this world (John 14:27)

    I do not know the details of your struggles. But God does. He loves us and calls us to love others in the same way. So I want to encourage you to find balance–more grace, less self-condemnation. More rest, less striving. More community, less isolation. If you’re wrestling with what it looks like to have a healthy mind and how these things seem ingrained in the fiber of your being, try to have compassion, mercy, and gentleness for yourself. After all, YOU were fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving Creator– in His very image. He is crafting you, too, into something beautiful, with every single part of who you are.

    _________________________________________________________________________________

    P.S. Do you battle with keeping Truth at the forefront of your mind? Do you wrestle with lies, insecurity, anxiety, depression, OCD, mental battles of any kind–anything that pulls you away from the present into a rabbit trail of fear, worry, or restlessness? I would love to share some of my favorite Scriptures with you in the form of a free printable I created. These 11 powerful Truths are some of my favorite Scriptures to come back to when the lies get loud in my mind and heart. Though I know prayer and Truth are a component of a holistic solution, I encourage you to print it out to hang on your mirror, next to your desk, or to cut into note cards to encourage a friend for the hard days.

    Enter your email here to get your Scripture cards. Be encouraged. You’re not alone.

  • anxiety,  rest,  weekly prayers

    Weekly Prayers: In my unraveling, rest me

    My favorite part of the Bible is the Psalms– the gut-wrenching honesty, the beautiful images, the hope even in the midst of the psalmist’s questions and pain. Recently I was introduced to a Puritan Prayer book, and I was inspired to write out a collection of my prayers for you here on a weekly basis. Some of these are utterances I’ve poured out into journals before, and some may have been laid on my heart just for you. If you need more specific prayer, please let me know here.

    Lord, sometimes I am a mess. I am unraveled, I am anxious, I am lost. I feel overwhelmed by the pieces- sometimes tangled up, sometimes scattered everywhere- and I scramble to put everything back together.

    Lord, be my rest. Help me to sit with the pieces. Show me how to let You lead. I don’t want to rush to hodgepodge it back together, as I know that my solution will surely be confused, jumbled, and not the quality you desire for me.

    Will You slow my mind?

    steady my heart?

    help still me?

    Lord, one step at a time, one piece at a time, guide me. Show me the next right thing. Help me to put one foot in front of the other.

    Help me to truly be okay with the painstakingly slow pace that may be required, like that of a young child learning to stumble and hobble along. Help me take those first steps, full of focus, energy, balance, and trust, instead of running ahead of You.

    Cast out the fear I have of the unknowns ahead. Help me to trust that Your plan is good.

    You tell me to “be still,” so I will be faithful in that today.

    And tomorrow? Please help me again to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that YOU are God, You are sovereign, You are my refuge, You are powerful, You are peacemaker, You are strong when I am weak,

    You are making all things new.

    Verses to encourage you:

    PSALM 46
    God is our refuge and strength,
    A very present help in trouble.
    Therefore we will not fear,
    Even though the earth be removed,
    And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
    Though its waters roar and be troubled,
    Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

    There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
    The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
    God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
    God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
    The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
    He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

    The Lord of hosts is with us;
    The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

    Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    Who has made desolations in the earth.
    He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
    He burns the chariot in the fire.

    Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!

    The Lord of hosts is with us;
    The God of Jacob is our refuge.