• 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

  • freedom stories

    Freedom to Find Hope in Suffering- Dr. Michelle’s Story

    Today, I’m introducing you to an incredible woman with a unique perspective on depression. As a neuropsychologist who treated her patients in this area for years, Dr. Michelle Bengtson suddenly came face to face with her own depression. Her own battle with depression, along with the freedom she found, now informs the way that she cares for others. I cannot wait to read her book, “Hope Prevails” (and her upcoming book about anxiety). But for now, I’m so thankful for her willingness to share her story with us in this interview. 

    This is Dr. Michelle’s Freedom Story.

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

    I grew up in what we affectionately call “The Mitten,” a.k.a. the frozen tundra of Michigan. I moved to Florida when I was a sophomore in college, and met my husband there at church. We have been married 31 years and have a son who is a sophomore in college training to be a pilot, and a son who is a sophomore in high school running cross country and track.

    I’ve known since I was a little girl that I wanted to be a writer, but I took a detour from that dream and first became a Board Certified Clinical Neuropsychologist, and have spent 30 years working in the mental health field, which has served as fodder for my writing.

    When I’m not at my private practice, writing, or speaking, my favorite place to be is at the beach or on a boat on the water. I used to love to cook and bake, back when I had lots of time to read cookbooks, and prepare at a leisurely pace, but motherhood and working full time has lessened that interest.

    I’ve always been a dog lover. My oldest son has a Shetland sheepdog. My youngest son has a rescue Pomeranian mix that we rehabbed in order to save his life after he was hit by a car and left for dead. I have a 3-year old sweet little 4-pound Pomeranian we named Selah.

    I love those facts! The beach is a favorite of mine too, and I can’t wait to hear more about your perspective on mental health. 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 under which you were living? What was that slavery like for you?

    There were a couple of old yokes I lived under. The first and most pronounced throughout my life was perfectionism. This only really came to light and I only really started to find freedom from that yoke about 6 years ago when I was deathly ill. At that time, God made it so clear to me that nothing I did would make Him love me less, and nothing I did would make Him love me more.

    The second yoke that I lived under for significant periods of my life was depression. The most severe was about 6 years ago, when I became so physically ill. Having been in mental health for so many years, I thought I had all the answers. So I did all the things I had recommended that my patients do for over two decades (i.e. therapy, medication, diet, exercise, rest, etc.) All those things helped but they were insufficient to eradicate the depression. It was only then that God taught me that if I didn’t deal with the spiritual roots of disease, it was like putting a bandaid on an infection and hoping it would get better. Everything changed from then on.

    What were some of the old narratives you absorbed?

    One of the biggest ones was the idea that I believed I had to be perfect for others and for God to love me. When trials hit, I jumped into action, doing more. I kept trying to do enough to be lovable, to be found worthy.

    Another one of the narratives that I believed was that I “was joy-immune.” When suffering from depression, I looked at so many others who seemed joyful and thought that could never, would never be me because I had tried everything I was taught in school and everything I recommended to patients, yet joy seemed like an intangible in a Christmas carol.

    I can relate to that. It’s a really hopeless feeling, and I imagine that was so hard for you as a doctor trying to practice what you preached but not seeing results. 

    What was the turning point? Was there a rock bottom or a point that you realized that you could not live like that any longer?

    The turning point for both the perfectionism and the depression were the same. It came when I was deathly ill, on bed-rest, and unable to do anything but sleep, read, watch sermons on line, and listen to praise and worship music 24/7. I came to the place where if that was going to be my life, I wasn’t sure I wanted to live. I thought that if I could no longer be the doctor, what worth did I have. It was during that time that I spent so immersed in the word, that God showed me He loved me regardless, and that I had been believing lies about myself that were not consistent with His word.

    What changed from there? (What actions did you take, truths did you discover, or community did you connect with to help you find freedom)?

    I started paying attention to my thoughts (like the idea that I was joy-immune) and checking to see if they agreed with what God said in Scripture. If they did not, then I recognized them for the lie they were and refuted them with the truth in Scripture (like the verse, “although weeping may last for the night, His joy comes in the morning”). It all began with one Scripture that I scribbled on a post-it note and hung from my home IV. And then when God gave me another truth to refute another lie, I wrote that on a post-it note and put it on my bathroom mirror. Every time I saw those post-it notes, I recited them out loud because “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” By the end, I had over 100 scriptures on post-it notes everywhere from my light switch to the dashboard of my car.

    What a powerful image with all of the post-it notes. Talk about visible reminders of Truth!

    Tell me about your life of freedom. What does it look like for you now?

    Learning to refute the lies with God’s truth changed everything for me. It helped heal my body physically and mentally. It changed how I guide patients in my own private practice. It changed how I interacted with my children, my husband, my family and my friends. I still strive to do my best, but I don’t beat myself up when I fail. Instead, I recognize that Jesus came BECAUSE of my imperfection. If I had been perfect, I’d have no need for a perfect Savior. It allows me to extend more grace to others as well.

    Do you still wrestle with those old struggles? What do you do on those days to fight for your freedom?

    Sure I still struggle, because the enemy always returns to our weakest points. But I struggle much less than I used to. I have a few friends who have permission to speak truth into my life. Every once in a while, one will bring to my attention an area that they perceive I might be believing a lie, and encourage me to seek the truth.

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

    My life verse is Jeremiah 29:11, and the cornerstone for my first two books (“Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the “Hope Prevails Bible Study”), which says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a future and a hope.” This verse has carried me through my husband having been diagnosed with three different kinds of cancer, through job loss, through my son going off to college, and my own cancer diagnosis. As long as He is still on His throne, #HopePrevails!

    I love that hashtag– I’ll have to start using it as a reminder to myself too. I also really can’t wait to read your book! Okay, last, because I am a big believer that gratitude lists help us remain present and fight our battles, tell me three things you’re grateful for right now.

    I am grateful that God sees and knows our needs even before we do, and has brought praying Christian brothers and sisters along to pray me through treatment for cancer. I am grateful that God never wastes our pain, and in fact, works all things together for our good and for His glory. I am grateful that God has given me the opportunity to speak and write about the trials I have faced and overcome with His help, in order to help others on their journey—that, to me, is beauty for ashes.

    – – –

    Dr. Michelle Bengtson is an international speaker, and the author of the bestselling, award winning “Hope Prevails: Insights From A Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the award winning companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study” and the soon to be released “Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises” (Sept 2019). She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years, and is now in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. This doctor knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address her patients’ issues, both for those who suffer and the ones who care for them.

    Using sound practical tools, she affirms worth and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of thirty years have two teenage sons and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her own site: www.DrMichelleBengtson.com.

  • 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.

  • depression,  faith,  rest,  weekly prayers

    Weekly Prayers: It Is Well

     

    Have you ever sang the song “It Is Well With My Soul” when your soul did not feel well?
     
    On the days that that phrase rings true, we can say it as a declaration with peaceful truth and confidence– Yes! Amen! It IS well.
     
    But here’s the thing… most days, inner peace is not something that comes easily for me. In fact, I am currently in the midst of wrestling my good old frenemy Seasonal Depression. Yuck.
     
    There are days when it’s super hard to motivate myself to pick up my Bible because I’d much rather wallow in negativity. When I do NOT want to cook for myself and instead want to eat chips and salsa and chocolate chips for dinner. When I want to isolate and binge-watch Netflix instead of being real with friends about my place of need. This week alone, I have done a little bit of both. I’ve wallowed in darkness/negativity AND made myself read my Bible to seek out light. I’ve indulged in the snack junk food dinner, and also made some intentional, healthy meals. I’ve engaged in the Netflix marathoning, but also reached out to my support system to say “I am hurting.”
     
    As much as SOME of this is in my control, depression is a real thing. And I know that I cannot fight it without the Lord. In this season, I am learning to look at this prayer/proclamation differently.
     
    When I sit in unrest, when my heart is heavy, when I cannot move because my body is sad, “It Is Well” becomes a pleading prayer. God, please MAKE it well with my soul.
     
    The history of this song is pretty remarkable. A man who experienced deep, tragic loss, proclaimed that in the Lord, his soul was alright. I’d venture to say, it was more than alright. He found rest and hope in Jesus, and was even praising Him in the midst of darkness.
     
    Sometimes its too hard to sing or say “It Is Well” because we do not FEEL well. But if we fold our arms or refuse to sing it because it’s not true at that time, we are missing out on peace that can come JUST from praying it in genuine need. When we whisper in desperation that it WILL be well with our souls, He starts to bring a different kind of freedom from our trials. He may not remove the painful circumstances, but saying those words and clinging to Jesus opens us up to rest. To His peace. To HOPE. And I need hope right now, so I’m choosing to sing/pray my way through the darkness. 
     
    So, if life is straight up hard for you right now, can we pray this prayer together?
     
    Lord, let me declare that it is well with my soul, and trust that You will make it so.
     
    In my desperation, still my heart. When my wounds are loud, bring Your healing balm. When my world feels like it’s caving in, help me dwell on the Truth about who You are. I praise You, because You are faithful, You are Redeemer, You are steadfast.
     
    Thank You Lord. You know suffering well- You’ve watched us betray You for thousands of years, choose sin instead of light, reject You when You offer life. Your only Son endured suffering to death on our behalf, and You absorbed the full weight of our suffering already. 
     
    Help me remember the suffering of others, and to pour out Your love to them (I am not the only one hurting!).
     
    Help open my heart to receiving love from the people You’ve placed in my life (it’s okay to grieve, to ask for help).
     
    Help me to rejoice in the GOOD that I do see–and if I can’t see anything good right now? Help me to seek it out and start to see it with new eyes.
     
    Let me find my hope in You, and remind me that these temporary afflictions will bring an eternal weight of glory
     
    Be my rock when the waves crash around me. Be my strength when I am weak and disheartened. Anchor me. Lord, bring YOUR peace to this soul.
     
    It is well, it is well with my soul.