February is backwards because Jesus loves me

Tonight I messaged one of my close friends and said these words… “Kayla, Theres a THUNDERSTORM!!” (followed by many emojis that indicated my ardent love for thunderstorms) She responds with, “IN FEBRUARY! God loves you. haha”
She gets it. She understands my love for storms.
It seems fitting this year that there’s a thunderstorm in February… on the darkest week for me.

Not many people know the reason I LOVE thunderstorms.
I was an average kid – scared of the dark, scared of snakes and mice, scared of loud noises like thunder – so what changed?

I was probably around 11 or 12 years old when my family reconnected with a man I consider to be my adopted uncle. A man who became so close with our family that every family road trip we would ask “Are we taking Randy’s van or ours?” It was never a matter of if he was coming, just whose vehicle we would take.

I remember vividly one such road trip. I was 12, that age where I was trying SO desperately to become a grownup aaaaand  right around the age when older brothers taunted that I would always be their baby sister. It was rough.
But Randy always treated me like a young adult. We talked of dreams and giftings and callings. I consider him to be the first person who believed in me.
This particular road trip there was a HUGE thunderstorm. We were driving through the hills of Tennessee and the hot June weather made the storm seem so much more than it actually was. I was terrified. Randy was not. I remember him looking at me and saying, “Michelle, you don’t need to be afraid.” I half expected him to make some joke about God and the angels going bowling – as he always liked to joke around – but he didn’t this time. He was a very intelligent man. A scholar of language and fine art.
Randy looked me straight in the eye and said, “You don’t need to be afraid of the storm because you know the One who made the storm – God. And the One who calms storms – Jesus. And besides that, we are in this van and the rubber tires grounds us so there’s no way lightning can strike.”
Of course shortly after that we made it to our hotel and I didn’t want to get out of the van.
But I never forgot that conversation about the storm and I’ve loved storms ever since.

I guess the wild wind and dark clouds remind me of Randy and all the times we had when I was a young adult.
Randy’s life was stolen from us the winter I was 15. He was trying to help a young man find Jesus, and instead the young man caused Randy to meet Jesus much sooner than any of us expected.

Randy was killed that night in February 13 years ago.
I can’t even explain how much it hurt – and still hurts – to lose him so soon.
Part of the emotional and mental health journey I have been on in the past months has been a journey to healing from losing Randy. I never truly grieved when he died, I went straight from his funeral to having fun with friends. Anything I could do to forget the pain. Pain is a process. Healing can only be brought after you’ve been through grief.
I’m still learning to grieve. I’m still learning to let go of the pain and leave it in Jesus’ hands.I’m still crying cuz it hurts. I’m still learning to forgive the man who stole Randy from us.

But tonight. A night only a few days after the 13th anniversary of Randy’s going to heaven. I sit and watch a very unusual February thunderstorm and I remember that night in Tennessee. I sit and know the One who created the storm – God. Because I know he is bringing me through and I am rising above this storm in my life. This dealing with soul pain and anxiety. I sit and know the One who calms storms – Jesus. Knowing that only HE can bring me peace. I know that God never intended me harm. The enemy of my soul causes death and destruction. And what the enemy uses for evil, God will use for good.

I pray this encourages some of you who are dealing with pain. There is no scale for pain, there is no way we can measure whose pain is greater. There is only grace and peace in the midst of each individual storm.
I pray this story reaches your heart and validates your pain. And I pray that you know that God is turning it into good.
The storm will pass. The sun will shine again.
Life will never be perfect, just as I will never watch a storm with Randy on this earth again. But I know one day I will see him again. And I know that where he is, it is far FAR greater than where I am. A place with no pain or tears. A place of pure peace and joy.
I imagine the lightning is the crack into that heavenly home. An opening for God’s light to shine through the darkness.

So tonight I am thankful for a backwards Canadian winter.
I am thankful for memories and for pain.
I am thankful God sent me a thunderstorm in February.

 

Baby Steps… DR MARVIIIIIINNN!!

If you’ve read my heart journey here and here, then you’re probably wondering what’s next? Truth is I don`t know how to walk this out. Some days are less foggy than others… side note: Did you know Omega 3 oils are actually really good for your brain? I find my days less foggy when I’m eating healthy and taking vitamins and supplements like Vitamin D (since my Canadian town doesn’t get much sun these days… and I used to joke about this, but it really DOES work!!) and Omega3 oils and such.

So what happens on days when I feel like I’m not winning at this battle? And it is a battle. The enemy of our souls is trying desperately to keep us broken.

Disclaimer: Again, I want to reiterate. I am not a mental health expert. I can only write from my own personal experiences. The following may not work for everyone.
The only way I know how to move forward right now is ONE STEP AT A TIME.

Step one… I realized I needed help to walk this out. I rallied my people around me to pray (parents, close circle friends, pastors.)

Step two… I called a Christian counselling ministry and they set me up with a wonderful woman of God who is filled with Holy Spirit AND she’s a registered counselor and music therapist (yup. she’s beyond amazing.) who I meet with every other week.

Step three… pray, fast media (can’t afford any distractions these days), eat healthy things – I can’t believe how much processed foods and sugars ACTUALLY affect my brain! (it’s not fair really… but I’ll do anything to get out of this fog.)

Oh and all this is just scratching the surface. Right when I feel that I’m making some progress and starting to feel “normal” (whatever that is) I have a day full of anxiety and panic attacks that, more often than not, leave me sitting on my couch feeling like my chest is about to explode and reminding myself how to breathe deeply.
Exhaustion… pure exhaustion. And yet I still don’t sleep well.
I’m still learning to know my limits right now. It’s not like when someone has a broken leg or is recovering from surgery – you can’t visibly see my wounds. And to be honest most days I don’t feel like talking about it. My soul is broken. So all I can really do is walk this out one step at a time and bring it all to the great healer… the one who was broken so I could be made whole… Jesus.

You know the movie, “What about Bob?” starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss?
Some days I feel like that. (If you’ve never seen this movie, I’m sorry but you won’t be able to understand this next part)
I’M BABY STEPPING! I’M BABY STEPPING! I`M DOING THE BEST I CAN! I’M NOT A SLACKER!
And still I end up at the end of the day wishing I could have someone on call for me 24-7 regardless of vacations in Lake Winnipesaukee. 

Here`s the BEST truth though! I do have someone I can talk to who is never on vacation and always responds… Jesus.

Here… let me give you an example of what this looks like.
So here I am baby stepping… doing the best I can… And one day I had a little breakthrough. My counselor led me through a “heart sync therapy”. We asked Holy Spirit to show me what my heart looks like in 3 different parts – the Emotional heart, Guardian heart, and Functional heart. I saw them. My beautiful heart open wide so I could see what was going on in there – was a very “Inside Out” (disney reference) moment.
Emotional heart was wounded and bleeding – the aftermath of all I’ve been through the past while. Functional and Guardian were side by side in a defense position trying to protect Emotional. It was really beautiful… but sad. I decided to open up my heart and let Jesus in so he could start healing Emotional. This was a good moment in counselling… and I cried SO hard! It was so healing. And so good.
Baby steps forward.
Then as I was driving home (expecting to be out for the evening) I got the BIGGEST nosebleed of life!! Like literally a blood bath. I had cried so hard it made my nose dry, which resulted in the nosebleed, which made me tilt my head back while driving, which caused dizziness and nausea… etc. etc. etc… And there I was on the couch again. A heap of nausea and panic attacks.
Baby steps backwards.

You see here’s the thing. Life is hard. Walking through this sucks. It hurts like hell. But Jesus has never given up on me. I know this even more because the very next day I was in worship at a church prayer meeting and I heard His soft voice… he showed me my heart again. Emotional is still working on healing, but something was different. I saw that Functional and Guardian were on either side of Emotional – no longer defending but instead they were helping her and holding her up! And Jesus was behind them supporting all three parts of my little wounded, bleeding, beautiful heart.

So here I am taking one baby step at a time… Sometimes we need a “Dr. Marvin” therapist or counselor or doctor to help us out – it is healthy to reach out to others. (we have these professionals for this very reason).
BUT always ALWAYS keeping in mind that you have 24-7 instant access to someone who knows your heart better than any other. He made your heart and mind. Designed them perfectly. He knows how to get you through this.
One. Baby. Step. At. A. Time.

not-a-slacker

The day of the Brain Fog…

When I say the words “Brain fog” I feel like I will get one of two reactions – one of which people will laugh nervously and not get it AT all, and the other in which people who have been there will understand 110%.
Where your brain just plain shuts off and it feels like nothing on earth can ever get it back again.

Disclaimer…
I’ve decided to use this blog – a safe place – to open my heart and explain a few things on my mental health journey to you. For those who have no idea what mental health is like – to learn and understand and empathize. And for those who are there as well – to know that you’re not alone and it’s actually very healthy to talk about it.
And for myself as writing is extremely therapeutic for me, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to understand myself better.

Now back to that brain fog thing. I don’t remember the first day it happened, but I know it was probably sometime the end of February or March last year. I had just been to a funeral for a young girl I once reached out to through my church`s youth ministry. My heart was broken. And in the breaking this triggered suppressed feelings and memories of something that happened when I was fifteen. (I’ll explain that one another day)

I don’t know how to explain all of this because I honestly don’t remember what happened in those months – I mean nothing. I will vaguely remember something as if I had dreamt it, but details are totally gone. I remember joking about this to one of my closest friends – Hello, I’m Dory. I have short term memory loss. – and I remember she got very serious very fast. “Ok Michelle. Tell me what happens when your brain goes foggy?”
Well my chest gets really tight, I can’t breathe properly, and I can’t think – it’s just complete fog. Eventually I come out of it, but sometimes it’s really bad and it’s hard to even go about my normal day.
She said it sounded like I was having a panic attack and when I said I didn’t feel panicky, she said mental health isn’t always the same and it could be you’re experiencing some anxiety or PTSD or some sort of trauma. The not remembering this probably had something to do with psychological blocking. She suggested I consider seeking out counselling and I kind of shrugged her off that day.

But that day started my journey to healing – my heart still had a long way to go. It took 8 more months before I realized she was right – 8 agonizing months of fog, shallow breathing, and not knowing how to function. 8 months of which I don’t remember much of anything.
Then one day in December I hit my rock bottom moment after attending another two funerals. I sat at my kitchen table shaking and crying, desperate to feel something – some sort of release for the pain deep in my heart – clutching a knife but not wanting to cut myself… and instead I picked up my phone and texted my friend, “Hey… I need counselling. What was the name of that place you said?”

Dear friends reading this… if you’re in the fog I want you to know – there’s HOPE! I’m saying all of this to level with you. I know what it’s like. We all go through this differently but it’s always the same underlying issue, something has wounded our hearts. And it doesn’t feel like anything can ever make the sun shine again. And you know, the world itself is going to hurt you. But I am here saying there’s hope. From that day when I reached out to my friend I knew it was time, I was ready for this journey. I had to get there though. I had to reach out and not care about what someone would think of me.

I’m still on this journey. I have a long way to go.

But I’ve seen Jesus and he’s leading me there – one day at a time. One baby step at a time. Like I said yesterday, I stayed in bed all morning. Tonight, I’m eating Mac&Cheese way too late at night and probably won’t sleep much.

But you know what? Tomorrow is a new day. God has good plans for me and for you.

I used to think I could do it on my own. Or even just me and Jesus. But tonight, I’m sitting here so very thankful for the people God has placed in my life. For my friends who understand where my broken heart is at and why my mind can’t function. I’m thankful for the ones who don’t understand but have grace for me anyways. I’m thankful for the counsellor God led me to – a wonderful Christian woman with wisdom and insight – and that from day one talking to her was like finding another big sister. I’m thankful for my parents who pray me through the pain and understand that some days I just don’t want to talk about it.

At the end of the day, I’m just thankful for each breath I take – even when it’s hard to breathe in this fog.

This is all I can say for tonight.  But I wanted you, my internet friends, to know that you’re not alone. You are loved by Jesus. He has great plans for you. It’s ok to not have it all together, but it’s not ok to have to do this alone… and hey even King David (yeah, the crazy shepherd boy who killed the giant and became king later) had his foggy days. Check it out…

Psalm 31:9-16
9 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.
Tears blur my eyes.
My body and soul are withering away.
10 I am dying from grief;
my years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
I am wasting away from within.
11 I am scorned by all my enemies
and despised by my neighbors—
even my friends are afraid to come near me.
When they see me on the street,
they run the other way.
12 I am ignored as if I were dead,
as if I were a broken pot.
13 I have heard the many rumors about me,
and I am surrounded by terror.
My enemies conspire against me,
plotting to take my life.
14 But I am trusting you, O Lord,
saying, “You are my God!”
15 My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
16 Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.

Keep on. ❤

 

It’s 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday and I don’t want to get out of bed…

Good morning world… you may not have seen much of me lately. I have agonized over how to tell you why – don’t want to let you down. I don’t want you to see the deepest parts of me quite yet. Furthermore, I believe this is a season of going even deeper.

God has called us to so much, but the way up in His kingdom is actually down… The upside-down kingdom some call it. A Kingdom where the last shall be first, the lost are found, the blind will see, and slaves are set free.
I once wrote on here about a Breaking Season… what I didn’t realize then was that my breaking has been going on for many more years than just 2016. And some days I just plain don’t want to get out of bed and keep on breaking.

It’s a new day though, as I realized last week that my breaking now is breaking open old wounds that did not heal properly – much like when a broken leg is not set straight and after years of limping on old wounds, Jesus – Master Healer – has decided to break open the old and set things straight so I can heal properly and walk again.

It’s a new season of breaking open and healing and holding open hands up to the heavens and out to you, dear world. I don’t know what all will come of this yet, but even in all the hardest moments I know it will be so so good even in all this deep soul pain.

That’s it. That is what I’ve been trying to tell you. My soul is broken. The soul is made up of your Mind, will, and emotions. From what I can tell so far, when you experience great trauma or great grief and it is too much for your body to handle, your soul breaks and your mind goes into a survival mode of sorts. God made our minds to only handle a little at a time while he sifts through to heal it. And with all the trauma in the world that anyone can experience at any given moment, its no wonder sometimes it takes a long time to sift and set back in place and heal what has been broken for years – even decades.

We all have soul pain to some degree. Maybe some of us don’t realize it. I didn’t for about 13 years until my heart broke all over again last winter. Now my mind is in, what I call, aftermath mode. A space where some days are good and things feel almost normal, but others you just simply can’t bring yourself to face the world. The mind goes into protective mode and suppresses memory (a lot of mine is short term – so if I forget to show up on time to something or cancel last minute I am SO so sorry.) and sometimes it takes a while to get that back. There are things from 2016 I don’t want to remember (but may have to at some point in order to heal properly) and there are things I may want to remember, but simply can’t (like someone’s birthday or a fun day we had). It goes back further than that of course, but bear with me as I can’t dig that deep today for you.

BUT this is not the end. Nor is it the final word. I’m on a journey of healing this time. I won’t let my heart be overwhelmed because I serve a God who overcomes. I won’t shut my heart and mind down to pain anymore because I know a healer who brings peace in the pain. I won’t run from this process of sifting the past because I have a Heavenly Papa who brings beauty from ashes.

And even though today I’m still in bed at 10:30 a.m. and don’t feel like moving, I know He has not given up on me. And if you’re on a mental health heart journey as well, know that he hasn’t given up on you either.

Until next time, dear friends. Keep on.

Exodus 14:14 (NLT) “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

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Are you “ready” for Christmas?

“You can either walk inside your story and own it or you can stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” – Brene’ Brown. …

“Are you ready for Christmas?” They ask. What they mean is: have you got all your presents bought and wrapped, have you signed the last card, have you baked and iced all the cookies? Are you ready for the chaos?…

But I want to ask, are you ready for Emmanuel?

Are you ready for a Saviour?

Are you ready for the Prince of Peace to invade your chaos?

Are YOU ready for Christmas?

Are any of us ever TRULY “ready” for that kind of Christmas?

But oh how we so desperately need Him.

Thankfully He comes not when we are ready, but when He is needed.

In a small, lowly stable. Laying his newborn head in a cow’s feeding trough … maybe the cow nibbled his hair before Joseph shooed him away. Maybe Mary’s heart was so filled with joy she wept.

Maybe the shepherds flat out RAN to worship him… knowing they were desperate. Knowing that nothing else in this broken world could save them.

No matter how broken and bruised we are this Christmas.

Emmanuel… He is with us… The weary world rejoices.

Look, yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, like the shepherds.

Care like Joseph.

Weep like Mary.

Sing like the angels.

Glory to God in the highest.

Our broken world needs peace this Christmas.

Are you ready?
If you want to care for this broken world, share a little love to those who have nothing.

This year I sent gifts to Aleppo, Syria by way of http://www.preemptivelovecoalition.com

Breaking Seasons -Part One.  

It’s that moment when the phone rings, that bit of news you always feared would come, that conversation with a friend and her world has shattered in a million pieces. And we cry and try to understand the why. There is no why. Just heart break. 

I remember the first news. Where I was standing in church when I happened to overhear my youth pastor say to a fellow youth leader those dreadful words: We need to relax today because we just heard that one of our youth passed away. 

Who? My world stopped. I couldn’t breathe. Who is it, Pastor Nate? Zina. Then he rushed off to find his wife. 

My world wasn’t stopped anymore. Now it was spinning. I sat down and felt like I was tipping over still. I sobbed it out on a friends shoulder. 

Church – His body. When one hurts we all feel the pain. And we need each other’s shoulders to cry on and arms to lean on as the world tips off its axis. 

Her funeral was bigger than her family realized. I remember the weight that had been crushing my heart lifted as they talked about how Zina loved Jesus and her passion was evident – I hadn’t known. How do you know, as a youth leader, that when they go off to college if they’ll remember anything you tried to teach them? But she had. More than I could have hoped. We’ll see her again one day. 

Fast forward one month… the phone buzzes. A text from a dear friend. Then another. Life keeps shattering bit by bit. I can’t help them, but I can pray. We will be ok. I try to say what I can, though I know nothing will help. I didn’t know that when their worlds crashed in… when their hearts broke. I did not know that mine was about to crash even more. A heartbreak I’d never known. 

It was a Sunday afternoon in February. The sun shone. Bright on the snow. I had just had a beautiful day at church and was just finished dinner with family. The day was as perfect as could be, in spite of the hard week. Sunday is like a fresh slate – we all get a second chance. 

The phone had rang twice and I missed it… 5 frantic texts and a voicemail from my little roommate/sister in Christ. I called her back – her voice shaking: Claudia passed away. Last night. No one knows why. She’s gone. 

My world crashed. My heart shattered. 

“Great grief isn’t made to fit inside your body. It’s why your heart breaks.” (Ann Voskamp – The Broken Way) 

It couldn’t be real. I loved that girl. Tried to help her through her mess and pain… reached out countless times and heard her stories and tried to point her to Jesus. She always pulled away, but I knew one day she’d see and know My Jesus.

 I couldn’t breathe. Guilt overcame my senses. Did I do enough? What if I missed something? I should have tried harder. Oh Jesus… that poor little girl all alone in that apartment. What could have happened to her? 

When grief and guilt overcome, it’s hard to control ones actions and reactions to life. And sometimes the way we react is to shut down completely. 

If we shut down we cannot feel the pain. If we can’t feel the pain we can go into a sort of waking comatose in which we pretend that everything is ok… when really, our hearts are shattered. 

Sometimes it seems the only way to survive heartbreak is to pretend it never happened. 

This was the beginning of what I call my breaking season. I’m currently learning to heal – bear with me as I’m still rusty. My heart shut down in order survive the pain. But some say when you shut your heart down to pain you shut out the love as well – and Jesus is the one who loves. My heart also shut down to beauty and creativity as well. (To be quite honest, I haven’t written much this year at all since the breaking season. Not writing – it’s almost like not breathing. Suffocation.) 

My desire this month is to share my journey of brokenness through this blog as I read through a sweet book called, “The Broken Way” by my dear friend Ann Voskamp. I’ve learned that grief takes time, hearts need to be held, and pain is part of the beauty. Also, the pain is eased when holding tight to the Body of Christ. We are all meant to hold each other through the breaking. 

More next time… just one last golden quote from this beauty book. 

“Maybe the love gets in easier where the hearts broke open…” Ann Voskamp. (The Broken Way) 

(The Broken way can be preordered at http://www.thebrokenway.com. Release date: October 25, 2016!) 

Setting Sail

Forever ago I wrote a poem (in grade 10, I think) called “Set your sails”. It was about a man who sailed the ocean and learned how to trust God in the midst of the storms of life.

I’m thinking of this old poem now and realizing how much it really foreshadows all of our lives – especially mine.

I’ve found myself in more storms than I can count in the last year and a half. Some were beyond my control, some were definitely because of my own response to life, and some were my reactions based on past experiences to other (sometimes unrelated) storms.

But here’s what I’ve learned… The bigger the storm, the bigger the TRUST!

It’s always a matter of heart connection.

How much are you willing to go through – how big of a storm? Just to be closer to Jesus and hear his steady voice saying, “Do not be afraid. I’ve got you. Have faith.”

Cuz that’s what storms are all about. Seeing his power break through and carry you higher. Higher above the clouds until the storm is raging under your feet.

Sure he walked on water that one time with Peter – who had his faith strengthened – but we are called to do greater things than even Jesus.

John 14:11-12 The Message (MSG)

“Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it.”

Because we are called to greater AND because we have the power that raised Christ from the dead living inside of us, we can rise above the storms of life and not just merely walk on water… WE CAN WALK ON THE STORM!!

Life is tricky though and we need to cling to him every moment that we’re walking up there because an instantaneous run-in with someone who doesn’t walk on storms can potentially leave the enemy’s fingerprint in the shape of a huge “what if?” searing in our mind.

But let me tell you this… The storm is worth it. The storm is the biggest thing that will seemingly carry you further into the unknown… but ultimately the storm is the thing that makes you KNOWN!

Known by the King of Kings – my provider who owns everything.

Known by the Prince of Peace – the Son of God who walks on stormy seas and calms the wind and waves.

Known by a loving Father who protects and goes before you.

Known. Seen. Loved. Adored. Provided for.

No matter what your “storm” is today, whether it’s a living situation or finances or trusting for your future or praying for a loved one or an illness or even getting out of bed in the morning (not so simple)… No matter what it is TRUST him. He is Faithful to carry you over the clouds and into the unknown… because YOU are known.

stormDon’t give up because you can’t see through the rain and fog and clouds… Rest and know that your God conquers storms and the hands that raised the dead are holding you. There’s so much hope in trusting Him in the storm. I pray you find that hope and peace… And I hope I stay here too, since this is what I’m currently learning. 😉

One last thing… listen to this song. It helps. 🙂

Amanda Cook – Set our Sails

Oh, and as for the poem about the sailor… It must be lost in the recesses of my basement and old poems from high school days. But if I ever come across it I will post here to all of you. 🙂