Sunday, March 7, 2010

long and candid

*all quotes are from from fear to freedom by rose marie miller*

i'm in the middle of reading a book that god is using to change me. i'm not a reader and i can honestly say that in 6 years i haven't read a book cover to cover. isn't that crazy? when i was little, i would go to the library every 2 weeks and check out 14 books and read one a day. i would get sucked into fiction series and not be able to stop reading. i think it's why i love writing and grammar and editing and spelling and probably missed my call as an english teacher. in my really young years, it was the boxcar children, then i moved on to babysitter's club, then sweet valley twins and high. i wanted to be elizabeth or jessica wakefield so bad, or atleast have an identical twin. kind of funny that i got my own set (and for those of you who intimately know these characters like i do, k is clearly elizabeth and b jessica). anyway, i'm sure i would like fiction now, but i just really haven't found something i love, and i think that in my bondage to performance i've always felt that if i was reading a book, it needed to be self-help. the problem is, i get excited about the book fixing me, then give up because i become bored with getting fixed and see that words on a page don't change my heart. which leads me to what's going on in my heart right now...

i read from fear to freedom (or skipped around in it. that's what i always mean when i say "i read ____") about 2 years ago. i loved (the parts i read) then and even recommended it to people. i recently found it in brett's office and decided to pick it up again, and i'm almost done. seriously. i know this doesn't sound like an accomplishment to anyone else, but it's pretty huge for me because it shows that my heart is being gripped in a way it hasn't before. it doesn't speak of a magical solution for the sins and fears that grip my heart. it is pointing me to the one way out; the one way to be rescued from myself. nothing will grip you like the freedom you get from being released from fixing yourself.

you know how characters in a musical walk around like life is normal, then all of a sudden break out in a random song? i feel like that's what my blog is like. i talk about my kids and maybe share a random recipe or idea here and there, then all of a sudden i break out in these deep thoughts and share depths of my heart that you might find inappropriate for a blog that anyone can read. but the truth is, if i've learned anything over the past 3 years, it's that i sin and you sin and there's no use in trying to pretend like we don't. our hearts are dirty and there's sin beneath the sin, and the filth doesn't end with our outward actions. i know when i share things going on in my heart with who knows what audience, i am exposing myself to potential criticism and judgment. but i'm tired of hiding. trying to act like you've got it together all the time is exhausting, and if the bible didn't tell you i was born sinful, i might could keep trying to fool you. but even if you bought it, i'm tired of running. i've known in theory for the past few years that i was born completely depraved and hopeless without the grace of a savior to step in and rescue me. my change in theology began in college when i was under the teaching of gary purdy. it was the first time that i really heard, or atleast my heart heard, the teaching of our total depravity and god's perfect grace. i had never understood justification by christ's death alone. i loved the ideas and loved gary for preaching this message week after week for the 4 years i was under his teaching. these are the truths that i have clung to since hearing that message 10 years ago. the weird thing is, i feel like in some ways my heart is just now grasping the theology that has been in my head for a decade. i think life was just so good and easy in college that i didn't see the deep need for a savior like i do now. this book has not been a magic fix, and maybe it will touch no one else like it has me, but it is definitely a tool god is using to help me put words to my story.

from fear to freedom is rose marie miller's self-written biography (is that called an autobiography? i can't remember, but she wrote it and it's her own story, so whatever that is). i obviously can't go into her life story in one blog entry, and it's not that our life stories and circumstances are the same, but i've never identified so much with someone's stream of thinking. the entire book is covered now in pink highlighter because there are so many statements that i just want to scream out "ME TOO!" about. i didn't even know some of these things about myself, but the way she puts them into words explains what i was thinking and didn't even know i was thinking.

the subtitle of the book is "living as sons and daughters of god" and is an encouragement to relinquish the role of spiritual orphan and embrace my role as the daughter of god. i've heard these words before. i've known in my head that i was a child of god. my heart hasn't known that, and it has been the basis of the hiding game i've been caught in..trying to cover up sin or pretend like it isn't really that bad because i ultimately haven't believed god's unconditional love and grace was real. i'm his daughter. even in my imperfect love, there is nothing k or b could do to change my love for them. and the amazing thing is, them being really good all the time wouldn't make me love them more either. christ's death on the cross rejects our bad AND good works. i feel like i need to have a whole series of blogs to document the truths that are penetrating my heart. i know i could just journal and keep these thoughts to myself, but they've been too life changing and brought too much freedom to my heart to not share them. and no, this isn't some evangelical, religious speech to those of you out there who don't believe in god. it actually kind of makes me sick to know that there are probably some of my readers that i knew in high school who i tried to "share christ with" by telling you to straighten up your act. after all, wasn't i good at being good? couldn't everybody get it together like i could? i know i've spoken before about the self-righteous pride i carried around, but i want to say it again to make sure you understand my heart here. that's not the gospel, so if you've heard that message from me in the past, pretend like you didn't. this (really) long monologue is not a bunch of religious words meant to make you feel like christianity is weird if you haven't had much exposure, or have had exposure of the wrong kind. it's just a story of my heart that is real and changing me and writing it down helps me process it.

so just getting down to the honest issues of my life and letting you (whoever "you" is) on me: again, probably inappropriate to be so personal, but i don't know what harm i can do other than have you think less of me, and frankly i'm starting to not care so much about that. i never thought i would say that because my reputation has been my god and the thing i idolize and strive to protect more than anything in this world. at the same time, i feel like the past 3 1/2 years have been a roller coaster for me, so if somebody else is feeling the same way, i like to atleast offer the hope i've found because there was a time i thought it didn't exist....

i haven't sugar-coated the fact that i struggled with the first few years of k and b's life. it wasn't just because they screamed their heads off all.the.time. i was depressed. i think i might could be the poster child for post-partum depression...if it was just post-partum. the truth is, it is still a struggle that i go in and out of. go ahead and think i'm weird if you've never been depressed, but i wouldn't be too quick to judge because i never in a million years thought i would struggle with it. i used to think depressed people were weird and just needed to get happy. call it hormones that still swing in and out of balance, or call it the thing god has used to get my attention and show me his goodness, but i can't get it to go away. i tried to get through it on my own for 2 years, then finally went to a psychiatrist a year ago and found the right combination of medicine. i thought i was fixed and was so happy to be happy again. the truth is it's back and i'm wondering if it ever goes away forever. it's the reason my blogging has been sporadic and the reason i might not have called you back if you've called me. on low days, i crawl into a hole and feel paralyzed in relationships and in life. i don't want to talk to anybody and i don't want to do things i usually love to do. there have been more low days than high lately, which is what ultimately drove me to a desperation for answers. my first instinct was to call my psychiatrist and see if he could up my medicine. in half-heartedly praying through it, my heart felt like this phase is a spiritual battle. i do feel crazy if i miss my medicine for a few days, but i think medicine in me has been used to get me to a place where i can think straight and process my thoughts. it's not the total fix i had hoped it was going to be. so, here i the valley, forced to deal with real thoughts, real hurts, and real issues of my heart. "crises become god's means of forcing us to turn away from circumstances, feelings, and our own strength, and to turn toward god."

if you've never been depressed, i don't expect you to understand why it's a struggle for me. i'm well aware that my life is really, really good. i can honestly say there is not one circumstance in my life right now that is bad. so it doesn't make sense to me either. or atleast it didn't up until now. i do believe depression is very often a chemical or hormonal problem, and that has been part of my problem. but i know the valley i'm experiencing now is different, and something god is using to show me issues i would never face if i wasn't forced to out of desperation. which is where from fear to freedom is coming into play in my life. it's showing me some patterns of my heart that have left me where i am. my life probably doesn't look any different from the outside, but my heart is being changed daily in a way i haven't experienced before. i've been a christian for so long, but every time i go through times of heart changes like this, i realize i just didn't get it before.

i had a day last week where i was lower than i've been in awhile. i was praying through what was going on in my heart when god revealed it to me. this doesn't happen that often, but it was real and i knew that as much as i didn't want to admit it, it was a truth that would begin to catapult me into everything else i'm learning right now. i realized that when things go wrong in my life, i do 1 of 2 things: blame or medicate. when things don't go my way, my first instinct is to figure out whose fault it was. and it's usually brett's (poor thing) because he's safe and i know i can beat him up and he'll still love me. if i can't find someone to blame, i medicate. i don't mean medicate in the sense of lexapro (though i obviously do that too). i mean that instead of facing the hurt, i pick up a magazine or turn on keeping up with the kardashians or go shopping or re-decorate my house. sometimes i even do "good" things like make my family their shampoo...further proof that our actions aren't the problem. i'm not coming down on any of these things, because there are times i do these things when i'm emotionally healthy and they're fine. at other times, i do them to avoid having to deal with real issues. i've become an expert at medicating to suppress hurts and disappointments because to admit them might make me face one of my biggest fears: feeling out of control or tarnishing my reputation. control and a good reputation are the 2 things i've always thought were the key to life. i've never said that out loud, but these seem to be the 2 roots of most of my sins: maintaining control and approval from others, both of which i think are ultimately rooted in pride. and this has been the cycle of my life. i've medicated for 29 years, and so often it's looked so good and felt so good that i didn't feel a need to change. it's usually helped me get ahead in the world's eyes. my usual methods of medication have contributed to an improvement in looks (i'm not saying i'm a beauty queen...just that you can learn some pretty good hair and makeup and fashion tips when you medicate through reading magazines like i do), so i've felt more loved and successful, and less of a need for life through christ. and that's the beauty of depression. depression has made me lose interest in my old ways to medicate. this is not a medical problem. this is god's goodness to me because he wants me to meet him in this valley. he wanted to bring me to a point of desperation, where i finally learned that i am a "caterpillar in a ring of fire" who crawls to the things i think will save me, but really i have one hope of rescue...god in his grace reaching down and picking me up. "think of the human state as one of stubborn blindness. we will rely on everything but god. he in turn will prepare us for grace by closing our favorite escape exits until there is only one way left. healthy despair drives you to drop pretenses and seek god from the heart. it ends with a real beginning - new life energized by grace. unhealthy despair drives you into the role of victim, in which all responsibility is denied and blame is shifted to others. it ends with immobilization, intense self-preoccupation, and false humility. most of us want quick solutions to our problems. we have more interest in immediate deliverance from pain than in what god wants to teach us through the pain. but the father does not let us escape; he lets us alone until we become fed up with our own self-centered attitudes. when a healthy despair of self sets in, then god begins quietly to breathe into us a new teachability". this is where i am. i'm tired of the cycle of feeling hurt by life, blame-shifting, then medicating, because when none of these work, as is happening right now, i enter into depression. why am i just now learning this?!? i've been a christian for so long, so why am i just now learning that i have one hope? i don't have to blame anyone and i don't have to cover sin or ignore it through my methods of medication. i think deep down i thought it would go away if i pretended it wasn't really there, but the truth is, i've been relying on myself while talking about god's power. "the confidence i had always had about my life was not faith, as i had assumed, but a reliance on my own competency, be it real or imagined." i'm tired of depending on people or life to make me happy. i didn't think i was doing this because i knew in my head that god was the only source of true joy, but if i really believed it in my heart, i wouldn't put so much stock in others liking me or everyone, especially brett, performing to my standards.

so these are just some of the truths that are making my heart more alive. i'm sure there will be more. and along with that, i'm sure there will be more low days where i forget all of this and go back to my usual methods of coping with the pains of life. my hope is that i will continue to be reminded of christ's work on the cross and the way his death justified me and set me free from having to perform and hide to ensure his love for me. my prayer is to rely on his grace since he's the only good thing in me anyway.

i'm not done with my thoughts, but i'm tired of writing (and thinking :)). i'm too tired to edit it too, so forgive any typos :). plus, i have so many thoughts running through my head that they're all getting jumbled, and i've written so much already that i feel like i've been all over the place and might not make much sense. i'll continue some other day. hope you had a good weekend!


  1. Thank you for having the courage to share! Please continue when you can :-)

  2. I am so glad you shared. I am really struggling right now to trust the Lord. I get angry with him for making me 1 - work at a job i hate and 2 - for not giving me a baby. I at least thought I would get 1 or the other. Not be 0 for 2. But I am learning to tell myself the truth and to let myself get mad, sad, or depressed but to take it to the Lord and tell him how I feel. Not just get angry and ignore the one who truly LOVES me and knows whats best for me! It was so nice to run into you the other day. So random, but I loved meeting you!

  3. Nicole- this blog of yours has brought me more affirmation and peace than I could have ever imagine. So, A. thank you for writing. and B. I am with you on this. In college, I went through a debilitating depression, off and on for about 3 years. That hole you speak of, that shutting folks out and not being able to enjoy things- it was my life- and still can be in this daily cross. I can only say that for me, the answer was a Christian counselor (Samaritan counseling in buckhead and Athens is fantastic). I could not take the lexapro (my drug of choice:) consistently enough and if you miss doses, it makes things 20x worse- with some very dire consequences for most people. Anyway- the weekly counseling was a must and it changed my life. But you are right, it creeps back in at the most inopportune moments. Being pregnant, I am petrified it will rear its ugly head come July, but we shall wait and pray. Anyway- prayers sent your way. And kudos for being so open and raw about it. It's it's own kind of hell. Thank you for your words.

  4. I so admire your courage and your transparency. I am thankful to call you friend and to walk beside you on this journey we are both on. Keep on sharing like this...I am confident God is using you to touch countless hearts, including mine. I love you, friend!

  5. i am SO thankful for your honesty, i needed this. i love you.

  6. Nicole,
    I totally understand and feel where you are coming from. Medications are going to be a part of my life for a very long time. It's not a total fix but I do need it like someone needs medicine for a heart condition. Depression is real and I have to dig to the depths of my soul and reach out to Jesus when i feel myself sinking in that dark hole. You are not alone.

  7. Nicole,
    I was reading through a few blogs and am so glad I came upon yours. I hope that you continue to share the honesty that is in your heart and how God continues to shape you into a virtuous woman. This message is refreshing for those who are struggling daily with allowing "perceived perfection" to take the reins of their lives. God does use our weaknesses to open our eyes to the truth.I can relate to this blog on many levels. I find my heart being opened and examined by God just when I think I need it the least. When everything seems so right in my life I tend to be the least receptive to God, but it is during that time I find him tapping my shoulder even more and saying "come closer child."
    I don't think many people realize that depression is not biased. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Nicole,
    Thank you SO much for your honesty and vulnerability. Your words are such an encouragement to me, you have no idea. I've struggled with bouts of depression off and on since my freshman year of college (they're definitely worse during the cold months of the year - seasonal affective disorder - yay), and so often I feel like I'm the only one, that no other Christian woman could possibly go through the same kind of dark places. Thank you for being so open about your struggles and reminding me to constantly turn back to God for my strength and hope (instead of turning to the false promises & distractions of TV, movies, magazines, etc.). HE is the only one who can truly lift us up and set us free. I'm praying for you, sister.