The Problem with friend Jesus

Kids are taught in Sunday School that Jesus is their friend. He wants to be your friend. He can be your friend. You need Jesus to be your friend.

Jesus is our friend, in the best possible way ever.

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And John 15:15 “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you.”

The problem comes with our definition and connotation of friend.

  • Friend: noun
  • a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
  • a person who gives assistance; patron, supporter
  • a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile

Jesus as friend; it’s awesome because you can share everything with God, just like a true friend. You can share your dreams and cry your heart out and he’s there. But what happens when we only view God as friend?

Friends can let us down. Friends can disappoint us. And friendships don’t always last. When we have a friend that we are upset with we may give them the cold shoulder or silent treatment. We may even talk bad about them. We might conclude they are not worth keeping as a friend. Because let’s face it, sometimes that’s the best thing you can do for yourself and a one sided friendship.

But Jesus is more than a friend. He is the perfect friend. However, when we view our relationship with him as friend through our very human eyes, we might feel disappointed and ignored. We might feel like he doesn’t really listen to us or even know us. We might give God the silent treatment. We might give up on God because we feel like he isn’t being a very good friend.

Jesus is God in the flesh. We need to see him as much more than friend. God has many names and they all mean something about his character. It’s wise to learn these so we have context of who God is, otherwise we make God in our own image. God is not irrational nor does he make emotional judgments. God is our Jehovah: Lord, master and relational God. He is Elohim: LORD, Creator God. He is Adonai: Master over all. He is El Elyon: Most High God. He is El Emunah: the Faithful God. He is Immanuel: God with us. These are just a few names of God. If we only think of God as friend we miss out on his Lordship, his faithfulness, his presence with us.

I am in a season right now where it feels like my prayers are not heard. I feel left out. I feel forgotten. But I am reacting in feelings. I need to be rooted in who God is and remind myself of his character lest I give God the cold shoulder and decide he isn’t “being a good friend” and end our relationship. God is faithful, he will never leave me nor forsake me. He loves me with an everlasting love. He is Creator of all. He is my Shepherd and my Peace. He is the true friend that laid down his life for me.

God is also Just. His ways are higher than our ways. God disciplines those he loves as sons and daughters. He allows hardships in our lives for many different reasons. Paul had a thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming proud. Moses was disciplined and not allowed in the Promised Land. David, a man after God’s own heart, had to fight for his life against Saul for 15 years before becoming the rightful King.

I don’t know why my prayers seem to be going unanswered. In my emotions I am frustrated. In my mind I know that I don’t always get to see why God might seem silent. He doesn’t always explain himself. He is God and I am not. Sometimes that is the only answer we get. I have to get over myself and keep trusting him. The more I read the Bible, the more of God I see objectively apart from my situation. I know that “all things work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 But we also need to remember that “good” in this context is spiritual, not earthly. God is listening and He is at work in my life, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Feelings are fleeting and fickle. God is steady and unchanging. When I am tempted to think less of him, that’s my own selfish and idolatrous thoughts. This is a good reminder for me to get back to reading His Word and internalizing it so I don’t doubt his love for me and have absolute trust in his care.

Hard stuff

I have been thinking a lot over the last few months about many things – pain, suffering, comfort, The Abundant Life, God’s will, his sovereignty, my faith, my prayer life, and more.

My mom, my best friend, faithful daughter of the King, went to heaven July 12. It was unexpected, and so very, very sad. But I saw it, and still do see it as a gift from God. Her suffering ended. She had been in chronic pain for many years, I could hear it in her voice when I spoke to her. Yet she rarely complained to me. Her lifestyle was slowly stripped away as she lost ability to do many of the things she used to do and enjoy. But she continued to pray, read the Bible, have many spirited conversations with Dad and I. We would pray for her pain to ease, but it never did. I suppose that is life – as you age and your body deteriorates, and then it ends. God finally called her home the way we all wish it could happen, at home and in her sleep.

My body has been deteriorating as well. Lupus has been progressing, slowly, for which I am grateful. I still have really great days, weeks, months even, and then I don’t. Sometimes it is a short setback, sometimes it’s a major flare that won’t stop. So my rheumatologist decided it was time to take an immunosuppressant, as lupus flares means your immune system is super overactive. I felt great for 2.5 weeks! I could feel myself improving and feeling like myself again! And then… Why did there have to be an and then?

I got shingles. I didn’t know what was happening at first so I went through pretty awful pain for 6 days until it became so excruciating I couldn’t really walk. I finally was seen at urgent care and then got the antivirals. Let me tell you, this pain was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was constant and then it would shoot in my leg and back and I was in such agony. I am on the 3rd day since taking the medication and it has eased up somewhat.

This severe pain had me thinking all kinds of things. First, I cried out to God to remove it. Then I cried for him to at least relieve it even slightly. This pain was relentless. Day, night, sitting, laying down, no relief. How do people live like this? Every day? I thought of my mom, I thought of a woman I follow on Instagram who has chronic pain and is mostly bed ridden. These two women have been examples of how to still praise God even in their pain. I thought of Job, and all he suffered, I thought of the apostle Paul, and all he endured. I knew I needed to turn my mind towards finding something to be thankful for.

I have a wonderful family and friends that have prayed with me, brought me meals, walked my dogs. There are small things.

But the pain is all encompassing. I can’t make it stop. I can’t even cry because for some reason that made the pain intensify. I begged God again. I said, my God, why?

Then I had the picture of Jesus on the cross. His agony was so much worse. And he cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?!”

Pain, suffering, comfort, God’s will, praying. How does it all fit in to the life of a Christ follower?

One part of me said, pray harder, have more faith, believe it and God will make it happen! God help my unbelief. Okay, what did I do wrong, I followed the formula but God didn’t answer my prayer how I wanted. Here’s the deal – what am I going to do about it, if he doesn’t answer prayers the way I pray them. Is He enough? Even if this is what he chooses for me? I need to not only be okay with the body and all its diseases, but to have joy and be thankful. That is hard stuff!! You must truly believe God is who he says he is or you’re going to eventually walk away from faith. He doesn’t always give us the life we envisioned for ourselves. If we are going to thrive and have the abundant life, then we need to praise God, no matter what.

Always be joyful . Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thes 5:16-18

It is so hard not to complain, to compare, and to become bitter. But that improves my life Zero percent. In fact I think those things make my life worse. My church when we lived in Albuquerque had a phrase, ‘Preach the Gospel to Yourself’ often, over and over, anytime you need to. We are frail humans. We forget God’s word. Stay in it, surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable.

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate each other to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25

Block Party

May 16 the group Bigger Than The Trail (BTTT) held a virtual “block party” run in place of a physical location. BTTT is a 501(c)(3) organization that uses running as a platform to advocate for mental health. They team up with licensed counselors to provide free online services. Amazing.

Anyway, I don’t normally do virtual races. My race budget is limited and if I am going to spend the money, it’s more about the people and the experience than a shirt or medal. So I skip them. However, because of the mental advocacy I was going to participate in this Block Party as it is something near and dear to me. Because Hubs was without work, I wasn’t going to officially register, just run. I mentioned that on their IG page and got a DM that they had some donations and I could have the last one!

I officially registered! I have been in a lupus flare so I was not up for a very long distance so I opted for the half marathon. The idea was to make your own route around your block where you live. Hubs ran the first 10K with me and I finished the rest on my own. It was crazy going around and around the same streets. I was definitely getting bored of that. But it’s the perseverance when things get hard or tiring or boring that makes you stronger. So I kept going.

I used that time to pray. I have been in a slump. The anxiety from the news and the unknown future about Hubs getting a job and not being able to do the things that help me mentally has taken a toll on me. The stress is wreaking havoc in my body. Depression and lupus flares up. I know I am not the only one who is having a hard time.

In a blur of tears I cry out to God, I don’t feel your presence? Where are you? Why have you left me? In moments like these I must stop and repeat God’s promises.

  • I know he will never leave me.
  • I know he is for me, not against me.
  • I know I can approach the throne of grace with confidence, and I will find mercy and grace.

Our emotions will get the best of us if we let them. That’s why we need to keep God’s word in our heart and other believers pointing us back to the truth.

It’s Permanent

May is Lupus Awareness Month AND Mental Health Awareness Month. These two things effect me greatly. I thought I would share a little more of my story through my tattoo.

I had been contemplating getting a tattoo that would represent me in a special way; one that would remind me who I am and how far I have come. I thought long and drew some ideas out. And then I finalized my drawing. The next step was to decide where should I get this tattoo? I knew I wanted it visible to myself. I wanted to see it to remember. But did I want it visible for everyone? Am I ready to talk about it? Do I want to explain it and open up to vulnerability? I kept that drawing for over a year. My son gave me the gift of this tattoo for Christmas this year, so I had no excuse not to do it.

There are three components to my butterfly tattoo. The butterfly is one of the symbols for lupus, which often causes a malar or ‘butterfly’ rash across the face on cheeks and bridge of the nose. Lupus affects my everyday life and there is not a cure. It is sometimes called an invisible illness, because ‘you don’t look sick.’ I want to bring awareness to lupus. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates 1.5 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide have a form of lupus.

The semicolon makes up the butterfly’s body. Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, shares the meaning of the semicolon. 

“It represents continuance. Authors usually use the semicolon when they choose not to end the sentence. You are the author and the sentence is your life, and you’re choosing to continue.”

I have depression and have contemplated suicide multiple times. Yet I continue, I chose not to end the sentence. I got help, and I continue to seek help at times when I can’t fight it on my own anymore. My story is here, if you would like to read more.

Chronic Illness and Mental Illness overlap in many ways. We don’t always feel free to share our struggles. We are afraid of being judged or thought less of. But we need to share. We need to speak out. Others are struggling and feel alone in their feelings and isolated from others. We need to bravely share our stories to encourage those struggling and to inform and educate the other people in our lives.

There is no shame in admitting you are not well, be it physically or mentally. Mental illness is a medical condition. Treatment is available. Please reach out to someone if you feel helpless. Suicide is not your only option.

So I said there were three components to the tattoo. The last thing is really the first thing.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I became a new creation. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, the old has gone, the new is here. When you belong to Christ, you become a new person, you begin a new life with Christ. You are a child of God!

Of course this does not mean my life is easy or I am always happy. But I have a solid hope to build my life on.

Continue reading “It’s Permanent”

Civilitea

Covid-19. Corona Virus. WuFlu. Whatever you want to call it, it is affecting you. No more hiding from it, it’s everywhere and has impacted you.

I live in the United States, in the Texas Panhandle. Even here we now have 3 confirmed cases, and no doubt there will be more. In my own family, my 2 children and niece are now without work because of the virus. My own job is unknown at this time. My husband lost his job as well. For us, it’s the economic side that is going to hurt us the most.

What should we do? Should we panic? Should we buy all the supplies up as soon as we find them? Should we worry that we will lose our house, our cars? Will we starve? Where will our next meal come from? And don’t forget the more simple things like, I miss my friends! I want to go out to eat! My internet is slow, how can I binge watch my shows?

I was inspired to write this post because of The St. James Tearoom instagram post speaking of the phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

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“In London, during the Blitz, when the city was being bombed, night after night, when citizens had to be ready at the sound of the sirens to rush to the nearest bomb shelters, sleep in the underground transportation tunnels, when they had to carry their gas mask with them wherever they went (even the children), when children were being separated from their families and sent to live with strangers in the countryside… this became the maxim that made all the difference: “Keep calm and carry on.” Hitler was convinced his policy of nightly bombing would cause the people to rise up and demand an end to the war. The city made it through this dangerous, dark time, and helped to defeat the enemy by their calm courage, persistent grit, and determination.”

I decided to channel that British spirit, make some English Breakfast Tea in my Brown Betty Teapot and write this post to hopefully encourage you.

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We are living in alarming times. Moment by moment things are changing. More schools and business are ordered to close. In the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, this does not sit well with many people. We are used to our freedoms and liberties.

During the unknown future, may we remember to “Keep Calm and Carry On!” Let’s remain calm in the face of adversity. But how?

First, look to history. How many things has our country overcome in the past and came out stronger on the other side? Look to your own history. What in your own life was a major trial, and you came through it, stronger? I have plenty of examples.

How can you be sure it will get better? Honestly, it might get worse first, but it will get better. And even if it does get worse, we can have peace during these unsettling times. Because God.

The Bible is full of hope, even in the midst of trouble and trials.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. Psalm 95:19

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:13-14

Yes, it is hard to fight the flesh, but with God, you can. He does not want us to worry or be fearful. Use this time to turn your thoughts to God. Read more of your Bible. Pray. He loves us and cares for us. We were not promised an easy life, but we are promised He will never leave us. Fight the desire to give in to your fears.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

My prayer is that as a country and as a world, believers will rise up and shine brightly for Jesus. May we as brothers and sisters in Christ show love and support of our fellow man. May we share our supplies as well as the hope we have. May we be united in our faith as we glorify Jesus in crisis. May we point others to Jesus with our words, thoughts and actions.

 

 

If you do not know Jesus or have questions about this hope that I have, please message me. I am not a scholar, but a child of God. I will point you to the Hope I have. Read the book of John first. Then read the book of Romans. Reach out and ask God to open your mind. He will give wisdom to those who ask.

Why I am No Longer a Pessimist

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” ~ Ruth 1:20

Naomi means pleasant. Mara means bitter.

When I read that, I told my closest friends I felt like I should change my name to Mara and wear a scarlet B on my clothing, like in The Scarlet Letter. I didn’t need to wear a ‘B’ it was evident in my demeanor that I was bitter.

When I think back to my attitude several years ago I just want to apologize to everyone I knew at that time. I can hardly bear to remember how bitter, pessimistic and depressed I was. I would not want to be around me. I could not see anything positive at all. I was stuck. And worse, I was convinced that my life would never change, that it would never get any better. Thank you to those who stuck by me in my season of despair.

I wish I could say that I saw the light and snapped out of it quickly. I did not. My journey through bitterness lasted years. I read a few really good Christian books and went through all the old counseling material that I had from my counselor several years prior to try to make sense of my feelings. I prayed and prayed for God to take away the situation, to move me, to make it better. Nothing changed and I sank further away. My mind kept telling myself that what was in the books and even the Bible didn’t apply to me and good things were for everyone except me. I felt pretty hopeless. One day God spoke to me in his very quiet way and told me to accept it and stop fighting.

Here I am thinking why on earth would God tell me this? What kind of crap life has God destined me for? Why?? Where was my Abundant Life?? Accept it and stop fighting? I was not exactly jumping for joy. Accept it and stop fighting… At this time Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are came out. I don’t remember how I heard about it, but the title intrigued me. Her style of writing is rather poetic and I had a very hard time getting into the book. But the gist of it was to find something to be thankful for, no matter how small. I started to take this to heart. I had also started running around this time too. My story is HERE. I distinctly remember seeing a wildflower (or weed, depending on how you look at it) blooming in horse crap. This is where my slow transformation began. I saw a poor flower surrounded by thorns and crap and felt sorry for it. But friends helped me see for the first time that God wanted me to shine no matter where I was or whatever my circumstances were. He wanted more from me and for me. He wanted me to be content no matter what else was going on around me.

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God wanted me to see that He was all around me. I started to notice little things – the sunlight catching a tree branch, birds singing. God used these little things to bring himself to the forefront of my mind. I started to focus more on him. I started to see what was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable – whatever was excellent or praiseworthy – God called me to think on these things. (Phil 4:8)

This was a long process for me. Years. I struggled with my old self and the natural tendency of my thoughts to go to the negative, and to think the worst and my new self that I was becoming, a supernatural changing of my thinking that maybe things weren’t as bad as I thought, that there was some good not only in the world, but even in my own circumstances.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

God was changing my attitude in my mind. Slowly but surely there was a change, and it is still an ongoing process. But I had to let go. I had to accept it and stop fighting. And when I finally started to really live this, that is when God changed my circumstances, that is when he moved me. I have days where I struggle and don’t want to fight for joy, but I don’t stay there anymore. God truly has changed me. Hallelujah!

If you had asked me 5 years ago if this was possible I would have said no. But here’s the crazy thing. If God had answered my prayers the way I wanted back then, to move me, change my circumstances, etc. I would have never become who I am today. I would still be fighting any uncomfortable situation and see things negatively. In His love and mercy, He patiently walked me through this process. I wish I was a faster learner.

If you are struggling to see any light, any change, any hope – please don’t give up. God does want more from you and for you too. Turn your eyes to him. Find something no matter how small to be thankful for – the sun peaking through the clouds, the smell of brewing coffee, a really hot shower, your car that gets you places even if it’s not pretty. These are good gifts. Take notice and give thanks.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows. James 1:17

Paul tells us the secret of contentment in every situation is Christ in him. Phil 4:11-13 It is not easy nor come naturally, but with Christ, we can find contentment. He loves us too much to give us everything we want because he knows exactly what we need.

 

50 Miles?!?! But First…

A year ago I had planned to run the Palo Duro Trail Run 50K Race but my mom had some serious complications from heart surgery. I skipped the race and flew to PA to be with her and my dad. She had a tough road ahead of her but she is much tougher than she thinks. I’d like to think that I get my strength and toughness from her, but we both really know that we are just plain stubborn. One thing about my mom, she is who she is. There is no pretending, no sugar coating, no beating around the bush. I used to be a little embarrassed sometimes, but now I embrace it and am glad when people say I take after her. When you are confident in who you are, your values and world view, you can truly be just you. I love that mom has shown me how to just be me without excuses or apologies. I am not intimidated by people or challenges, I just take a deep breath and press on.

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The best thing I got from my mom is her example of her faith in Jesus Christ. She lived out Deuteronomy 6:4-9 for me as a child and continues to do so.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

No parent is perfect, but seeing my parents now, how far they have come, how God has changed them and transformed their marriage is a miracle. All glory to God!

All Glory to God for giving me my parents and family, our struggles, our growth, our character, talents and gifts. Depression and autoimmune diseases do not define me. All of these things are known by God and He is not surprised by anything. I can have confidence in Him!

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

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In my last blog post I shared how scared I was and really unsure if I could complete the 50 mile distance in the time allowed. There was a point at mile 42 where I wasn’t sure if I could, but my family came aside me and ran with me for a few of the last miles to keep me moving. My son and my husband were a tremendous help in keeping my mind off how much I hurt. Aaron made me laugh and Derreck told me he loved me but I had to keep moving. I was tired, but I never even thought about quitting.

At the last aid station I had 3.5 miles left to go. The volunteers at all of the aid stations were so encouraging and helpful. The best part of running a local race is knowing so many of the volunteers! They greet you by name and give you a hug and save you potatoes with salt because they know that’s what you like! Thank you to every single person who spent their day in the Canyon to help runners meet their crazy goals. And a huge thank you to my boss who is so inspiring and gave me wonderful yet simple advice, “Just don’t stop.”

Palo Duro Trail Run does not disappoint. It is a challenging, yet runnable course in a beautiful setting. The race directors work tirelessly to ensure a great race for every runner and make each person feel like a winner.

 

Run with Endurance

As of today, I will be attempting to run 50 miles at the Palo Duro Trail Run in 10 days. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared out of my mind. But I am also excited to test the limits of my endurance. I have been increasing miles and pace over the last 6 years because it’s fun to see what I can do, it makes me happier, it makes me feel better mentally and I simply love running. In 2009 when training for my first 5K in years, I wanted to make 30 minutes. I didn’t, but that is what spurred me on to really run. The following year I knocked over 5 minutes off and ran it in 27 something. My PR is 24 something that I got 2 years ago at a turkey trot! In my first half, I wanted to break 2 hours. I trained on my own and did it! With 30 seconds to spare. In my second one, a year later, I hit 1:52, quite a difference! In my first marathon, I was shooting for 4 hours. Considering I was sick with the flu for 3 weeks prior to my race, and I did make some rookie mistakes (starting too fast, maybe?!?!) I ran it in 4:15. My second one, less than a year later I wanted to qualify for Boston. In 2016, I did, running 3:53 something! When I set my mind to run a certain distance or time, I am pretty determined and have been able to achieve my goals. When wanted to run a 50K, I thought, yes, this is harder and longer, but I can do it. I trained and have since run 3 50K’s. Everything I have challenged myself with so far, though hard and I worked for it, I knew I was capable. So here I am, 10 days out from 50 miles and this is the first time in my running that I am unsure of the outcome. I truly do not know if I can complete this distance a) at all, and b) in the 12 hours and 30 minutes allowed time. On paper I can. But this is so much further than anything I have attempted to run, so far away from any previous time on my feet that I really don’t know.

My Bible study this week has been on suffering. How appropriate, as ultra runs are often fondly called “sufferfests” among other things. The Bible has a lot to say on suffering. Most often, God does not take suffering away, but promises to be with us in it. I will definitely be holding onto this thought as I know I will be suffering. Why willingly put myself through the physical pain of running? Training and running long distances correlates to my walk of faith. …Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. I pray I will see God beside me when I am weary. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. Vaneetha Rendall Risner said in a Desiring God article “Suffering has a unique way of putting me in God’s presence, beholding his glory, because I am constantly crying out to him.”

I know non-runners do not understand this and question me. I also don’t understand at times either. But I do know that running connects me with God. There is something about the rhythmic movement of running, of feeling the breath in my lungs, and being outside that puts me in God’s presence like nothing else does. It might be its simplicity, or that there aren’t other distractions.

I am imagining myself at the start line. It’s dark, there is a buzz in the cold air. I see my breath. Headlamps are shining, people are laughing nervously. I smell someone’s coffee. I smile, praise God that I am here, wait for the bagpipes to play. It’s time! I take off, at a slow jog, it is a 50 mile race after all. I see the trail of headlamps ahead of me, adjust my pack and settle into my pace. I see myself as the sun starts to peak over the canyon walls and smile, that’s God winking at me. I run on and eat a little fruit at an aid station and take my gel, Untapped Coffee Maple Syrup and am thankful such a thing exists. Before I know it, I have completed loop 1, 20 miles. I see my husband and he refills my pack and takes care of anything I might need. He sends me off with a kiss and…

Tune in to the race recap in a couple of weeks!

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My Story with Depression

This blog post has been rolling around in my head for some time now. In light of the recent celebrity suicides, I think it’s time I write it. My own family doesn’t even know much of what I am about to say, so this is extremely hard and I am going to make myself extremely vulnerable here. I know that depression still has a stigma, and an even greater one within the church. I remember as a child hearing that suicide was an unforgivable sin because once you did it, you couldn’t ask for forgiveness. What a thought to go through a young persons head, but even at age 8, I could understand why someone would take their own life. It did scare me though that you wouldn’t go to heaven if you did kill yourself.

My childhood was probably pretty typical for someone growing up in the 70’s- early 80’s. Parents fought a lot, one drank a lot, nobody really talked about stuff like alcoholism, depression, abuse. Nowadays, there are support groups for everything if you are willing to go. It wasn’t always like that. These were the “skeletons in the closet” that you hid from the rest of the world. Then one day my mom was Born Again (the phrase that was used back then). God certainly had set a plan in motion way back before I was born. My parents both came from Catholic families. Around the time I was in kindergarten is when my mom truly found Jesus. He began a work in her that started a chain reaction in our family. She brought us kids to church and I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at age 6. Yes, that is very young for someone to grasp all that He is, but I knew I was being called to Him. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Though a child’s faith then (isn’t that what we are supposed to have anyway?), I have definitely grown into it over my many years.

I first had manic/depressive episodes in high school. I would be so full of energy and giggles and elation, it was the most wonderful feeling in the world! Then the crashes would come, an oppressive dark cloud suffocated me. I cut my wrists. Superficially. But I was crying out for help when I didn’t know how to ask. Several months of this cycle went by and I finally told my mom because it was getting worse and I didn’t know how to make the bad thoughts go away. My mental problems were hush hush in my family except with my mom. She at least had the good sense to get me help. We went to several therapist and doctors until we found someone I was comfortable with. Thank you mom, for doing this. It saved me. And thank you Georganne, you helped me know that it is ok to get help.

As a teen and college student, keeping up with therapy and medication was not what I wanted to do. The medication took away all my manic episodes and I missed them; for they so wonderfully took away all stress, pain, and worry. I didn’t want to “talk” about my feelings. That was so dumb and a waste of time for a person in the prime of their life. So, I quit it all. Then depression came back. Then I started drinking to numb myself. Then I passed out while driving. God protected me through all that. I started taking my faith more seriously again. I was still a confused young adult trying to find my way through a move across the country (running away). It was here that God finally broke me. But it was the most blessed breaking ever and I was washed clean and forgiven years worth of self loathing and destruction in one prayer. A million steps away from God, one step back. Hallelujah. The weight was lifted off and I could breathe again!

I met and married my husband, and all was well until after my first baby was born. Postpartum depression attacked my brain and I saw images in my head that no mother should see. I knew I needed to get help again. I was put on an anti-depressant right away and thank God it worked. Fast forward baby number two and we were proactive in starting a safe anti-depressant right after she was born. I was able to take myself off it after a year and I was fine. Fast forward again and depression came back with a vengeance.

It was different this time. It was mind and body numbing, an emptiness, a nothingness. I felt as though under water. Words weren’t understandable. I felt paralyzed. Medication only took the edge off. We attended a wonderful church at the time and I was able to receive biblical counseling. This was not a “let’s talk about your feelings” this was let’s dig in God’s word, and see what is real and what is not, as depression is a big fat lie. Your brain is messed up and you think your emotions are fact, but they are not! The book Depression, A Stubborn Darkness was absolutely imperative in my healing as a depressed Christian. I struggled so much with negativity. During this time my family had a job change and a move. I had to move from my friends, my church, my support. I did not want to move. It was no secret I did not like where we moved. But I was fresh off great counseling, somewhat stable emotionally, and prayed up. For 6 solid years I was clinically depressed and fought and wrestled with God. I prayed and begged for Him to take this thorn from me. His answer, “my grace is sufficient.” And that is how I lived for 6 years; resigned to live with underlying depression, bitterness, resentment. I had read books on God taking away depression and knew it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I accepted it. My medication was enough to keep me from being suicidal again, but I could not find any joy in life. I struggled to reconcile this as a Christian, who’s outward sign was supposed to be JOY. I had none. No inner smile. Just nothing.

I started to run again because I had gained weight. That story is here. It was a struggle to run. It was not easy, but I kept at it. After about a year, I realized it was changing me. Little by little I was seeing a difference. I was reading the book One Thousand Gifts and started to notice little things, like the way the sun hit the wildflowers, the way the wind moved the leaves, things like that. Directing my thoughts and finding thankfulness to God was healing me. Along with medication and running. It was the perfect trifecta! The cure! When one of these three things is neglected, I revert back to depression. It is hard to be on constant vigilance. Sometimes you just want to go on auto-pilot. With depression, I can’t. With autoimmune diseases, I can’t. Sometimes I am just TIRED. But when I ignore a key player in my mental and physical health, I am out much longer than what’s good for me, for my family.

I never ever thought that I would be free of depression – and I guess truly, I am not. But, God has changed me from a hopeless and bitter person to one of hope and joy. God was with me all along in the darkness – when I suffered insomnia and would walk alone during the middle of the night, when I drank myself into oblivion, when I cut myself, when I cried until I could cry no more, and when I smiled that first smile after seeing Him light up the sky in brilliant colors just for me! He changed me. He has made me whole. He has made me see my worth. He has made me see His infinite worth, He allowed me to see a tiny glimpse of His glory and it is a sign of what’s to come.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

There is hope in this world and it’s Jesus. During my imprisonment of the last big bout of depression, I never thought I would be free. Like Paul singing in a jail cell, I thought that is what I would have to do. Except I wasn’t good at it. I had moments, but mostly I just complained. Sure, I prayed as Jesus did – take this cup from me, not my will, but yours… And just knew I would have to be okay with living “below the line.” (Dad, you know what I am talking about.) God really did set me free. It’s unbelievable when I really think about it. So I need to stop and think about it more and be in awe of God. Not to be bitter when He doesn’t take away pain or illness, but to trust Him in the process. He is the answer. Not that I ever want to go back into that kind of depression again, He allowed me to grow during that time, so yes, I am and can be thankful for it. For in my tears were some of the sweetest moments with God, the closest I have ever been to Him. Even though he didn’t take away the pain, he suffered right along with me. In my weakness, I was strong – in Him.

I think that is why running is so important to me. It is raw and brings you to the end of yourself. For me, it parallels the fight with depression. I can overcome, I am stronger than I thought, I will press on towards the goal, I will not grow weary in doing good, I will fight the good fight, I will run with endurance, I will run and not grow weary, I will forget what is behind and strain for what lies ahead, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will run in such a way as to win the prize, I will not be afraid, I will hope in the Lord, for I can do all things though Christ who gives me strength.

 

If you are battling depression, I highly recommend this 3 part series from Desert Springs Church. It can be found here. This was turning point for me. 

The Wolf and the Butterfly

May is Lupus Awareness Month. I was diagnosised on August 1, 2017 with Lupus. It was a very long road and so many tests to finally get an answer to what was wrong with me that it was a welcome answer; someone confirmed that indeed, something was very wrong with me and it wasn’t all in my head and I wasn’t just lazy.

Lupus is Latin for Wolf. The first mention of lupus in history dates back to the 13th century physician Rogerius describing a rash on a face as similar to a wolf bite. Lupus can be contained to the skin in rashes and lesions, called Discoid Lupus. Lupus also is often manafested with a “Butterfly” or Malar Rash across the cheeks and bridge of the nose, thus associated with a butterfly. By 1904 Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) was firmly established. SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks different parts of the body. It is unpredictable and misunderstood, often called “the great immitator.” No two cases of lupus are alike. Common symptoms include joint pain, skin rashes, debilitating fatigue, brain fog, low fevers and inflamation. Most people with lupus don’t look sick. Lupus can affect any organ or tissue, from skin, to joints, to heart or kidneys. Because the cause is unknown and there is no single blood test to diagnose more than half of the people with lupus have suffered at least four years and saw three or more doctors. There is no cure.

I have had Hashimoto’s Thyroidistis since 2009 (though I suspect I have had it much longer). This autoimmune disease attacks the thyroid. The symptoms include major fatigue, hair loss, and weight gain. Keeping my thyroid monitored and adjusting thyroid medicine as needed became part of my life. For a few years it was well controlled and I lived a very normal active life. Suddenly, in 2013, the fatigue came back with a vengance. I had extra thyroid tests done, including ultrasound on my thyroid. There were a few small nodules, but nothing significant. My labs showed my medication was the correct dose, yet I was not well. After insisting on being tested for Mono, that test came back positve for reactivated Epstein-Barr Virus. My doctor was surprised but she gave me a prescription for an anti-viral medication and sublingual B12 to see if it made any difference. It did not. She said I would have to wait it out. At this point I had started running as a stress reducer and to try to lose some weight. It was very slow going, but it was helping. I guess the EBV went away or became dormant and I was feeling much better again. I started training for a 10K, then a half marathon, and finally a marathon. I even got a BQ on my second marathon! I was doing great.

We moved to Amarillo, TX in December, 2015 and I ran my first trail half marathon in Palo Duro Canyon in May, 2016. I was smitten by trail running. I ran the Palo Duro Trail Run 50K in October, placing 3rd female overall. I quickly looked for my next 50K and chose Monument Valley 50K in March 2017. It was everything I could have wanted in a trail run (except maybe for all that sand…) I felt overly tired after this race, but attributed it to needing more recovery after my race. I also had a strange rash on my face. After a month of overwelming fatigue I knew it was time to head back to the doctor. I can’t explain this fatigue – I was sleeping well, and long hours, yet I required a nap every day. I had a very hard time focusing on anything! let alone work or the kids or my poor husband. My PCP had labs done and sent me for a sleep study. All of that was normal. I saw my endocrinologist to check on my thyroid. He did all the tests plus another ultrasound and everything looked normal. When everything comes back “normal” but you don’t feel normal, you wonder if it really is all in your head. When I initially saw him, I had a positive ANA in my lab work which indicated another autoimmune disease so he referred me to a rheumatologist. August 1, 2017 I met my current doctor, and though he gave me some bad news, I wanted to give him a hug! I started on the standard treatment, Plaquinel, which is an anti-malarial drug. When I went back in for a check up 4 months later, I was a changed person. My hands didn’t hurt anymore, I could squeeze out a sponge and wash dishes without any trouble, I could think clearer, I didn’t need a nap every single day, and I could run. Running has been such a huge part of my treatment for depression. I walk a fine line between running enough to stave off depression, but not too much as to stress my body and throw myself into a lupus flare.

Not quite a year of treatment, I have come back to running. I was able to run my 3rd 50K last month and though it was much slower than my first, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was so grateful to be running again! I still have pain but most of the time it is managable. The fatigue is still my worst symptom, and try to rest or sleep when I can.

The hardest part of lupus to me is the guilt. There are so many things I need to do or would like to do but I chose rest more often than not. Most of my decisions are based on staying home and low key whenever possible. Except for running. If I can go for a 10 mile run, why can’t I do the laundry? go to the grocery store? work full time? meet a friend? I feel selfish. My excuse – I need to run for my sanity. And honestly, the more I run (to a point), the better I feel. The slow repetative movement of running releases those wonderful endorphins, which actually do reduce the perception of pain, as well as making me feel better mentally. After a run, I do have more energy for a few hours at work or a couple of errands. But that’s it. I am depleted rapidly. I hate that my mind wants to go and do but my body says no.

psalm27-132614-low

I don’t know why I have these diseases. I am human and I do despair sometimes. I feel sorry for myself. I cry in frustration and pain and fatigue. But I do know I can trust God and all of his promises are true. He never promised a pain free, illness free, trouble free life. God gave us Jesus. And with Jesus I can have it all! He came that I might have life, the abundant life as John 10:10 says. I keep going back to my faith, because with it, I have hope.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5:3-5

My struggles can bring me joy if I allow them to point me to God and to become more like Jesus, “who for the joy set before him, endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2) I relate my spiritual walk with my running life. I want to develop endurance – for it helps me to push beyond what I thought possible, in miles and in this illness. I want to develop character – maturity and strength of character, so that I am not bitter or lead a life of complaining. I need hope! Hope gives me confidence that I can finish the race and hope in the future because it will not disappoint.

For Lupus Awareness Month, Tonia Smith has made a video she gave me permission to share here:

 

I’m also linking the lyrics by Lecrae, because they really address my thoughts! Read them here.