Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Beast of Depression

Warning: this topic is heavy and dark! But I think it is so necessary to address depression with moms - most of us have dealt with it at some point and some of you may be drowning in it even now. Just to let you know, you are not weird, ruined or disqualified if you experience depression. Actually, you're in pretty good company! And you are not destined for depression - there is a way out!

After I had my first baby, I found myself at home all the time, exhausted, with a fussy infant who had eating issues. There was no remnant of my former life - I was completely engulfed in stay-at-home motherhood. Even though being at home with my baby was my desire, it wasn't living up to its former appeal, for sure.

Before baby, I was able to engage people and accomplish my goals. After baby, all I could manage was baby. I couldn't get a handle on my house, my hygiene or anything else. The transition rocked my whole world...and then came the hormone hurricane! The hormones after giving birth pretty much slammed me against the rocks and washed me up on the proverbial shore. I was a wreck. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't even really see past my own nose for the thick haze I was in. I went to my 6-week checkup with my OB and told her that I was crying all the time...which she said was not normal. (Thanks.) And she wrote me a prescription for Lexapro (anti-anxiety/anti-depressant drug) and sent me home with a 2-week sample to get started. I was kind of offended that she thought I was that messed up...but I decided to try the meds and just see what happened.

I finished the two weeks' worth of pills and didn't really feel any different, so I didn't bother to fill the prescription...

And things got worse. I resented my baby. I resented my husband. I hated my life. I didn't answer the phone or the door. I didn't want to see anyone for any reason. I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.

This went on for six more months and my marriage was suffering. My poor, sweet husband Tim had no idea what to do. He knew I was not the same person and that our relationship was very damaged. I really thought that he was attacking me and berating me for how I was taking care of our daughter. I really thought I was the one doing everything and he was doing nothing. I had the sneaking suspicion in the back of my mind that he was going to pack his bags and leave me alone with our daughter. I honestly thought that he was the "bad guy" in the equation. Boy, was I wrong!!! My perception was so screwed up - and I had no idea. Things actually did get rocky enough for me to go back to the OB and ask her to write me the prescription again - and this time I did fill it and start taking Lexapro regularly.

It turned out to be such a blessing! The meds leveled me out so that I could function again. I could see my husband and not have a boiling rage bubble up on the inside! Hey - that was a start! I felt like I was getting back to normal and things were starting to get better in my relationship with Tim, even though we had a huge mountain to climb together because of all that had happened...

Time went on, my daughter began to flourish, I was exercising and FINALLY sleeping - things seemed much better than they had been for a long time. But I started slipping back into the darkness I felt at the beginning. That didn't make any sense to me - I was taking my meds, right?! I told Tim about it and he very gently asked if I would consider having someone at church pray for me about it. I brushed that suggestion right out the door like he was an idiot and said, "No. I just need to adjust my medication - it's a chemical thing." He didn't say anything else to me for a while.

One evening, I was sitting on the couch crying, and Tim quietly asked if I would PLEASE let someone at church pray for me. I had HAD it, so I just said, "Fine. Let's do it." It just happened to be in January of that year when our church has its First Conference...and it just so happened that the next service we were going to attend was with Dr. Jack Hayford (whom I have loved and learned from for years) - so I thought that had to be a sign from God. (all the while, still believing that my issue was strictly a chemical imbalance, but pacifying my husband who wanted to be all "spiritual" and go have me prayed over...) So, we get to the service and hear Pastor Jack teach on worship...then comes the end of the service where I am psyching myself up to go find a minister and ask for prayer for my "problem." Then, Pastor Jack says, "Tonight, I want you to pray for each other. I want you to get in groups of 5 or 6 and pray for each other's needs." ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I never wanted to cuss so badly. There I was, all mentally prepared to bare my soul to a minister and have them get all up in my business...and this crazy pastor throws me a curveball???? Well, there was no way to get out of it. I found myself in a circle of people I didn't know, listening to their requests, praying for them like everything was cool...and then it was my turn. I very matter-of-factly stated that I had been dealing with depression and that I needed prayer. Nothing else. Nothing more. They prayed. I don't remember anything they said. I don't remember how long we stood there. But I remember what happened.

As I stood in that circle, I felt like a huge iron claw was being pulled out of my heart. I felt the void where the talons had dug into me - and then I felt the wave of love and peace that the Holy Spirit poured over me to fill up the holes. I felt like I was floating off the ground because I was so light. Something happened to me. I got set free from something I had never known was there. I opened my eyes and even the light in the room seemed brighter. I could see again. I mean, REALLY see. In that moment, I experienced deliverance from a darkness that had attached itself to me somewhere along the way. I realized that my problem over the previous 18 months was not merely a chemical imbalance - it was a whole-being issue. My body, soul and spirit had been affected and my body, soul and spirit needed to be "treated."

After that night, I quit taking my medication - and I haven't needed it anymore. The weeks after that experience were a little wobbly - like I was learning to walk again, but I tasted my freedom and I made sure to follow that with extravagant praise to my Savior. Whenever the old familiar feelings or thoughts started to creep back in and lure me into my old way of operating, I countered them with Scripture and with praise. And it worked. Halleluia, it worked!!!!

God is big enough to banish depression for you. The death-grip that depression has on you is no match for the power of your Savior. Even if you look around at all the collateral damage from your emotional state and think it can never be fixed, LISTEN TO ME. Nothing is impossible with God. He loves you! He wants you to be free! He sacrificed His Son to purchase your freedom - and Jesus stormed into Hell to get His keys back so that Satan could never lock you up again.

If you need a miracle right now to be set free from the beast of depression, then pray this with me:

Lord, I need you. I need help. I am suffering under the rule of this depression and I choose to reject it today in Jesus' name. I am bought with Jesus' blood and I am Your child. Satan has no authority over me - in my body, my soul or my spirit. I take authority over every dark spirit coming against me and I bind you in Jesus' name. I release the power of the Holy Spirit over my life and give You permission to come and heal me right now, Lord. Restore me, fill me, heal me. I trust in You! Let it be so in Jesus' name! Amen.

Let me encourage you to talk to someone about your battle. You are not meant to handle this alone. In fact, that's one of the meanest tricks of the enemy - he wants to make you think you're the only one dealing with it, or that you'll look like a loser if you tell anyone you're struggling. Tell him to SHUT UP, will you? If you are isolated, then he's got you where he wants you. Don't give him that satisfaction! Find a friend, a minister, a counselor - someone you trust (or have every reason to trust) - and let them know where you are. Ask them to pray with you and for you.

You're going to make it! God's design for you is not to live in depression. You are destined to shine like a star and operate in peace and power that flows from the Holy Spirit inside you. The game's not over, my friend. You're not out. The curtain has not closed, dear one. There are many acts to come, with you as the headliner.

I pray that God's Kingdom will come into your world, just as it is in heaven:

"And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.' Then He who sat on the throne said, ' Behold, I make all things new.' " Revelation 21: 3-5a

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A kingdom upside down


There it is. That word! Fasting is something we, as the modern Church at large, have neglected and misshapen. (And you can bet your bippy that I wasn't thinking one bit about it when I was a new mom with a baby in my arms all the time.) When you read stories of great men and women of faith from the last centuries, there is almost always a reference to their own personal times of fasting. And they were talking about FOOD fasting - not the easier-to-swallow abstinence from your favorite hobby or something like that. And Jesus - what about Him, huh? He obviously valued fasting for some reason since He subjected Himself to it for forty days before He began His public ministry.

So, okay, we need to fast. But does that even mean ME as a hard-working, always-on-call mother of young, fussy, whiny children who drain the life out of me?!

How did I even end up on this topic? Well, I woke up with a phrase from a verse in Isaiah floating around in my head: "You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail..." I LIKE the sound of that! I need some dry, cracked places in my heart to be watered and to have a spring inside me that never fails, for sure. I liked that so much that I looked it up today to see what the rest of the passage was about... It was about worship and fasting. Isaiah 58 brings to light the messed up "worship" that God's people were offering Him. They had a form of religious ritual, but even in their ritual they were only thinking of themselves. They neglected everything that God's heart was beating for - caring for people, pulling people out of the pit, loving others more than they loved themselves. Then, Isaiah goes into a section on fasting the way God desires for us to fast.

"Is this not the fast I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?

"THEN your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'

"If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, THEN your light shall dawn in the darkness and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden ("well-watered garden" in NIV), and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."

Isaiah 58:6-11 (NKJV)

What does this mean? Here's what I think it means: Fasting - especially from food - puts your mortality in subjection to your spirit, and in turn, subjection to God. It is a total-being posture of submission. We forget that with God's kingdom, everything is upside-down from the way our natural mind thinks. We naturally seek positions of strength and power, when God asks us to seek the position of humility and weakness. We tend to view humility as a flaw and weakness as worthlessness. Can I refresh your memory on a few verses?

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:10

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6

"Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:4

"And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty." I Corinthians 1:27

"And He said to me, ' My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will most gladly boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12:9-10

It's all opposite! It makes me think of a scene from one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies - where Keira Knightly's character and the pirate crew go in search of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) who has "died" and been taken to Davey Jones' Locker. (an afterlife kind of place like Purgatory or possibly even hell...) Anyway, the correlation has nothing to do with where he ended up...it has to do with how the crew found him. They were given several clues to unravel in order to get to the end of the world and into Davey Jones' Locker. One of the clues was "Up is down." They all stood around dumbfounded trying to figure out what it could possibly mean...and then Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) gets a wild idea. Turn the ship over. The pirate crew looks at her for a few seconds like she is an idiot, and then they understand, too. They start tossing cargo, guns and everything loose overboard to lighten the ship and then begin rocking it side to side violently. Eventually, they manage to overturn the ship - while we're all holding on to our theater seats imagining how they are all about to drown. Well, it turned out that she was right. They flipped the ship into the water, and when it was upside down, they found themselves not drowning, but sputtering to the surface in full sun. They had made it to Davey Jones' Locker to rescue Jack Sparrow.

That's where the analogy ends! But what a great picture of the upside-down-ness of how we perceive reality and how God perceives it. His kingdom is the true reality. It is more real than our temporal reality - and it is overlapping and intertwined with our temporal reality. We just have to trust Him when He tells us that "Up is down."

One surefire way we can begin to see things God's way is through fasting. Subjecting yourself - humbling yourself - before God. Denying your most basic need for survival and laying your life bare before Him, inviting Him to speak, change, heal, restore and anything else He wants to do in you. When you submit yourself in that way, your perspective changes! You can't help but see and hear spiritual things. And when God is free to work in your life in a time like that, then things start to really happen... bonds of wickedness are loosed, heavy burdens are undone, the oppressed go free, and every yoke is broken...in you and through you.

And THEN, "your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. (He's got your back, girl!) The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; YOU SHALL BE LIKE A WELL-WATERED GARDEN and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."

So, even as a mom of an infant, a toddler or a wild child of any age, you are meant to fast. Don't get all legalistic on me, now. I know that when you're nursing you can't just be skipping meals and all... Good grief! All I'm saying is, the Lord told us that "up is down" and that He can show you how to flip your ship to see what He sees. Go for it!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

'Tis the season of the graduate! Now, if you have babies at home who have not reached Pre-K or Kindergarten yet, then graduation may not even be on your radar...it certainly wasn't on mine until my own daughter reached those milestones. And somewhere during my baby-haze of life, I think I lost sight of the value of graduation.

A week or so ago, I watched my firstborn child march down the aisle in a white cap and gown to Edward Elgar's famous "Pomp and Circumstance." She is only five years old, but I was still moved to tears at such a milestone! All the first five years of training her, working with her, disciplining her, investing in her - this moment was the culmination of a season of her little life. A celebration of all the struggles, victories, accomplishments - and a signal to move on ahead.

Graduation seems such a normal part of our educational lives, but we don't usually view our spiritual lives that way. However, don't you have a sense when a season of your life is coming to a close? Don't you feel it when you're in a place of completion? I think we all need to pause for a "graduation moment" and give ourselves a ceremonial permission to move on ahead. Completion is a satisfying thing. Accomplishment is a reason for confidence. Closure is a sweet kiss on what has been and a hopeful embrace of what is to come.

So many times as moms, we get stuck in a rut and get frustrated when things aren't fitting into our well-worn pathways anymore. I try to communicate with my kids how I communicated six months ago, but they are beyond that now. If I don't speak to them on their level, they don't hear me. I try to discipline my kids the same way I did six months ago, but my efforts have no effect because my children have moved on. What used to do the trick isn't working anymore. AAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH! But that is so normal - it is imprinted in our DNA. Accomplish, grow, conquer and move on.

So, why is it that I let myself stop growing? Why don't I give myself milestone markers of accomplishment and celebrate moving forward? It's about time we all did. Ask the Lord to show you places where you have completed your assignment and let Him free you to move on. Sometimes, I think we even need to "graduate" from things like attitudes, habits, patterns of speech and thought... You are meant to grow and change - so let yourself! You have permission to move forward into all that God has in store! Don't be tricked into thinking that you are stuck, because you most definitely are not. Circumstances may seem to trap you momentarily, but the Almighty God of the Universe and Beyond has the power to arrange - and even better - to transcend your circumstances.

Bottom line: Congratulations on your graduation! Move your tassel over, walk across the stage and do a little dance of joy, because the next thing is just around the corner. May the struggles, victories and accomplishments - all that has happened in this most recent season - spur you on to knowing God more intimately, loving Him more deeply and living in Him more fully!