― Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit
― Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit
Saturday afternoon we had a two hour block of free time at the Embracing Orphans retreat. Instead of hiking or going to downtown Estes Park, I hid away in my room to do some last minute prep for my talk that night. In truth I’d had several moments of panic and thought of changing my talk a half-dozen times.
But sanity prevailed and other than adding a few details, I was ready. It would be the first time that I would stand in front of a crowd and talk about my nine year battle with depression (both “regular” and “post-adoption”). I’ve shared about it on my blog and did a video testimony for church several years ago, but this was my first time “live.”
I was all ready to do a quick run through (wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to go too long), when I clicked over to Twitter for just a second. (Can you say ADD?) There was a tweet from someone about praying for Rick & Kay Warren as they had lost their son.
I quickly found the story on MSNBC. A story many of you have read by now.
“In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided,” Warren wrote to church members. “Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”
I stood in that hotel room and wept. A dozen years ago my reaction to that story would have been completely different. While I’m sure I would have felt sorry for the Warren’s, I’m also honest enough to admit that at one point the thought “Well that was selfish” would have flickered through my brain.
I had no reference from which to comprehend what would lead a person to suicide, especially a depressed person.
Not until one night in early 2004. I had, most likely, been clinically depressed for at least 6 months. But I had refused to admit I needed help. Had refused to talk about it with anyone, including my spouse or my best friends. Had refused to label it or even try to find a label for what I was feeling.
But that night I reached a breaking point – a full realization and face-to-face moment with the pain I was feeling. The realization that I no longer recognized the person I was. And the person I had become was NOT someone I liked.
In that brief moment I thought to myself, “Jesus, just come take me now please. I don’t think I can do this anymore.”
I want to make sure the distinction is clear – I wanted Jesus to relieve my pain. I was not, nor did I ever get to the point of contemplating suicide. I don’t want to unnecessarily scare my friends & family.
But that brief moment was enough to give me a glimpse into the darkness. Enough to forever change the way I would look at mental illness and suicide.
To look not with judgement, but instead with empathy. To know that logic, even “spiritual logic” is sometimes elusive – not because the person isn’t Christian enough. Not because their faith isn’t strong enough or they didn’t pray enough or they have some unconfessed sin. But because they are ill.
Mental illness is no different from cancer. No one chooses it.
Unfortunately, what is different is how we talk about it. ESPECIALLY in Christian circles. As a pastor’s wife (at the time), I felt as if I needed to hide the weight of my emotions behind a mask of hospitality and faith. I was sure that if I began to bare my soul, even just the tiniest bit, that what poured forth would be met with judgement and disdain. No, not from my husband, family or closest friends, but from the church as a whole.
The fear was, of course, not based in reality. But that’s the problem with depression. It blurs the lines of logic and reality until the person suffering is too afraid to take a step forward.
Can God heal? Absolutely! Does every person need medication to get better? No. Are there a lot of people who need help and aren’t getting it? Yes!
A study by the Shaffer Institute revealed that 70% of pastors battle depression. That’s 7 times the national average (1 in 10). So why aren’t we talking about it?
What if, instead of wondering how the church would react, every person suffering from depression knew they would be met with open arms and loving acceptance. What if they knew because we showed them? What if every Christian who has suffered from depression and mental illness would step forward and say “Me too”?
Matthew’s death is a horrible loss – the worst loss a person can ever encounter. I pray that somehow through the Warren’s story the church will wake up to the realities of mental illness and start talking about it the same way we talk about other illnesses – without judgement and shame.
If you are battling depression, please get help. It just takes reaching out to one person to start – whether that is a spouse, best friend or doctor.
If you have been blessed to be left untouched by this disease then I hope you will stand by, ready to support and love those around you who do suffer. Because I promise that there is someone, if not now, then at some point in your life.
A couple other posts you must read…
Ann Voskamp – “There’s no stigma in saying you’re sick because there’s a wounded Healer who uses nails to buy freedom and crosses to resurrect hope and medicine to make miracles.”
Kristen Howerton – “When we hear about grieving parents it can be so tempting to try to assign blame, because if they aren’t to blame, then we have to grapple with the reality that sometimes, tragedy is senseless. This is an uncomfortable truth: awful things happen to children that parents cannot prevent. It’s a truth so painful that we would rather throw grieving parents under the bus than face it.”
Last Friday our 1999 mini-van completely stopped working as Mark pulled into a parking lot. Like dead, no power, no power steering, nothing. The car behind nearly rear-ended him.
So we had the car towed to our favorite mechanic, but of course it was near closing time on Friday and they wouldn’t be open again until Tuesday.
We made it through the weekend on one car – just meant that we all couldn’t go anywhere together.
Tuesday around 11 the mechanic called. “I’ve got bad news. Your timing belt broke. It costs about $500 to repair. Problem is that 8 out of 10 times when the timing belt breaks the push rods also get bent. That’s a $2,500 repair. But there’s no way to know if the push rods are bent unless you fix the timing belt.”
Obviously he knew that our van was not worth sinking $2,500 into. So basically we were left with a decision. Do we spend the money to fix the timing belt with no guarantee that would fix the problem? Or would it be wiser to call the van DOA and use that $500 toward its replacement?
Normally it might not be that big of a deal, but Mark is still job hunting and the thought of having to spend $4,000-5,000 on a new van put a pit in my stomach. His too, I’m sure.
But 8 out of 10? That’s not very good odds.
Over lunch we weighed our options. Finally we decided that God was going to provide one way or the other. Either by having protected the push rods or, if the van did need to be replaced, by providing what we needed.
In the end we felt like we needed to take a leap of faith and let God show up big time. We called the mechanic and told him to fix the timing belt. He gave Mark one of those “Oooookay….” as in “I think your nuts.”
Then we started calling and texting our circle of friends and telling them to pray for our van
We put some serious prayer into that van, as did our friends and our kids. Trust me, they don’t like being squished in the back seat of the Camry.
Of course we had to wait until the next day. But the mechanic called and said, “I’ve got good news. You got lucky!”
Mark told him it wasn’t luck, that we were praying for that miracle big time.
I’ve never been so grateful for my little van that keeps on going….
Last week this comic was making the viral rounds and it cracked me up. I loathe Sponge Bob. He has to be the most annoying character ever invented.
So when my amazing friend Jen asked me to guest post about my struggle with depression, I had to include it.
Jen just had her first article, titled “Dirt Road Dependence” published in Proverbs 31 Magazine. Since I got to live that story with her in Ethiopia, I’m even more proud and excited for her. It was featured on Encouragement Cafe Radio yesterday and she invited some women to guest post on her blog about their own struggles with weakness and dependence.
Here are a few other posts about my struggle with depression:
- Depression Video Testimonial (filmed for church sermon) Shot 5 years ago – the braces are off now
- Climbing Out of the Well
- The Realities of Post-Adoption Depression (Part 1) and (Part 2)
If you are new to my blog, thanks for visiting! I blog primarily about life as an adoptive family, how to afford adoption, and living in financial freedom. If you’re in the process of adoption, or think it might be in your future, I hope you’ll be encouraged by my book “Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption.”
In my last post I talked about how damaging it is to compare ourselves to others. It makes it really hard to be content. So DON’T compare.
But what can you DO to live in a place of contentment.
Focus on gratitude.
In her book “1000 Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are,” Ann Voskamp has this quote, which I love!
“When I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.”
For example, when I’m doing the 12th load of laundry for the weekend and am tempted to grumble about the never-ending pile of dirty clothes (which can quickly spiral into the “why do I have to do everything” pity party), I stop.
I start listing the things I have to be thankful for.
- I’m thankful I don’t have to wash my clothes by hand.
- I’m thankful for detergent I can buy at the store that works.
- I’m thankful for dryers. Because I hate putting on crunchy jeans.
- I’m thankful that we have so many clothes to wear.
- I’m thankful that my washer and dryer are inside my air conditioned home.
What are some “microscopic” things you can be thankful for in an area where you struggle being content?
I’m knee deep in prepping to speak at a women’s conference on one of my favorite topics – contentment.
Usually we think of contentment in terms of material goods, but it can affect all areas of our lives.
Are you content in your career, your marriage, your health? Are you okay with where you are in life, or are you already searching for the next great adventure?
The number one thing you can do to kill your contentment?
Comparisons will kill your contentment quicker than you can say “If only…”
Someone is always going to have a nicer house than you, be going on that exotic vacation you long for, and have kids that seem better behaved.
The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. But how much money did they have to spend on fertilizer? How many back-breaking hours have the spent caring for the lawn. You will probably never know.
What you may not realize is that your neighbor is drowning in debt to pay for that huge house. Or that exotic vacation is the result of a work bonus they earned after a year of working 80+ hour weeks and sacrificing family time. And NOBODY’S kids are perfect.
When we started on our debt-free journey, it helped me shift my perspective and realize that a lot of those awesome “things” I thought I wanted came with too much debt. It simply wasn’t worth it to me anymore.
So identify where you struggle with contentment. Then figure out how you can stop comparing. For example, during my one-year no shopping challenge I stayed away from the mall. I didn’t read fashion magazines or browse the online catalogs of my favorite stores. It helped tremendously.
If you are discontent with your house, don’t go looking at model homes. Stop browsing all the awesome home ideas on Pinterest. Stop watching HGTV.
Comparisons kill contentment.
So last night hubs and I went on date night and caught “Total Recall.”
(If you’re looking for a review, this isn’t it. Although I will say it’s more of a renter than a $9 movie. Mark claims the first one is way better.)
But a couple of the lines in the movie struck me.
Colin Farrell’s character wants to remember the past, remember who he was.
But the resistance leader, Matthias, tells him, “the past is just a construct of the mind. The heart wants to live in the present.”
Obviously, the past is not just a “construct” for those of us that don’t live in a futuristic, mind altering world.
But how often do we get trapped in our past, letting it define us?
Our past influences us, yes. It changes us.
But it does not define us. It does not define our future.
Unless we let it.
Are you letting your past define your future?
For the last two months I’ve been dealing with the kids immigration paperwork to get their official Certificate of Citizenship. (Yes I know, it’s been 3 years. What can I say, the $1,100 fee kind of made me procrastinate.)
I had everything filled out and all the supporting documents done since early last year. Then they sat on my desk while I tried to clear up a question about whether or not Mark being a veteran counted toward their “no fee for veterans” policy. (It doesn’t. Only if the actual applicant is a veteran.) So then it sat until I could cough up the $1,100.
I finally mailed it in around Thanksgiving. About a week later the whole packet came back to me with a note that I had sent it to the wrong address. A couple weeks later I re-mailed it.
Somewhere in that week right after Christmas a big envelope came back. I was all excited and thought “Wow, that’s fast.” Instead it was all my original documents with a note that the forms were now “too old” and I needed to redo them, submit it, and attach this wonderful orange sheet that would give it priority processing.
We had a gazillion house guests and stuff going on that week, not to mention having to travel to Arkansas for Mark’s grandmother’s funeral. So I set the packet aside.
Three weeks ago I went to redo the forms.
Only I couldn’t find the packet. ANYWHERE. Seriously, how can you misplace a giant 11×14 gold envelope?? I was so annoyed because I rarely lose stuff. I literally looked EVERYWHERE for that stupid thing, nearly in tears. My main concern was the fact that they had kept my $1,100 payment and now I had no proof really.
I finally gave up and went through the hassle of gathering all my documents again. New passport pics and 2 new certified marriage licenses and I’d added $60 to the cost of this thing.
I looked at my check register for the check number and got online to confirm that they had cashed it. Only I couldn’t find the transaction in my checks paid.
Hm, well maybe they had sent back the original check in that packet and I hadn’t seen it? (I really hadn’t gone through the whole pile, I had just read the letter on the top.) It kind of made sense that they would send it back.
I actually felt a little better and figured maybe that was easier. We could just treat it like a brand new application with new payment and I wouldn’t have to worry.
I’m getting to the good part…
The papers have been sitting on my desk waiting for the money. Two days ago I got a donation receipt from a charity that we used to support via automatic-withdrawal. We had requested the donation be stopped in December, yet I got a receipt for a February donation. Before contacting them, I went online to see if the donation had actually come out of our checking and to see if January had as well.
I set a search for all my ACH withdrawals for December – February.
Lo and behold, there was my $1,100 transaction to the USCIS. They take paper checks and process them as electronic fund transfers so they show up under ACH, not checks where I had looked before.
I almost double paid them! And given usual government-efficiency and the paperwork mix up, I highly doubt they would have found the mistake.
Turns out the charity ACH never had come out of my account. So weird that I would get a receipt.
Coincidence? I think not. I totally think that was God looking out for us. That extra $1,100 would have really hurt!
“The truly thankful person is a truly peaceful person. They have made a habit no matter what to notice, pause and choose.
Noticing something for which to be thankful no matter what circumstance they’re in.
Pausing to acknowledge this something as a reminder of God’s presence.”
protecting kids from pornography: the new responsibility of parents in the internet age (from Rage Against the Minivan)
Studies show that each year, about 40 percent of kids aged 12-17 visit sexually explicit sites either deliberately or accidentally. I think that as parents, we really need to come to terms with these numbers and be proactive about protecting our kids.
How to Be The Village (from Jen Hatmaker)
Having benefitted from a community that practically smothered us with support throughout our adoption journey, I am so grateful for all the other good friends out there, loving their people and asking how to help. Since reading this email, I’ve been marinating on her question, and I’ve decided to write this Field Guide to Supporting Adoptive Families.
The biggest lie about travel we all believe. (From Jon Acuff)
…And here’s the lie hidden inside that statement: “You need a plane ticket to be distant from your family.”
You don’t. You just need an iPhone. Or a laptop. Or a million other media distractions we throw our lives at.
Six Things Adoptive/Foster Families Need When New Children Arrive (From One Thankful Mom)
What would have helped you the most in the early weeks and months of adding a child to your family through adoption or foster care? If somebody had asked you, “What can I do to help?” and you were able to answer anything at all with no shame, guilt, or concern about whether they really would want to do it, what would it have been?