How Little Children Lead Us & What Laughter Has to Do With It

My children love to giggle. They find the smallest reasons to laugh. If they can find someone to join in, all the better.

I mean head back heavy laughter.

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In the movie, Finding Neverland, the playwright is quite nervous about the crowd’s response to his silly play. Meant to bring laughter and written from experience with real children, the play is not as proper as the audience might expect. So the playwright has an idea. He buys about fifty tickets throughout the theater and invites the local orphanage. They fill the seats dispersed throughout the theater.

As the play begins, silly giggles erupt. First the adults, dressed to the nines, chins high in the air, are quite taken back. Slowly though, they begin to chuckle.

You can’t help but feel the laughter of a child.

For even the most tired of souls, a grin sneaks upon the face in the hearing of a babe’s laugh. We were born to laugh.

My own babe was less than four months old when he taught me about joy. I can remember the smell of his skin. It was midday, and I was rocking him. My husband was in the room, and without any reason or sound or provocation, my son began to laugh. Long deep belly laughs. And from the surprise of it all, we joined him. It sounded so beautiful it was contagious.

In the midst of my depression, the long days of motherhood wrapping round my soul, something broke. I could not stop laughing.

“Even in laughter, the heart may ache…” Prov. 14:13

Even in aching, something can break. Perhaps, sometimes, it is only in the aching that we find the need for a laughter that heals. When chuckles turn into that deep internal shaking we cannot withhold. When we actually feel what internal joy is meant to live within us.

Michelle DeRusha wrote about laughter in the midst of grief recently. My favorite two lines read: “I see now that God’s presence is often experienced more vividly and palpably in these moments when heaven and earth meld. I believe when we feel joy, even as the weight of grief hangs heavy, we experience the nearness of a God who is with us wherever we go.”

Laughter is the internal healing balm. We were pre-wired to heal.

Just as our bodies were given antibodies, our spirits were given laughter. Something about life just tries to steal it. Bind it up. And silence the music of our souls.

Perhaps a child can help us find it again.

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” Matt 21:16

To ordain: to officially establish or order.

What did God know about life stealing our joy as we moved along in years? Everything. So he planted joy upon the babes – to lead us in praise.

They are leading us – even now. If only we can stop long enough, breathe deep enough to follow.

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 Linking up today with Meredith, #TellHisStory, Holley, and Kelly. Join us!

Make it a great Wednesday!

Begin Again: When You’ve Lost Prayer & Hope & Life

I remember on one of my darkest days asking God to swaddle me. I had swaddled the babies so many times by then. It was, at the time, my greatest need. I could feel the need physically to be held so tightly by someone greater and stronger than me. This was the only time during that year that I felt the presence of God come down and warm me while I lay there, knees to my chest in the corner of my bed.

I had never really known depression before.

One day I went out for lunch with my husband. I told him I was just surviving. I can remember how heavy my chest felt as I said that. I thought I might drown. My whole body felt as though it might literally give out.

They say what is deepest will rise to the surface on your harder days. I found anger most of all, and lack of fruit. The verses about branches and vines and being thrown in the fire caused me to truly question if I could call myself a Christian. But the hardest part for me was the loss of prayer and intimacy with the loving Father I’d always known. I doubted His goodness, and it was my greatest disappointment – in myself.

I picked up an old copy of Prayer, by Richard Foster. I didn’t even believe the words anymore. But I kept reading, and picking it up again. Something in me could not settle for the doubt that was covering me.

This is a sign of prevenient grace: when sinful souls hunger for God.

What finally, truly freed me was this: I gave myself permission to live out the season.

To let the questions have their full effect in me. To speak them out into the thick air and let them hang there. Though I wanted so deeply to be fixed and go back to what I felt before, I could not. I didn’t pretend. I didn’t hide. I had the church remove me from the list of corporate prayer leaders.

What do you do as a minister when people look to you for faith, and you have none at all? When they still call to talk about fasting and you don’t remember the last time you prayed?

I was honest. I let them walk with me, into my unsteadiness.

I needed to begin again.

We need to give people room to stretch into a new place with God. Room to struggle and ask the hard questions, without rushing to answer them ourselves. Because it was here, in this new and unknown place of doubt that God deconstructed and rebuilt a heart for Him. I thought I was waiting for Him…but He graciously waited for me.

The idol of knowledge needed to die. So many idols did. I finally offered my need to have all the answers down at the cross. What came forth from my dark night of the soul was a whole new place of faith.

Maybe the darkness of doubt is the primer….for a faith that sticks.

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The life that Jesus offers is found in the most unexpected places. In ordinary tangibles like bread and wine. In the heart of the prodigal, hurting from sin, but willing to look up and see the Father, waiting.

And even in death. For the seed that dies will sprout new life. The soul who dies in Christ will live.

“Today is the perfect day to believe and begin again.” – Ann Voskamp

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I’m linking up with the High Calling today. This is part of a series on prayer. You may begin here. Segments of this post were taken from previous posts I’ve written on my experience with depression. May you find the light of His truth and know you are loved today.

The Cloud of Unknowing: When God is Nearer than you Think

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“He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him – the dark rain clouds of the sky.” – Psalm 18:11

My son Josh likes to play hide and seek. The other day he pulled the covers up in bed and asked me to hide. But when he looked towards the hole, he said, “dark.”

I responded with “Yes, we hide in the dark.”

The hurting, lonely dark. We sometimes hide in the most unsafe places.

Two days later I was reading to my daughter, Annie, before bed. She pointed to a lantern and said “light.” I said, “yes, we need a light to see in the dark.”

We don’t think of darkness as a place we would find God.

Darkness comes in many forms. TRUE light comes in only ONE.

So many are sitting in the dark today. Unanswered questions and weary, knee sore soles aching with a parched mouth hoping they don’t have to keep praying that same prayer today. The medicine’s not working, the relative is not relenting and the sky seems closed to the cries in the night. They keep hoping, somehow, that the next day will be easier.

And my son, Josh, asked me why the monster in his book is scared of the dark.

Because when you can’t see two feet in front of you and your circumstances start to crowd, strangle the WORD you thought you believed – the darkness is smothering.

We are always most afraid of what we do not understand.

There is much we will not understand.

But there is much we can. When we begin to see in the light of His Spirit that – in fact – His WORD defines our circumstances. Not the other way around. When it doesn’t feel like He is “close to the brokenhearted” – He still is. Does that change things for us?

The Lord is so close. In the clouds handing over our heads.

“He spread out a cloud as a covering and a fire to give light at night.” Psalm 105:39

On your darkest day, He is covering you.

And the friends of Job, the scoffers around us will point to hopeless things.

We are crowded in and pushed back and that was Satan’s goal all along. It’s his MOA.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 4:8-9

Crushed here? Is Stenochoreo in the Greek…..”to crowd into a narrow space. To be unable to express oneself.”

And God is telling us to praise Him and the words JUST CAN’T COME OUT.

We feel in despair and we feel abandoned and we feel crushed.

Just as Jesus felt spiritually, emotionally on the cross.

What if we are nearer to Him now than ever?

“knowing Him in his death”

What if – now – He is the only one who can truly understand our cry:

“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

What if this –THIS — this trial, this suffering, this unanswered question – is how we will “carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body?”

And though we can’t see it, we can’t feel it – we don’t understand it – there is God.

Riding down to help us.

‘There is NO ONE like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.” Dt. 33:26

He is riding on those dark clouds – coming after you and your heart.

But there is a work to be done there. In the heart. A gift. Paul called it a treasure.

“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Cor. 4:5

There is a light of truth we can only find when we have faced the suffering of Christ.

And when you get that light – that true, authentic real-deal light – your bulb won’t run out again. He wants to shine through you. So He is shining His light in your heart, holding you steady as you question Him.

Because those who have walked the rough patch of faith and come out shining will hold out their torch to the world.

It’s a treasure we never ask for. Suffering. Feeling the weight of abandonment. Doubting the faith that we know deep down in our chest.

But it is the treasure we want. To Know Him. To know the break-through praise that shakes the prison walls. To glorify Him when Satan thinks we will surrender.

He calls us to believe, to hope again, in the Light of the World come alive in us.

He “covers us in the shadow of His wings.” Calling us, Rest here.

And underneath…..are the everlasting arms.

 

 

Postpartum Depression: My Walk Into Darkness

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I remember on one of my darkest days asking God to swaddle me. I had swaddled the babies so many times by then. It was, at the time, my greatest need. I could feel the need physically to be held so tightly by someone greater and stronger than me. This was the only time during that year that I felt the presence of God come down and warm me while I lay there.

Other than that moment, I had been in the dark. The hole seemed to go deeper by day. I never could have imagined, nor can anyone I believe, the weight of the cross of affliction God would allow or call me to carry. I never knew depression before. Suicidal thoughts had never been so real. Satan was on full attack, and only now can I try to share my story. This is my story. Others have had it harder… much harder. Some have never walked into the dark night of the soul. You cannot understand how comfortable you have it until you take that walk. I do not pretend to understand the journey of others. This is mine.

I gave everything I had and every part of my own strength to the babies God gave me. I should not have tried to nurse them both for so long, but I did. The physical exhaustion was extreme. I lost thirty pounds in two weeks and with very little sleep and very little food, I lived for those two little lives by the hour. It went on for months. It seemed so hard. It was hard. And the more we speak to ourselves about how hard it is, it just gets harder. So down I went into a pit.

By the time the twins were one month old, I had my hardest night with them. It was Christmas Eve. My husband was doing church services. They were crying all day. I couldn’t seem to feed them at the same time, and they seemed very unforgiving. My exhaustion hit its mark, and I was angry. I did nothing wrong, but I feared I would. I yelled at Ann to stop crying. And I wanted, for a moment, to shake it out of her. Then I cursed into the space of the room, knowing deep down I was yelling at God. It only made the babies cry harder. The guilt about that night set in my heart as a mother. That night the fears begin to grip me. And the nightmares started. So the pit got deeper. Fear gives way to a bounding chain that will hold you in place and try to steal every possible ray of hope you have ever had.

The first time it came, I saw a picture. Like Satan plants an idea. It was a cutting…of the wrist. And a part of you wants to do it. For different reasons, but mostly to escape. And this is the level of torment evil wants us all to reach.

Because death is the goal of true evil.

Then came the lies. I was not a good mother. I could do nothing right. I was mad at God for not answering the thousand prayers for help. I had not heard from Him, and it seemed I was not going to. So the lies began to move into my belief system. It was the danger zone.

We tend to act on what we truly believe.

And more than anything else, I came to believe that God was no longer for me.

I got angrier and believed more and more every day any negative thing I said to myself in my own mind. I have no purpose. This is my life now – just taking care of babies and serving my husband. I have no gifts. The dreams I’d had all my life to serve God were just selfish dreams that God never intended to fulfill. And I had no way of fulfilling them myself – I had no ability to even do what I had dreamed of doing. This life was hard and it would last forever. I could not accept that God would leave me like this.

The worst parts of me came to the surface. That happens in the pit. So I started to believe I was not at all the person I previously thought I was. Identity is everything here. Who you are…and Who He is.

I struggled with believing in God’s goodness. Why would He not answer me? How can I minister to others about God’s compassion when I feel that He has left me to roam this dark place alone? Was my frustration and growing anger who I really was? Did it define my person? If so, I don’t even belong in the Christian circle.

I doubted my salvation – very much. Because fruit? Was dead on the vine. I had nothing to offer. And Scripture? Only seemed to tell me I would be uprooted and thrown into the fire.

I could no longer pick up the Bible.

I absolutely could not pray any more.

The cries and the needs of the twins went on. During my own personal beating, I still cared for them. So as I deteriorated inside, my outward strength was sapped. From late night and daily feedings on the clock to constant supervision, rocking, holding and comforting, I lived for them. While doing so, I had very little time outside of my small living room. I lived in there for almost two years with two needy little babes. Isolation is a door to this alley.

One day I got to go out for lunch with my husband. I told him I was just surviving. I can remember how heavy my chest felt as I said that. I thought I might drown. My whole body felt as though it might literally give out. I ate my meal slowly anyway, and just kept going. I knew David would solve the problem if he could, but it seemed we had very little choice but to keep moving forward. We asked for help often, and many wonderful people from our church stepped up. Ultimately, though, we carried the weight.

God has been shining a light into the dark places of this season. The spotlight first largely focused on the schemes of Satan to destroy me. But now, He is leading me through Scripture into truths we may not talk enough about in the church. As God is walking me into the different rooms of teaching, I’m listening.

For me, for others, for the church, I’m inviting you into each room.

And may we “pay attention {to His WORD}, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”2 Peter 1:19

Dawn is coming.

He is the Morning Star rising in your heart.

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I’m linking up today for #TestimonyTuesday to share the truth of my struggle with all the other brave souls joining Holly Barrett.

I’m SO THANKFUL God was faithful even during the hardest season. I’ve since written about how very present He was in a post titled The Cloud of Unknowing: When God is Nearer Than you Think. As God infused hope into me, and I replaced the lies of Satan with the truth of God’s Word, I’ve experienced a new kind of authentic joy, a new kind of faith. Praise Him!

Unveiling Depression in the Christian Community

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They are easier to buy – the lies. Because the truth seems so far away.

We all get there a different way, but the darkness is the same. Deathly black.

If depression has come after you, you recognize this place. And you can probably still remember these statements ringing in your mind.

God has left you. Oh, you know He is everywhere. Just not here. Not now. Because of you. You messed up. Or you just don’t deserve His attention. Or all those times you thought He was quite fond of you…you were wrong. Everything is gray, and the quiet is too heavy upon your doubts.

God is punishing you. Because you are worse than everyone else realizes. But you know God knows. And all the fears seem to be confirmed in His silence. It’s just easier to believe He is not for you.

It will never get any better. This is all there is now. Forever. This season is hard and it will get harder. No relief.

I have no real purpose. That dream you’ve been carrying for so long can die now. Because your identity is found in a new title, and it will define you. The heavy weight of this cross you bear takes all you’ve got. You will not change the world. No one will know of you. -This is a tricky one. Because of pride. But that’s why Satan loves to use it.

Depression has a louder voice today. We are talking about it, but it is still widely misunderstood and underestimated. I watched this video about Thomas Bean and the horrific things he had to see because of the Sandy Hook shooting. But what struck me most was the numerous comments from complete strangers telling him to “man up.” When hurts go so deep you cannot describe them, the world does not offer the comfort we need. Because though some in the world may understand, the majority will only judge.

And when Sheila Walsh stepped out to say I need help, the Christian community came with a dagger via letters and public opinion. But her story helped me write mine. So, Christians….we are writing letters now? We don’t only judge – we are going out of our way to do so.

So, I’m going to tell my story. And address the lies. Because it’s time.

To look into the dark with you. To offer hope.

To the Mom who is more alone than she ever thought was possible. To the Christian who isn’t sure what Christianity really even means anymore. To the man who can’t get out of bed today. To the pastor who has to keep it all together, but would rather just quit. Because leaders? It’s a hard fall when you get too high up. And pastors are not excluded from hurt.

I know you are out there. And holidays….can be the hard to breath days.

My story is coming. But today….Some truth we all need to hear.

Believers are not exempt from the darkness. And they are not less spiritual when they enter. We cannot prescribe more bible reading and prayer as the answer to real depression.

You cannot fix yourself. I thought if I could make myself better, God would come sooner. To help me. To answer me. It only takes you deeper. Because your weaknesses start to shout at you. And your failure? You let it define you. The trap door is swinging on your self-hate. I’m going to address how we keep that door from shutting.

You cannot fix someone else. It’s not our job. Our job? Is to be there. Consistently. And listen. And love. But it takes time. Years. We have to give the Spirit some room to work.

Depression is not laziness. It is soul-weary work. And someone you know…has been at this job for sometime.

Some people will never understand. It’s okay. What’s not okay is allowing their comments or misunderstandings to determine the outcome. And we – the Christian community – need to offer real tools for healing to our family of faith. Because falsehood, judgement and discouragement should not be our offering at the table of grace.

The simple tasks are daunting. I know this. Which is why small steps can save you. Starting with getting outside. And opening your mouth to tell someone.

Numbness is normal. It’s one of the hardest parts. Not “feeling” ANY. THING. But heavy weight on the chest. It doesn’t mean you can’t love any more. It doesn’t mean you won’t feel again. And it’s okay to want to just feel something.

There is a healing balm coming out of the stories God is writing through our lives. Let us come to the table and offer it to one another. By looking into the darkness, the lies…and most importantly, the TRUTH. Let’s share our stories and let’s get practical. I’ll start. Tomorrow. Follow my blog to continue.