What’s Happening to Me?

 About two months ago, I went to the doctor thinking that there was something seriously wrong with me. Most days it was a struggle just to get out of bed. Exercise was out of the question. I could not last the day without taking a nap. And the pain…EVERYTHING hurt. These were just a few of my symptoms. In short, I was functioning way below my normal capacity level and I knew it. The things I used to enjoy became things that caused me stress. I dreaded them. Social outings felt meaningless. I wished I could just go to sleep one day and never wake up again. No matter how hard I tried to be joyful, the sadness was so deep in my soul I could feel it in my chest.

I thought that I must be dying.

After tons of tests and blood work, I was shocked to hear the results: “You’re as healthy as they come! Everything looks good and normal!”

And then the doctor began asking me lots of questions, with deep compassion in his eyes, “How have you been doing emotionally? What do you do for a living? Do you often have feelings of despair/hopelessness? Have you recently gone through something traumatic? How’s your support system? Do you ever have suicidal thoughts? Have you recently stopped enjoying the things you used to love?” Etc…

And suddenly the light went on.

I wasn’t able to just “cheer up” or “snap out of it” because my mind was telling me there was something very, very wrong. Basically, I was in constant fight or flight mode, our bodies way of responding as if we are being attacked. The stress I had been under for so long, was literally causing my brain to begin to act as if I were in constant emergency.

I then realized that although for many years I had told people I understood depression, I really hadn’t.

As a Christain, I have always believed that God is enough. For everything.

But I finally realized why telling someone dealing with mental health issues to just “lean more on God” or that they had to “change something” actually made things worse! You see, those living under depression or other mental health issues already realize quite clearly that something is wrong with them. And most likely they already are loaded down with feelings of inadequacy or shame or guilt because they know that they should be doing more, they should be trying harder…but they just CAN’T. Their brain isn’t functioning at full capacity…neither is their body.

According to the CAMH, 1 in 5 adults are currently struggling with mental health issues. And 1 in 25 adults live with a SERIOUS mental health illness. I bet you can guess which of my blog posts get the most hits: the ones where I share about my struggles with depression, anxiety or pain.

So why am I sharing all this?

Because this issue effects not only the MILLIONS living with it, but their friends and families as well. It affects relationships, the ability to work, parenting, employers, communities.

Just think: if 1 in 5 people are functioning at 25% or less capacity, how much the communities, the businesses, and families are missing out on!

Summer Prayer Challenge Week 1 – Wednesday: For the Church to Understand and Respond Appropriately to Mental Health

So here’s the prayer points for today:

As always start your focus on Jesus. Today thank him for his attributes: Holiness, Love, Kindness, Gentleness, his perfect Justice, etc. This is SO important, don’t rush this!!

Pray for each family member next, starting with your spouse.

And then for Mental health and the churches response:

-For Christians to have godly wisdom as they seek to help those living with mental illness.

-For us as believers to give less well meaning advice and just BE there to support these hurting people, not trying to “fix” them but  listening and praying.

– For the church to have compassion on those living with mental illness and not to lay further burdens/guilt/condemnation on those suffering.

-For us to find ways to practically help those in need, not by just offering a quick fix solution, but realizing that these issues go deep and most likely take months, years or in some severe cases, even decades to work through.

-For miraculous healings for people suffering with mental illness. You bet I believe that God still heals 🙂

-For grace, grace and even MORE grace…and patience – dealing with someone who is unstable is very difficult indeed.

-For eyes to see each soul, each person as GOD sees them and to speak to them with His tender heart.

-Lastly, I have realized that many going through depression or other mental health issues have been extremely accused or hurt by the church. I’ve heard testimonies over and over again that those who have gone to the church for help got turned away, brushed aside, not taken seriously or even rejected altogether. Many of these people have since left the church and gone elsewhere for help.

This makes me so SO sad. Pray for healing from hurts that Christians have caused. Pray that God would find these lost sheep and gently bring them back to himself. Pray that they would learn to trust the church again and be able to connect once more to the body.

Once again, if anymore thoughts pop into your mind, pray these as well. Thank you for partnering with me in this.

-Heather

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Summer Prayer Challenge: Week One

Ok time to be honest about this ten week Summer Prayer Challenge: I couldn’t be more unsure of what I’m doing.

I’m actually terrified of what I got myself into.

I don’t mean prayer. I absolutely am 100% sure that I want to grow in my prayer life. I want to know God like a close friend. That is my deepest desire right now. I am desperate to see God work in my life. I hunger to know God in a way I’ve never known him before, to see things and people through HIS eyes and not my own. I’ve quite honestly realized that I’m a very average person, and not even a very good one. If I don’t have the power and love of God behind my words and my actions then they will amount to very little. I’m desperate to wake up and actually make a difference in the world. Prayer is my ONLY hope to make any positive change – of this I have become convinced.

But this social media challenge…it’s not me.

I don’t want to come across as some spiritual superstar, or as if I’m flaunting my prayer life online. That’s literally the furthest thought from my mind.

I’m simply beginning. Which means I’m decades behind many of you.

I’m also flaky on social media at best. I like to be on it for a while and then I turn it off completely and love being away from it. So I honestly don’t know if I can do this…if I can post regularly, if I’ll have the zeal, charisma and passion to keep going…I mean, I’m struggling with depression for crying out loud! How can I encourage others to pray?

Also, being open and honest about my prayer life online, in front of dozens if not hundreds of people whom I may or may not know, some who are probably far more experienced in prayer than I am, it scares me.

And yet, it’s not about me.

It literally comes down to a stirring I had in my heart last week when I decided to pray all summer like I never had before. Something moved my heart to invite others along on this journey. Anyone who has this same desire, really. Because it doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, whether you’ve been praying for hours a day or if you’re also just beginning: It is time for the church to seek God like never before.

And if this encourages even ONE person to pray, then it’s worth the time spent. 

Today’s prayer items are firstly: THANKSGIVING. Turn your focus off of your list and onto Jesus. Spend a couple minutes thanking Jesus for his provision, his goodness, his forgiveness, his blessings in your life. Don’t just say the words. FEEL them. Where would you be without these things? What would become of you if it hadn’t been for the Cross? Spend time in worship.

Secondly, pray for individual family members…each individual by name, starting with your spouse (if you have one). Thank God for them. Pray about your deepest concerns for them. For example, one of my children is struggling with angry outbursts and I’m seeking God for heavenly wisdom and eyes to see the root of what is going on in his heart. I’m begging for wisdom. Ask God if you are holding any offences against them. Don’t rush this. Spend time listening attentively and write down any thoughts, verses or pictures which come to your mind.

These two things will become your daily prayers before we unite in the third “weekly items.”

Today, as it’s Monday, let’s focus on praying for our home church pastors. Pastors in a way have a never ending job. There is tremendous pressure on them and their families to “have it all together” as they quite literally are like a showcase for the church they lead. This burden, is FAR too heavy a weight for a person to bear. Many leaders feel incredibly lonely because of this, yet at the same time they also feel overwhelmed with the needs of their congregation. I realize some of us have leaders that we look up to, others have leaders that we struggle to respect. But here’s the thing:

We are all human. We ALL mess up. We ALL say stupid things we regret.

Today let’s decide in our hearts to be very gracious towards our pastors. Decide to protect their reputation by refusing to gossip. If you are harbouring any hurt feelings or anger towards your leaders, now is the time to forgive them. Ask God to show you HIS heart towards them. And now pray. Pray for purity in their lives, for hunger for them. For him/her to have a close spiritual walk with God, to spend time with God daily. Pray for protection over your pastor and their family, as the devil would like nothing more than to see your leader fall. Pray for his/her health. Pray for them to speak the truth of God boldly, and to not water the message of the gospel down to gain popularity. Pray for their marriage, for their family time, for their children. Pray for them to have wisdom in each situation, and to keep a heart that is tender/merciful towards their flock.

If you want you can also ask God to show you something you can do this week to bless them. These are just ideas to get you going…keep praying until you feel your heart overflow with love and compassion for your leader. Bless them!

This will most likely be my only prayer blog post for the week. If you want to see the list for the whole week, check out my previous post: Summer Prayer Challenge or get daily updates by following me on Instagram as everysmallvoice or Facebook as Heather Bergen.

Thanks for joining me in this journey! And please! If you see any encouraging changes as a result of these prayers, or have an amazing/uplifting story to share, or even if you are just deciding pray for the first time, let me know in the comments or email me! I’d love to hear from you!

Love always, Heather

Summer Prayer Challenge

Today, here in Manitoba, Canada, is the first day of summer!!! Finally!!

And I didn’t even realize it until 2 minutes ago.

But either way, in my devos this morning I felt a stirring in my heart to start a Summer Challenge. It came on the heels of reading a bio on David Wilkerson’s life, a book I’d definitely recommend to anyone. The message I got was different than any other biography I’ve read.

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Let me explain: In the past, I have read countless bios, all incredibly inspiring and all uplifting. They strengthened my faith in God, the workings of the Holy Spirit and in the church. However, I always felt kind of inferior…as if I would LOVE to do big things for God…”but God, I’m kinda ‘stuck’ in the throws of family life over here!” And eventually I tamed down my desire for “great things” because I sincerely felt the “great things” had to look the same as the people’s lives I was reading about.

And then suddenly, while reading about David Wilkerson’s life, an “aha” moment hit me.

David Wilkerson was an average, skinny, not very spectacular human being. But he knew God and submitted to him above all else. And GREAT things happened.

Something finally “clicked” and the thought came to me: What if I began to pray? Like REALLY pray. If my prayer list wasn’t just a rushed through checklist, but the desire of my heart. What if I had the hunger and desperation to actually persist in these prayers until I saw the fruit of them? What could God all do in my life, and through my life?

I mean… I do pray. I thank Jesus for his blessings every morning. I weekly go through my prayer lists. I pray when I’m in anguish. I pray before meals and before I sleep. I pray over my children most mornings before they go to school. And I’m not minimizing the importance of those prayers AT ALL.

But David Wilkerson’s prayers, they BIRTHED something! Hardened gang members were changed by his prayers. His preaching was literally read off a page, but it changed peoples hearts because the Holy Spirit was present when he spoke. He spoke with conviction, he saw people with the eyes of Jesus.

All because he PRAYED.

Now it will look different in my life. I will never start a Teen Challenge ministry, or pastor a large church in Times Square. But just think, God created each of us different, with unique influence and abilities. What can he do with MY life, if it is utterly surrendered to him?

I realize this post and the rest of my posts this summer will probably not get me more “likes” or followers. Most likely, I will lose a lot of followers, but there is a burning desire within me to begin a life of prayer and to invite as many with me to join as possible!

If you have no interest in joining with me you’re very welcome to unfollow me, I won’t be hurt…OR EVEN better, push past those feelings, keep following me and PRAY! We’ll learn how to do this together!

So here’s my Summer Challenge:

-Starting on Monday, I will post weekly prayer lists/other encouragements on my blog to pray through together daily. We’ll pray for our families, our churches, our communities and our nations TOGETHER. I know personally that during summer getting out of routine messes up my devotional times. But truly, what is a Christian life if it’s not built upon spending time with God?

-I’m back on Instagram and Facebook for the time being and welcome any of you to follow me as I will try to post daily prayer points/verses/motivation to seek God together in prayer. Follow me as everysmallvoice on IG and as Heather Bergen on Facebook and you’ll get new topics and thoughts that we can pray through together! Let’s pray together DAILY and see God work in our own hearts, families and communities.

-The outline will be as follows: EVERYDAY we will pray for our immediate families…specific requests for each individual.

-Each seperate day of the week we’ll pray for different things, which we’ll repeat throughout the summer but from slightly different aspects each time.

On Mondays we’ll pray for our own churches and leaders. Our leaders NEED our prayers. Their families need our prayers! Being in leadership is HARD and our pastors need renewal. They need to also know that we will not turn against them if they make mistakes. We’ll pray for the summer camps going on. We want to see people having REAL ENCOUNTERS with the living God!

Tuesdays we’ll pray for other churches in our communities and around the world. This could include prayers for unity, those being persecuted, holiness, etc…

Wednesdays we’ll pray for those suffering with Mental Health. According to the CMHA, 1 in 5 people live with depression or mental health issues in Canada at any given time! This number rapidly continues to grow. This issue is huge and it affects us greatly! Think of the hopelessness, the pain, the suicides that result from this! Mental Health has largely been ignored by the church but if we’ve ever needed God to come in and help us, it is now!

Thursdays is my favourite so far: We’ll pray for a renewed hunger and desperation for ONLY God. It is so easy to settle into “life as usual” and routine, but that is the very heart of a sleeping church. Our many idols get in the way of us truly desiring God’s will. What idols you say? Idols of money, fitness, appearances, wealth, sports, social media and smart phones. Basically anything that takes the majority of our focus. Remember our first love: Jesus Christ.

Friday we will pray for our countries. For me that is Canada. We LOVE our countries, but they are FAR from perfect. We will pray for our governments and leaders and the laws that are made which affect us and generations to come. This is SO important!

Saturdays we’ll pray for outreach ministry. We DESPERATELY need the church to move outside it’s four brick walls and become the church God meant it to be. A busy church is often a church who forgets the call of Christ: To reach out to the poor, the outcasts, the needy, the socially awkward, the elderly, the sick, hurting and lonely. This one will come with an action challenge so stay tuned 🙂

Sundays we’ll simply pray for the meeting and gatherings of other believers: For the truth of the gospel to be preached in its entirety and not be watered down. For gossip, bitterness and walls to come down. For authenticity and healing in our meeting places.

THANK YOU for joining with me in prayer. I’m excited to see God work!

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sins and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

 

Back When I Hated Gardening

Back when I thought I was Super Mom, I hated gardening. Period.

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I liked fast results. I liked maximum gain with minimal time put in. I liked twice the profit with half the work. And plants don’t grow overnight…

“An utter waste of time!” I thought.

Tilling.

Fertilizing.

Buying topsoil.

Scooping, shoveling, back breaking work.

Spending more money on seeds and plants than I would spend at the grocery store.

Planting.

Watering.

Pulling weeds.

Rocks, Aphids, more watering, more weeds…Ugh. I give up! Not worth it!

Until a couple years ago.

When someone dear gave up on me. When the enemy began to whisper lies: You’re hopeless. You’re not worth it. You’re not worth fighting for. You’re not worth loving. You’re not worth their time!

I then came to my garden to work in silence. And I felt peace.

Why did I start to love gardening?

Because God gently spoke to my heart while I worked. He said, “You are worth caring for! See how you care for this garden? This is how deeply I care for you!” And it became to me the most accurate picture of what God does in our lives: He literally finds a patch of land (our hearts) and slowly begins to work the soil.

Gardens all look different. Some have huge rocks, others are full of clay. Some are overtaken with weeds, others have disease. Some may even have a rattlesnake or two. But God never sees a life where he just throws up his hands and says: “Nope! I give up! This ones just too much work! Not worth it.”

We have infinite value to God. 

Let me say it again: You have immeasurable worth.

You are worth loving.

You are worth saving.

You are worth His time and care.

You are worth it to Him.

And so in my garden, I peacefully work. Often I think the fruit it bears isn’t worth the time. I could probably buy it for less from the store. But then I think of his tenderness and love and I say to myself: “If this garden reminds me of Him, then it’s worth it.”

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A Splash of Color

Many times depression has been explained to be like living in a world void of color, seeing in blacks, greys and whites. For many years, I took this as a metaphorical meaning and believed that depression was a state of emotional darkness in which one simply had to break through and choose to see the colors. I believed this for a huge part of my life and honestly still struggle with thinking this is either partly true or at least has a sliver of truth to it.

This is why it was devastating to me when my doctor diagnosed me with depression just one short month ago.

I sat in his office, surprised and yet not surprised. Numb, yet hopeful. Certain of which paths I was willing to take to healing and which paths I refused to go down.

Strangely, this seemed to me a familiar feeling, and I remembered a long time ago (yet not THAT long) when I sat in an office, feeling very fragile, alone and broken as a young teen. I remember clearly the vulnerability in the diagnosis: “You’re pregnant.”

These situations both similar, yet, different…

“Who…ME?!?” These things only happen to others. People who are careless. People with terrible lives. People with no support. But me?!? I am none of these things!

Yes. Me.

And as question after question was asked, denial was no longer an option.

Have I suffered trauma in the past few years?

Do I struggle with chronic fatigue?

Have you lost an interest in any of the things you love to do?

Do you ever resent your children?

Do you have trouble sleeping at night?

Have you recently wished you were dead or wanted to harm yourself?

Have you felt rejected or a lack of support from your loved ones?

Question after question was asked…and I wondered, has this doctor been reading my blog? Or truly is this how depression feels?

Depression for me isn’t seeing life in grey. It is a deep, pressing sadness that follows me everywhere. It invades my laughter and trickles into my sunshine. It is like a living in a grey world, but with a splash of color that always lasts too short…or always seems just out of reach.

But I see color, that I most definitely do. I see it in my garden, when little green seedlings start to peak out from underneath the wet soil. I see it on my four-year-old’s face as he happily trots along the yard, noticing every flower, every insect, every brightly coloured stone. I see it on my daughter when she rides on her horse like the wind. I see it in my friends, when we laugh and talk together. I see it so, SO clearly.

But it never quite reaches my heart.

When I’m in a social setting, I’m not out there putting on a fake smile – my smile is genuine. My eyes really do light up when I’m happy to see you. I really do find the lamest “dad jokes” funny. But I walk away from these things, pain heavy in my heart…still empty and sad. Unchanged. And I wonder, will life for me ever look the same as it did?

I think back to that first visit to the doctors: bright eyes, young skin, fresh youth. And I look in the mirror: tired eyes, loose skin – with faded purple lines, and an older, experienced face.

No – quite definitely, it will never be quite the same. I will grow through this. I will learn through this. I will be different after this.

Looking back to the ways I changed after that first doctors appointment, I smile, knowing that while the outside changes weren’t quite so pleasant…the inside ones, in my heart, were quite remarkable.

It is hopeful then, that this season may produce the same results.

Down Unfamiliar Paths

I’m not writing here much these days.

Perhaps it’s partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly I think it’s out of disappointment.

I started writing because of a dream I had one night: A dream of going back to school and becoming a journalist. A dream of doing what I’ve always loved – writing. At the time I had the dream, college was extremely unlikely and out of my reach. It actually still is.

So I started this blog.

The purpose of this blog?

-To grow in my ability to write.

-To gain feedback.

-To encourage others in the midst of trials.

-To speak about my pain to an unknown group of people, because I couldn’t talk about it to anyone.

I wrote to give a fresh perspective, a godly view.

But as I left Facebook and eventually Instagram, I slowly lost more and more feedback and followers. I lost people who actually cared about what I had to say and I wound up with a handful of people who would give small bits of feedback, mostly of whom were strangers. I literally know five people who read my blog. And although I have almost 100 followers, those numbers really mean nothing. Many of the wordpress writers have one goal in mind: To gain more followers and if liking my posts and following my blog gains them a follow, they do it.

So really, I thought I had left social media, only to find myself on another form of it.

Blogging has become for me a lonely place, a reminder of the way the world is changing and a painful reminder to me of how there are already too many writers in the world.

There’s no room for another one.

So…is this me saying “good-bye” to blogging?

Perhaps.

Or maybe just putting it aside for a while as I desperately try to find a use and a purpose for my love of writing. Not one that just gains another “like” on social media – I am SO tired of “likes”! I want to write in such a way that inspires people, challenges them and makes a positive difference in the world.

 

I realize I’m walking around rather blindly on this road of writing. I’m not quite sure exactly how one publishes a book, or how they even get it to the shelves. I don’t even know any writers. Do they have support? Do they have people who care about what they write? Or did they start off like me? With people around them who don’t care for books and no one to ask about these things…

So I travel this path, in the middle of writing a book, unsure if anything will come out of it or if it will too end up with my discouragement and lack of interest. Will anyone really want to read it? Will they be honest with me about it? Can I take their honesty? Or will it crush me? I don’t want to have people “pity-read” my book and I definitely don’t want those around me to feel obligated to pick it up. So to be brutally honest, I’m actually too embarrassed to even share it.

How exactly do you share something as personal as a book? Will anyone even care or will they just absently comment: “Oh, that’s nice!”

Now, there are definitely people who have sincerely encouraged me. And I want to thank you if you are one of them. If you are one who has truly read and enjoyed this blog, from the bottom of my heart: Thank-you. Your encouragement means a lot to me! More than you could possibly know. You are probably one of the few I have already mentioned my book to. And hey, maybe the next time I’m on here, I’ll be announcing my best-selling, award winning book 🙂

Or maybe I’ll simply announce that I’ve finished it.

Or maybe I’ll be sharing my sob story of my flop of a book.

More likely, I’ll just be back one day, ready to write again with a new passion for blogging.

I’m sure I’ll be back eventually.

That’s the thing about unfamiliar paths, you never really know what you will find at the end, until you try it out. 

Love always, Heather