Depression · Faith · Freedom · Health · Running

I Met Depression… and I Won

A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression.

There are many reasons for falling into depression: Trama. Rejection. Bullying. Death or loss. Harmful world views. Stress. A life-altering event. Hormones. Lack of nutrition or sleep… and the list goes on.

Healing for each soul is a very individual path. So as I share my story of hope, that is all I want you to take from it.

There is hope.

Today I am alive. Joyful. Healed. Whole. And maybe what healed me can help you. But maybe you need to take a different path. That’s OK too.

I’m sharing to bring hope, not to say I have the answers.

In February 2014, I had my fifth child… a son. It was very, very difficult for me to face this addition to my family. Though I loved him more than words can describe, I was exhausted with the other children. I felt that caring for another baby was beyond my abilities and I was burning out quickly.

I remember a comedian once explaining how having a large family felt. He said: “Imagine you are drowning and then, someone hands you a baby.”

We laugh because it’s so true. It’s too true.

I was drowning. Everything I had ever found joy and meaning in, felt distant and out of reach. I didn’t find any pleasure in doing the very things I once loved. Life was dark, and though I saw splashes of color, it didn’t bring peace to my heart.

Fast forward a very painful four years: Spring 2018. I had gone through church hardships, loss of friendships, moving, and building a house. I had let go of my old friendships at the church that had rejected me and my family because of my depression. I was in the process of allowing myself to move on from the deep hurt that comes from being completely misjudged and misunderstood, forgiving them as best I could.

Our family had joined a new church (an act in itself which was hard), made new friends and our “baby” wasn’t so difficult to care for anymore. But I was STILL burdened under this load that was crushing me. I had pushed the pain so far down, that it was coming out in my health. My bones ached constantly! The smallest chore would leave me absolutely immobile for the rest of the day. I needed daily naps.

And deep down, I still blamed myself because I had been unable to make things right. I went over the details in my mind again and again, the burden of my rejected attempts of reconciliation lay heavy on my shoulders. Could I have done more? Should I have done anything differently?

Finally, after one incident where I went outside to clean up some garbage and I found myself sleeping for four hours that afternoon from exhaustion, I decided to see a doctor. After many questions and blood tests, he told me that I was depressed.

However, then he told me something I never expected to hear from a doctor: “There are many ways to go about this, but I recommend that you try gentle exercise before taking any antidepressants.” Immediately, I protested that I had tried to exercise but that it was just too painful. I was too weak.

“I said gentle exercise,” He chuckled, “I’m not telling you to train for a marathon. Just get out of the house, in the fresh air, and walk for 20-30 minutes at whatever pace you desire! And don’t do errands or make it into a chore. Make sure it’s time just for you.”

So in May 2018 I started to walk.

One of the hardest things I’ve done is put on those running shoes. I was so afraid that I would fail at walking. But the words echoed in my head: Gentle walk. Gentle Exercise. Over and over again those simple words challenged my way of thinking and gave me courage to at least try. For me, exercise wasn’t something that could be gentle. It was a way of pushing my body to the extreme. To be the best. To compete with myself and others.

I had never thought of it as something that I could actually enjoy.

I still remember that first walk. The warm air, the slow pace, the music on my phone. The sun shone down on my face. I heard birds chirping around me. I stopped to notice the buds on the trees that were forming. As I walked, suddenly I felt a peace inside that I hadn’t noticed for a very long time. That was it… I was hooked! Not that going out was easy, but I now believed that it could help me. Each day my pace was just a little bit faster and I was able to go just a little bit farther because I finally felt no pressure and my body was getting stronger!

At the same time our pastor started teaching a series on bible memory and the importance it has when we are faced with trials or temptations. During the message, I felt God speaking gently to me: “This is it Heather! This is what you need to get you through.”

I went straight home and downloaded a verse memory app called “Verses.”

I started with memorizing Psalm 34. While I walked, I quoted my verses. When my tears wouldn’t stop, I quoted them over and over. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous person may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all.” When I remembered the rejection of my friends, I spoke these words out loud. Little by little, I added to them. Psalm 139, Oh God… they may think I’m a horrible person, but “Lord, you have searched me and you know me… you are familiar with all my ways!” Then I added Psalm 103. “Praise the Lord my soul. All my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord my soul, and forget not ALL his benefits. Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed…”

As my body and spirit grew stronger, I began to run for short distances. I would run for a bit, then walk in between, all the while praying and reciting my verses. By Fall 2018 I could run 5K (I had never in my life ran a full mile before this) and God had given me the ability to memorize over 15 full Psalms. I knew 10% of the book of Psalms and could bring it with me everywhere! It was in my heart as well as my head.

My greatest fear was losing my ability to run over the winter. I was terrified that I would sink back into my depression. My husband knew this and bought me a treadmill. Not only did I keep up running and memorizing all winter, but by Spring 2019 I had a follow up appointment with my doctor and he told me that I was in full recovery!

I realize that this story may sound too good to be true to many people.

A few years of depression? And now you think you have all the answers??

No. No I don’t.

Remember: This was what worked for me… and let me tell you, if you think my answer is to mental health is: Just go quote some scripture or just go exercise, you have horribly misunderstood this testimony!!

Getting out every day to walk and run, had just as big of an effect on me as the scriptures I was memorizing. Exercise was just as spiritual as God’s word. Because you know what? I believe “Gentle Exercise” WAS God’s personal word to me. And obeying God’s treatment plan for me was hard work! Some days I wanted to stay in my room and mope, eating chocolates and watching Netflix. Or take a long nap. But I forced myself every single day to go out. Some days in the rain. Some days in the heatwaves. Sometimes I hated it. The next day was even harder to go out. Sometimes I was far too busy! It was near impossible at times! The truth is, the road to healing is never easy.

Don’t kid yourself: Healing doesn’t ever come without a cost.

Whether the cost of time, the cost of perseverance, the cost of faith, the cost of money, the cost of disappointments and trying again, the cost of failure and rebuilding hope… there’s always a cost. The question is, are you willing to try?

Or have we become a generation that wants all the answers and victories handed to us on a silver platter?

It’s hard for me to wrap posts like this up in a simple paragraph, because there’s so much to leave you with. Yet one thought keeps running itself over and over in my mind again: Are we willing pay the price?

Fast forward to this fall. If I miss two weeks of exercise, I find myself slipping. Anxiety and depression grow. This path, for me, may just be a lifelong treatment. But isn’t it worth it? For my health? For my joy? For my family? For those around me who can relate to the everyday struggle?

The answer I have to choose daily is: Yes. Yes… it’s worth it. 

Authenticity · Faith · Vulnerability

Exterior Walls

We put up exteriors daily. As if we don’t care about what people think.

As if I don’t care.

As if I don’t notice the likes, the comments or the lack-there-of. As if I’m stronger than those who need to be told every day that they are valuable in someway. As if I don’t need to hear the words of people confirming me and the things I do.

Deep down we just want to be understood, desperately, pathetically.

Humanly.

Listen, as much as you fight it and act like you are above such longings, if you’re human, those feelings are there.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

To the world, you may look confident. Or you may look hopeless. You may look like someone who has it all together or you’re falling apart at every turn. You may even give a phony smile, and say some cliche things. Or you may spew every careless thought that comes from your mouth in hopes of being real and bold.

But whoever you are… you hate it. Because deep down, we all know that that’s not what it’s about, is it?

As if one kind of wrong is better than the other.

Thank God, you are worth more than than your feelings tell you.

Can I just say something here?

Maybe we are all more alike than we want to admit. Maybe I’m just like that too-faced, self-righteous, rich snob we all avoid. That hypocrite in the church pews. That political maniac who rants day and night on social media, believing that those who are on the other side are the enemy. Or the “tolerant” crowd who are tolerant of everyone… except for those who are intolerant.

Maybe, that drunk homeless man, who reeks of alcohol, sitting on the side of the road asking “food” money, is just like me inside.

In fact, I’m convinced of it.

Pride tells me I’m better than all of the above, but there’s one thing that tells me I’m not.

The Cross.

Because on that cross, Jesus gave his life as much for the hypocrite, as for the drunkard, as for the bitter-old-soul who can’t forgive.

Think you’re better? Then maybe the cross isn’t for you.

…Or maybe, it’s especially for you. Because, friends, the ground at the bottom of the cross is equal. And not one of us deserved it.

Faith

The Betrayal of a Friend

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.

But it is you,

a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked among the worshippers.”

Psalm 55:12-14

One of the greatest pains you can face is the utter betrayal of a close and trusted friend. Indeed, I have felt no greater pain than when I was rejected by those I loved dearly.

It is the ultimate rejection – to be known and then forgotten.

Wounds that deep are not easily healed. But take heart, there is a path to healing.

Healing takes time. Don’t rush it! Instead rush to God:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

Those who run to God in their distress will not fall. When others fail you, trust God.

Faith · Forgiveness · Reconcilliation

It was Never Your Grudge to Hold

There’s a family who has completely shut mine out for almost four years now.

At one time I loved them like my own family. We spent many days a week together. And then suddenly, we were shut out. Just like that. They shut us out of their lives. Out of their church. Out of their friendship circles.

Out of everything.

In fact, if I meet up with either of them, they will try to look past me as if I do not exist. If I smile and say hi anyway, they barely nod, mumbling an inaudible greeting in return and only because they know it would make them look bad to say nothing.

Why, you may ask, am I sharing this? Because of the warning their lives have become for me.

I do not know them anymore, because they have made sure that we can’t. They were once great people, godly people. They weren’t some angry, bitter souls that looked to destroy and tear others down. They were helpful people. They had a strong family and a beautiful faith. They were talented and inspiring.

Yet somewhere along the line, they have become convinced that what they perceive as wrong in our lives, is what God perceives as wrong… and that God is pleased with this grudge they continue to hold, this “godly shunning” of others.

Let me just say this: Other people’s sin is not for us to hold against them.

Ever.

God does not need us to hold on to the burden of hating others for his sake. He doesn’t need our help to convict them, to discipline them or to punish them in any way. In fact, there are very strong warnings in scripture against bitterness because that is really what bitterness is: holding other people’s sins against them, refusing to forgive. The only difference is that this has been done “for Christ’s sake” so it feels much more godly.

In some cultures this sort of zealous self-righteousness results in honor killings. A “sacrifice” to God.

Can I be so bold as to say that God takes no pleasure in honor killings? Neither does he take pleasure in grudges or in self righteous shunning. In fact there is a story where Jesus responded to this type of religiosity.

A woman was brought before him, caught red-handed in adultery. The real righteous folk, those leaders of the church, brought this woman to Jesus, trying to trap him. Smirking and desperate for bloodshed that day, they said:

“Good teacher, the law requires us to stone her. What should we do?”

Jesus bent down to write in the sand. And then he stood to say something absolutely phenomenal: “He who has no sin, cast the first stone.”

Every single person present silently walked away, one at a time. No one was worthy to cast it.

Not one.

Every single one of us has sinned. And when we judge one person’s sin as worse than ours, holding onto it, we are literally spitting on the grace that Christ has shown us. Holding onto the sins of others and feeling as if their mistakes are just somehow not worthy of the grace that God has shown us, is hypocrisy.

When Christ was being nailed to the cross, he did not say, “Father, once these vile sinners repent and realize their sin, forgive them.”

He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Jesus did not hold on to grudges, regardless of the actions of those around him. He simply forgave and left the rest in God’s hands.

So why would we think it is our duty to live any differently?

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

Do I really want to hold onto another person‘s sin and take the risk that God will hold onto mine?

I’m not taking that chance.

Let it go, move on and love people deeply.

Because friends, it’s not our grudge to hold.

Uncategorized

More than Conquerors

In the midst of World War 2, in the middle of a German death camp, a sixty year old woman whispered these words and in them found hope:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword….No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:35-37

Corrie ten Boom faced an impossible and hopeless situation…worse than anything I could possibly imagine. Everything she listed from the scriptures above happened to her.

Death, starvation and evil prevailed.

She stood for hours in the cold, naked and filthy as she watched the women around her get beaten and shot when they could stand no longer.

Her dying sister was mocked and brutally treated by even the nurses in the camp.

And yet, somehow, these very words brought such comfort to her soul that she was able to lift her hands in adoration and face each new day with courage.

I’ve been pondering these very scriptures in Romans 8 for the past few days now and I have come to the conclusion that while these words deeply move me, I will never quite know the depth to which they comforted Corrie until I face the very trials and pain of which they speak.

When I wake up, I am well fed and warm, healthy and clothed and it is SO easy to feel like I can conquer anything. But take even one of these “rights” away, and I become miserable, discouraged, perhaps even angry and bitter.

The true test of our faith comes not when things are good, but when things are hard.

I’ve recently seen two different people: both were pleasant and joyful, both claiming to have faith, both strong and admirable. There was no difference between the two when all was well.

Yet something terrible happened to each one. And here’s when their true colours showed. One of them grew angry, cold, hard and bitter, isolating themselves from the people around them, bullying anyone who tried to reach out and help.

Yet the other person stayed soft, thankful, kind, and gentle…not only this but they continued to even bless, encourage and even help those around them.

Somehow I think God wasn’t surprised.

Many times I look at the world around me and see people who don’t seem to care for God at all and wonder how they have their lives better put together than mine. I ask myself – is there any point?

Ahh, yes. Then I remember that right now, things are quite comfortable.

But a time comes for each person where they are tested to the core of their being. Only through Jesus Christ can we stand against these trials and say we are more than Conquerors.

I have a feeling that someone reading this today is going through such a trial now. My heart breaks for you. I am crying as I write these words, because such hardships can nearly destroy us forever.

But Jesus.

Jesus understands it completely. He was beaten almost to death. He was naked on the cross. He was mocked. He was betrayed. He saw evil reign. Yet he conquered it all!

AND because He conquered all of these things, we can be confident that he will never ever leave us and that through him we are MORE than Conquerors!

Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

What’s coming will FAR outweigh all the suffering we will experience here. Just like in childbirth, the reward is worth the pain. In fact, ask any mother and she would willingly go through it all over or even worse for her precious bundle. All suffering is forgotten when she receives her prize. I believe it will be the same with our reward in heaven.

Don’t let your troubles destroy you, dear friend. Even as you feel weakened in the flesh, may your spirit grow strong in Christ. Allow yourself to be purified in this time of testing.

 

 

Uncategorized

Stay Soft

One of the hardest things in life is to stay soft.

People will try to tear you down, indeed, even those closest to you will say hurtful things.

It’s so easy to just say “Fine! I’m done trying. I will no longer engage. I’m just going to go on and act pleasant on the outside while keeping up my walls so that no one can get in, so that no one can hurt me.”

This is not God’s desire for us. This is directly going against his plan. His plan is and always has been to speak truth over us where lies have been planted. His longing is to bring healing to our wounds.

Let me tell you a secret: Building walls may keep more hurt from coming in, but it also traps in the hurt you already have. What if your walls aren’t just keeping hurt out, but also keeping healing out?

It’s only in continuous opening ourselves up to the Father’s love and his view of us that we can get a correct view on others actions towards us and our response to them.

This isn’t a long, preachy post. It’s just a encouraging word: Stay soft, dear friends.

Uncategorized

Struck Down, Not Destroyed

Today we are praying for a largely forgotten group of people who are suffering tremendously under their leaders and governments: The persecuted church. We may forget them, but I assure you that the Lord does NOT. They are very dear to his heart.

About 215 million Christians are being persecuted due to their faith, according to a report released by the Open Doors organization. In other words, that means 1 in every 12 Christians live where Christianity is “illegal, forbidden, or punished.” The most dangerous place to be a practicing Christian is in North Korea. There is also a high level of persecution against Christians in the Palestinian Territories, the World Watch List report showed. The majority of the countries on the list saw an overall increase in persecution from 2016 to 2017.

It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse.

It’s hard to believe living in North American that this is still an issue in 2018 right?

“Every day six women are raped, sexually harassed, or forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith,” Open Doors reported. This number is likely low, since it includes only reported incidents. In North Korea alone there are more than 50,000 Christians in prison or labor camps.

And yet life in North America seems to go on as normal. Christians are (relatively) left alone, free to worship and live in peace. Some would argue that our rights are slowly being taken away, many fear for the future.

But we are not called to fear these things, we are called to PRAY!

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 4:8-18

 

As you turn your thoughts to Jesus, think about his sacrifice and all he went through for us. He was tortured, beaten, mocked, spat upon, and finally, killed in the most gruesome way possible. And yet, he loved those who crucified him. I am in awe of this man. He said: “Father, forgive them!” He went through it all to pay for your sin. For mine.

Thank you Jesus! We can never thank you enough. You paid it all. You took my punishment, my place on that cross.

Pray for your family. Are they saved? Are they struggling? Oh, that they would know this love, that was willing to die. Oh that they would encounter the one who millions of people around the world are willing to die for!

-Pray for protection for the churches across the globe, for laws to be made to protect religious rights and freedoms.

-Pray for those who have lost homes, jobs, loved ones for the sake of Christ. Pray that God would fill the deep void with his love joy and peace. May they truly experience God’s supernatural peace in a deeper way than ever before.

-Pray for their basic needs to be met daily.

-Pray for those locked up in prisons cells to feel God’s nearness. May they not feel alone, but strengthened in the knowledge that God has promised to NEVER leave them nor forsake them.

-Pray for those who have been rejected or abandoned by family members to be surrounded with a new family, the family of God. Pray for healing from the deep pain of rejection.

-Pray for a specific countries on the persecution list as God lays them on your heart.

-Pray for those being tortured day after day to have miraculous protection and strength from God. For the gates of prisons to be opened supernaturally. For healing to their bodies. For restoration of muscles and bones.

-Pray for the word of God to spread quickly in these countries. For people to come to God in large numbers.

-For for Bibles to become available to those who yearn to read God’s word. May their hunger be filled.

-Pray for believers who have been mistreated, imprisoned, struck down, persecuted, that they would find the grace to forgive and even love their enemies. May soldiers and officers become so amazed at the difference in their lives that they too turn to Christ.

Remember these brothers and sisters in their suffering. May I never forget them in my prayers! One day, it could be my country, it could be my family, it could be me.