Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some of the things I'm learning along the journey

There are some precious things though that Jesus has done in my life over the years and He is doing in my life now.
He is always longing and calling for us regardless of what we are doing and where we are at in our lives. As I look back over my life and see the ways He has shown Himself true to me time and time again I am deeply convicted of the lack of faithfulness and love I have had for Him. I haven't allowed Him to be my everything more often than not. As I run back to Him I am finding that despite my unfaithfulness and self-centered ways, He has never been unfaithful to me.
He is creating in me a new hunger and longing to know Jesus and allow Him to restore to me the JOY of HIS salvation.
I often go my own way, and sadly I often let my selfishness rule me instead of letting His Holiness and love rule my heart and life. But Jesus is changing me, and He's giving me grace and strength to claim my place as His child, being transformed into His likeness, being forgiven and healed and loved just as I am, in all my brokenness.
As I let Him He shows His love for me so beautifully. I am finding again that He LOVES me, He loves me so much. He loves me because of WHO HE is and He loves me because of who I am, just as I am. I'm still working on believing I don't have to get myself better before I can go to Him.
I'm seeing in new ways that there IS joy in the suffering, and that His Strength IS perfected in our weakness. He's been reminding me lately of some of the precious ways that He has touched my life in the past and how He is drawing me back to Him and showing Himself to me now. Why do I forget so quickly who He is and why do I so often choose to go my own way. Jesus is showing me right now that one of the reasons I often try my own way is because I don't really know Him very well. I've often been content to know "about" Him and expect and want others to tell me what I need to know about Him instead of really getting to know Him for myself, through His word. There was a time in my life that I did cling to His Word, and I was close to Him, and I want that now. I want to know Him for Him, and I want to discover that through He and I and not someone else. I think it's taken me getting to this point of brokenness to really see and realize that HE is the ONE I am needing, HE is who I want to know. Praise God that He can do ANYTHING, and He IS. I know that as I fall deeper in love with Him, that He will be and do and heal and set me free.
I want to back up and go down memory lane a bit.....
As a young child (5 years or so and on) I can remember my parents fighting a lot. They often fought at night and I would just lay in my bed and listen. Sometimes I would write a note to them saying "We love you, please stop fighting" and I would make my brother go stick it under the door. My parents had both had rough childhoods and many of the things they learned carried over in their parenting. As an adult now I can see how much they have loved us and how hard they tried. My Dad dealt with his pain by working and staying away from home; my Mom dealt with her pain through anger towards my dad and towards us. She took it out on us the same way that her dad had with done with her. I love my parents, and they really did the best they could. They loved Jesus and they wanted to follow Him. We moved to KY so my parents could go to the college and go on the mission field. They had helped with the youth group and despite horrible fighting they wanted to know Jesus.
When I was 13 years old something tragic and horrible was done to me by another person. It wasn't something that God wanted to happened, nor planned, but it was something that He allowed. I believe God allows people to make choices and I was hurt as a result of another man's sin.
During my high school years things got worse with my parents, and my home life was full of anger and chaos. I didn't know who I was, why things were happening like they were, and my parents were getting further and further away from Jesus. When I was violated it kind of turned things upside down even more than they had been, and it seemed like our family just fell apart.
One of the beautiful things about Jesus though is that He brings good out of bad, He brings beauty for ashes, and He restores our souls.
One of the verses that I often couldn't see to be happening at that time, but hung onto as a promise that would hopefully happen was Romans 8:28
"All things work together for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose." I couldn't see it at the time, but God's purposes for me were good and no matter what life threw at me, God was going to use it for good. I had many christian youth leaders that repeated that to me over and over again. "Becky, God WILL bring good out of this". I remember at times thinking, WHATEVER, there's just no way. People would tell me "I'm praying for you, and at times I remember thinking "I don't know why, it's not going to change anything".
I can look back and say with great confidence that Jesus did what He said in His Word that He would do, and He has brought many good things out of that horrible tragic bad thing that happened to me. He has a way of turning things around and bringing Glory to Himself amidst our greatest struggles and deepest times of weakness and need. Through my high school years where I experienced deep pain and struggle, there was also deep love and joy, freedom and healing. I found that though my life had been turned upside down, Jesus was the one thing I could count on and that He was indeed real and alive, and most of all that He really did love me. He gave me freedom through forgiveness and I realized through that forgiveness that He didn't die on the cross for nothing, and that amazingly He did it for the man that hurt me, just as much as He had done it for me.
I spent many years questioning why I had went through what I had, and why I had to hurt so badly. I often felt numb. I didn't sleep much during a couple of those years because of the traumatic experience, and often when I did sleep I had nightmares. On those dark nights when I was awake and others were asleep I felt so afraid. Nighttime was always a time I dreaded. Through those LONG nights I found Jesus. I found Him in my youth group through the ministry team leaders too, I found Him on Christian Youth Retreats, I found Him on Mission Trips but some of the most precious times were when it was just He and I alone in my bed. I didn't have any friends that really understood or could help me. I had some precious youth leaders and people that took me in and showed me with skin on who Jesus was. Jesus became my shelter, and He was proving to be the only one around me that through and through could handle all my questions, all my fears, all my angers, and all my pain. I would sit in my bed and read my bible, I would claim verses as my own and I began to find that Christianity wasn't just a way of thinking or something we should "learn about" but it was my hope, and at times my only hope. Jesus showed me through some really hard times and through some really amazing powerful awesome times that what He desires and what being a Christian is all about is a loving and trusting relationship with Jesus. I learned to cling to Him and found great comfort in His word. I spent many hours journaling my prayers to Jesus and He often gave me poems that helped me express some of the pain, and some of the joy a long the way. I know to a very small extent what Jesus must have felt in His darkest hours. It was comforting to know there was SOMEONE who really did know my pain. I can't even begin to try and count the times that my youth counselors from youth group would tell me that God was going to bring good out of this bad situation. I went through a wide range of emotions and would think "I've dealt with that" and then there I was going back through them again. There was much anger, much sadness, much grieving, much confusion, and much pain. There was also MUCH love and patience from Jesus and from the people around me who loved me. Through my high school years God at times helped me to be a listening ear for a few girls in my school who had also been violated or abused by someone. Jesus would speak to me and tell me things about people and even when I was hurting and broken He chose to use me to help others see Him. Jesus showed Himself to me in such real and tangible ways. He allowed me to share about how He had saved my life that night, and how He was now saving my soul. At youth retreats I was able to share my story and testify that God was faithful and loving and good, and sharing with other teenagers about how Jesus was taking this horrible violent experience and using it for good. I was blessed over and over as God allowed me to speak about how God can help us to forgive people, and how we can be set free by His love.
Jesus has never waivered in His faithfulness to me. I have waivered. I have over the years allowed the lies to take over and I've thought that I must figure it all out and pull myself together before I can come to Jesus and be used again by Him. That has been a big part of my struggle the last few weeks while trying to accept that I am bipolar. I keep thinking I have to clean myself up and get better before coming to Jesus, before He will want me or love me much. I've scrambled and tried every way I know how for many years to "fix" myself and I just can't. I'm one step at a time seeing that Jesus just wants ME, just as I am, I don't have to do anything, He just wants to love me.
I wish I could say that I have been faithful to Jesus in the last 12 years, after leaving home and walking into the life of my dreams. I can't though. The truth is that I've waffled back and forth with my faith, I've struggled deeply with depression and many times I've chosen to try to do things on my own instead of running to the open arms of my Jesus. I have felt hopelessness at ever getting better. I have in many ways allowed fears and failures to have the place of Jesus's hope and grace, often operating out of my own flesh, and not God's Spirit.
When I was 21 I got married to the most beautiful and precious person that I know. Marc has been a rock for me, He has loved me unconditionally and He has served me and given to me year after year. We had dreams of having lots of babies, of Marc having lots of years in ministry and that everything would be so easy and so fun. Babies came easily, well the pregnant part did. The pregnancies not so much. With each pregnancy came more sickness, and each time Marc and I both felt a bit more worn and a little less able to stay above water. After each baby I had a good bit of Postpartum Depression. I found that things weren't as easy as we had hoped, and that I wasn't able to manage as well as I wanted. Over the years I began to move away from Hearing Jesus's voice and I started doing my own thing. I'm not sure why because looking back I obviously didn't manage on my own too well. I think my heart became hardened as I realized that life wasn't panning out quite like I had imagined, and sometimes the verse "He can do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask for or imagine" seemed to be less and less possible.
When Caleb (now 9) was a baby my parents divorced. I had held on to the idea that one day Jesus would answer my prayers and my parents would be OK but that didn't happen. I had these 2 tiny babies (Isaiah 1 and Caleb a tiny baby) and I was angry. I was already dealing with the overwhelming feelings of depression and this was just something I didn't want to deal with. Without realizing it, I just stuffed it down.
Things felt hopeless. I couldn't pull myself out of the dark and everything felt like too much. I didn't want Marc to go to work. I didn't think I could handle the kids alone, and many times I called Marc and he had to come home. I can't imagine the struggle Marc had as he tried to juggle his job and his family, and the demands and expectations I was putting on him. There were times that I would open up a bit and Jesus would be able to show me His love, and He would give me grace and healing, as much as I would allow and for as long as I was truly open to Him.
As a young child without realizing it my way of dealing with things was to close up and shut down. It seemed to be the "safest" way for me to cope with the constant fighting and struggle between my parents. And out of default that is what I would resort to with Marc and with Jesus when things got tough.
More sweet babies came, and though Jesus was giving me exactly what I wanted and had asked for, I wasn't as full of His joy as I had been when I was younger.
I had learned to expect Marc to take care of me and meet my needs and no longer came to Jesus to meet my heart's longings. I became more and more discouraged and more disappointed in myself for the way I was becoming. I hated that I knew I wasn't doing things the way I wanted to or that was right, but yet I couldn't seem to fix things. I would have times that I would get hooked on something and try to find my fulfillment in whatever obsession I had at the time, but each time I would end up unsatisfied. This wasn't really a pattern I realized was happening, it just happened.
I'm realizing now that over these past 6-8 years I've quit believing that the visions and hopes that God gave me were possible anymore. My concern for people, my heart for those that are hurting, and my passion for my kids had dwindled and I couldn't muster up enough energy or strength to even fake it.
When I was diagnosed 3 weeks ago with being Bipolar my world again kind of caved in on me. At first it felt hopeful to know there was actually something wrong, a sickness that God could heal, but as I began to process things more deeply I realized that this diagnosis conflicted with a lot of the things I thought, especially about being a christian.
I began to question whether this was a result of my lack of faith, whether being bipolar could really be an illness, or if we as people, broken and human have created such terms to "excuse" our sin and our lack of trust in Jesus. I was convinced that the people who I loved and the people that have had a deep influence in my life in the past would look down on me and see me as flawed. I was afraid that Jesus would see me as unusable and ineffective in His kingdom. I spent many days and nights trying to figure it all out, trying to fix myself so that I could come to Jesus and so I could be close to Him again. I had a huge fear (and at times still do) that others would not want to invest in a friendship with me or take me seriously anymore because of being bipolar. Jesus began to gently show me that it was ME who really thought these things, and it was ME who felt it a spiritual weakness to have depression and not be able to overcome it. I have been on anti-depressants off and on after each baby, and after Abby (almost 4 years ago) I stayed on the medicine because things weren't leveling out for me like I had hoped.
I've spent the last 2 years since John-Marc was born thinking "OK now my body can get the break that it needs, and now my hormones will balance out, and I WILL overcome this depression. When my Dr.(a christian psychiatrist whom many people I trust recommended) diagnosed me with Bipolar my idea that I would quickly be "better" began to fade and I realized that this meant that unless God chose to completely heal me, it was a long-term thing. Again things weren't turning out like I had thought they would.
Jesus has brought me back to a place where I'm realizing that ONLY He can fill my deepest need, my deepest longing, and my deepest joys. I am again back in a place where I realize that in good or bad, it's Jesus who is our strength, and it doesn't matter what I've heard from others, or what others do, only Jesus can do what I need. I know that Jesus uses others, and He is for sure using those around me to strengthen and encourage me as well, but I have a new found hunger to KNOW Him, for myself, and to cling to Him and His Word as my strength and my shield. He will only go to the places in my life and my heart and mind that I invite Him, and He can only rule my heart when I am allowing.
I'm also learning to accept life as a process, to accept that things aren't going to all change instantly, and it's going to take time for things to change, and for me to become more healthy. I've always been a "want it now" or not interested, instant gratification person, and learning to trust Jesus to do things in His timing is something I need to work on. I have to accept that it's a process and do what I can today, right now. That's hard for me but I am trying to surrender to God and allow Him to guide me and show me what I can do moment by moment, and not fear or worry about the rest.
There's no one, absolutely no one and nothing that can fill that deep hole in our heart except Jesus. He made us that way; He longs for us constantly and the longing we have to be filled and to be satisfied comes from Him.
John 15 (I think) Says that God is the vine and we are His branches, every branch that does not bear fruit He cuts away, and every branch in Him that bears fruit He prunes so that it will bear more fruit. And most importantly "Apart from Him we can do NOTHING". Absolutely nothing. I can't love Marc the way he deserves or needs on my own, I couldn't pull myself out of the dark times of depression, I couldn't make my babies or my obsessions or my desires fill and satisfy me. Marc can't save me (as much as he wants to) and that's God's design. He won't stop at anything to see His little ones come to Him wholeheartedly.
There are times when the light shines in and I can see glimpses of Jesus and I am drawn back to Him but I still struggle to continue to let Him rule my heart, my mind, and my soul. I'm slowly learning to accept my life as it is. I'm realizing that God really just wants me to be with Him, for me to receive His love, and for me to love Him back, and because of that to love those around me. I am beginning to believe that God's healing comes through the process and not something I can rush or achieve. And more importantly God is showing me that He desires to come along side of me and go through my valleys and my brokenness with me. A guy that goes to our church recently preached a few weeks back and God has been using his message to help me. I was right in the thick of my feelings that Jesus can't possibly love me unless I get this stuff all figured out and that all of this depression is just a lack of my faith. I had begun to ask Jesus to tell me what HE thinks about me. He was over and over through His quiet voice, through His Word, through Marc, through family, and through friends telling me that He just wants me, just as I am He wants me. I have really struggled to believe that. Brian preached on God coming into our brokenness and chaos and walking it with us. He talked about how God heals us and brings wholeness to us through the journey, through the pain, through the struggles. He talked about how God didn't say He would prevent the sufferings, nor did God say He would take us up out of the chaos/brokenness, but He does say in His word that He will take us through it, and He will change us and make us whole in the process. Eeek. God didn't say he would take it away? He didn't say He'd take me out of it? He hadn't said he would make my parents stop fighting, He didn't say He would take me out of that, nor was He saying He would take me out of my sufferings now. BUT the freedom I'm finding is that God does promise to stay with me, to love me through it all, and to even make me holy as He is holy.
I'm beginning to see and believe that I still am that beautiful women that He has already made me and created me to be, I just have to let Him work it out in me. I AM nothing apart from Him, but with Him ALL things are possible.
So, am I completely healed? No. Am I being healed? Absolutely, every second! Jesus is loving me. His grace for me is endless and the power of the Holy Spirit is alive and constantly available to me. I just have to take it. Simple sounding, but I often make things so complicated.
I don't know how I'll feel tomorrow, I don't know what things will look like in 2 weeks, or 2 years, but I do know that God will be the same, Today, Tomorrow, and Forever. He will love me Today, Tomorrow, and Forever, regardless of how broken I am, and regardless of how far I go. That makes me want to know Him even more, to be made righteous and whole, just like He is.
So I'm starting to believe God when He says...He gave His only begotten Son so that WHOEVER believes in HIM will have eternal life, and life ABUNDANTLY! I don't want to just survive, I want to die to myself, be found in Him, and live, joyfully and victoriously, being made in God's image through His righteousness and work of grace in my heart.
I'm definately not always seeing the truth, and there's so much that I need to let Jesus do and change so that I can be the woman He has already created me to be. The awesome thing is that "He has given me everything I need for life and Godliness".
He IS doing excedingly abundantly MORE than I can ask for or imagine", right in the midst of my weakness and my brokeness. He loves me so much just as I am, even in my weakness and sin, even my depression, even with bipolar disorder. This makes me want to be more like Jesus. This gives me hope that right where I am I am ok, and that thankfully I won't stay here. He is making me healthy, for Him, for me, For Marc, for my Kids, and for His purposes.
I have hope in Him that He can and is using me, even with a label, even in my brokeness. God, my Creator knows who He has already made me to be. He sees the bigger picture, He sees what is yet to come, and He knows who He is and what He can and IS doing in my life.
And this whole stigma of christians not needing medicine for depression, I am finally at peace with that. I know God wants me to be healthy and right now medicine (as well as the wisdom God has given my Doctor) is a means of His healing and work in my life, and I accept that. It's humbling to realize I need medicine but I believe He created us with minds and knowlege and when needed medicine is an extention of God's hand healing us. (Just as medicine helps other illnesses). He uses all kinds of ways, all kinds of people, all kinds of things to love and heal us, and it often doesn't look the way we expected. I think the medicine is a way for me right now to get to a place where I can let Jesus show me and begin to work on me. I want to change and become more like Him and the medicine helps to balance my mind so Jesus can work on my heart. I'm praying that Jesus will allow my medicines to be a tool that helps me let Him do a deeper work of Grace and love in my heart.
I know this is just the beginning of knowing who Jesus is and how much He loves me. I am choosing though to walk out this chaos and brokenness of my life WITH Him and not alone. I'm clinging to the promise that God works all things together for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. I'm also clinging to His promises to "Never leave me nor forsake me", and that His blood shed for me still has the Power to change me.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33
I praise God for His goodness, His grace, and His love for me. God is so good.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8/3/10

    Becky, you are beautiful and I love you. Thanks for sharing your life with others who care about you. God has created you for greatness and I am always your friend and I am here for you. xoxo,Juliette