How God Used an Albatross in my Life to Show Me I Could Be a Butterfly

Fridays, especially football Fridays in South Bend...

The first game of every season, "The Kickoff Classic" would be the hardest because that's always when Dad would call me the most excited. He'd be jumping out of his skin excited on the phone "Are you ready? Were gonna beat 'em! I think this is gonna be the year we make it to the national champs! I love you. Can't wait to see you. Meet us at the pep rally! Go Irish!" (Our own little Family version of Rocket/Knute Rockne he was...) I knew how psyched he'd be to come to campus, walk around, play ball with my brother, be with our family and bask in the glory of the Spirit of Notre Dame. It's no wonder I feel his own spirit so much on campus, which brings me to the point of this blog: My dad is not in a building, it's in me.

This time last week I was signing the papers to turn over a condo I owned off campus to a new owner. I felt all grown up (at 37, yes) doing something so huge in life, selling my first property and knowing it hasn't come without a price. But the timing God created was such a gift as I got to sit at that table the day before Dad's anniversary. I could just hear him saying, "Aren't you glad it's done?" I knew he was a part of it. Above all, i knew God had to work it out in His timing, not mine.

That place was my safe harbor as I walked through some of the toughest moments of my life to which I'm grateful and will share further down. But it's important to recognize the road that got me to the point where I was ready to take the offer and let it go. It's important because right now I know a number of people who are stuck with a property that feels like an alabatross and need to known to keep walking through the storm, keep trusting God and He will take care of you. I used to cry out to God asking why he wasn't working, when he was. My poor husband would listen to me emote about it on bike rides and walks going back and forth on whether to keep it, which I look back and realize wasn't necessary. It only gave me stress. I'd go to the grotto and pray over it. I'd hit that place where I'd cry put, "Why are you doing this? Why won't you relieve me of this financial burden?" I'd hear Joyce Meyer talking about a property she had once. She'd drive by it feeling stressed and just give it to God going, " Thank you for working in my life to sell that." That helped me. Just keep doing what you need to do. Yes it's a financial burden and it's not selling but trust me and it will. Low and behold, we were getting ready to have a renter again, still paying some expenses on it, and the buyer came. After a week of negotiations (Dad would gave have been proud), one Friday driving a friend up with me to the lake, I landed on the porch and sent the text. Staring out at the water, in the place I find rest now, I closed the deal, and the heavens started to open up. My heart opened up and my head got clear. I was full of hope. The burden was lifted. 

For so long time I remained crazy emotionally attached to that place. My husband would say, "Remove the emotion, Mere. It's just a piece of property and you know that's not where your Dad or your God is." He was so right, it just took time for me to realize that.

It took time and God to work through me. When it was time, it was time. Yes my dream was to keep it as my place in South Bend or grow Healthy Voice there, but I believe in a God who loves, who cares and has a plan and he wouldn't ask me to let it go if He didn't have a better plan. He just needed to use this to remind me, "Mere, I got this. Remember I got a plan and the plan is gooood!" I don't know where I'd be if I didn't know this in my heart, all I know is I'm trusting Him for what lies through the next door with Him.

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So on Thursday night before the closing, I went to the empty condo. I laid down on floor and wrote, cause that's how I process my emotions. I thanked the place for giving me everything it did to be my refuge during struggles and growth in those years I lived there. I thanked God for putting me there to go through what I can only attest to be absolute divine intervention and transformation.

I thought about when I moved back to South Bend in 2007 I think. I showed up ready to get away from a rushed life out East and find a deeper purpose and do something positive for the world. Now I leave the place fully transformed by the power of Christ in my life. I can truly say that today and it wouldn't be so if I hadn't found that place. God I am truly grateful for every single excruciating moment You brought me to and through in that space so I could be here today. 

I will particularly remember these and carry them as memories in my heart instead of regrets for letting it go reminding myself, it needed to happen for your good. So here are just a few to show you the how amazing the work of God is in my life:

1. On that living room floor is where I cried out to God for help to change me and he answered. Wow. 

2. In that kitchen, I'd try to find my hope and support in food to no avail. And to that kitchen I'd return after a 6-week visit to Florida for treatment of food addiction. But the second time it wouldn't be alone. I'd bring a friend who'd help me clear the past from the cabinets and make way for the new.

3. In that place, I'd begin my life one day at a time in recovery and find a place to call home and rest. In that place, I'd have to grow and learn to love myself the way God loved me without turning away to escape the pain or the overwhelming love, mercy and grace being poured into me.

4. In that space the man of God's vision for would begin his courtship. From moving a piece of furniture up the stairs to realizing this was real, and scary, to being my rock in helping me get the rest of the stuff out of that place that I wouldn't have been able to do myself. I am so truly grateful for him!

5. In that place I'd begin a new career, apart from the politics, with a goal to make a difference. It truly was where it all started. 

6. In that sky blue bedroom is where I fell to my knees after getting the call that my Dad had died and felt the grace of God and my dad hand on my shoulder as he went to be with The Lord.

7. In that living room space I'd get to be with the people who knew me the most that would show up to be there as soon as I got the call about Dad. And there I'd call my Mom to tell her only to get on our knees and pray together over the phone. 

6. In that living room space, I'd also write my first book. On a big, old, cushy chair I'd face the picture window and watch every season go by as I'd write about the seasons of my life. No doubt my dad was there to help. 

7. In that living room space I got a fresh perspective thinking it could be used as a Healthy Voice space. I painted it my colors and decorated with some new furniture. But in the end, God just had another plan and what a great reminder to have me realize he's got a better one.  

So here are my big revalations:
- God isn't in a building. He's not up and hasn't been since the moment I cried out for help. He is down here. He is out there and he is in me and this event showed me that's where he wants me to meet Him.
- Letting go of this condo was a physical demonstration of how much more God's got planned for me, how little value material possessions really are in the end, how much his plans come before our plans, how when he closes one door another one is coming, how to be grateful for the struggle, grateful for God giving me what I needed when I needed it to keep this place afloat, that God always provides and always has the best timing and that God doesn't want me chained to one building, he wants me out in the world and in my home and in my everyday life speaking his truth into the world. I can finally embrace the somewhat nomadic, comfortable in between two worlds, creative, intuitive, writer, wife, and stepmom that I am and I don't have to regret a drop of that decision because I know this:

1) God's got my back. He says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is The Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV
2) He's got a plan and it isn't mine, "The heart of man plans his way, but The Lord establishes his steps." Proverbs 16:9, ESV, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares The Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
3) He makes ALL things work together for the good of those who love him. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28, NIV It makes me think of a song that always comes to me when I repeat this scripture. It's called "Your Love Never Fails" and it's by Jesus Culture. You can check it out on You Tube because my IPad isn't letting me do it.

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A final thought, life is all about trains formation, constant transformation. We grow in none thing and spread out wings in another. In some aspects were a caterpillar and in others we're in the cocoon, and yet in others we ARE a butterfly. I began this condo journey as a young caterpillar. I went into a cocoon to become spiritually broken, renewed and begin a maturing process. And now in a way, I get to be a butterfly.

So if you've read this and you feel like you are in some situation still in the caterpillar phase, like the weight on your shoulders or heart is never gonna come off, just trust God. Give it to Him because he's got this. He knows you are gonna be a butterfly and he knows the exact moment you are gonna spread your wings and be free of whatever albatross you've got. So just keep being. Keep learning and growing and walking though life because before you know it, God's gonna show us your beautiful wings!!!!

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Today I'll be driving down to South Bend for the game experiencing the Kickoff in a whole new way. My today family will be with me. My home family won't. My brother started college this year and he needs to be there, which is okay cause life keeps moving! It will be first first season game since dad died to go to without them, but I'm looking forward to it. At first I was scared to go without them, but I know they'll be with me in spirit just like Dad always is. I may be emotional but that's okay. It'll be a good, growing emotional and I know my family will be here next week for Michigan. This time I get to enjoy it with my chosen family and I can wait. It will also be my first game weekend without the condo which I know is a very good thing, yet I also know it has a potential to feel weird. It's okay though. You grow. You change. You recognize it as you go. You feel it. Then you are through it. The beauty is that condo gave me the ability to take a huge breathe and release what I'd been carrying on my shoulders. Not only that, after all the emotional growth I went through with it, God worked it all out, for good, in HIS timing and I can be truly grateful to Him for that. 

You can go to my personal Pinterest page at Meredith Schoeller to find the board, "How God used an Albatross" for more inspiration.

Also get ready cause next week I'm going to do part of the theme for the week which is "Rest to Reset" with a video devotional! 

Have a great Labor Day Weekend all. 

 

Being a Christian in Recovery: Reflections on the Robin Williams Loss

Since last Friday I've been reflecting on the fruits of the spirit:

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
— Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

WHY I DON'T "GOT THIS"

On Sunday morning I went to a service at Granger Community Church. The new series is called "Help" and Pastor Beeson talked about people that talk like they "got this." That's danger zone for me.

I thank GOD I DO need God.

I DON'T got this. God's GOT this and he's got me.

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Flash forward to Monday night. We all find out that Robin Williams has died of apparent suicide.

What I DO know today is that God didn't put me on this earth to willpower my way through my mental illness. He gave me my mental illness so that I could see HIS will is more powerful than mine could EVER be. Not only that - he did it so I could be a light for HIM in the darkness.

I AM a woman walking with Christ who is in recovery. I only came to the relationship I have with Jesus today BECAUSE I got into recovery. The journey of recovery is what has led me to finding Christ in Me, not "up there, not down here" like I thought he was as a kid. I had to come to the end of me to begin a journey with him.

Why is it important for me to share this? Because I believe there is a disconnect between the faith side and the mental health side. 

I am more than my mind or my thoughts or my feelings. I am who God created to be in soul and in spirit. My thoughts or brain chemistry do not define me, my worth is defined in Christ. My weight does not define me. My worth is in Christ. When I look at my health I don't pretend that I've "got this." Oh my mental health is "fixed" and everything is just "fixed" because I got into recovery and I went to treatment, and I have found God. No, my life has almost gotten harder because I'm facing stuff. But overall,  it has gotten SO much better, because I GET to face that stuff. I GET to be real about that stuff because I've had to deal with it.

I also GET to walk through it primarily because I know that God's got my back because if I ever got to the place where I thought I had my mental health figured out? I'd be in big trouble. My health is a journey and it's physical, mental, emotional, AND most of all spiritual. I consider it an HONOR to be able to be present to things, to walk through the tough days and experiences today. Why? Because I know that God's doing something I couldn't do on my own free wilI.

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Earlier today I was taking notes for this blog. The passing of Robin Williams speaks to me because I "get it" in different ways.  I've lost a best friend to suicide. I've struggled with depression, addictions, anxiety and everything that goes with that stuff beneath the surface. I've walked the road of recovery. I know how much my mind wants to get me. I get it. My mind IS a battlefield.

Do I know exactly what he went through in his final moment internally? No. Do I know exactly what wanting to take my life feels like? No. But I DO know all too well people that I love and care about struggle with it and it's serious #@$%.

I won't take the time I write this blog to debate about all the religious and political debates that surround it. What I will talk about is the stuff of the heart and why treating mental illness and getting REAL about it as an issue is of supreme importance within ourselves, in our society and for the next generation.

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A PERSPECTIVE

I don't know if you've had a chance to read the letter Robin's daughter penned to him (Here it is), but it touched me in a deep way. In her last line of the letter she expresses sadness about losing her father and the hole he left. My Dad was no Robin Williams but many would say, "Your Dad lit up a room and he'll be missed," or "He made you feel like you were the only person in the room." Others came up to me at his wake or sent me messages as soon as they heard about how much my Dad had impacted their life and the choices they made in a good way. Each one made me feel even more lucky to have him as a Dad. Each one made me feel like, "I'm so glad I wasn't alone in feeling the light of his spirit." Their words and stories about him filled up my soul. And with his 3 year anniversary of being gone fast approaching next week all I could think when I read her letter was, "Wow, I get that." Different death circumstances, but still loss of our Dads. Loss period.

I only can connect to that because I learned how to feel when I got into recovery from NOT feeling for so many years. I wouldn't be able to feel the emotions that come from missing my Dad or be able to write or talk about him the way I do, if I didn't get through recovery and learn how to navigate intense feelings like this.

TWO THINGS MAKE MY LIFE:

1) My Recovery

2) My Relationship with God.

I heard that Robin Williams was in recovery in some shape or form. That means he got to a place just like I (and many other people did) where he couldn't take it anymore. His mind was making him turn to alcohol and other addictions and there was no amount of money, movies or Academy Awards that could make that go away. The mental stuff is NOT an outside job. The disease of the mind does NOT discriminate. 

It's an INSIDE job.

DESPERATE TO CHANGE

You can look like you've got it all together and be absolutely falling apart on the inside, and no one ever has to know...unless you are desperate.

You don't give up until you are desperate and I (just like millions of others in recovery) was desperate. What I was thinking, feeling on the inside was absolutely killing me. I had to deal with it because I hadn't EVER dealt with it and all the addictions I'd gone to just were not working anymore at all. So I DID go to treatment and get into 12 step recovery and every drop of knowledge and tool that I got on that journey was only by the grace of God...and STILL is only by the grace of God.

But there's that underlying thought in society that somehow whatever you did to get better "fixed you." Yeah, you know - you go to meetings for a while to "get it" and then your good. You go to therapy and your "good." You go to treatment and you get out and your "good." Oh man is that a lie. You are given the tools to LIVE. That is ONLY when the journey just begins.

So when I had my spiritual awakening and found God in the depths of my soul struggle, I didn't just go "Oh yeah, I'm good. Here we go!" Far from it.

He gave me the courage to take the first, second, hundredth, and continued steps. He still gives me the courage to take every single step. If I stumble and fall HE is there to help me up and so are the tools I've been given to do this:

To LIVE LIFE knowing that one of my greatest weaknesses is my mind and if I just give it to God and keep going to meetings, and getting in the Word, He will keep showing me the way.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

WHY IT TOOK RECOVERY

That 12-step program I found when I got into recovery is EXACTLY the door that walked me through to a deeper relationship with God.  Finding a god of my understanding is the route I had to take to find that God is my God. But It TOOK not having rules drilled into me of how to live that opened my heart to HIM. I didn't just "get" this faith I have. I found my faith because I surrendered my life. On the road of recovery, I literally had to relearn and get to know the god of my understanding, the one who saved me. I needed to learn who he was and why he died FOR me and continue to learn from the Word just how much he is FOR me. 

My program complements my walk with Christ. He meets me but I've got to meet him and part of meeting him is that program. It's part of who I am today and my relationship with God ain't nothing that anyone can take away. Once I accepted him into my heart, there was no going back.

I truly feel like my recovery has given me a new faith that is between me and God on a deeply spiritual and relational level. So while the world debates the political or religious ramifications of contemplating suicide, I'm just going to keep walking in the light. That light is recovery and that light is Christ. Period.

I actively face and walk through whatever I have to in treating my mental health or whatever health because no matter what - getting better is an inside job that I GET to do because of who HE is.

WHY YOU GOTTA GET REAL

You've got to be willing to face mental health struggles and not worry about all the crappy stigmas around it or what other people might think. Who CARES what other people might think. This is your livelihood you are messing with and just because you can't see what's going on with your mind does not mean it's something you can just "fix" with a little willpower or positive thinking (or a workout or a diet.) It takes a LOT more than that. It takes facing your crap, dealing with your past and getting present to who you are today.

Who I AM today is a recovering woman in Christ and I know for sure that he isn't scolding me or judging me or punishing me, because he's been with me every step of the journey. He meets me right where I'm at with a whole lot of love and grace. All I've got to do is keep walking, keep facing my stuff, keep growing and keep learning because God KNOWS I'm never going to stop until He decides to take me one day.

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ACTION

I know that mental health issues and suicide are huge issues that I could write even more than I already have on this. I know that it's happening in every generation across the board because my stepdaughter had a classmate take his life last year. I lost a friend. My Dad lost a friend. Everybody often knows someone in some way. That's not what matters. Yes, the lives lost DO matter. But what also matters is how we address it, talk about it and deal with it. Pretending it doesn't exist (in every age and class) is just stupid. Gossiping about it? Doesn't help at all. Being present because you never know if someone is fighting a battle on the inside cause EVERYBODY'S got their stuff on the inside.

You never know who you can help by smiling, listening or just sharing your story. All I know is that not talking about it has to stop. Getting beyond the talk also has to begin. Because if we just talk about the outcome, we'll never get to the root. We have to get to the root and part of that is breaking the stigma so people can find the strength in safe circles to start facing it. I am willing to be part of that change, to provide a safe space to talk about it, but I can't do it alone. So if you've got a testimony, and you see someone struggling - share it. Most of all, don't do nothing cause that's exactly what your mind wants you to do.

If you right now, struggle with how you feel, what you think about yourself, suicidal thoughts, eating issues, addictions or just feeling uncomfortable in your skin in a way that you feel like you can't talk about it? Find someone safe to talk about it with. If you don't have someone, call a suicide help line. Call someone. Get out of your head.

If you can't find anyone you can turn to God. If you are angry at God or feel like he's playing a part in this that's making it worse, I want you to put down absolutely anything you are "thinking" about him - like he's punishing you in some way (been there done that) and realize this:

He loves you more than you will EVER be able to imagine and ALL that he wants for you is to ask for help so you can truly know that he is FOR you, not AGAINST you. I know it may seem crazy. But I'm someone who had God in a box and never let him into my pain because I thought I had to be good enough. But where he wanted to be was in my pain. All I had to do was say, "Help!"

Ask for help. You are not alone. I know when I get stuck in that place, I have to force myself to get out of myself. Whatever it takes, I've GOT to get out of my head. For me it's a walk in the sun, a journal entry, a call, a meeting, a passage, a quote, a music video - ANYTHING to get me out of my head. Maybe some of what you see below could help you at this very moment.

I hope this blog has helped you or will help someone else. Even if one person reads it, I will know in some way I passed on my experience to help another and that in itself does a little bit to erase the stigma.

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GENERAL RESOURCES

If you are struggling or know someone who is here are some resources that helped me on different parts of my journey, and maybe they can help you with yours if you are open to a faith-based perspective:

Here is a list of every verse that speaks to how our mind is a battlefield: http://www.openbible.info/topics/battlefield_of_the_mind. Getting right to the Word will give you some guidance if you seek it. Joyce Meyer wrote a fabulous book called "Battlefield of the Mind" that you can get and hear her talk also very real about how our minds truly are a battlefield. https://www.joycemeyer.org/ (This is a link to her website where you can find not just the book but devotionals, videos and radio broadcasts that speak messages of truth for you to listen to anytime, anywhere.)

Rick Warren, author of "Purpose Driven Life" is serious about breaking the stigma around mental health you can read an article here about that. I am inspired by someone who knows the Lord that is willing to be honest that mental health isn't something to be ignored or kept inside.

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ARTICLES AND BLOGS TO HELP

I won't begin to approach everything that's out there from a mental health side because it's extensive. What I will do instead is recommend that you seek out stories and maybe read some of these articles stemming from Robin Williams' death to give you a better perspective of the importance of dealing with it. Maybe then, it will open up your heart and mind to realize what matters is you getting healthier mentally, not what everyone else is thinking about you. These articles also speak to the most present statistics from all respects and offer some resources. Best advice? Don't try to figure it out for yourself. You will need the help. IF you pray, pray for willingness to ask for it. You and you alone (whoever you are that's dealing with it) has to be willing to face it yourself FOR yourself. So learn what you've got to learn. Keep doing what you are doing until you realize, "Okay this way/my way isn't working anymore. I need help."

So here are some of those articles:

From RELEVANT Magazine: "Suicidal Tendencies: What we Aren't Talking about is killing us." (one of my favorite magazines with a thorough perspective, especially for the next generation.)

Here's a WebMD Article/Newsletter that came out in response to it today: "When Depression Becomes Deadly."

A personal article from someone who has "been there, done that." It's on Huffington Post and it's called, "There's Nothing Selfish About Suicide."

"What the Church and Christians Need to Know About Suicide and Mental Health," from a website called "A Holy Experience."

Lastly, a fascinating article from Yahoo.com about Carrie Fischer's experience with him as a friend called, "Carrie Fisher on Robin Williams: He was the Opposite of Selfish."

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MOVIE CLIPS TO HELP

Here are two actual scenes from Good Will Hunting that speak so truly to the issues behind the surface, to our insecurities, our idiosyncrasies, and our pain and I think it's an important teaching tool.

MUSIC TO HELP

Finally, here are two songs that I think could help you if you are in that space because they've helped me - the lyrics, the artists testimonies, the actual music. They have helped me and I go back to them regularly so I want to share them with you in case music is one of the languages of your heart.

The first two songs are a group called Building 429. I saw the lead singer share his testimony live in concert recently about his brush with suicide and how getting back to God was what got him out of that ugly place...it makes these songs, videos and his voice so much more powerful.

 

This singer below, Dara Maclean is a Christian artist who talks about how our baggage ties us down - another one I saw sing live and heard the hope in her lyrics of letting go.

This is a Christian Worship song that speaks right to depression and addiction and God as the anchor in all our storms. Many days it's the song on my alarm to wake up. It's called, "Shores" and it's by Bryan and Katie Torwalt.

Here is another one, Demi Lovato, recovering music artist and her song, "Warrior" about her story and struggle with addictions and an eating disorder. It gives me chills and she's another one I went to see in concert with my stepdaughter just so I could feel the presence of her as a voice for recovery.




Letting Go of Shouldering the Burden

 We've all felt like we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders at one point or another. It's up to us whether or not we want to get rid of it.

Two days ago I let go of a tremendous burden in my life - financially, emotionally, even spiritually. I wanted it so badly to work out. I wanted to hold onto it because I had some idea down the road that I could do great things with it. But then, after years of going back and forth on selling, renting or keeping it, I let go of it. I let go of a condo I bought starting grad school when I was still in my princess days of getting whatever I wanted. It carried me through so much - grad school, the moment I met God in my heart before I got into recovery, the return home from treatment and new beginnings that followed. Then there was the biggest memory - getting the call about my Dad going to heaven. 

The memories (both good and tough) are everywhere. But in the end, they will be imprinted on my soul and I don't need to keep the condo to remember that. 

Funny thing is earlier this year many of you know I had shoudler surgery and this year has been quite the metaphor of letting go of what I thought were burdens. So it's fitting that both the burden on my shoulder physically and the burden on our shoulders financially and emotionally of this place - are all being relived in the same year. I'm trusting God for the next door and looking forward to writing more about letting go and letting God on this subject. 

I found these resources below today online and thought it matched my intention with the blog. Hope if helps you in some way. 

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From our trip last summer in Monterey

 

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Friday Devotional: Search my Heart

So here I am sitting on the porch having watched a video at least four times that is speaking to where I am this morning. 

The group is Hillsong United. The song is actually called "Search my Heart."

(Sidenote: Here is a little more info on them. Here is their website. I am hoping to see them live at the end of August in Grand Rapids.)

The first stanza of the song,

"Search my heart, search my soul, there's nothing else that I want more. Shine your light and show your face. In my Life, Lord have your way.

With all my heart, with all my soul, with all I am, Lord, I will follow you." 

This morning the bible app devotional mirrored this video:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (‭Psalm‬ ‭139‬:‭23-24‬ NIV)

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Earlier this week I was studying this passage:

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭4‬:‭23‬ NIV)"

My understanding of it went from "Don't let anyone in," to "Focus on your heart for true health in life." What I read wasn't about the physical, the mental or the emotional. It was about being strong for the journey, and where you get that strength.

Flash forward to this morning, after a night I struggled emotionally and need to apologize for my actions to those I love, all I could do was go to this song and then remember how cool it was that earlier this week He took me to "the Heart" of the Word and then today automatically took me, in my weak space to eh space only he can work.

Search my heart and search my soul. 

 

 

 

 

 

How Life Gets REAL in Loss and 8 Tips to Get Through the Grieving Process, HV For Real Post #6

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The original title of this blog from the series, "HV for REAL" was "How This Child of Divorce is Thanking God for Every Healing Experience in Life Today." But by the end of this it's gonna change. So here goes...

Death. Grief. Loss. It's a process.

Mourning the loss of someone we love is an experience that every single one of us will encounter in life. It doesn't even have to be a someone. It can be an animal, a marriage, a relationship. It can be anything. It's all loss.

But, every single one of us will lose someone we love in our life. So I want you to know what I've learned so far through this process. Sometimes it's literally physical. I mean like, you can't move. Sometimes it's mental and emotional. We're sad and the sadness affects the way we think and feel about life without that person. That sadness can in-fact be downright crippling. Sometimes you just got to call it out for what it is and say, "Duh, it's grief!" cause it can feel like it's affecting everything in your life (which it does) and all you can do is go through whatever the grief brings, feel it, learn to accept that person is gone, and discover a new reality with that person not present physically.

But I'm here to tell you ONE HUGE THING. You can change the way you look at it. I'm not talking about a thinking shift. I'm talking about a heart shift. I'm talking about turning it over to God and asking him (even if it feels like he isn't there), "Hey God, what is it that you are teaching me with this? How is that YOU can use this tragic loss for good?" FYI - he won't give you a play by play right then and there. But he'll give you little revelations, if you just SEEK him in your grief.

I like to look to the light of heaven in my grief to remind me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a heaven. Tomorrow is a new day, and each day the light gets brighter for me.

__

I don't know if you've ever been through that kind of loss. But for me it was my Dad. Somehow in that moment of knowing he was gone I realized that we've only got one life and it's not up to us when we go. It was an immediate awareness of how it's time to make the most of this life.

Not only that, it was time to realize there is a God and if he's carrying me through this (even thought it sucks) then he's got my Dad, and He's got me. I just have to trust, and realize that this is an opportunity for me to see that God the Father has always been there. It's just that my Dad was the one who gave me a little inkling of how great His love really is for me.

FYI - that didn't mean, happy happy joy joy. That meant, I got nothing to be afraid of. All I have to do is trust God's plan and walk through this pain knowing he's got my back. Let me tell you, if I did not know that my God was a loving God, there is no way I would have gotten through it. I would have thought he was punishing me like I did when I was a kid. And if there is anything I wish for ANYONE who loses someone they love dearly, it's that they see the love of the father through the example of that person they loved on this earth. Because when we think of that person, God actually loves us a gazillion times more than even they did. We can't imagine it. We just have to believe it.

We have to LOOK for the signs that he wants the best for us. We have to look for the signs, if we believe in the soul and the spirit that that person we loved never left us. They just changed their form in relationship to us.

When Dad died, I think my biggest surprise was simply that I was more surrendered to God than EVER, because I knew i could NOT get through this alone. No way, NO how. And that was ONLY because I took him out of a text book before Dad died, and invited him into my heart through a slow process of surrender. That process prepared me for that call on that day and every day going forward without my Dad on this earth but in a deeper relationship with the Lord.

You feel like he's not there? Repeat this to yourself a few times and let it soak in:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
— Psalm 34:18 NIV

Your heart is BROKEN. Your spirit is absolutely crushed. But he is close to YOU. Yes, you.

Let me explain it to you through the simple lyrics of a few song lyrics and video.

"WE CAN TRUST OUR GOD. HE KNOWS WHAT HE'S DOING, THOUGH IT MIGHT HURT NOW, WE WON'T BE RUINED. HE IS WITH US." - "He Is With Us," Love and the outcome.

That means, he's not in a textbook or a fluffy cloud saying, "You'll be okay sweetie." No, he's right there with you. I mean, RIGHT THERE. He is showering you with love and hugging you so tight that you can't help but be overwhelmed with that love. If you loved that person you lost, imagine it's them hugging you or sitting with you when you are hurting the most. Then imagine that this love he feels for you is even greater than that. Hard to believe, huh? Well - it's true. If you believe it? It's true. Because I can tell you there is NO person on this earth, not even your spouse or a surviving parent that could EVER heal your hurt heart from this loss. That pain is reserved for HIM. When you are in your deepest pain, you go to Him and he will heal your heart. If you don't believe it, you've got to drop the old image of you have that he doesn't have time for you and realize He wants something more for you.

He wants you to know this: If you let Him into that pain, he will show you in this deepest, darkest moment that he wants a relationship with you. He wants you to know that you are HIS and HE is the one that can fill that deepest hole within you.


So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
— Galatians 3:26, NIV

#1. The Word

I didn't grow up in the Bible except to listen to it on Sundays at church in sermons and I can't tell you how powerful it has become in my life. It is THE source of strength for me in trouble and I learn something from it every single day. Pick it up without judgement of what you might think it says, and think about what HE might be saying TO you through the Word for your journey of grief. If you have to, download the Bible app and just type in their search bar, "Grief." Read the passages. Not only that, read the chapters around the passages. It's amazing what you can learn from the Word.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
— Hebrews 4:12 ESV

#2. Listen to the Sound

He will use music to minister to you in your pain. Yes, more music. If you choose to open your heart, you will hear lyrics that speak right to you and the pain in the very place and moment you need it. Music is a gift for us to express our feelings and hear the voice of God. Take advantage of it.

Listen to the Sound isn't just the title for this section but it's the name of a band I was blessed to see live this weekend at World Pulse Festival in South Bend, IN. It is the song that came right to my mind and the lyrics are appropriate with each one of these songs I've chosen to share with you. They are close to my heart and my own grief journey, even though they don't know it!!! I'm going to share a few songs with you from them that I hope one or ALL of them will speak to you like the speak to me....

That sound? Is him...

This last song of theirs is actually at the end of my book, when I talk about losing Dad and feeling connected to heaven when I hear this song. You might wonder why...if you are a believer, you probably don't. But if you aren't quite there, let it soak in a few times. Get to know the lyrics. Let it remind you that this pain we feel, this loss is a temporary thing. Let it give you an idea of what heaven might just be like for those we've lost and how we will get to be there someday. It will help you I hope, like it helped me realize, this pain I feel is temporary and I will get to see my Dad again someday.

#3. Look Around You

When my Dad died, I literally felt like life was in slow motion. I noticed everything about everything. That 'noticing' is something I took as an opportunity - not to focus on what I was lacking without him to call, but how lucky I was to be able to feel connected to him spiritually by noticing that God was literally all around me. Every bird. Every sunset. Every sunrise. Every intimate conversation with someone who'd also been through what I'd gone through were all little winks and moments from God showing me not only that he's RIGHT there if I just look for him. But also, that if I look for him, Dad's always right here in my heart. And that's why I feel closest to my Dad in nature, because I know God is there. Don't hesitate to take in all those little signs because that's God taking care of you through the pain and giving you a little window into heaven.

#4. Look Within You

I know, it's hell what you are going through, whatever your loss may be, death or not. Process the feelings in any way you can. Best way for me was to write them out. So do what you can and need to do to process the pain so it doesn't get stuck in your heart. It's going to feel physically exhausting, mentally and emotionally tough. Let yourself experience this pain so that you can allow it to bring you more present to this life. It's okay, God's got you. All you've got to do is show up. Talk to him, pray, listen to him - he's within you, and certainly not in a drug or temporary fix for your feelings. Move THROUGH the pain, not against it.

#5. Look Beside You

He didn't put you here to walk alone. He put people beside you who are going through it too.  When those people show up, be open to it. Get some coffee, share your walk. You will be amazed at what God does with people who are just walking with us.

#6. Look Ahead of You

He will put people in your life who've been there, done that which is half the time - all we need. The people who got me through this were not the ones who were "supposed" to be there, but the ones who'd been there. Each person I'd known who'd been there was at the top of my call list in the early days of grief, because they were the ones who could be with me in my pain because they'd felt it themselves. They were the ones who could help me realize when I felt a little crazy that thing we often say, "Oh, Duh. It's grief."

#7. Look Outside of You

Once you go through this, there will be people who need to hear YOUR story of how you got through it. These are the opportunities in life God gives us to get outside of ourselves. By sharing our story, we give someone else some hope. No need to force it, you'll know it when he brings these people into your life. But take each opportunity as a chance to share your story because there is nothing better in grief then knowing you aren't alone. Don't keep it inside you. Get outside of you.

#8. Look Beneath You

Right now you are standing on this earth. You are breathing in the air. You are living your life. You are running to your next meeting or picking up your kid at camp. You are living. Take THIS opportunity as a chance to REALLY live your life. I mean, REALLY live it. Let their passing teach you all the reasons you've got a lot of life left in you - simply because you are still here

And these, my Healthy Voice partners on the journey are just a few things that can help you get through ANY process of grief. We all go through it. Sometimes we just need a reminder or a good kick to realize it's not about us and not something we can control.

So - mourn the ones you love and ENJOY the life you've got.

Godspeed.

xo,

Mere, Your Healthy Voice Guide

Here's the Playlist on You Tube. I'll add more as they come to me....https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdkvYuvuMabb-IuwlgH2dy3TUk9qpVKDP. The One on Spotify is called, "When Grieving," but I'm a computer gimp sometimes and can't get it on this post! So, go check it out! It's got a couple different songs on it.

 

 

 

Why I Thank God I Know my Mental and Emotional Health is Not Something to Be Ignored, Healthy Voice for Real #5

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I don't know about you, but there is something about this little girl that reminds me of myself when I was little, what I may have looked like when I was sad and felt alone. I wanted to use this image because I thought it spoke to that little girl in you and me who may want relief from what she's thinking or feeling....who probably would have loved relief from it then if she knew...

Jump forward in time to who you are today, the things you've been through and more...listen to this song. I heard it the other day on the radio and was moved. Remove the premise of the song and listen to the lyrics. It may take you a couple times, but it's all about being the person you are underneath, not the one everyone else sees. Listen all the way to the end. It's powerful.

"It's hard enough to be myself, let alone to try to be someone else trying to play the role, trying to look the part, never saying anything from my heart..."

Here's the deal...

If we don't pay attention to our minds, we end up stuck in them trying to control everything in our lives, when it's our minds that are actually controlling us. Although the world judges those who face their mental health issues, many of us have no choice. It doesn't matter about a scarlet letter, what matters is that we live life. Because I know that my mental and emotional health play a major factor in my physical health, I always have to pay attention to them and what might be influencing them. Not only that - I have to proactively treat them in many ways because one never knows how they are are going to hit us. Do we all have such mental and emotional struggles? Yes. We all have both. Some of us have them more that others. Some of us have a lot more work to do on them to get healthy. The important fact is that we DO something. So, let's talk about meltdowns.

Have you ever had a meltdown moment?

You know, when everything seems to not go your way, and then you just feel like you are going to fall apart and sometimes you do?  It's like a domino effect. All the pieces fall into place just wrong enough that you think you aren't going to make it.

You know how it's all about how to react to it, right? Well, it's a lot easier to handle them when you are present to the fact that your mind can be a battlefield and your emotions can think they run your life. If you try to "control" your thoughts and feelings yourself, you'll end up at a dead end. Sometimes that dead end can be the biggest gift of your life. It can be such a meltdown that you finally realize you need help. You finally realize, okay, may way isn't working anymore. I need help. Those in recovery or on a path of renewed faith get it. Surrender is a GOOD thing. Weakness brings power, and sometimes? 

We've got to break down to breakthrough.

And that is why we have to face the fact that our mental and emotional health is a huge factor in our overall health. There are factors with the makeup of our brain chemistry, our thoughts based on what's happened to us in life and our feelings based on how we've reacted to those events that have happened. These factors are not something we can just "fix" with 3 hours at the gym, or the next best diet fix. They are also not ones we can fix by going to one therapy sessions. What we have to learn to do is process THROUGH them, and sometimes, it takes every single tool we've got. When we've got tools, we know exactly what to do to get through them. We know like we know our names that "This tool shall pass," but only if we are willing to face the facts!

Let me tell you a quick story that might make sense of this:

The other night I had one of those nice little meltdowns. 6 years ago I would have binged on something or found a place to get a "fix" to my feeling. That night, I did what was right in front of me to do. I went to the place that I go to talk to my Dad and I just sat. I cried it out, hard at some moments. I talked out loud to God, to Dad (it's a quiet place in nature). I took notes on my thoughts into my phone notebook so I could get them out of my head. I called a friend who I knew would "get it." I cried more. I let myself feel the feelings. I realized instead of this moment breaking me, it was breaking me through to something better. I looked up scripture on my Bible app regarding the situation to see what God might say about it in his word. I got on my Spotify and found a positive, encouraging song to listen to that reminded my God was right there with me carrying me through the moment. I got home with my puffy face, which was the last thing I cared about after knowing what God just brought me through 5 minutes before. I could not have done any of that without all the tools I've been given in my program of recovery or my relationship with God and trust in him. 

.Why do I tell you all this?

Because the "world" will tell you that you can get your thoughts right, you know with a little of that willpower you use with your weight?... and your life will be grande. In some respects, that is right. But if you think you will be the one to "fix" them from a place of willpower all by yourself, you could be setting yourself up for failure and I wouldn't want you to do that. If we access it, we've got a power that can help us renew our minds and it's not us!!!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
— Romans 12:2 NIV

The same thing goes for your emotional state. Some people may say to you, "Aren't you over that yet?" or you may think you are the only one in the world with your problem. I can tell you that you are not alone and I get that voice that says, "Get over it." There is a big difference between getting over it by walking through it and getting over it by pretending "you got this." HE'S got this! 

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
— Philippians 4:6-7, The Message

Our mental and emotional health are very serious matters not to be taken lightly. The best thing we can do is address them, acknowledge them, learn about them, navigate through them. Even better, we can turn our fears over to God who I promise you helps you walk through them. I know I didn't grow up in the Word, but the more I study it, the more I realize He IS the one who can help me through this, because of his love.

So, if you struggle mentally or emotionally? Don't keep it inside. Talk to someone you trust. Talk to someone who knows better than you what you can do. Talk to someone who can remind you that no matter what your thoughts or feelings try to tell you - you are good enough and capable having a joyful life not run by your thoughts or feelings.

Here are a few parting messages to take with you....

“Don’t allow your mind to tell your heart what to do. The mind gives up easily.
— Paul Coelho
“When a person is going through a hard time, his mind wants to give up. Satan knows that if he can defeat us in our mind, he can defeat us in our experience. That’s why it is so important that we not lose heart, grow weary and faint.”
— Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind

A Reflection from "Jesus Calling" earlier this week...

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Financial Peace During Broke-ness? HV For Real: #4

I've been procrastinating on this post. In real life, I just got back from a  week vacation and I have to go through a lot of mail and bills to figure out what we owe and where. I don't want to do it (shocker.)  I will, but I'd so much rather be doing something else. Just like I'd so much rather pretend that I don't have money struggles so I can fit in with the rest of the world that makes me think I'm the only one who does! And that is a lie, so that's why I'm writing this - to show you how even when I'm broke I somehow, well I know why - have financial peace.

Speaking of Financial Peace, I have taken the Dave Ramsey course - twice. I love how practical he is about how to handle your money. But I realized this year something that's missing in his program - the emotional aspect. See, I don't know about you - but if you are anything like me when it comes to money, like you are with food? You might have a little more struggle than just "Ok, I can do this." You might have a little baggage tied up around it, you get what I'm saying?

Well, if you do then you'll understand what I mean when I tell you about the voice I've had for so long (an Unhealthy One). It likes to beat me up mentally and emotionally for not being "good enough" with money. It used to be about making as much money as my parents so I could be happy (thankfully that's not the case anymore). Then it was about learning how money was a way that I measured my worth (another one that is long gone.) Now it's about learning that I'm not a failure because I didn't get this "money" thing all figured out. It's just that I'm human and this is one of those areas that I have a little more to learn in learning how to make it WORK. (See how I don't say get rich). Money is something (like food) that we all use every day of our life. We can't get away from it (like food) so we've got to learn how to make it, use it, and manage it. But for some of us? It doesn't jump of a textbook page. It takes hard work. And sometimes we feel stupid (like me - the child of a major political fundraiser and corporate finance accountant). But we've got to just push through our feelings and make it work.

I already know that my goal in life isn't to be rich. If that's what God grants me someday, then I will use it for HIS good. But it's not my goal. It's not the place I'm seeking happiness. It's a way that I can participate in this world.

___

In case you are wondering, I won't give you all the boring details but I am one of those kids who never wanted for nothing and I still struggle with it. I haven't been taking advantage of someone else's wealth for a while now and let me tell you, it's been an emotionally grieving process. Why? Well..

I used to have people tell me that I'd never survive without my Dad because he always took care of me. And he did. I'm immensely grateful for that. But I'm also grateful for what I'm learning about how I handle money BECAUSE of that. I know I'm not the only one, a child of divorce, who had at least one parent that tried to buy them everything to make up for not being there. Yes, that's right. I can tell you, if you are in the middle of it, buying your kid everything they want (divorced or not) won't help you in the end, because they'll just come to expect it.

Before my Dad died I was making good money (relatively). At that point it wasn't about how much but that I was finally making it on my own. Yes, mid thirties and making it on my own. THAT to me was success. At that point I had a promising project with a national company that gave me hopes for even greater comforts for both my consulting and coaching business. They asked me to write a book for their audience (which I'd already been planning) and so I did.

Two weeks later my father died.

I found out about a life insurance policy my Dad had left me years ago. I was terrified  because of how I knew I'd spent in the past, even thought I was in recovery. I also knew I had to take the time (1 year) to write this book so I prayed and I was given direction.

I spent that year and that money living, editing the book and self-publishing it, printing 3000 copies (not a cheap process). I spent the next year taking the time and money to build my business from the ground up with hopes that it would have this pie in the sky success (by now). I invested in my wedding day and my honeymoon. I invested in myself that first few years after Dad passed. In the eyes of many what would be trust fund babies, it would probably be chump change. In my eyes, it was a lot. In my world, with my insecurities around money, I beat myself up for quite a while and questioned myself about whether or not all the things I'd invested in were really "worth it". Yet, every single decision I made about it was done with prayer, listening and trusting God would take care of me in the end.

All of that being said, when the money was gone - it was hard for me to cherish everything I'd put into my new life and not look at how much of a failure I was. It's true that the devil used money as an attack dog for my spirit like nothing else. Not only that, emotionally it was like  reliving my Dad's passing.  Even more troubling, was that I was struggling with equating my self worth and my lack of ability to create financial abundance. It felt like I was back at square one thinking my worth was based on whether or not I could MAKE the money. For a while I wanted to blame others. But then I realized, just recently - that being the victim of these circumstances wasn't going to get me anywhere.

___

If I wasn't this soaring success based on my "own" will in trying to reach success, then I know because I know God - that this success is for HIS kingdom and not MY own glory. I also know that HE will do what HE can do WAY MORE than I could ever do with something I've got. Today, I am still standing behind the work of Healthy Voice. I know that God will show me the way to fund this cause because it's for HIM. 

My husband and I are living in a one income household that is modest. He has to work Saturdays much of the time, which is nothing to complain about, but it's something as a privileged kid I never understood before. But today, I know that it IS what IT IS. In fact, it helps me value my husband, his work ethic, our time together, and the dollar much more than I did before.  I know I DID choose this life. I also know I chose to follow Christ and in HIS world, it's just not about me, or the almighty dollar.

Do I need to make money? Yes. But I know today I've got to give Him what I've got and let him take care of the rest, which in this world isn't quite the norm. I know that my work is ministry. I don't know HOW to start, but I know if it's got something to do with HIM, then he's already got me started and will show me the rest of the way. He will give me everything I need as he's done THUS far so I can give the most of what I've got for HIS purpose.

Did I spent a WHOLE lot of years dependent on my parents financially? Yes. I have worked through A LOT of it. Do I still have work to do? Yes. But I just keep walking. I know I don't have to be the victim. I don't have to blame the situation of being a child of divorce who was given everything I wanted. I don't have to blame the situation that we aren't rolling in dough.

I can be IMMENSELY grateful for every single thing they gave me to contribute to who I am today. I can also be grateful to know that even though my mind or my eyes, might want me to keep up with the Joneses, it's my heart and spirit that remind me how lucky I am to have the greatest riches in life through my relationship with Jesus Christ.

There is not one material thing that could replace that, or fill that in the way HE can. I feel so lucky to know that. I feel lucky to know I can step away from that kind of life or conversation and just be okay with who I am, with what I've got and who God's got me becoming.

For when it comes to the day I go to heaven, I know it's going to be about the relationships and the lives God's touched through me - not the material things I'll bring with me. And my Dad in his life may have had some nice "things", but in the end it truly was those who loved him and showed up to say goodbye.

A Little Wisdom

Even though Dad and I struggled with financial codependence, I'm grateful today we had the experience. Why? Because now I can carry the message and let God make my mess HIS message. So,

If you are a parent, know that buying your kids everything won't fill any holes in their hearts (or yours). But a loving relationship with God will replace any want or need you may think can be fixed with a purchase. The best thing you can do is find a deeper relationship with Him to show them by example your hope rests in Him.

If you are a child growing up with wealth or without it  - I hope you know that your worth does not lie in what you are lacking financially or the abundance you have financially.

Your worth rests with your Creator who bought you at a price. If you ARE a wealthy kid, who struggles with low self-esteem or addictions that go along with having a lot of money and you are struggling - know that you are not alone. Know that you don't have to hide behind the money or the idea that, "Everything's fine because we look fine!" There are kids who've gone through it too and found themselves on the other side much happier than they did when they were using the money for self-destructive ways. More than anything, I want you to know that whatever your net worth - I don't care how many millions or billions you stand to inherit - your self-worth rests in the Lord. There isn't anything that money can buy that can give you that.

And if you wish and wish you HAD that kind of money because there is just so much you can do with it, think of those kids who DO have it and are STILL struggling. Get out of your own way in thinking that IS where hope and happiness lies.

My own Reflection

Today, I'm growing in my journey and recognizing how much God loves me and wants me to share the gifts he's given me (not financial) that he wants me to share with the world. I am learning to trust (this has been the hardest one) that if I just give him EVERYTHING I'VE GOT, he'll do EVERYTHING HE'S got. I don't have to wonder if he's really got me covered. I just have to TRUST that he truly DOES! And that in itself is a process.

So all this being said - I can tell you that I DO have financial peace today, even with not much in my bank account and a feeling that sometimes I can't just get the finances all "right." You know, that little blue box? I DO have financial brokenness and I'm okay with that. Why? Because if I didn't, I wouldn't be trusting God to do what He can with what HE'S got planned for me that had got NOTHING to do with my plan.

Parting Thought

Do the most you can with what you've got. If you've got money, put it where your heart is, towards the people and the causes that mean the most to you. If you don't, know that having it doesn't determine your worth and not having it doesn't mean you have no worth. Your worth lies in something so much greater and I hope this blog has given you an idea of what that might mean for you in this life.

Parting passages

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hears through faith.
— Ephesians 3:16 - 17
And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Jesus Christ.
— Phillipians 4:19 AMP
I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me {I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency}.
— Phillipians 4:13 AMP