The Blind Will See

“As he went along, he (Jesus)saw a man blind from birth.His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  “Go,”  he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing”  John 9: 1-7

As I encountered this verse this morning it stuck with me. Have you been asked this question, what might you have done or been doing that has led you to the place and circumstances you are in? The first time someone asked me this question I had just experienced the death of my brother and only sibling. As well, I had just had a baby and was experiencing post part depression. The elders of the church came to pray over our house. As I was sitting there, the pastor read scripture and asked me if I had any hidden sin that might of led me to my present situation. These words, thought more common that I would like, can really do damage to a person’s relationship with God, but I knew in my heart there was nothing but the accusation was too much to take in. I started to doubt myself and question if others thought my suffering was some sort of punishment. With time in the word, the Lord revealed the truth that these circumstances can present themselves because God allows it. It produces charter, long suffering, maturity, and a deeper relationship with God.  I don’t know about you but I know these things are true in my life. Sometimes it takes the suffering to reach that better place and deeper relationship with my Savior. 

I love Jesus’s response to this question. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. Wow! What a might response and a beautiful picture. More often than not this is what we see in scripture. The suffering is not a result of sin but it happened so the work of God might be displayed. That gives me hope, I don’t know about you. I can rejoice in the fact that my present suffering is for a greater good. I know that my perseverance in the face of adversity is going to draw me into a deeper relationship with my heavenly father. That is good news. We do not serve a God that is punitive but one that has amazing grace. We serve a God that loves us and wants the heal us, but not only that, he wants to use us. Rest in that. Reflect on that and take joy in your present circumstances knowing that it will work together for good.

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The Muck and the Mire

“ I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” Psalm 40: 1-3

Does this verse speak to you? What do you feel when you read it? 

I contemplate what it looks like and what it means to have the Lord turn to me and hear my cry. I get bogged down in the stuff, the long suffering.  I want it to end. I don’t want to wait patiently, but that is exactly what the Lord calls me to. He asks for patience in suffering. That is not the message the world emits to me. The world and the church cry out for a genie God. We pray for him to give us the healing without the maturity, deliverance from the enemy without learning to fight. We see this big man with a white beard sitting on the throne and giving us our hearts desires based on good standing. We get fed up wondering if he truly hears us. Is it possible that he hears us but doesn’t give us the answer we want in our time but in His time. I wonder what it would look like to trust in those moments. 

It reminds me of being a mom. My kids ask, cry, and beg for things. The things they want and desire, but sometimes I don’t answer right away. I am not only teaching them patience, but I am saving the secret for the right moment. I want to give that gift to them in the right time so they will be most blessed by it. I am not going to tell my kids they get to go to Disney World right now. No, I am going to wait until its time to leave and share it with pomp and circumstance. If they knew about the gift ahead of time they wouldn’t be as enthusiastic or the joy and excitement would dissipate with time. I need to do it my way in my time to elicit the greatest reward.  I believe that is how God sees it but his timing is more perfect. Can you trust him in that? 

I can’t always trust in that moment. I have survived the deaths of seven people I loved including two of my pregnancies. I lived through my secure base relationship being ripped away with my brothers death. I have lost my sanity twice, and now my daughter’s health is in jeopardy. We fear that she may have a brain tumor. After all that we have been through it has been so hard to trust God and his timing. So, we wait in the unknowing, trusting that God will answer us in his good and perfect timing. We openly hold the results of the testing we will receive tomorrow.. He is asking me to trust him more than with just my life but the life of my beloved daughter. I am learning to hand that over to him knowing that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I would even go once further. I no longer wait for him to set my feet upon the rock and my song to return. I am learning that the pit may be my forever home, and if it is I must plan my full confidence in him. I can trust him through divorce, psychiatric problems, cancer,  love lost, bankruptcy, etc. I am learning to sing in the pit. To allow that heavenly song of worship to lead me to the feet of the cross, though I am muddy and mired, and he will meet me there. It is in the surrendered life that God reveals his greatest self.

So today, I look at the rock, the place I long to be, and I surrender it with open hands to the feet of my Savior. He knows me, he loves me, and he loves you. What is your pit? Write me a comment below on how I can be praying for you to Praise in the Pit. 

Reentry

I am going to get real honest with you here. I am going to walk you through the gates and share the journey. I am not going to hold back what it looked like or how it felt. I want you to know. I want you to see, especially if you think this is a place that you may want to go. I went in scared, unsure of what was to come. I want to take you on the journey with me and show you Honey Lake Clinic.

I loaded my bags onto the golf cart occupied by the male nurse. It was a good choice, it was a position and feeling of protection and authority. I said goodbye and hugged my dad. I turned to leave and we took the golf cart to the Equine Lodge (EQ). It was where all patients would be staying. It was a long building with onside devoted to men and the other to women. there were approximately twenty five rooms on each hall. Most people, but not all, had roommates. 

It is said to be better for your overall experience, as most people with mental health issues don’t do well alone, as the darkness of our thoughts can take over. Though living with another person is difficult for an extreme introvert. My roommate was 52 years old. Her name was Elizabeth. She was kind and maternal. She had been at the clinic approximately a month and was due to go home in two weeks. We hit it off rather quickly. She made her way out of the room so that I could be checked in. This involved a drug test and a pregnancy test. I was startled to learn that I was positive for amphetamines until I realized that was consistent with the ADHD medication I was on. So, no worries. My pregnancy test was negative and I took my first breathalyzer test. I blew a 0.0. I had to preform the test twice, as a novice, I didn’t blow hard enough and received an error on my first attempt. Finally, the strip search was performed and my bags were searched. I was allowed to keep anything that wasn’t sharp, didn’t contain sugar, or have alcohol as one of the first three ingredients. So, I said goodbye to my conditioner. I would be allowed to sign it out as needed. Finally, they swabbed me a for a Genomind test. It was a DNA test that would help the staff to know whether the medications I was on were appropriate for my illness and body composition. I would find out later that nearly all of my medications were wrong for me and I was an ultra rapid metabolizer, so I needed to take high doses of medications to get the expected results. We were allowed to keep our phones and electronics in our rooms during waking hours, so I quickly called family to let them know I was okay. 

Then, a light walked into my room. Her name was Abby. She was young and perky and eager to be friends. I was a little taken aback by her drive to be my friend but was overall thrilled to be hitting it off with someone so quickly. We had wanted to be roommates, after we found out that we were both from Pennsylvania originally and grew up only about an hour and a half apart. However, they never allowed us to be. It was probably for the best, otherwise, we might have never left our rooms. Unfortunately, she had to run to more appointments but we agreed to catch up later.

I waited in my room alone and unpacked. It was hard to take in everything that was happening. A few moments later Becki arrived to take me on a tour of the facility. We got in a golf cart type limo and drove around the beautiful grounds. The full ground are about 1.6 miles around. There are beautiful green grasses, two ponds, horse and stables, and gardens. It was lovely. We went into the Gathering Hall to see where I would eat and where we would have both Chapel and Weekend Encounters. The Church was across the street and located on a massive and beautiful lake. We would attend church there twice a week. Once on Wednesday nights and once on Sunday mornings. 

There were some cottages where people were allowed to stay toward the end of their time at Honey Lake that offered more privacy and individual space.  The grounds included a gym and spa. The spa gave me access to haircuts, manicures/pedicures, facials, and massages weekly. The pool and hot tub were outside and difficult to access in the winter months, though some individuals braved the freezing waters. Finally, there was a pavilion in which we met with our psychiatrist and had psychological education. Our schedules were packed and we would get ample fresh air and exercise walking over the sprawling grounds. For activity you could ride bikes, play volleyball, go fishing, or kayaking. There were meditative prayer rooms and game rooms as well. The facility was cutting edge in the therapies and amenities that they offered. I certainly wasn’t comfortable my first day on the grounds but I wanted to get into my classes and therapies as fast as possible. I didn’t want to stay one day longer than I had to. It was important for me to make it home by Christmas, without a perfect stay, I would be at risk of missing the holidays with my children and extended family.  I knew, however, in my heart that I would have to rely fully on the Lord and his timing. I couldn’t leave Honey Lake until I was completely better.

Relapse

For some people it may seem trivial. To me, the word held it all, my worst fears. Relapse meant the end. Relapse meant the loss, the loss of my future self. My hopes, dreams, and goals all smashed. It seemed to happen slowly but all at once. There was a simple conversation about money. My hopes of taking my little ones on our dream vacation was left on the floor of broken tomorrows. I needed to escape at that moment, to take myself back home. I needed to sleep it off, but there was a delay. So, I sat and held in all of my feelings that seemed as if they would explode out of my chest at the slightest word. That one conversation, it was all it took. HOPE. Those for letters hold everything. I have heard it said we can live for three weeks without food, three days without water, and less than three seconds without hope. I now believe that to be true.

I could feel the darkness seeping back in. This time, I didn’t surrender, I fought. I fought with all  that was within me. This wasn’t going to happen again. I wasn’t going back, back to that place of pain. However, where I stood, a pit grew. I ran but the pit swallowed me. Within days, I went from slightly increasing my meds and seeing improvement, small breathes of air, to spiraling out of control. HOPE, that word faded from my thoughts, from my vocabulary. This time was darker than the last. I began to think of the end. I thought darker things, not ways to harm that screamed for help, but final things. I was going to end this. That’s when I knew. I knew I couldn’t get better where I was. I needed more help, serious help. However, I couldn’t go back to the place that was so horrific that I lay awake some nights remembering the terror of my last psychiatric hospital stay. I didn’t want that label, the stigma to follow me. I needed to become well again, to have people lead me to see that word again so clearly, HOPE. I wanted it more than I wanted my next meal. We found it in Honey Lake Clinic.

This place could be my saving grace, but fear ate at me. I would be driven to Florida by my father and dropped at the gate. No longs goodbyes, I would be swept in to an uncertain future. Could I trust these people, could they really help me? It felt cultish to be honest, no visitors in the living quarters, only weekend visitation, modest clothing, no sugar, no white flour, no CAFFEINE. I was shaking like a leaf as we drove. It was miles and miles from anything. They didn’t need fences because there was no where to run. As we pulled up to the gate, I was crying out to God for help. As I passed through the gate the peace of the Holy Spirit washed over me. I was home. At least a home away from home. I believed it, I was going to get better. It may take months, but I was going to get better. HOPE came a rested upon me at Honey Lake, the journey had begun.

Joy Comes in the Mourning

Joy Comes in the Mourning

This is a topic that I have visited in brief in previous posts. However, I was, again, burdened by the truths held in God’s word about God’s grace in times of suffering. The Bible talks about joy in suffering in James 1. These words held so much pain for me, when I was in the early stages of grief and postpartum psychosis. People did not know what to say to me or how to engage. Most stood at a distance, others attempted to comfort with words and scripture, but sometimes that hurt as well. I began to notice a pattern in the responses I was getting from individuals regarding suffering for the Christian. People wanted me to pray for healing, for deliverance from my current circumstances. I was told by so many individuals that they were praying for healing me. The longer I was sick, the longer my brother was in the grave, the longer I watched the impact my suffering had on friends and family, the more God revealed some of the misconceptions we have about suffering. That perhaps scripture could be directed more deeply, leading to greater revelation about my present sufferings and future glory. 

James 1: 2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters. whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

I love the word consider in this verse. It is so quick to overlook as unimportant to the deeper meaning and substance to this passage. In a season of suffering, it became profound to me. 

Consider (v) – to think careful;; about something, typically before making a decision, to think about and be drawn toward a course of action.

The word consider give us a breath. It gives us time. When tragedy comes at us in what can feel like wave after wave of suffering, it is so wonderful to know the importance of considering. This word gives us the space we need to take in what is happening, to weigh it against our previous experiences with God, and to have time to align our hearts with that of God. In the considering, we are given the time and space to question, ask, cry out, lament because we are not expected to step immediately into the joy. We need to have the freedom as flesh and bone humans to feel all the pain and all of the hardship of our present suffering. The bible tells us not to rush, to consider, to lean into the prospect of joy. So we can pray for those that are in current circumstances of suffering to give space to the word consider. We can take a breath and take in the present circumstances. What grace!

Then, it continues to ask us to take joy. But I want to skip over these words for a moment and turn to what comes after. The following statement gives context to the former. Take joy BECAUSE it produces perseverance. Stop and reflect on that for a moment. It does not say take in joy in your present suffering because you accept the pain and celebrate it. The joy comes from perseverance. We can find the joy, not in the present circumstance but in the outcome. God knows that pain and sorrow of worldly grief. He knows that our hearts are attached to certain people and circumstances in this world. We do not have to pretend like the pain isn’t real. We don’t have to lean into a blind trust of just being happy. We can rejoice in a future where this tragic circumstance will lead to a deepening of our faith and renewing ability to push forward in the future. It is a joy in the redemptive power of our God to take the broken, ugly circumstances of a fallen world and use them for kingdom glory.

Joy (n) – a feeling of great pleasure, happiness

The dictionary definition of joy falls into a category that sets us up for confusion and frustration in times of trial. I prefer to look at the synonyms as well as the Greek and Hebrew for the word joy. 

synonyms – jubilation, exultation, exhilaration 

These are words that make more sense to me. I can still rejoice, even when I am hurting. I can still exalt God, even when my world wounds are terminal. I can still experience jubilation, outside of a fractured heart. The word study on the deeper translation of the word joy is chairo, to rejoice or be glad. The derivative is a cognate of cairo “leaning towards” and saris “to delight in or be conscious of God’s grace” Here is where I see the truth behind these words in James. The author wasn’t implying that we should see the present sufferings of this world, look past them, and pretend like we aren’t affected. He wasn’t suggesting that we watch our precious child be buried and stand there saying we feel happy. Joy is found in the looking not at our present circumstances, but to a future hope. I can lean into my love for my savior because I am aware of God’s grace to me, even during the pain. My future is secure, my hope is eternal, and my present suffering will not be wasted. From that place, a heart can feel the joy of the Holy Spirit in the midst of grief.

So, how long are we allowed to feel sad, how quickly should a Christian let go of this pain and move onto to the happiness and pleasure of their future? James tells us, “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” Let it finish. Pray for your family and friends to allow the pain and suffering to go on as long as is necessary to complete the grow and maturity it was designed for. As those watching someone suffer, I have heard this from family and friends, it becomes wearying to watch someone suffering for extended periods of time. The church is often good at showing up with meals, and prayer, and visiting in the first few weeks and months of someone’s trials. When, however, the end isn’t in sight, we tend to move on. We are not sure what to do with longsuffering. We become impatient. However, God doesn’t promise quick and fast solutions to receive this growth and maturity. He says, “Let it finish.” We have to be patient with God and with those walking through the valley. We need not rush them the restored happiness, getting back to work or church, or life as it was before. Honestly, their life may never go back to how it was before. They may be so changed by their experience that their life has to start over a new and be transformed. It would make sense that this would take time, and we should draw near to these people for the whole journey. If we don’t, we may short circuit God’s complete plan. We may short circuit the outcome and hinder the whole of gift. 

There is temptation to resist the experience of suffering but enduring allows us to practice a surrender to the Lord’s will, patience in his longevity of the trial, and trust instead of worry about the future.

Finally, we can take hope that our present suffering will be overturned into a future glory.

Romans 8: 18-31

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Our present trials are not the creator of faith. They are the refining fire of what has been there all along. The beauty of our heavenly father is that he allows these trials to expose the weaknesses in our faith so that they can be dealt with. He responds in patience when we are wrestling and promises that these present sufferings are for future glory. Our hope is the in the future, our joy is in the future. Pray and ask God to take the time to expose weaknesses, to redeem these weakness by creating a deep perseverance and growth in faith, trust and allow him to take as long as needed to complete the refining, and surrender to his work for your good and his future glory. Be real with him and vulnerable knowing that God sees you, he knows you, he is not afraid of your doubts, and he can make all things new. Lean into him during times of suffering, and rejoice in the midst of suffering because of the gift of God’s grace.

#BLESSED

#BLESSED

Just Google the phrase and millions of hits will appear. Anything from people getting into college, playing another season in the NFL, getting to binge watch their favorite TV shows, etc. It was so hard for me to read the tagline #BLESSED, when  I was walking through my season of grief, mental health issues, suicidality, and job loss. I was scrambling to grab onto something. People kept praying for me to be healed, for a cure for what ailed me. All of the while, it never sat right in my heart. I knew that there was a discord between what I was experiencing and what those around me told me was God’s plan for my life. I was told over and over that God wasn’t making these things happen to me, that his will was that I be delivered from them. It caused me to start searching God’s word. I was trying to make sense of what I was experiencing and compare that to what the world told me my life should look like. I knew in my heart that God was with me in my illness, that he was in control. I didn’t need to ask where God was in my suffering because his word and my experience would lead me to it.

Blessed is an adjective or a noun described in the dictionary as….

blessed – adj. made holy, consecrated

n. those that live with God in heaven

If I simply to stop there. The #BLESSED tagline would be disproven. What modern culture was telling me was blessed was indeed falling very short. It was cheapening the idea of God’s blessing. Next, I looked to the Bible. I was drawn to the Beatitudes.

Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12

He (Jesus) said

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This for sure didn’t align with what the world was telling me but it was closer to what I was experiencing. I was being told from the lips of Jesus that my season of suffering was a season of blessing. However, it still didn’t feel like that was what was happening to me. 

So, how could my ideal of blessing be so off base with what scripture was telling me? I found out that the Greek word that is translated into meaning blessed is makarioi. It means to be fully satisfied. At that moment, it was like the scales were lifted from my eyes. Blessing is anything that draws me into deeper satisfaction with my Savior. Gifting is, instead, what we are seeking. #BLESSED is a representation of a people that are in love with the gifts instead of the Giver. The Beatitudes, as well as hundreds of other scriptures that reference blessing, make sense in light of the Greek translation for blessing. It eliminates the question of “Where is God in my suffering?” I have never experienced the close drawing in of myself to God like I did in my darkest days. I never felt his presence more strongly than when I was at the end of what I knew I could handle on my own. The pain and torment brought me to a place of brokenness where I could see clearly that I could do nothing in my own strength. It was God all along. He was responsible for my waking and my lying down, for my coming and my going. He woke me up everyday and held me together. He gave me the strength to take one more breath, to survive one more day. He wasn’t punishing me. He was saving me. He was stripping away to strongholds in my heart and my mind and turning them into a surrendered life. He was leading me to place of being fully satisfied in him, because I had nothing else. That is why what the world considers the outcasts, God considers the true blessed. They are the ones that truly see. They are the ones that are drawn near to him and transformed. When we stop living our lives for the gifts, instead of the Giver, we can reach a new closeness in our relationship to him. That is where true hope is found. God has not abandoned any one of us. He is near, waiting for us to cling to him instead of what he can give us. If all of your #BLESSINGS were taken away, would you be able to hold your hands to the sky and say, “I am blessed.” Would the cry of your heart be for worldly blessing to return or for spiritual blessing to abound? He is with you in your pain. He sees your struggled. He has called you blessed.

Praise From the Pit

1 August 2016

“I am so grateful for the Jennifer Rothschild bible study. Her words, in “Missing Pieces,” have brought me so much hope and healing. The lesson today brought up not being thankful FOR something but being thankful IN something. Not just enduring something BUT thriving in it.

That is the meaningful transition that I have been on the cusp of. I am so grateful for her words that remind me I am on track. I am learning to praise him, not inspire of Hunter’s death, actually IN Hunter’s death and the aftermath. 

This has been such a challenging journey. The trip home allowed my mother to love on me, which she did flawlessly. My father told me over and over again how important I was to him. This was coupled with feeling like I was a burden and disrupting the order that had developed in my home between my parents, my sister-in-law, and her daughter. I didn’t see the misunderstanding on confusion surrounding my illness to change how family saw me. It did, though. I am grateful that I don’t just experience the good things anymore, but I experience the hard things. That I get to see both sides of people. They are getting to see both sides of me.”

Exposing people to my illness continued to be challenging. When you are mentally ill and grieving, your world seems to hit pause. Honestly, thinking back to those two years, if I hadn’t journaled, I wouldn’t remember any of this. My memories are garbled, faded, and misconstrued. I, honestly, barely remember my youngest first two years. I had snapshots, bits and pieces. It was all a blur of pain and emotion. However, at some point, I began to come up out of the darkness, the pit seemed less and less deep. I began to see the light of day. When I looked back at where I had been, the light began to pierce these places too. I began to see the good and the bad. The more I looked back, and as I got healthier, the more good I could see. I was not so alone. At the time, it seemed like the worst things that could be happening to me. There was no good, no light. When people tried shining light into my pain, I recoiled. I didn’t want to hear their Bible verses, or words on encouragement. They seemed so shallow, and like they were coming out of the mouths of people that couldn’t possibly understand. Those moments, those positive moments, did stick somewhere in the darkness. The truths were ignored at the time, but they made an impression. When I began to see light again, it was if a veil began to lift. I stopped seeing myself as a victim. I started to see the positive that could come from my illness. They ways that it could be used to glorify the Lord. I began to hope. And a little hope could change a life.