Each year,  I seem to have an unofficial “theme” song for Christmas. This is basically me listening to a song on repeat and letting it touch my heart to the point of tears. This year has been no different, and my theme song has been, “See Amid the Winter’s Snow.” The second to last verse states, “Sacred Infant, all divine/What a tender love was Thine/Thus to come from highest bliss/Down to such a world as this.” That last part gets to me every time. Christ didn’t just come to this world-He came to such a world as this. I don’t know about you, but this year has been the most difficult for us. We have had crisis after crisis, and when things finally started to level out, everything came crashing down. Our marriage has come under fire, my grandparents have all faced major health issues, and a couple of our children have chosen to walk down a path that has caused great grief to my husband and myself and has led to the fracturing of our family. I could write pages of the constant heartache, the lack of family pictures, the “new” normal that doesn’t feel normal at all, or the soul-crushing weariness that comes from dealing with all of these heavy loads. However, this morning the words to this song came back to me. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done, will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” That’s such a heavy, yet oddly comforting verse. Yet, looking at it hand in hand with the lyrics of that song, it makes the birth of Christ that much more meaningful to me this year.

Such a world as this.

If there is nothing new under the sun. If all that is happening now in my life and in your lives is a repeat of history and what has been happening on this sin-cursed earth since Genesis 3, then that means that Jesus came willingly to this sin-soaked planet. To a world such as this one. Where decay and death reign and sin destroys. I will admit that it was much easier to have faith when I was a child. As I’ve gotten older, the harder life gets, the more my faith is tested. And each year, I wonder why Jesus would come to such a world as this. It’s awful. Life is hard. But with each year of wondering comes a deeper and greater understanding of the magnitude of our Savior’s love for His creation. It was a tender love, a compassionate love, a love that ached for the sorrows and struggles that we face. And He came. He came from the highest bliss of Heaven to such a world as this. He saw our suffering. He saw our need. And, in His love, He graciously extended His love and grace in such a way that we could have, not an escape from life, but a way to live it with the expectation and peace that this world, with all its darkness, is not the end. He came to die on the cross for us so that we could inherit eternal life.

For many, Christmas is a time of gathering with family and enjoying all of the festivities of Christmas. For others, Christmas can be a time of pain and great sorrow. But for everyone, Christmas can be a time of peace as we remember our Savior who came…to such a world as this.

The winter before I turned 15, my parents moved us all out to the country. That spring/summer, I begged my parents to allow me to plant a little flower garden. I think that I had been reading The Secret Garden, or at least, Mary’s request for “a bit of earth” was most likely echoing in my mind. I was given my bit of earth, and I planted roses and various other plant in it. However, I was not the world’s best plant keeper, and my little flower garden became overrun, and, over the years, several things died because of the lack of care. I continued to be a wannabe plant person over the next few years, but the cold, hard truth was that, if you had a plant that you wanted to kill, the surest way to kill it off was to give it to me. I gave up on live plants for a while and transitioned to artificial plants because those I could keep in relatively decent condition. But, somehow, in the past year, I have been able to keep plants alive. My vegetable garden did extremely well, most of the trees we planted have made it and are thriving, I was able to resuscitate the houseplants that I almost killed, and my flower gardens look like they will be shaping up to be pretty amazing this year.

I have been so impatient with my flower garden in front of my house. This spring has been so weird, several of my early spring plants were/are stunted, and I had so many plants that I just KNEW had not made it through the cold winter. So today, I decided to clean up my flower bed. I have desperately needed to weed it, and as I pulled weeds out from among my flowers, I thought that I would just go ahead and start ripping out all of my dead plants as well. Armed with my trusty trowel and some shears, I set to work, and as I worked, I discovered that all to the plants that I knew ere dead were, in fact, very much alive. Again and again, I was shocked to see new growth around dead branches, and I started thing about how we sometimes get it into our head that, because we see a lack of surface growth in our lives, God must not be at work. I am so thank for some of the verses and truths that God brought to my mind today that remind me of how God is continually at work in the lives of His children, and I hope that they will be an encouragement to you as well.

Don’t grow discouraged when you can’t see the immediate results of God’s work in your life.

This is so hard for me to remember. I am very much the type of person who likes to see immediate results. I have this hydrangea bush that did not do well last year, and I was convinced that it was dead. When I went to rip it out, I discovered that, while things looked dead on the surface, there was a LOT going on below. When there are big things that I want answers to, it can be really easy to assume that God is not at work when I can’t see things happening like I want them to. His promises to me can sometimes feel empty. But. He is still working, and it is my own fallible nature that makes those incorrect assumptions. I love Numbers 23:19 because it reminds me that God’s promises to me will be fulfilled. They will be fulfilled in HIS time, not mind, and even though I may not see immediate results to my pleas, God is STILL at work in my life. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

Remember that God makes all things new.

When I made the choice to turn my back on the Lord, it didn’t take long for despair to take root in my soul. The further I became entrenched in my sin, the heavier the conviction of the Holy Spirit became. I remember being terrified to go to sleep at night out of the fear that I would die in my sleep. I knew that my lifestyle and my choice to live an ungodly life could very possibly cut my life short. However, I couldn’t untangle myself from my self-made web, and in a moment of complete and utter hopelessness, I cried out to God to make a way of escape for me. When you’re in the middle of a situation like that, it can be so, so easy to feel hopeless that anything will ever change for the better. But God is a God of miracles! He can bring the dead to life! And He can bring joy and hope to a life filled with despair when we humbly turn to Him and seek His forgiveness. The mercies that the Lord lavishes on me on a daily basis have become infinitely more dear to me ever since that moment when I cried out to Him. I know that He can make all things new in each and every heart that turns to Him because He brought that “newness of life” to my own heart. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I Have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

Remember that God knows us and cares for us.

Again, when you’re in the middle of a trial or trials, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the “poor me” mentality. To my shame, I often forget that God KNOWS exactly what is going on in my life, and CARES about what is happening. I was reminded today about how God cares about me-down to the seemingly smallest detail. When my husband and I were newlyweds, there were these GORGEOUS peony bushes by the garage. When we returned from our honeymoon, he picked a HUGE bouquet of peonies and gave them to me, and peonies have been my favorite flower ever since. Last spring, I planted two peony roots at our new house because I desperately wanted to have peonies to remind me of that sweet moment. But, my husband accidentally till them up, and I threw the pieces of the roots away. Nothing grew in that spot all last year, but today, as I was cleaning the flower bed, I noticed a peony bush growing where no peony bush had been planted. I may have teared up a little bit at the sight of that little plant, and it serve as a very strong reminder to me that God cares about me down to the most minute detail. There is no good reason why there should be a peony bush in that spot, but I strongly believe that God knew that I needed the gentle reminder that He is the One in control of my life and that he knows me, loves me, and cares for me. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:1-6

-Sarah

Recently, my husband and I have been toying with a business venture idea, and this month, we decided to explore the possibility. However, today we received the news that we dreaded…wait.

Have you ever experienced something similar? The high of all kinds of possibilities and then the low of waiting? It certainly isn’t any fun, but I have been reminded of some truths today that have helped ease the disappointment of being told to wait.

First off, I will start off by saying that my husband and I have been praying about this possibility for a while now, and, as we waited to hear back from our banker, we prayed that God would make it very clear to us if we were even supposed to be pursuing this option at this time. In our whole relationship, all big decisions have been met with a prayer for God to clearly open or close doors, and I would say that most of the time, God has flung the door open wide for us in ways that are so, so clear. Likewise, in this scenario, God has given us a clear answer. Why are we being told to wait? Well, I have to believe that God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that what we want to do is not a good fit with where we are at in life. The stress of raising children combined with “our” plans for a business could have very easily overwhelmed us. In a brilliant stroke of what can only be God’s timing, I was reminded of the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6 when helping my youngest brother with his Senior Graduation open house invitations. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In ALL your ways acknowledge Him, and HE will direct your paths.” Are we struggling to come to grips with what this “wait” answer means? Absolutely! But there is also a calm reassurance in knowing that, as we bring our ways in line with God’s ways, He will continue to direct our path. We don’t quite know what that looks like yet, but knowing that God is at the helm brings an infinite measure of peace and comfort.

So what now? Another verse that I was reminded of today is found in Lamentations 3:25-26 – “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Waiting is good for us. Fun? Not particularly. We tend to want what we want, in our own time, but God says that it is GOOD to wait quietly. However, we aren’t just to wait quietly, we are to seek Him.

Do we know what our future will look like now? Yes and no. We may not know all of the details, but are certain of one thing: God will continue to direct our paths as we seek Him and wait patiently on Him.

-Sarah

Hi! I’m back! Sometimes after addressing heavier topics, my soul needs time to step back and recharge. That, combined with the busyness of the holidays-plus getting the kids back into the groove of school-hopefully explains my absence.

In recent months, we have gone through some things in our family that have caused a lot of old feelings and emotions to resurface. Things that I thought were buried, have come back full-force, and I have been doing a lot of thinking on the topic of abuse. As you may have read in a previous post (and if you haven’t, you can read it here), I was in an abusive relationship in my early twenties. I know that there are many, many more people who have dealt with the same type of emotional abuse than we think, and I also believe that there are many women in abusive situations that have not identified that the said relationship is, indeed, abusive. However, shining a light on abusive relationships is not the intent of my post this evening. Tonight, I would like to share my thoughts and my journey from being a victim of emotional abuse to being a victor.

Webster defines a victim as:

(1): one that is acted on and usually adversely affected by a force or agent ; (2)one that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment (a): frequent victim of political attacks or (b)one that is tricked or duped

I would 100% agree with you if you were to tell me that I was a victim of abuse. The narcissistic, twisted logic of my abuser made me feel as though my world was literally flipped upside down. There were days where I felt that I was going crazy, and I often wondered why I felt that way. It wasn’t until much later, that I shook off that fog and acknowledged the abuse.

As a side note, check out THIS video! It perfectly, 100% sums up my previous relationship…just to give a little bit of an idea of my background on this topic.

I will also readily admit that I lived with the victim mentality for a couple years. I’m not saying that that was wrong. I actually believe that you HAVE to identify yourself as a victim in order to break free of abuse. However, I have learned over the years, that I do not have to remain the victim.

Webster also defines another word. This word is one of my favorites. Victor.one that defeats an enemy or opponent winner.

My biggest opponent in the aftermath of abuse have been the scars that were left on my soul. Well, maybe not scars at first. Wounds. There is just something about abuse that leaves gaping wounds on your heart, and leaves you susceptible to all sorts of pain-mentally, physically, and spiritually. But, as I have learned, wounds can be healed. Scars remain, but, to me, they are reminders of what I have been able to overcome. BUT! I did not overcome my demons on my own. Believe me, I tried to heal my own hurts, and it left me in some pretty dangerous (and incredibly stupid) situations. The single thing that helped me overcome my wounds was God. Does that sound cliched? I hope not! Because I know that had it not been for God and His Word, my life would have taken a very different turn, and it is not a stretch to say that I very well might not be here.

One verse that had a tremendous impact on my life was/is 2 Timothy 1:7, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Knowing that God gives a spirit, His spirit, which is comprised of power, love, and self-control was life-changing. In abusive situations, and in the aftermath of our breakup, my life was ruled by fear. Fear of our relationship ending, fear of upsetting my ex, fear that we would never get back together, fear because I didn’t know who I was-all of that disappeared in the light of this verse. 

Another verse that will forever be stamped upon my heart is found in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” I think that, in a lot of abusive situations-and especially when you are freed from an abusive situation-there is a period of time where the floodgates of your emotions are open. There were moments where I couldn’t get off of my couch because of all the crying that I did. Countless nights were spent, sleepless, on the couch, because the crying just would not stop. It’s really hard during those times to have faith that joy will ever come your way, but, as you turn your gaze towards the true lover of your soul, joy-His joy-does return. I don’t have a specific day, time, place when that joy returned to me, but I can assure you that, as you allow God to bear your burden, He will give you His joy in return.

The last Bible verse that had a tremendous impact on my life on my journey from victim to victor is Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

That peace, the peace of God, does truly surpass all understanding. Even now, several years, a wonderful husband, and 5 children removed from that time in my life, the peace of God continues to amaze me. Does that mean that all my days are peaceful? Nope. Does that mean that everything in my life is perfect or that I don’t struggle some with my past? No, but, I can assure you, that even in the midst of my chaotic life, I know that the peace of God can and will guard my heart and my mind.

So what’s your story? I don’t know where you are at in your life or what wounds and scars you bear. Maybe your experience is similar to mine, maybe not. The beautiful thing about the Word of God though is that the truths that it contains are applicable to everyone, in every situation, every day of your life. I will forever be grateful for those who prayed for me during those dark moments, and I will forever be eternally grateful for the One who continues to guard my heart and mind and who holds my life in His hands. Reader, if you are struggling, if you need someone to talk to, to pray for you, please let me know.

2 Thessalonians 3:16, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

 – Sarah

What are you doing? Why were you hiding in the closet? Why were you calling your family? You shouldn’t talk to them anymore. They’re not worth your time, and you always feel bad after talking to them. They obviously don’t love you as much as I do. I thought you were done with them. You need to just cut them off already. Why are you talking to them when you could be spending time with me? I’m the one who loves you, not them.

Do any of those things sound familiar to you? This barrage of questions is particularly painful and seared into my mind because these were the questions that my former fiance hurled at me the night he ended our engagement.

Emotional abuse.

This wasn’t the first time that I faced his firing squad. This wasn’t the first time I was made to feel guilty for contacting my family. This wasn’t the first time that I grovelled to try to please this person that I thought I loved and who I thought loved me. At least, he said he did. My heart hurts for the girl I was back then. Not in a “poor me” or “pity me” way, but very simply, my heart hurts because that girl was trapped in a web of emotional abuse. Alienated from family and friends, unable to make new friends without getting the third degree and then getting the third degree about NOT having any friends. Made to feel guilty every time she looked at the caller ID and had to choose between talking to her mother and receiving verbal abuse after the fact or sending the call to voicemail to try to ward of the insults. Making the choice to avoid her family’s holiday get-togethers because it wasn’t worth the emotional roller coaster that she knew would occur in the minutes after she arrived back at her apartment.

Friends, if you take ANYTHING away from this post, I want to impress upon you that emotional abuse is real, and it is rampant in today’s culture. Boys who should be men but who refuse to grow up, insecure men, men who know better, are crushing the hearts of the women who love them. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know first hand the healing that only Christ can bring to the soul who has been wounded through emotional abuse, and yet, for as common as I suspect this issue is, it is still an uncommon thing for a woman to stand up, raise her hand, and admit that she has been the victim of emotional abuse.

Why is that?

Emotional abuse doesn’t leave visible scars, and, like depression, the “pat answers” seem to be the same. Trust God more. Be more involved in His Word. Make sure that you aren’t the one in the wrong, etc…

This post isn’t intended to air my grievances. I so desperately want you, my readers, to understand that I share my story with you to show you that I KNOW what it is like to be trapped in an abusive relationship. I know the feelings of utter helplessness, despair, and depression. I have felt the hurt of words, the hurt of silence, the hurt of being controlled, the fear of being hurt, and the fear that nothing is ever going to change. And I am here today to tell you that there is hope. And that hope is found in Jesus Christ.

You know, the funny thing about emotional abuse is that it sometimes continues on long after the breakup is over, and, sadly, for a little over a year after our breakup, I allowed my ex to remain in my life. I let him continue to hurt me. Why? Simple. I was coping. See, I had been so beaten down through our years together, and I had been so effectively cut off from family and friends that when my relationship with my ex ended, I had no one. We had stopped going to church long before our breakup, and so I felt as thought I didn’t even have Christ to help me through. So, my emotional abuser was literally the only person I felt that I “had.”

Thankfully, God cleared the fog from my heart and eyes, and He restored me to close fellowship, not only with Himself, but also with my family. My story, for all its pain, has a happy ending.

But the scars remain.

I don’t like remembering what my life was like back then. But, as I shared in my previous post, I truly believe that God allows us to suffer through trials, whether it be a test or a trial of our own doing, so that we can, in turn, provide strength and comfort to others who are facing the same obstacles.

Friend, if my story resonates with you, if you can identify with me, if you know that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, I would encourage you to seek help. A pastor, a Christian counselor, a trusted friend.  Seek help. I know. It can be the single most terrifying thing that you can do. Just writing this post has brought up some old anxieties for me. When you’re in the thick of it, the fear is so much greater. What finally helped me break through the web of abuse (other than Christ, of course) was the support of my family and friends. These people saw what was going on, and when I was finally ready to start opening up, they listened. I am so grateful that they didn’t push me to move home, and I really appreciate the fact that they didn’t tell me, “I told you so.” What did they do? They listened. They talked to me like I was normal. And when the time came for me to move home, they didn’t blame me for any of the hurt that they had caused. They didn’t rub my failures in my face. They didn’t beat me over the head with the Bible. They welcomed me with open arms and forgave me when I asked for their forgiveness. And as my story has come out over the past few years, they have been nothing but compassionate.

One of the biggest helps was honestly being able to identify that I was in an abusive relationship. Like I said before, this isn’t an issue that is openly addressed in most churches (at least not in my experience), and, while I was angry at the time, I am ultimately so thankful for the godly Christian woman who shared with me a list of questions that helped me identify my ex’s behaviors towards me as abuse. If you are wondering if you are in an abusive relationship or you know of someone in an emotionally abusive relationship, I would encourage you to go through these questions or send them to the person you fear is a victim of emotional abuse. While I was angry at the sender for several months that she would send me “stuff” on emotional abuse, words cannot express my gratitude that she followed God’s leading and sent them to me even though she knew there would be the possibility that I would react in a negative way.

12 Questions to help you identify whether or not you are in an emotionally abusive relationship:

1) Do I REALLY feel safe with this person? Not just safe, as in no physical harm, but do I feel emotionally safe?

2) Does he treat me with the utmost respect? Does he really LIKE (not just love) me, and does he like me for who I REALLY am, or is he always trying to change me?

3) Do we get into arguments often, hardly ever? Does it always end the same way, where the conclusion is that he is usually right, and you’re the one who needs to do the changing? Or, the conflict seems to always be your fault? It’s easy to think that “If I just do better next time…then he won’t get so upset”. That next time where he doesn’t get upset will never happen.

4) Has he ever done anything to scare you…the way he drives, maybe raising something as if he is going to hit me with it, but then acts as if he’s just joking?

5) Does he love and respect my family? They are a part of who you are. When men don’t love the in-laws…it’s usually because they are hiding something about themselves. This will end up affecting your kids, because they won’t get to spend much time with their grandparents growing up and family get togethers will always be a fight, if he even shows up. You may think that it doesn’t matter, but it will.

6) Does he have a problem with authority/confrontation? Because someone who has an authority issue, will not listen to wisdom. Everyone else is the problem…no matter what it is.

7) Is he angry over seemingly simple or trifle things or depressed a lot? Proverbs says that we are to have nothing to do with angry people because you will learn their ways and become like them.

8) Does he ever put you down, even if in fun? You may be able to sweep it under the rug emotionally now, but over the years, it will build up. If he truly loves and respects you, you will be able to feel that honor and respect from your heart. He should never say anything that is demeaning.

9) Do you ever feel completely confused at the end of an argument? Not really sure how it got to where it ended?

10) Do you like him more and more…really like him for who he is as a person? Or do you like him less and less? Once the relationship gets physical, it is really hard to differentiate these feelings. You feel like you love him, because your heart is doing cartwheels and somersaults, but that doesn’t mean that you like him as a person, or that you like how he treats you.

11) Do you feel like you both are on the same page on most things? Like you really GET each other?

12) Do you really-honestly- enjoy being around him? Some people get their thrills off of always putting everyone else down, and hurting them emotionally or physically, so that they look good or as if they are in the right. Some people will even twist scripture to do it. These people also use pressure tactics.

As in my last post, there are a list of Bible verses that I clung to after I was able to identify that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, I would strongly encourage you to either memorize or share these verses.

Psalm 34:17-20 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

Psalm 103:6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

2 Corinthians 12:9 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Isaiah 35:3-4 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Psalm 30:11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Identifying emotional abuse isn’t easy. I know first-hand that it is so difficult to admit that you are in an abusive relationship. But, there is great hope in Christ for escaping an abusive relationship. There is so much more that I want to talk to you about in regards to living with the knowledge that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship and how to break free, but since this post is already quite lengthy, I’ll be addressing that in my next post.

If you or someone you love is in an emotionally abusive relationship, I would love to talk to you and share with you the hope that I have found in God’s word.

Until next time,

Sarah

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, so if you have any medical concerns related to this topic, they should be directed to your healthcare provider. 

Depression.

This word, in my own humble opinion, carries with it a stigma in today’s Christian circles. While some are “coming around” and recognizing how this issue truly does affect the believer, this topic is left pretty well alone. The “pat” answer to the Christian struggling with depression is simple: you need to trust in God more, read your Bible more, give your issues over to God, and while those things are all true and helpful, for me anyway, that answer has sometimes hurt.

Because, you see, I struggle with depression, and sometimes, being told that I am not trusting God enough or giving my problems over to Him makes me feel as though there is no hope for overcoming this beast. I’m not going to slam you with facts about depression, but I am including links at the bottom of this article that talk about emotional abuse, the link between abuse and depression, how depression changes the mind, and the Christian and depression.

The beginning

I’ve always been a fairly emotional individual. I am passionate about the things I hold dear, fiercely loyal to those I love, and a stickler for fairness (thanks, Dad), and while all those things are good in moderation, in excess, they have wrecked havoc in my life. In my early to mid twenties, I fell “in love” with a guy at the local Bible college that I attended. My parents noticed several things about him that put them on edge. He talked down to me, pushed me around, and did not want to spend any amount of time with my family. I easily justified all those behaviors, but I started losing my identity in his. As a result, I started exhibiting behaviors that were not Christ-like, and I started forming sinful habits that were to set my feet on a path of absolute heartache.

When it all blew up

Due to growing tensions with my family and my boyfriend, I moved to his hometown with him. I ended up in an apartment that we pretty much lived in together. (He still slept at his folks house to keep up appearances.) There was a lot of lying, sneaking around, drinking, partying, in addition to the loss of sexual purity. When he wanted to propose to me, he asked my dad for his blessing. My father in his wisdom refused to give both his permission and blessing, and, at the time, I was so hurt. My boyfriend was incensed, and demanded that I chose between him and my family. We ended up getting engaged, and our relationship was pretty much over at that point. In fact, about a half hour after the proposal, he asked me if we had made a mistake and asked me if we should break up. This was a question that he asked any time my family was brought up, whenever I would talk about going home for the holidays, whenever I had regrets about moving so far away from my family, and, looking back, it was his way of controlling me. I started to make up excuses as to why I couldn’t make it to my parents house for Thanksgiving or Christmas to avoid the fallout, and I kept telling myself that I loved this guy and that if I just showed him how much I loved him by pleasing him, my life would fall into place. During that time though, I started to fall into a depression. I knew that I wasn’t living for the Lord, and the constant fear of my relationship ending because I couldn’t keep him happy left me in a constant state of panic. Then, one night after I made a secret call home from the safety of my bedroom closet to wish my brother “Happy Birthday,” my fiance broke up with me.

The fallout

Depression can take many nasty turns. And, as it turns out, there is a link between abuse and depression. It wasn’t until several months went by that one of my mom’s friends sent an article to me about emotional abuse. As I checked off every marker of emotional abuse, the thought that I had been in an abusive relationship hit me like a ton of bricks. It honestly left me feeling like I was completely worthless. Yes, as a believer, my identity is in Christ, but, you see, I had done everything in my power to live in such a way that no one knew that I was a Christian. Thankfully, God in his mercy saw fit to rescue me from that situation, and he very clearly led me down a path of reconciliation with my family, my church family, and with himself. However, returning to my first Love did not instantly “solve” my bouts of depression.

Grace

The period of time in between my singleness and my marriage to my husband was relatively short, but it was one of the sweetest times of my life. A group of single ladies in my church formed a Bible study, and the fellowship of that group sticks out in my mind as one of the most spiritually rewarding seasons that I have ever experienced. Drawing close to God through this shared study, being able to share my testimony, the encouragement that we were to each other-well, my depression took a backseat in my life. I met my husband, we were married, I became the mother to his three children, became pregnant right away, and it wasn’t until my sweet baby boy was born that depression reared its ugly head in again..

NOT the baby blues

I knew all about the baby blues from my doctor, the hospital, and the plethora of articles that I read while pregnant. I knew that I would probably experience the baby blues, but I was not prepared for the crushing depression that set in during the first few months of my little guy’s life. Nursing was excruciatingly painful, I was sleep deprived, and I felt like I absolutely could not give my baby the attention he needed because I had three older children to take care of. When the kids were in school, I literally slept every single time my baby slept. We did not move off the couch until it was time to pick the older kids up from the bus stop. When I spoke with my doctor about it, he was hesitant to put me on medications because I was breastfeeding. So, I slogged along, and the fog of depression started to dissipate when my son was 6 months old. And then when he was 7 months old, I discovered that I was pregnant again.

Prepartum depression is a thing

Did you know that? I didn’t. I talked to the midwife at my OB’s office who assured me that it was a thing, and that, due to being pregnant, she did not want to give me medication. She gave me a list of natural remedies for depression, but it wasn’t until I had my baby girl that my prepartum depression disappeared. Then the postpartum depression set in again. See the vicious cycle? During the first year of my youngest child’s life, we sold our house, moved into a teeny tiny rental house, built a house (massive stress), moved into the house, started homeschooling, and, if I’m being honest, I was in a depressive state for all of it. Stress and depression are also related. Again, who knew? Well, apparently, depression can change the brain, and during periods of stress, that depression becomes more of a first response. A defense mechanism perhaps? I’m not 100% sure if that’s true for all cases, but it seems like that’s how my brain operates.

The Christian woman and depression

How about today? Is my depression licked? Nope. Have I found ways to “cope?” Yes. Do I think that this topic is grossly overlooked? Absolutely. There is no one right answer for the Christian woman and depression. But, friend, if you are struggling with being depressed, let me tell you, I’ve been there. I am there. And I understand. I understand that crushing weight on the chest that makes it nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning. I understand the heightened sense of anxiety, the fear, the tears. And while I wish that I had the cure, I can only offer encouragement and my assurance that I am praying for you.

The verses that I cling to are found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

The knowledge that I serve the God of ALL comfort has been immensely, well, comforting to me. Some other verses that I have found to be comforting are listed below.

Isaiah 41:10

Psalm 42:11

Psalm 40:1-3

Philippians 4:8

Some other methods of controlling depression (as told to me by my OB) are: getting proper sleep, eating healthful foods, staying active-even if it’s just a 10 minute walk outside, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. In extreme cases, medication can be helpful (and needed). Another method that I have found to be most helpful is talking about your depression and creating that network of people who will lift you up in prayer. Having others praying for me when I am at my lowest is an immense source of encouragement. In all cases, I FIRMLY believe that the grace of God is sufficient to meet the needs of the depressed individual, and it is, ultimately, the main thing that can lift an individual out of depression.

Today

Today, I still struggle with depression. I have come to accept that, as a result of the emotional abuse that I went through in my twenties, depression will probably always be a factor in my life. Does that mean that I am going to roll over and let it overpower me. NO! God has provided several means of helping me through my bouts of depression. But, nevertheless, the presence of depression in my life is a fact that I am learning to accept. Being able to identify it, and tell others when I am struggling-combined with spending time with God and his Word-has proven to be effective for me in keeping it at bay. Talking about it in a more public format is something that I have wanted to do for a while now. Speaking out and removing the stigma surrounding depression-as well as emotional abuse-is something that I feel is so important. Dear Christian woman struggling with depression, you’re not alone, and there IS hope for overcoming it (or at the very least, dealing with it).  If you don’t have anyone to talk to, please send a message to me, and I will be more than willing to pray for you by name on a daily basis.

And last, but certainly not least, if you have been or are currently in an emotional abusive relationship, I would love to talk to you more about this issue. It took over a year after my relationship officially ended to break free of my ex, and I know how difficult it is to untangle your bruised heart from the abuse.

Until next time,

Sarah

http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2011/december/but-he-never-hit-me-christian-primer-on-emotional-abuse.html

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/effects-brain#4

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170721095424.html

There have been a few (okay, a LOT) of times in the past three-ish years where I have just felt like I can’t go on in this motherhood journey. I love being a mom and all, but I will be the first to freely admit that I can get easily overwhelmed and swallowed up by the enormity of the task that lies before me.

Anyone else out there that feels the same way? Anyone? 

I’m guessing that the feeling of wanting to throw in the towel occurs a lot more often than we would like to admit. I know for myself, the first time the feeling of “what have I gotten myself into” happened right after the pastor announce us as husband and wife. That’s right, folks! My first thoughts after becoming a new wife were thoughts of being overwhelmed at becoming a mother instantaneously. Whew! The honeymoon gave us a good chance to connect as a couple-something that was very difficult to do given our short dating/engagement period and the fact that we had three children with us on just about every “date.” However, we did leave our honeymoon early to get back to the kids (something I kind of regret now), and now we find that our couple time is even more sparse what with adding two more kids and all. But, I digress.

What was I talking about? Oh yes! Being overwhelmed in motherhood…

I don’t think I can begin to go through all of the times when I bawled my eyes out because of different battles of the will with the kids, moments when I felt alone in parenting because my husband was working long hours, moments where I felt completely cut off from everyone and everything and all I wanted to do was throw in the towel and rejoin the land of the living.

Do you feel that way?

Let me tell you a little secret. Actually, it’s not so much a secret as a friendly tip.

Get help.

For us new mamas with the brand-new babies, if you’re feeling like you just can’t go on with the limited amount of sleep you’re getting, ask for help. Ask your husband to watch the baby when he gets home from work so you can take a quick nap. Ask your mother to come over and help watch the baby so you can sleep. Or do dishes. Or whatever it is you need to do to shake off the feeling of being lost in new mommyhood.

For us bonus mamas. Tap into your support network. I don’t know how I could have made it through the last few years without my family. They have been the best support network I could have ever asked for. Seriously. There have been times where I need a break from parenting. A break from the constant chaos, from the seemingly constant butting of heads with my kids. I love all my kiddos, but I’ll be honest-raising bonus kids is so much harder than I thought it would be. The struggles that pop up and the “baggage” that comes with raising children that are not biologically yours means that you do have to be creative in how you deal with the issues that were left unresolved before you came into the picture. And for me, I need little mental breaks every now and then to help me recharge and refocus my priorities and goals when it comes to raising my children. Thankfully, I have an incredibly supportive family who have been willing time and time again to take my children for a day, a night, a week so that I can have those times of refocusing and recharging. If you have a strong relationship with your family or friends you trust, tap into that network! Don’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself or rant about how you just can’t give anymore of yourself to your family. Ask for help. Ask for your family to watch your kids overnight.

Recently, my husband made the comment that it had been awhile since the kids had spent the night at my folks house. I looked at him like he was crazy, and he went on to explain that he felt that I needed a break to recharge my batteries. HE GETS IT! I was on the phone with my mom immediately, and, people! My wonderful parents took, not the oldest three, not the oldest four, but ALL FIVE of our children! Even the baby who screams through the night! My husband and I had all sorts of plans of what we would do with our free weekend, and we ended up doing absolutely none of them. But, you know what? What we ended up doing was just sitting around the house, getting some projects done, talking, laughing, and reconnecting in a way that we haven’t been able to do for a while. And when it was time to pick the kids back up? Any feelings of how I just couldn’t go on were gone. I say all that to say, if you need to take a break from your kids, take it.

You might be reading this post and thinking, “This chic has gone completely off her rocker.” Aha! There is a method to my madness, reader. You see, one night in the very beginning of my journey as a mother, God kept bringing to mind different Scripture passages. They all had one thing in common-they were all about how Jesus, exhausted after ministry, would go alone to pray. Christ, who poured Himself out in ministering to people, understood that time alone-specifically, time alone with God-was necessary to keep on ministering.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

“Jesus went out to a mountain side to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him.” (Luke 6:12-13. See also Mark 3:13)

“Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32)

“Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.” (Matthew 15:29)

These are just a few of the passages that demonstrate Christ’s commitment to solitude to restore his soul during the constant demands of his ministry. As mothers, I believe that it is absolutely vital that we follow Christ’s example and allow ourselves the time to get away from the demands of our ministry to our children. To sit with God, to reconnect with our spouses, to recharge our batteries so that we can more effectively mother and love on our children.

So when you feel like you just can’t go on anymore, get help. Ask for a moment where you can get away. Spend some time with God. Ask him for the help and strength to carry on when you feel like you can’t.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Love, Sarah