Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

For When You're Not Convinced That God Cares

I know God hears me.  I'm not convinced that He cares.  

I struggle with the notion of a God who will allow so much suffering.  Who hears our cries and doesn't seem to move.    If I were God I would move.  I would step in and stop abuse. I would heal disease.  I would bind the hands of predators and the tongues of those who hurt and condemn.  I would quiet the pangs of mental illness and break the chains of addiction.   But I'm not God.  

Only God is God.  
And only God is good.  
And for some reason he is taking his damn sweet time to redeem the dark and sordid brokenness of this world. 

Friend, I think it's okay to be angry.

It's okay to speak our doubts. To expose them as wounds. To  let them hit the air so that they can heal.

Like the psalmist, we can beat our fists into the clay from which we come and ask questions of our maker.   
Because His love is big enough to bear our doubts and fears and angst.  
Because His shoulders are broad enough for the darkest days of our faith. 

And that voice that says your doubt disqualifies you from God's family? That voice belongs to the enemy, not to God.    No, friend, our doubts don't nullify our faith,  They just mean that we are human, able to be torn in two directions at once.  Weak, and frail.  Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. 

I worry at times that my faith is shriveling into dust. But maybe these doubts aren't a losing of faith at all, but a finding.  Maybe God is burning up the false assumptions and the mistaken expectations to make room for a truer hope.   
Maybe it is a trading of old dead brush for fresh green growth.  
Maybe the pain is one of birthing.  A new life, a deeper faith.  A truer walk. 

I don't know how to explain unanswered prayer.  I can't explain why God seems to wait on the sidelines while his children suffer.  But I know this: If we watch for him, He meets us there. The maker of the universe who crafted you and I in the palm of his hand, who made all and is above all, steps into our pain and suffers with us. He dances through our doubts and binds the thin threads of faith into something full and sustaining.  He breathes life into our tired souls and gives hope where all sense says it shouldn't exist.  

Friend, only God is God.
And only God is good.
And for some reason he is taking his damn sweet time to redeem the brokenness of this world.
Let us wait for Him.

Why We Speak Openly about Mental Illness with our Children

My kids know that Mommy's brain is sick, and it has set them free.

Shortly after my 6th child was born I fell into a dark and devastating depression.  It affected every area of our lives.  I stopped functioning.  A good friend, wise and bold, pulled me aside one day and said "You have to tell your oldest daughters what is going on."  She was right.

My two oldest kids were 6 and 5. We made it age appropriate for them.  "Mommy's brain is sick." and "Sometimes I get sad or angry or tired and it's not your fault."  I let them ask questions and I answered them the best I could.  "No, I don't know when I will get better."  and "Yes, that's why I've been going to the doctor more."  We cried together.  Mourning together the chaos this sickness had brought to our lives.  And then you know what happened?  They skipped off to play, lighter and freer than ever.  Talking to my children about mental illness lifted a weight from their tiny hearts.  

We talk about mental illness in our home.  We talk about therapy and medication.  We talk about my diagnoses and we acknowledge when things are rough.   We don't share every detail with the kids, but we answer their questions and encourage them to talk to other safe adults in their lives about their feelings about my illnesses.  And I am so glad we do.

Here are 4 reasons why we talk to our kids about mental illness

We talk to our kids about mental illness so that they will know it's not their fault.   It's almost like a visible weight lifted the day I explained my illness to my kids.   They know that my moods are not a reflection of them, that they are not responsible for making sure mommy is feeling okay.   They are free to be kids. 

We talk to our kids about mental illness so that they can talk to other safe adults in their life about it.  My children have shared in the past with teachers at school and friends' moms about my illness and how it affects them.  They are free to share about their fears and hurts and frustrations in a healthy way.  Talking about mental illness gives them the words to process what is going on at home. 

We talk to our kids about mental illness to reduce the shame and stigma.  When we brush things under the rug and refuse to speak of them, we attach a shame to them, a "we don't talk about these things" sort of stigma.  We give them so much power by refusing to speak of them.

 We have a saying in our home that "secrets keep us sick."   By bringing my mental illnesses into the light, we send out that beacon that it is okay to discuss these things.   It is okay to not be okay.  

We talk to our kids about mental illness because they may face these things one day.  As much as I hope they won't, my kids could struggle with mental illness one day.  And I want them to know that it's okay to talk about it, it's okay to call it by name and to seek help.  I want them to access the services they need and seek support.  I want to model that for them. 

I want my kids to know that in whatever they face, we talk about these things.  There is nothing you can't discuss with those you love, that mental illness and addiction aren't shameful things we need to keep hidden, but very real sicknesses that require attention and help.  I want my kids to know that there is no shame in needing help.  I want to raise compassionate world changers who step boldly into difficult things and know that it's okay to discuss the things that break our hearts.

Mental illness affects the whole family.  And as much as we may try to shield our kids from our struggles, they know.  They see and feel when something is wrong.  Giving my kids the words to process what is happening at home has been powerful and freeing for all of us.   Mommy's brain is sick.  And that's okay. 

For Those of Us Who Need to Give Up Our Striving This Lent

As I write this it is a dawning of Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent.  The time of year when so many of us give up desserts or meat or coffee or social media.  Or we recommit to a discipline instead, like morning devotions or excercise or a daily writing practice.  Some of us will wear ashen crosses on our foreheads today, as a symbol of our mortality, that we are but dust. And these are all good things.  In Mathew 6, the Lord does not say if you fast, but when you fast.  Fasting is good.  It's an opportunity to quiet our hearts and deepen our walk of faith, to prepare ourselves for the beautiful juxtaposition of greif and joy at Easter.

But the truth I so easily lose sight of, the truth that I need to hear every single one of these 40 days, nay, every single one of these 365 days, is this:  There is not a thing you or I can give up or add to our lives, not a single thing we can deny ourselves, that will make our Father in heaven love us more. 

No religious observation, no fast or feast, no prayer or devotion or sacrifice can cause the maker of the universe to increase in love towards us.  Because his love is one with his very being and there is never a moment that God is not love. 

Any lenten practice that I engage in that is not steeped in that truth misses the point of the cross. 

Perhaps, like me, you know in your mind of God's perfect and unearnable love, but you struggle to believe it in your heart.   Perhaps you still catch yourself looking desperately around you for evidence that a holy God could bask in joy at the thought of you.  But He does.  

Perhaps, like me, you are so often tempted to trivialize the perfect work of Christ on the cross by striving and failing to earn God's mercy, to buy his love with acts of sacrifice and devotion.  But we can't.

This season of repentance, this holy season of reflection and self-sacrifice, this pushing back of our greedy instincts and self consuming desires for 40 days leading up to the glorious remembrance of Christ's death on the cross and triumphant rise again is a good good thing.  It is good for our hearts that wander easily from the presence of God.  But it will not buy us a single ounce of His love. 

The stark and chilling beauty of the cross is that there is not a damn thing we can do to deserve it.  Lent is a season of self-denial, not so that we can earn the warm compassion of our maker, but so that we can come to the cross the only way we mortals can: empty handed. 

Lent begins in the cold dark days of winter and ends in the fresh sun-soaked days of spring. It's a redemption season, of sorts, awakening the world and the ground, and our hearts.  A symbol of the God who meets us in the darkness and loves us into the light.  

Friend, go ahead, give up that thing for lent.  Or don't.  Whatever the spirit leads you to do.  But either way, let us give up our striving this lent.  Let the coming 40 days be a reminder that God is radically, passionately, intently for you.  That his love rests on you, not because of who you are, but because of who He is. Not because of what you've done, but because of what He has done on the cross.

We are but dust.  And He sees our frailty, beholds our weakness, and loves us.   More than we know. 

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