Building Safe Community

I Corinthians 12:25-27

“So, that there should be no division in the body, but that its part should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

I want to share with you about something that is very near and dear to my heart. I think I have spent a lot of my lifetime searching for the truth of this. It is one of my greatest struggles to build. Yet I think it is a game changer for those who struggle with mental health issues. The thing that I want to talk with you about is the importance of building safe community. I am not talking about family connections that make us feel safe but I am talking about building safety within the community that might not be within our family unit. Trust me, I know how scary it can be to let people into our world in a way that causes us to be vulnerable and to trust that they will not hurt us intentionally. I also know how vital it is to have in our world. It can honestly make a difference knowing that we have a group of people who are walking with us through the struggle. I promise you building safe community is no easy task and it is filled with ups. downs, in’s, out’s and heartaches but the reward when you finally build it, I believe will be so worth all of it. I am on a mission to build a safe community around me. I hope you will join me on this mission. So, let’s talk safe community.

When I think about safe community, the first thing I think of is a place where I can be all of me. It is not community if it is a place that I have to hide any part of myself from those within it. Have you ever considered that you could be the hinderance to finding safe community? I think because of wounds left unhealed we tend to build protective walls around our lives and we shut out even the safest of communities. Oftentimes we don’t even recognize we have found it when we do because we are too busy protecting our hearts from getting hurt. I completely stand with you in protecting ourselves from being hurt but in reality I know that we are unable to do this no matter how many people we shut out. No matter how many protective layers we put in place, we will get hurt. The thing we forget is that we can also heal and build safe community if we allow the process to take place. I know the fear of letting go and being vulnerable, the way we count up the cost in our minds before we do it. Usually we come up with the amount of what we would pay is not worth it. We let the fear we are carrying be worth more than the beauty of having a safe community. I know how it feels to protect your heart but desire community deeply in your soul. We want it but at the same time, we don’t desire the pain or difficulty that comes with building it. Nothing good that you will ever build will come to you without sacrifice and some pain.

I want to share with you some statements that my friends sent me about what safe community means to them:

“Sisters in Christ who walk alongside one another in love and with transparency”. Carol

“A safe community is being in an atmosphere where I can be vulnerable in sharing who I am without it coming back to hurt me”. Val

“A group where you can be yourself without judging and receiving judgement”. Sylvia

“A safe community is somewhere that no matter who you are or who you are or what you believe you can go there without fear of judgement or persecution”. Avi

“A place where all people can live, work, grow and play without fear of being hurt or injured by anyone within the community”. Sonya

“The intentionality of a people to give a secure space of love, of requite, of respect and retrospect, of listening and sharing all with purpose and truth”. Precious

“Safe community to me would be a place where each person involved feels seen, heard, validated and accepted without feeling judged, less than or rejected”. Jane

“A safe community is a place where you can come as you are, because the love of Jesus Christ unites you”. Lisa

“A safe community is a space where you can be vulnerable to just be you-in sharing ideas, thoughts and spaces with others”. Maria

There is a theme that I hear within all of their quotes and that is a safe community is one without judgement. A safe community is one with unconditional love, a safe community is one that you can feel free to be yourself. Only you can truly determine what a safe community is for you. We are all different and we all require certain things to bring about safety and to build community within that space. Community may look different for me than it does for you. I honestly believe our mental health is a factor in how we do community, how we build community and how we determine what safe community looks like for us. Please know that safe community does not mean that we all believe the same way. It also does not mean that we have to agree with what everyone within that community believes in. Safe community means we invite the views of others without judgement.

In closing this post, I want to be totally honest with you. I to struggle with building safe community. As a matter of fact, I struggle with feeling safe in community. My mind is always working overtime trying to sort through or bargain with the fear of being rejected in community. I know the pain of rejection and the fear of feeling that again sometimes robs me of the opportunity to be vulnerable enough to let all of me be seen. Building community is hard work, it can be full of disappointments and wins. I believe in the end it will be worth it to find our people. You are worthy of a beautiful safe community. You belong in safe community. Pray for it, believe for it and fight for it. God desires to place you in community, will you let him?

Lord Jesus please help me to feel safe enough to be in community with those you have given to me. Amen

What is the truth?

“Denying the truth doesn’t change the facts”.

There are times when I am really struggling with depression and oftentimes it is hard for me to grasp what is really the truth over the lies screaming at me in those moments. My mind knows the truth but in those moments it feels like the lies beat away at that truth till I am left with what feels right in that moment but not truth. So, I began a practice when the spiral of lies began to drag me into the sadness once again and that is, I take a moment and ask myself, ”What is the truth?” When I do that it gives my mind a moment to consider what is the truth in that moment. My thoughts are something like this. I am having a moment with depression and I am feeling really sad right now, but my truth is that this moment is NOT forever. My truth is that I am stronger than this moment I am having. My truth is I might feel alone in this moment but I am not alone. This is not something that is easy to do because sometimes those moments are so deep, so painful that I am not able to get space freed up to think of those questions and that is where I find myself just saying,”Jesus, Jesus”, and I know he hears me.

Depression lies present as the truth and then they try and surround us with things that look like they support that truth. When I am really struggling the first lie that depression tells me is that no one cares about my struggle and they would be better if they were not having to see me suffer. The lies tell me that I am failing at life. I often see myself as a burden and find myself hiding my struggle rather than reaching out to those who love me and telling them I am having a tough time. I feel like I can do it on my own with medication, prayer and studying my bible without the connection of those who can walk with me. Oftentimes the fight to connect to others feels so scary and often I wonder if it is worth the fight, worth the pressure, worth the feelings of being uncomfortable. The fear of rejection sometimes honestly wins out and I loose the courage to reach out my hand for help. All the things I listed that I use such as prayer, studying my bible, medication, therapy and definitely music that lifts and places my heart in the presence of my Jesus they are all amazing. I must be honest in saying the other one is CONNECTION.

One of my greatest fears is connecting to others and letting them in to me. Letting them in to my heart, letting them see me in all of who I am and who I am not. Connection allows others to see you in that place between who you are fighting to get to and the person you are right in that moment, Oftentime that in between place is not pretty, it is messy but people assigned to walk with you can connect to you and walk right into that place with no judgement. See God connections come with God purpose and no matter how ugly it get, they are in it with you. Did you know that we tend to test those people the most? We test them to see if they will stay. We test them to see if they really care. We test them to see if they really love us. The connection does not happen over night but when it does our hearts find sweet rest in it. We stop fighting it and we just let go and trust God with our heart, knowing that this person is God sent to walk with us in this place.

So, what is the truth? The truth is that depression is real and it is painful but God is right there with us. The truth is you really are amazing and strong. You are not failing right now because your taking medications for anxiety and depression, you are winning. The truth is that no weapon formed against you will prosper, the weapon might be a mental health diagnosis but medication, prayer, therapy and eating right even exercising keeps it from prospering. The truth is the Lord is singing over you beautiful one. The Lord is cheering for you sweet one. Even in our darkest moments God is not pointing his finger at us and saying we disappoint him. In our darkest moments he is not turning his face away from us but honestly he is turning toward our pain. God is reaching into our pain desiring to touch us where we have felt like we could not be touched. My message that I pray you were able to get out of all of this is the truth is God has me and God has YOU. We must fight to hold on to that truth and we must rehearse it to ourselves over and over again.

I want to leave you with one last thought. John 8:32, “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. When I read this as I was writing this post I thought about how we limit this to a one time thing. I believe that in those moments we are struggling in the deep darkness of depression that we have to grab a strong hold of the truth that we KNOW and allow it to set us free. Every single time we have to grab a deep grip on the truth that we have within us and let that truth that we know set us free in those moments. I don’t believe that God is counting how many times we need the truth to set us free as long as we allow it to set us free. Notice that when your struggling and you start speaking truth to those lies they start shrinking in size and loosing their power over you, because the truth is setting you free, let it do it as many times as you need it. I am with you my friend and I am for you.

Prayer:

Lord we need your truth to be greater within us than the lies of the enemy. In those moments when the darkness seems more than we can bare, let the truth of what we know rise and set us free. Lord sometimes the truth of what we know gets so lost in the struggle, in the sadness but in those times please give us strength to fight. Thank you for loving us. Amen

The War with Loneliness

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness. and the feeling of being unloved.”  

Mother Teresa

     This will be a very transparent post of my heart poured into the next few words you will find here.  I have hesitated with sharing my story here with this but then thought that if for one moment someone else feels seen here by my words then it is worth the deep soul wrenching journey to share.

For a long time I have struggled with the feelings of loneliness. I have a beautiful family and I have friends that I reach out to but some how I still have felt so alone.  As I began to search my heart and explore why this has been true for the greater part of my life. I have come to realize that as a little girl these feelings began.  Many times as a child I felt locked inside myself with all these feelings and emotions with no outlets.  I felt more unsafe than I ever felt safe.  I grew up in a very dysfunctional home where people were not really invited into our home space to protect the secrets being lived out there.  I watched my beautiful mom live life completely alone besides raising us as children.  I literally watched her disconnect from the world outside of our home unless she was going to church or getting errands done. Can you imagine seeing someone in the world but totally disconnected from everything in the world.  I then felt her disconnect from us except for the care she had to give to us as a parent.  I remember reaching for her emotionally many times but she felt so very far away.  I never knew anything about her life, her childhood her hopes her dreams not even her disappointments.  I remember not being touched a lot as a child but craving it.  Inside of me,  years of feeling that level of rejection caused me to feel like it was safer to be alone.  So I began building my protective force around myself.  I decided that no one would break it down because if I allowed them in I would risk feeling the pain of my childhood again.

Loneliness is a very powerful feeling.  It isolates  you in your mind even if you are in a crowd or surrounded by those you love and that love you.  I think that one of the most important steps to helping us with loneliness is one of the hardest steps and that is acknowledging that it is truly what we are feeling. Just to clarify for you, being alone and loneliness are two different things.  Being alone is more of a physical thing but loneliness is more of a strong emotion.  Loneliness causes such a deep feeling of being alone, emptiness and being unwanted.  I long so desperately for human contact but yet feel so fearful of building that connection in relationship that lead towards it.  Loneliness to me has even felt in some ways like being abandoned.  I find such comfort in this scripture, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you”.  This passage reminds me that God is with me even if I am wrestling with feelings of loneliness.  It tells me clearly that he will never fail me nor will he abandon me.  I take the word of God as promises from him and his promises apply to me as well as to you.

If you are reading this and you struggle with loneliness just as I have and sometimes still do.  I am not going to try to convince you that you are not alone or that you should not feel that way.  The feelings of loneliness are real and can feel so painful but,  what I can tell you is that God sees you and he knows exactly what you are facing right now.  He knows those feelings of loneliness and the deep struggle you and I have with them.  I know how it feels to sit in a room full of people but feel like you are so alone.  I know what it feels like to long for connection and community on one hand,  but be terrified of it on the other. Does having these two things take loneliness away, NO, but they surely have been a help to me in my personal struggle with it.

Oh sweet one I know the feelings so deeply in my bones.  The war of loneliness raging within but then the beauty of Gods peace fills me over and over again reminding me of who I am and whose I am.  I pray today that in this struggle that you will know that God is with you.  I pray you will know that what you are feeling is valid and important.  I pray that you will know that you are seen and known of God.  Please don’t be ashamed nor embarrassed because you might be feeling this, I know there are times I struggle with feeling ashamed of feeling lonely.  If you are married and feeling alone please know that it doesn’t mean that you have a bad marriage, those feelings of loneliness are still just as real.  Marriage is not a cure for loneliness and being single does not necessarily mean that you have to struggle with loneliness.  I do feel that when we struggle with feelings of loneliness, we should take time to explore those feelings.  Look at where we think they are coming from?  Could they have anything to do with feelings from our childhood.  Could they in any way be connected to a deeper unmet need or even a mental health condition.  Examine those feelings, explore them and let God walk you into a place of freedom.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus the feelings of loneliness are so heavy right now.  I feel so unseen and so alone.  The pain of loneliness is eating me up from within.  I don’t understand these feelings but I know that you know me so deeply because you created me.  God please help me to walk through this place with strength and courage.  Thank  you that you are always with me.     Amen

Step Into the Safety of the Light

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

John 1:5

 

I was in a really bad place when this thought filled my mind; ” Step into the safety of the light.’  The sadness felt like a crushing weight on my chest.  The thoughts pushed me into a corner. I felt like I was trapped in a dark corner in my mind where no one could reach me and if I be totally honest in that moment, I thought maybe Jesus could not reach me either because I was still there.

During the pandemic my hours on my job changed for a few months so that meant that when I left the house I was leaving in the early morning light  of the day.  I would leave my house without even a second thought because it was light and I could see clearly.  Recently my hours changed back to early mornings and it is still dark when I leave.  I hesitate to step into the dark of our carport to get to my car.  Even though once I step far enough under it the light comes on, it is those steps I must take in the dark to get to the light  that scare me the most.  I know I am safe but the dark brings about a level of unsafety that only the light can break.  This reminded me of the darkness that depression can bring about.  It feels sometimes as if I am stumbling around in the dark trying to feel my way into the light again.  The beauty of the light is that Jesus is the light that dismantles any level of darkness.  The darkness cannot stand in the light, it has no power over the light.  If you notice when you start to struggle the first thing we want to do is isolate and hide in the darkness of our struggles.  We would rather keep it a secret until it gets too much for us to carry alone.  Now let me say to those who might be reading this who have people you love that struggle; your response to their struggle determines if they will feel safe to share with you.  Did you know that we are not looking for answers from you, were not even looking for you to understand because oftentimes we realize that there is just no way you can but we just need you to hear us and see us.  Don’t be afraid to ask how you can love us in this place.  Don’t be afraid to ask us to tell you what we need if we can.  Sometimes we just need you to sit with us. Sometimes we just need you to let us share open, honest and raw from the place we are sitting in without your judgement. Often times those feelings unexpressed become like monsters inside of us with no safe outlet and they push us further and further into the dark corners of our own minds.

Oh beautiful one, there is so much safety in the light that is Jesus.  I know it feels so scary to trust that the light is safe when you have been living through the darkness for so long.  Sometimes you might even feel like you will never be able to feel the beauty of the light again, but you can and you will.  Sometimes that light might look like taking your medication or making a counseling session.  Sometimes that light might look like praying for the first time in a long time.  Sometimes that light might look like sharing with someone that you feel safe with how you are struggling and letting them walk alongside of you.  Whatever that light looks like to you, please know that Jesus is that light.  You are safe to step into all that he is.  He is good and he is faithful and he loves you so much.  His love is wooing you into the beauty of his light.  Step into the light beautiful one, you are seen known and loved.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus I have lived in the dark with my struggle for so long till the light scares me.  Please help me to find the courage to step into the beautiful light of who you are.  I need your help and your strength.  Please help me to trust the safety of your light.  Thank you for loving me.  Amen

 

The Storm

“He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed”

     The raging storm begins and the waves rise and fall inside. I try my best to run out of the way of the waves before they crash over my body but before I know it I am sucked under them, drowning, I can’t breathe. I am so far under the waves and I’m fighting and fighting. My arms and legs are flopping all around trying to get back on top of the water. Everything I learned about swimming seems to fade away and panic has set in. After fighting for so long to get back up on top of the water, I realize there is nothing left to do. So I let go, I stop fighting and I just let my body float. As the waves begin to seize and the water calms, I remember again how to swim and I swim  as hard as I can to the top where I can be seen where I can be rescued, where I can be bought to safety.

Maybe you can relate to this analogy. When depression rises in me, it is like a raging storm inside of my mind and body. I feel like the waves rise so quickly over me that before I can prepare they are drowning me. It feels like being dragged out to sea in a uncontrollable storm.  At times it feels as if my mind is not going to be able to withstand the storm.  The thoughts are like the crashing waves beating against me till they drag me into the deepest part of the sea. I find myself thinking of ways to end the storm to quiet the raging sea.  I just want to be at peace again in my mind.  I just want to make it to the safety of the shore again.  I know sweet one the thoughts that come so quickly that you feel like you can’t fight them.  I know the options presented to you are few and often times there is one that is put before you over and over that seems like it would end the raging storm once and for all.  It is a lie, it is not a way out. It is a way in to another level of pain for those who love you so deeply that you would leave behind.

Notice the scripture above, “He stilled the storm to a whisper, the waves of the sea were hushed”.  Jesus so desires to do that for me and for you.  He wants to quiet the storm raging within us to a whisper. Right now it might feel so loud till your struggling to think clearly.  Your thoughts feel all over the place like they are being tossed all around as the winds of life blow so strong.  Notice that the scripture says that, “the waves of the sea were hushed“.  If you are like me in those moments my soul desperately seeks for something to hush the waves of the sea.  I just need that one thing that causes me to feel safe to step back into my body again.  Maybe you need that one thing as well.  I want to suggest to you that Jesus is that one thing.  Just like he has done for me many times he desires to still the storm in your life to a whisper.  I know that he can hush the waves of the sea raging in your life right now.  Oh, beautiful one he knows your thoughts before you even think them.  He feels the pain that you can’t seem to find the words to articulate and he wants to carry you to the safety of the shore again and again if he needs to.  He wont fail you. He wont abuse your trust in him.  Let him help you through the storm, let him lead you to safety again.  You are so loved, known and seen.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I am in a storm right now and the sea is raging against me.  I feel so weak to the waves rising up in my life.  Lord I cannot find my way back to the safety of the shore.  Please lead me.  You promised that you would never leave me nor forsake me, I need to know that you are here in this storm with me.  Don’t let the waves overtake me Jesus.  Lord Jesus please pull me through the waters that feel like they are drowning me.  You are my anchor and I will rest in you.    Amen

 

It’s A Mind Thing

Oftentimes the sadness that comes with major depressive disorder comes without and explanation…..

“You will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

I went to sleep that night and felt like myself.  I closed my eyes and opened them with tears streaming down my face.  It seemed as if I could not fight the rush of sadness that surrounded me.  I tried to pinpoint what happened while I was sleeping to cause so much sadness.  I laid there and the tears soaked my face and the overwhelming sadness flooded me.  How do you explain to anyone this deep sadness without a explanation.  These days you cannot be sad without a legitimate reason right…. WRONG. Oftentimes the sadness that comes with major depressive disorder comes without an explanation, there is not always a trigger besides the chemicals in your brain.  You can walk me down memory lane from the pass few days before the sadness began and still come up empty handed and no reason.  It comes without warning and it can be extremely forceful.  To be honest when you pair it together with being a believer of Jesus Christ it can feel like a weight of shame. The joy of the Lord should be my strength. So, you ask yourself is it possible to have the joy of the Lord but struggle with major depressive disorder?  I believe that joy and happiness are two very different things.  I think joy comes from Jesus and it remains in all circumstances and situations but happiness is connected to this world and it changes as circumstances change.  So with that knowledge I believe that you can have the joy of the Lord and still struggle with major depressive disorder. The sadness comes from the disorder so why should I attach that to the joy that comes from Jesus. It is the joy of the Lord that keeps me fighting each day. It is the joy of the Lord that keeps me smiling when I feel crushed and broken inside.  I am not hiding but I am choosing that what is inside of me will not always control what you see.  The other thing that is inside of me is Jesus.  So, I began to understand that this war within is A Mind Thing.  The chemical imbalance is inside our brain, and our mind and brain work hand in hand.  The scripture above says that Jesus will keep in perfect peace those whose minds(thoughts) are steadfast.  If we can in that moment of the spiral down think of Jesus not a scripture(it might be too much) but just his name and paint the picture of him right there in that moment the perfect peace already within us will begin to rise up. The peace of God is within us no matter what the lies from depression tell us, the peace of God is there for us to access. Oh how he longs to give it to us when the sadness blinds us to the truth. It might be a mind thing but the more we surrender our minds to God slowly with discipline the mind thing becomes A God Thing.

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus my mind belongs to you.  My thoughts belong to you.  When the struggle with depression and anxiety overwhelm me, please help me to remember that if I stay focused on you that you will keep me in perfect peace.  Lord Jesus remind me that you are with me and I am never alone.      Amen

 

 

 

The God That See’s You

Genesis 16:13

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me”. She also said,”Have I truly seen the One who sees me?”

How many times have you been placed in situations  where you  found yourself questioning if God could see you? Uncertain times where you were asking God, “I’m I seeing you, is this you at work right now?  It does not feel right, this can’t possibly be the God that sees me.

I think at some point in all of our lives , we have desperately searched for the confirmation that God can see us, especially during the times when it feels like our world has fallen apart right at our feet.   We just want the assurance that the one who knows every detail about our lives from beginning to the end  sees us in every situation and under every circumstance. Just like he provides for every living creature we want the assurance that he will provide for us.

Often times when I have been facing hardships in my life, I have found myself asking God if you see me, then why are you allowing this to continue in my life.  There are some seasons in our lives that we must walk through and the benefits that will come out of it are far greater than what were facing in the moment so instead God graces us with the courage and the strength to walk through it.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God says to us,”For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,”They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope”. God is well aware of what you are facing but he also knows the plans he has for your life and no matter what it feels like his plans are not to harm you, his plans are to bring an offer to  you  for a future and a hope.  The beauty is that you get to choose his future and hope over what seems like a future and hope.  Even if it is only a tiny bit of hope, you must grab it and hold it with everything within you.  Allow yourself to see Gods hand on your life.  Settle the issue within yourself that he sees it all and he knows AND he is at work.  YOU might not see it, you might not feel it but God is working on your behalf.

One of my favorite scriptures that I love to read is, Psalms 23:6, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. (NLT)  

Just as God sent an angel to let Haggar know that he saw her, he is allowing things to happen in your life even in the place that you are in to let you know that he sees you and you are not forgotten.  He wants you to know that his goodness and unfailing love is pursuing you all the days of your life.  Oh brave one that means that no matter what you do Gods unfailing love is in hot pursuit of you.  There is nothing too bad that you have done to stop his unfailing love.  It cannot fail, which leads me to believe that it is perfect.  Gods love is perfectly fitted for every individual person. It is true that he loves us all the same but different because our needs for love is different.  What might feel like his love to me might feel like punishment to you so his love is perfected to fit you.

I pray that this post will serve as a reminder to you that God sees you.  He has had his eye on you from the very beginning.  When you were being formed in your mother’s  womb in utter seclusion, God was watching  your unformed body.  He took every part of your life and laid it out before himself before you were created.  I can only imagine what he was saying as he was putting the pieces of your life together.  God might have been thinking all that you would need to get through this and through that and little grace here and whole lot of love here.  You are seen oh beautiful one and you are so loved.

Prayer:  Father thank you that you see us.  You see every area of our lives and you love us with an unconditional love.  There is nothing we have faced or will face that you did not see.  Remind your daughters today that they are seen and loved deeply.  Heavenly Father help us to walk in the depth of your love for us and towards others.  Lord let that love permeate every single area of our lives.  In Jesus name, Amen.