It’s mental health awareness month and I already have the victory, so I am just going for it right here.
I tend to handle hard seasons like the nurse that I am – I triage, I treat, I tend to others. I am think critically, I react swiftly and efficiently, and I handle effectively. And then months later, I crash. I find myself flat on my back. Everything feels dark and stormy. It’s too hard to brush my teeth and read my Bible and stay close to my people.
I’ve been there for the last little bit. I saw the red flags here and there for the last few months, with the tiniest triggers and the smallest setbacks throwing me for a loop. It came to a head last week, thanks to friends and family pressing in. At one point, my husband physically pulled me out of bed and put my shoes on so I could get moving one morning. I spent several days lamenting and analyzing. What went wrong? I’ve been preparing my heart, disciplining my body, digging into Scripture and community, and running on mission both in my city and on the Internet. My marriage is great, my kids are awesome, and things feel pretty healthy overall. Why the sudden physical symptoms of depression? This felt like failure.
But the truth is it’s not failure. It’s just not. This is simply my life, in seasons. And it’s futile and foolish to think I’ll ever outgrow my need for the gospel, or even move on to a new problem instead of my usual struggle with pride and performance. I’m wired a certain way, I’m born into sin, and I’m made new only in Christ. And only on a daily, forever basis.
So the last few weeks were hard. But this week? This week, we fight. And this time? This time, I share as I go. Because His resurrection power is made positively perfect in my weakness. And I’m ready to boast in it.
This week: move body every day (gentle is okay), drink at least a liter of water each day, sex three times this week, be honest when people ask, no meeting with girls/women this week, memorize Isaiah 32:15-20, worship music or audio books only, and remember that this could end tomorrow and that there’s still joy in the midst.
*edit – almost immediately after publishing this post, I received critically important and helpful feedback from some kind folks on Twitter. So I changed the title and made a few edits, because this election DOES matter. The future of America DOES matter. I tried to keep things vague and tidy the first time around, but vague and tidy just doesn’t work during election season. So I took things in a different direction, a topic on which I’m pretty proficient and a direction in which I feel safe leading my readers. Thanks for being such a part of this process!
I love politics. I discovered NPR my freshman year of college and I haven’t recovered since. I’ve always had this desire to know a little bit about a lot of things. I’m almost positive it stems from sin – fear of failure, and desire for approval, and maybe a little pride thrown in. But the genuine thirst for knowledge is real and I’m grateful the Lord put that in me. So I listen, and I read, and how many times do I have to say I love Twitter? I’m a millennial – of COURSE I get my news from social media!
I’ve voted Republican and I’ve voted Democrat, and I’ve never been totally satisfied with either party’s platforms. And that’s okay. Nobody gets it perfectly. No party gets it perfectly. We are sinful and greedy and easily corrupted. This world began falling apart the moment sin entered the world and it won’t stop decaying until Jesus comes back to fix it once and for all. Even in the waiting, I’m still grateful to be an American who loves the democratic process.
I know elections are exhausting to watch. Your brain hurts from all of the ads and your Facebook feeds are probably tired. But here’s why I think it matters to follow politics and current events, both in America and around the world – because God says to look. Both the Old and the New Testaments are filled with examples of God’s desire for us to keep our eyes open. To perceive what he’s doing. To be in this world while not of it. To fight for truth and justice as he defines it. To bind up broken hearts and set people free. And so we listen, and we read, and we talk about it, and we rally, and we vote.
But there’s a catch. It’s easy to get burnt out. It’s easy to succumb to fear or feelings of overwhelm or hopelessness. Self-care is important. I could say I don’t get caught up in the frenzy, because I know who wins in the end and I know the God I serve cares about truth and justice even more than I do. But there’s more to it than that, on a daily, micro level. I guess when it comes down to it, I have an election self-care regimen.
I refuse to engage in conversations that involve hateful, damaging, fear-mongering language about the direction in which this country is headed. I thank God that I live with a black President and a woman Presidential candidate. I fact check a lot. I open my Bible each morning and look for clues on how to love people better and what God says about leadership. I click through several funny political memes per day. My favorites were from the second debate.
I gather my kids around the table and teach them how to look at the world through a viewfinder that says a man named Jesus died for it. I remind them that this includes every single person, all of the genders and all of the colors, with all of the baggage anyone cares to bring to the table. I stay off of social media at least one day per week, sometimes two. I practice saying things like, “You might be right” (thanks, Jess). I pray for more humility and wisdom. I bite my tongue more now than I ever have in my life. I also speak up more than I ever have in my life. Because there is a time for everything, and this matters.
I knew it was coming. I’d already heard the word discipline from the Lord several times throughout the month of January, as if he was asking me to put in the work now so I could reap the harvest later. When I finally had some clarity, I told my husband about the stirring in my heart. Some stuff is going to hit the fan for us this year. I think someone might get sick, or we might lose an income, or there might be new relational chaos in our family. I want to be prepared when it happens.
Ever supportive of my spiritual gifts, my dear husband gave me some serious side eye and told me to pipe down. Then he closed his eyes and nodded. And shook his head, at the same time. If my man could figure out a way to build a house in the clouds, he would move our family to the sky in a heartbeat. Chris could literally get punched in the face and he’d pull himself out of the dirt, dust himself off, smile, and make some comment about how there’s nowhere to go but up from there. In that moment at our kitchen table, he knew I’d heard from God, but he didn’t want to think about our lives being turned upside-down.
And eight months later, upside-down they went! In the course of just a few weeks, our family has experienced significant sickness, loss of income, and relational chaos. I’m trying my hardest to compare it to other times my life has felt dark and hopeless, because these are some of the most extreme events to ever happen to us. And yet, this is the most at peace I’ve ever felt. I don’t feel dark and heavy. I feel light and hopeful, excited even. Because we’ve been preparing for this all year.
Mere weeks after my word from the Lord in January, I sat at the IF:gathering and listened to Katherine describe her life-changing stroke and subsequent recovery. She said that in her darkest moments, she reminded herself that THIS IS NOT A DRILL. This is what she’d been training for, in a spiritual sense. All of the Scripture, all of the prayers, all of the diligent times spent with Jesus, they came flooding back to her and kept her company while she lay in a hospital bed, unable to communicate with anyone. As I listened to her words, I felt God again remind me of our conversations a month prior. It almost felt as if he was nudging me to stop wasting time. No need to be flailing about and trying to remember a random Psalm when the bottom drops out. And so I got ready. I got after healthy rhythms and relationships like my life depended on it.
I started reading my Bible every morning, and not just when I remembered to or on a phone app in the car. When people ask, I try not to sound blunt in my reply. I just read it. No reading plans, no journals. I pick one book at a time, and I read one chapter per day until that book is done. Throughout the day, I ask the Lord to remind me things from my morning’s reading. What does he want to tell me about himself, myself, and the world?
I also started going to the gym every day. Not just a few times per month for yoga classes, or on a Saturday morning when I had some free time. I work out five days a week, for twenty minutes each morning. This is another question I get a lot, about how I make it work. I just go. The answer might seem unrealistic to some, but it took so much time and work to get to this place as a family. We literally changed jobs and moved things around in our budget to get the morning routine we have today. And now my husband and I start our days together while apart (how couples do the same workout next to each other, I might never know), moving our bodies and asking God how he wants to use us today.
Lastly, I really started to let people in. I feel like I went to my best friend Jess and my husband and blurted out I HAVE A PRIDE PROBLEM, but I know it was more nuanced than that (I hate nuance. Even the word. It feels wimpy to me. I’m so stinkin’ black and white). I basically asked them to speak life AND truth over me, and I practiced receiving correction. I got used to the idea that I’m busted and broken even WITH Jesus, and I learned to guzzle grace. I’m still working on the “extending it others” part, but the Lord is kind and gentle while he teaches me.
And so here we are. The actual bottom is trying to fall out, and I’m still standing. There is healing here. This is a story of redemption. A few years ago when things got rough, I wanted out. Out of my marriage, out of motherhood, out of this world. And this time, I’m smiling (weakly, tightly sometimes) and whispering under my breath that this is not a drill.
I can take heart. He’s already overcome the world. And I’m not alone. God looks at some of these worldly circumstances of mine and he enters into the pain with me. It ought not be, he whispers. I get it. This is bad. But can we go back to all of those things I promised you? All of the things you’ve read about me in Scripture, bragged about me to your friends and people online? Let’s camp out on those. Stand on my promises. The bottom never falls out here.