OK, this post is a little different from the usual fare around here! We’re talking about some personal and deep stuff today, so consider yourself warned, mm’kay?
You know how some people choose a word that defines them for a year? Well, I have never intentionally done that, but for the last few years I have found that all of the lessons God has been teaching me run together into one word that defines that year. A few years ago that was Contentment, and then after that it was Joy. When 2014 began, I started trying to figure out what my “word” was that God was going to instill into my life. To be honest, the year started out really, really badly.
I struggled more with depression than I ever have in my life in the first four months of 2014. I was home every day with my kids, adjusting to life with two little ones. Keilana had terrible reflux, which made her both understandably grumpy and understandably demanding. Which meant that I was understandably tired. I was so frustrated feeling like I wasn’t bonding with my little girl at all, because she was so unhappy so often. The weather was horrific, and we were stuck at home day after day with freezing cold temperatures and gray, cloudy days.
There was one day I was so desperate for sunshine that when the sun peeked through the clouds for a few hours I bundled up the kids even though it was nearly 0 degrees. They didn’t last long, so we came back inside, but I actually went out for a walk while they napped a couple of hours later. I just walked up and down our little dead end part of our street so I was close enough to the house to feel comfortable, but I was so desperate for fresh air and sunshine I just had to be outside.
Lover was traveling and working lots during that time. There were so many times that something would go wrong, and he would either be gone or just unavailable at work because things were so busy. I handled bedtimes, nighttime wakings, sickness, and on and on by myself. We went on vacation in February and his back went out at the end of our trip. I had to care for him and the kids, navigate doctors appointments and everything else in a new city and then drive us home to NY..it was scary. It took him a long time to recover, and I had to handle a lot by myself while he healed. I’ve always relied so heavily on him, but for one reason or another I kept finding myself without him, unable to lean on his strength, and feeling so completely alone.
To make matters worse, I started to hear these thoughts in my head that terrified me. A voice would tell me, over and over, that I was completely alone. That I had to handle things all by myself because there was no one who would be there for me. In retrospect, I think I was very clearly under the worst spiritual attack I have ever experienced. I have never before experienced the feeling of something literally hanging over my head, breathing terrible, lonely, depressing thoughts down onto me. I was terrified. I thought I was going crazy, that the stress had just broken me down into some shell of the person I had been.
I continued to do all the things we normally did – church, family events, etc. but I felt disconnected and removed from them – like I was watching things happen around me but still felt completely alone. I concluded, based on the first four months of that year, that my word for the year was “Alone.”
I talked to Lover about all of this, especially about the voices telling me that I was alone. He encouraged me to start praying, out loud, for Jesus’ protection whenever I started hearing that. It took several times of desperately praying, claiming the power of Christ in me, my protected status as God’s daughter, and telling whoever or whatever that was that it was not welcome to speak to me that way. And it worked. The voice stopped talking to me.
As Lover and I talked more, and I confessed to him that I thought my word for the year was ALONE, he encouraged me to keep looking. That I wasn’t alone, I had Lover and my family and God and my friends, and that there was a different lesson that I was learning. So I kept looking.
May and June were so, so, SO much better than the beginning of the year. I had terrible hormone swings with Keilana’s pregnancy, and I think that it took about six months for everything to even out after she was born, so that was part of what I was experiencing. The weather was also a factor, along with that scary spiritual stuff that was also going on. But as the weather improved, my hormones stabilized and I was making time in prayer a huge priority, life started to feel more normal. We had some more really difficult weeks in May – Javi had croup, Keilana cut more teeth, I was sick – sometimes it seemed like the hits just kept on coming, but I was starting to have hope again. We had another week of vacation at the end of May, for my birthday, and this time it was truly restful. By the end of that week I was re energized, Lover and I had time together, the kids were doing well – we were much improved.
Around that time is when I realized that my word for the year was not, in fact, ALONE, but rather COURAGE. So much of the year had brought unknowns and challenges that I had never faced before. So much of it had been scary and intimidating. In fact, the definition of courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.” Had I been frightened a lot lately? Heck, yes! But with this different perspective, that I needed to have COURAGE, I started to find the challenges much more surmountable.
Of course, you know where this is going now, right? We are in the middle of one of our biggest adventures to date, starting a new life in a new city. Boy, oh, boy have I needed courage lately! Courage to sell our stuff, pack up our life and set up a new home. Courage to say goodbye to friends, family and loved ones, and courage to put myself out there to make new friends here. Courage to experience all sorts of new things – a new church, a new home, new driving routes and routines and weather patterns.
God knew that I would need to break with my patterns of living in fear, of letting fear control me. And honestly, I’ve worked so hard on that in previous years. I’ve refused to be defined or held back by my fears. But He knew that this experience would stretch me in ways that I couldn’t even fathom, and so I would need to step up my game.
I mentioned a while ago how important Psalm 46 has become to me. The verses in this Psalm? Courage filling. God is our fortress -God is our refuge and strength -God will help her - God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved – The Lord of hosts is with us – Therefore we will not fear.
I can’t say that I’m 100% thankful for those dark days that I went through this year. But seeing it in perspective really helps me. And as I think about our future here in Colorado, in which we still have so many unknowns, know that I will be doing my best to face them with courage.