The Story that is My Life

My life as it has been and as it continues to unfold is a story. One story made up of many stories. One complex, yet simple story. One sometimes messy, but so beautiful story. One story that I wonder if it might be interesting to be told.

This blog is my attempt to put part, or parts, of that story into words, pictures, or whatever form my mind can wrap itself around or create from within myself to express what it is like to be the one inside Cindy's Story. This is an exploration on my part and on yours in reading, and seeing, and maybe even hearing. It is not necessarily chronological. It might not always make sense, but it is my expression. It is me.

You are invited to see how my story unfolds.....

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Depression Story (a Christian Woman's Story of Cutting, Suicide Attempts, and Bipolar Disorder)

Many of you have already read the story of my depression, but I wanted to repost it for those of you who are new to my blog.  This is a story that has shaped who I am today, and I pray that it may help you understand me and others who have or are going through a time of depression and hopelessness right now.  And may you be encouraged in the time you are going through now as well.  Thank you for reading.


My Depression Story

I grew up in a family that has loved Jesus for generations so,  from the day I was born, I knew that Jesus loved me.  When I was four and a half years old I prayed to ask Jesus into my heart.  As I grew I wanted to do what Jesus wanted me to do: things like going to church, reading my Bible and praying every day, giving my tithes and offerings, and witnessing to those who are lost.  

In college I heard God's call to everyone to go and make disciples of all nations.  I went on a mission trip to the Natives on a reserve in Canada, and I decided to go to Moody Bible Institute of Chicago to study the Bible and get a degree in International Ministries.  During my studies at Moody, I went on exchange to Belfast Bible College and also on a mission trip with Operation Mobilization in England.  

After graduation from Moody I went to Kenya as a missionary with Africa Inland Mission.  I lived with an African family as the only mzungu (or white person) in the village of Muthyoi.  I taught in a national primary school.  I preached in the local church.  I was a traveling speaker at churches and schools in the area.  I visited people in their huts and prayed for them.  I visited my boyfriend at the time's family in their village.  He was a Kenyan I met at Moody.  I lived like an African.  I had no electricity and no running water.  I slept on a bed of two-inch foam that I could feel the boards of the bed through.  My brick house had tin sheets for a roof.  I had no car or bicycle.  I ate things like greens, maize meal mush, cabbage, and beans.  Also, there were no people my age around because they were all away in town going to school or working.  

It was my dream to live like an African and tell them, some of the neediest people, about Jesus.  It was the best thing that I thought that I could do for God.  I thought I was doing all that God wanted me to do.   I didn't think I needed anything else.  

My plan for the future was to marry my Kenyan boyfriend, to live in a village as one of the Kenyan people, to have a great ministry to the neediest of people, and for God to give me peace and joy because I was doing what He wanted.  

Then came reality.  I found that I didn't know how to teach.  I couldn't communicate directly with the young kids or the older people in the village because of the language barrier.  The people demanded too much of me, and I got overwhelmed.  I was alone as the only mzungu and the only young adult, and I got lonely.  I had no one to talk to when my thoughts turned negative about myself.  God didn't give me the peace, joy, and satisfaction that He was supposed to give me for serving Him.  I gave Him my life, and He took it all.  Don't get me wrong, I loved the people that I lived with and the burden on my heart was great for them, but I found that I felt like a failure.  

The following is something that I wrote after I returned from Kenya:

CRUSHED IN FIELDS OF GREEN

How am I doing after returning from serving God in Africa?  Let me tell you a story to try to help you understand.........  

….......Imagine a big and long hill, and on one side of this hill was born a young girl.  As the sun shone on this young girl she learned to run, skip, and laugh through the never ending fields of flowers and crisp fresh air, and rarely a wisp of a cloud was seen. 
But then one day her life was changed.  Someone brought her to the top of the hill and pointed to what was on the other wide.  Far below she could see some dark rocks under a gray and cloudy sky, and her heart was touched with sadness.  She went back down to her fields of light and air and committed her life to learning how to be a rock lifter.  She gave everything that she had to learning how to free those souls trapped beneath the rocks, every day longing to begin her task.  She even met a companion along the way who had escaped from the rubble and was himself training to return to it to help.  And, for a while they continued hand in hand.  And then, at long last, her day came to go.  She gathered together enough people from her field to help push her up and over the hill, carrying one end of a rope with her so that they could pull her back after her year there was over.  They smiled back and waved good luck.  

When she reached the other side she came to the rocks that she had been shown and studied from a distance for so long.  With all the resolve she could muster she lifted a rock above her head and letting it rest upon her shoulders she began her task. She felt the weight begin to press upon her shoulders, but she knew what she had to do.  She began to walk forward with enthusiasm and resolve, one foot slowly and shakily in front of the other.  But, as she continued on under her chosen stone, the weight seemed to grow from a mere rock into a boulder, and the path forward was not always clear through the cloudy skies.  The girl stumbled along among the many crushed and struggling souls beneath, and at times found that she was herself almost crushed beneath the weight upon her.  But at those times God sent His angels to lift the boulder enough so that she could catch a breath, straighten, and stand up beneath its weight again to take more steps with her eyes forward, ever longing for the light and air she had known.  

She continued on until her year had passed when she was pulled back to the other side of the hill to the flowers and sunny days.  The people came with cheers for the heroic rock lifter and wanted to hear stories of the glories of freeing the souls on the other side, then they continued on running, skipping, and laughing through the fields of light and air.  The girl gathered her remaining strength, smiled through weary eyes, and collapsed into the fragrant fields of green as the others continued on.  

The girl had returned to her side of the hill at last.  The great pressure that she had lived under every waking moment for the last year had lifted, and now she was free to breath the fresh air again, to be in the fields of flowers and light, and to run and skip and laugh.....but she was no longer able to find the same bounce in her step or the lightness in her breath.  She lies on the carpet of green and feels herself sinking into the earth below while all she wants to do is fall asleep in the field never to wake up again.  

But she does wake up, the weight of the boulder forever imprinted on her mind and in her heart... (And deep in her soul she is deathly afraid)...How can she regain the strength to ever return?  And yet, how can she live if she does not?  She releases the hand of the companion that she thought she would hold for life that would have bound her forever to that land, and she lets her tears water the grass at her face.  Her eyes stare into the heavens above imploring, asking for an end somehow to this madness.  

The boulders that nearly crushed her still remain on the souls on the other side, and though we can only experience the pebbles in our own fields, under boulders countless souls are still struggling to get free...some not even aware that the sun could shine.    
"Oh Lord, we have no hope apart from You."

After coming back home to Oregon at the end of that year in Kenya, many things happened (or didn't happen). I realized that the cultural differences between me and the man I loved and wanted to marry were too great for me, and I had to break up with him, never to see him again. I knew I could not live as an African in the village. It was too much for me. I felt far from God. I realized I did not know enough to be a teacher. I couldn't find a job in Portland. I didn't have any friends. I felt that I was a horrible person because I had failed to be the person that God wanted me to be and failed to feel the good feeling that a Christian is supposed to feel. All this combined to plunge me into a deep depression.

I felt bad all the time. It was as if a dark cloud hung over my head. My body was weak. I was tired all the time. I couldn't sleep at night and took long naps during the day. I didn't want to eat. I cried all the time. I became afraid of people. I was afraid to leave the house. I left the curtains drawn and stared into space for hours on end, my mind caught in a trap. I couldn't think straight. I heard voices calling my name or screaming. All I could think about was death. I could see nothing good in the world. Being in heaven with Jesus was all I wanted, where the torment would end and everything would go away.

"The Pit"

A picture that I made at that time shows how I felt. This is a picture of me stuck in the bottom of a pit. I am not a great artist, but in simplicity I expressed myself. I used charcoal to color in the darkness all around me. The edges of the paper have been burnt as it felt as if I had gone through the fires of hell. I am made with my hands thrown up to the sky not knowing how to get out of the pit. Up in the sky is a rainbow sky. All the beauty is contained in it. Up in the sky is a sort of cloud with squiggly lines floating around. This represents all the great ideas that I had in the past about God and serving Him. The cloud is still within sight from my pit, but way out of reach. The fact that God loved me and wanted to use me and that He would be all that I needed was just an idea that was floating away. The dots on the ground next to the pit represent the souls that still need Jesus that I am unable to reach.

During this time of depression a pastor friend of mine convinced me to go see a counselor at church. The first thing they did was to take me to a doctor. He diagnosed me with clinical depression and put me on medication. The medication cleared up my mind enough that I could think again. It helped me to get some sleep. I started counseling and began to process all the pain hurt, sadness, fear, and anger.

One night when I was contemplating suicide I decided to see how much it would hurt to cut my wrists. I found a razor and made small cuts on my wrists. I felt pain, but found I could do it. This brought me a feeling of power knowing that if I wanted to I could kill myself. My pastor friend noticed the marks on my wrists and told my counselor who then told my parents. They loved me and wanted to try to fix thing things for me, but I knew they could not. I didn't kill myself, but I found that the act of cutting would temporarily relieve my emotional pain. I hated myself, and I hated life. I was mad at God for making me the weak person that I am. By cutting myself I punished myself and gave myself the hope that I could kill myself anytime I wanted to. Cutting was the only way I knew how to cope. I started to cut myself on a regular basis, anytime I felt bad or wanted to die.

I had a car at that time. My sleep wasn't regulated so I was always driving while not being able to keep my eyes open. I had no other option because I had found a job. One day I fell asleep and crashed. Since then I had a total of five at fault accidents, three of them due to falling asleep. The last one I ran off the road into a telephone pole totaling my car. That was almost seven years ago.
Over the first year of my depression my doctor diagnosed me as Bipolar, a disorder where you can go from times of depression to times of mania. He put me on more medication which helped. I remained depressed, but with the medication and counseling was starting to improve and work through my pain, but in July 2003 things turned for the worse.

We started going over why I hated myself in counseling. I got overwhelmed with the hatred for myself one night, and I felt that I didn't deserve to live. I saw no hope. So I took a bunch of pills in my desperation. I cut my wrist. Then I got scared and went to the hospital. I was put in double lock down room. I wanted to die. The guy outside my door in the room next to me was yelling that I was going to hell. I didn't tell anyone but my counselor and my pastor friend that I was in the hospital, not even my family. I was let out of the hospital four days later, but I still felt the same. Every day I woke up and had to decide if I was going to kill myself that day or live a little while longer.

Two months after my first time in the hospital I found myself back in the hospital again. This time I had been in so much in despair that my friend found me on the bathroom floor one night, my blood draining from my wrist where I had cut my artery. When he and his wife stopped me, I wilted to the floor and willed the world to go away. My friend just held me as I wept. It was the only love I felt from God.

This time, while in the hospital they wouldn't let me out until some major changes were made in my life. I enrolled in a new kind of therapy specifically for people who do self-harm. I saw a new therapist specializing in self-harm. I started group therapy teaching me skills to cope to learn how to handle life again. Over six or so years I was in the hospital six times, the last being in 2006. I went because I either slit my wrist or overdosed on pills. I went to the emergency room more times than I can remember to get stitches from cutting. Those years were often hell to me, but through counseling, medication, and becoming apart of friend's lives I slowly got better and started seeing light again.

I grieved the loss of my dream for my life, but managed to learn something through the loss. I learned that I need people. God did not make me to live independent of others. I learned that God doesn't zap me with peace. I have to build peace in my life. I learned that God doesn't zap me with comfort, joy, and feelings of love all the time. He uses His people, the community around me to comfort me and show me His love.

I learned that God does not want me to feel guilty for not being a "spiritual" enough Christian by not doing all the things that "spiritual" Christians do. He gives me freedom. I used to live by the “shoulds” such as; "I should have a quiet time every day and read my Bible and pray every day," "I should be at church whenever the doors are open," and "I should be continually witnessing". I thought this way I could somehow be holy enough for God, but I could never reach that. A teacher I know told me about a poster he kept on the door to his office. It said, "I will not should on myself today". So that became a motto of mine. I only do that which I am able and willing and God gives me the strength to do right now, and right now sometimes that doesn't seem like very much in the holiness department. But I am okay with that. That's where God has me now. God does not want me to be a human doing, but a human being. God does not want me to hate myself because He does not hate me. When He looks at me He does not see my sin and failings. He sees Jesus who, as God, washed that sin away from me with His blood by dying on the cross and conquering death by rising again. God sees Jesus in me, and He loves me.

About five years ago God started giving me a new perspective.....

"Out of the Pit"

Here is my artwork showing me in a pit, but this one that I made shows a different story. I am still in the pit, but on the way up ledges have been built. On each ledge is a follower of Christ. They have come to help me out, and along with them comes some light, which is the light of Christ's love shining through their lives. I can see some hope. To each side is a cloud representing the new ideas God is teaching me of what it means to be a follower of Christ and live in the freedom that He gives. Free from guilt and shame. Free from hating myself. Free to rest in Christ's love.

If I were to make another piece of art today, I think I would have to make one with me up out of the pit surrounded by those who love me and have shown me Jesus along the way. Now, when I find myself getting close to the edge of the pit, I know I can reach out grab onto the hands of those around me and ultimately to the hand of Jesus Himself.

God did not make everything better in my life instantly, or give me back the same dream, or cure me from my struggles completely, but He has loved me through it and was with me the whole time whether I knew it or not. I thank God for the friends He has given me who have shown me His love. Please never stop loving and coming alongside the hurting and the broken even when broken yourself. We need God's love. In doing so we feel His love returned.

God loves us so much. It says in Romans 8:38 & 39 (New Living Translation):
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I can't wait to go home to be with God forever, but until then I will see if He can use this broken vessel.

I thank God the we cannot lose His love.


YOU CANNOT LOSE MY LOVE
By Sara Groves

You will lose your baby teeth
At times you'll lose your faith in me
You will lose a lot of things
But you cannot lose my love
You may lose your appetite
Your guiding sense of wrong and right
You may lose your will to fight
But you cannot lose my love
You will lose your confidence
In times of trial your common sense
You may lose your innocence
But you cannot lose my love
Many things can be misplaced
Your very memories be erased
No matter what the time or space
You cannot lose my love
You cannot lose
You cannot lose
You cannot lose my love


In His Love,
~Cindy


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Simple Outline of a LIFE


....Cindy Wolf's Life

  • I was dead in sin.
  • I believed in Jesus and was therefore saved from death and given eternal life.
  • I gave my entire life to God and to his work and to his service.
  • God took all of the life that I gave him, and I had nothing left.
  • Nothing.
  • I wanted nothing to do with life.  I wanted to and I tried to die.  
  • I died inside.
  • God loved me in my death through the death and resurrection of his son Jesus.
  • God wanted me to live, so I promised him I would.
  • Jesus is the reason I stay alive.
  • Jesus is my very life.
  • I now give my entire life back to God.  I rest my life in his hands.
  • Now, I live that you may see Jesus' life in me.
  • I live that you may hear God's story.
  • I live that you may also want to believe in Jesus and truly live.
  • I long for the day I will see Jesus face to face and live eternally in joy with him.
  • Lets be there together.
Amen and Amen.


This is my life.

What is yours?

~Cindy

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kenya Month Six; February 2, 2001

[ The following is a letter that I wrote to a friend back in the US when I was half way through my year serving as a missionary in Kenya in Africa.  The first half of the year I was living with a native Kenyan family as the only white person in the village of Muthyoi.  This became difficult for me in many ways, so I was happy to have a girl from England, Kirsty, join me for the rest of my year there.  This was written about two weeks after she arrived.]

February 2, 2001

Hello,
How are you doing?  I am okay, and do thank God for this opportunity that He has given me to communicate with you.  I really do miss you.

As I mentioned earlier, Kirsty arrived in Kenya on the 15th of January.  We took care of some things in Nairobi, and then left for Muthyoi two days later.  We each had a large and a small backpack as well as a small box so we paid for a taxi to take us to the matatu[small bus or large van type vehicle] stand in the center of the city.  The driver helped us to find a matatu that was going to the right place.  It was 7:00am when we got on.  We were some of the first people to get on, and they don't like to leave until the vehicle is full so we ended up sitting for two hours before we even moved from the city[Nairobi].  We had to trust God that our bags which were on top of the matatu were not being taken.  Many people were coming and trying to sell things like sweets, pens, watches, and handkerchiefs to us.  It was all very overwhelming to Kirsty on her third day in Kenya.  At least I was able to understand some of what was being said around us in Swahili.  Halfway through the jouney the vehicle pulled over and many of the men got out and were all examining one of the back tires.  I don't know what the problem was, but we eventually got going again safely.  We finally arrived at our stop between two and three in the afternoon.  We still had a half hours walk to the house with all our stuff so we waited a bit until a young man came walking by and offered his help in carrying our bags along with another boy.  As we were walking, we were spotted by a group of younger children just returning home from school.  They shouted out in joy and came running to greet us(shake our hand) and to help us carry our smaller items. Once at the Kamu's house, we had a warm welcome.  (Ltterally. It was very hot!)

Muthyoi at this time of year is very hot, and they say it will be even hotter in February.  I bought a thermometer so that I could give an accurate weather report to Mom, and I can now say that each day it has consistently gotten up to 90 degrees  and gone down to about 70 degrees at night.  Quite different from where you are I think [I was writing to Chicago].

Very soon after arriving back at Muthyoi we were presented with a new need that they were hoping we would be able to have a part in solving.  A secondary school[high school] that Simon Kamu[the local pastor who's family we lived with] has been helping to get going only has three teachers, and he was hoping that we could teach there a couple days a week as well as at the primary school.  The thing is that it is nearly a two hour walk one way to get there.  We walked there on that Friday to see the school and meet the teachers and students.  They were very happy for our visit as it was very unusual for them to have "wazungu"[white people/foreigners] visitors.  The children from the primary school were so curious that during their lunch break when we were sitting outside under a tree, they started by sitting far off and watching, but then kept creeping closer and closer until the entire school was sitting on the ground directly at our feet and laughing from joy.  We then took the moment to say a few words to them.  Apparently my accent is quite funny because the moment that I started talking they all burst into fits of laughter.  Even when I prayed, they could not contain themselves.  For our meal the teachers had a hen killed and cooked in soup with rice and chapati and even a soda and boiled eggs and chai. [All these things are very prized and special foods out in the bush where money is scarce, and these are foods that you buy, not grow.]  It was nice to have Kirsty with me because for once it was easier to find a way to not have to eat all of the enormous portions that they give me, and then say, "Eat all".  Kirsty and I shared one bowl of rice and chapati rather than having the one each that they had given.

That first Sunday that we were back in the village, I was the one to give the message in church.  That meant that all day Thursday and Saturday and Sunday morning I spent studying and preparing.  It really takes me a long time and a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy, but God seems to give it back in those moments when I am speaking the truths of His Word to those who need to hear.  I spoke about the need for us as we start a new year to make a commitment to start growing up in the Lord.  We should not be satisfied with the milk of the Word still as babes in Christ, but should be able to move on to the meat building on the foundation of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 3:1-15).  I had my recorder recording when I was speaking, but I only got half of it because I spoke for a longer time than the one side of my tape, and I didn't realize to turn it over.  I will have to notice this next time.

Kirsty really found those first few days in the bush to be very difficult.  She really had had no idea of what to expect in Kenya and didn't realize it was going to be the way it is.  I have tried to be encouraging to her and to help her through these various things, as well as explain what things I can to help her understand a bit better.  Kirsty has only recently finished high school and will be turning 19 in two weeks so she has not yet had much experience or training in areas of culture and Bible.  In many ways I feel that God has given me the responsibility of encouraging and discipling her in these areas in our months that we will be together.  I thank God because he has given me the ability to be strong for the both of us.  I have had to take the responsibility of sorting thins out in the school and with the family and to make decisions about what things we can each do in the next few months to make the best use of our abilities and the opportunities that are open to us. The weight of this responsibility has been heavy at times, but my confidence has grown as I have been able to successfully negotiate things on my own in this culture that is so different from mine.

Oh, the decision that we made about the schools was to stay just at the primary school.  It was just a bit too much for us at this point to be going back and forth between two schools, especially with me having one day a week visiting people in their homes, and then speaking in church twice a month and the study that goes with that.

This past week was our first full week of teaching and I think it has gone well.  This is the beginning of the school year here so the kids have all moved classes.  Many of the students have not come back to school this year so the classes are much smaller.  Some families don't have the school fees[less than a dollar each time it is asked for], but many parents are just not letting their kids come back to school for their own selfish reasons.  It really seems to be an epidemic.  They need to realize the importance of schooling for their children and for their families.

...hmmmm...My brain is starting to go fuzzy, so I think I had better go to sleep now.  So, good night....

I want to come home.  I want to see you all.  I want to sit and tell you all the stories and experiences of every day.  I want to be able to have you understand what it feels like to be living this life I am living.  I want to share with you my struggles and my joys and pray and praise God with you.  This longing is so strong in my heart, and I think this is the most difficult thing about being in Kenya.

I do trust that God can fulfill all our deepest needs and desires as we delight in him.

With love,
Cindy
(Look below.  I've written more.)

[The next day]
Good morning!  I have now woken up from a nice sleep and decided that I will write more to you before it is time to send this.  Let me give you a rundown of what my average week will be like this term in Muthyoi:

Monday - Teach Math 8 (more lessons may be added).

Tuesday - Teach Math 7 (more lessons may be added).

Wednesday - Teach Math 6, Christian Religious Education (CRE) 6, CRE 7, CRE 8, and have Bible Club for classes 4-8.  In the evening, family prayers with the family I live with.

Thursday - Personal Bible study and message prep in the morning, then making pastoral visits to people in their homes in the afternoon with Mary Kamu, the pastor's wife, until dark.

Friday - Day of intense study and message prep.  This day will often be used for me going to speak in other schools.  Join family prayers again in the evening.

Sunday - Church - I am scheduled to speak two Sundays out of every month, and then on the weeks that I don't speak, Kirsty and I are to lead the youth meetings after church.  We don't usually get back from church until around 3:00 in the afternoon, then we are quite tired and use the rest of our time to relax, then go for family prayers in the evening.

This term I have been able to negotiate my schedule to have more of the things that I am more experienced and able in and thus enjoy more.  I am not as spread out in the subjects that I teach at school, but just have Math and Christian Religious Education and Bible Club.  Kirsty has taken Science and English and Art and Craft.  This is such a relief to me, and it also frees me up to do more with the church speaking, teaching, and having personal time encouraging and challenging people as we visit them in their homes.

Last Thursday Mary and I visited at five different homes, sharing Bible passages with them, praying with them, and encouraging them to come to church or to come to Jesus if they had never done so.  It is good to see where people are coming from as well as to meet people who are not yet believers or who have turned away from Christ in order to bring them the Word of God.  Mary Kamu and I want to visit every home in the area by the end of the year.

One of the men, whose name is Nthoo, at the first house that we visited, is not yet a believer.  He worships the ancestors in the traditional way, but he listened as I shared the gospel message with him.  He told us himself that his heart is very hard and that we should pray for God to soften it so that he can believe in Jesus.  This is a beginning at least.  Others we visited were Christians who had stopped going to church, but told us that they would now come back because of our encouragement.

I have received your messages, so now I will send mine to you.
I love you tons.

~Cindy