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.....

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Desires For When I Return From Kenya

Journal Entry
February 2001 (with additional "rather than" explanations added November 2014)

In Muthyoi, Kenya, East Africa 2001

[This list was written by me while I was in my sixth month of living in a village in Kenya, East Africa.  I still had six months more to stay in the village, living with no electricity, no running water, and no supplies for my job as a teacher and missionary.  I lived with a Kenyan family, and was longing for some of the things from my culture back at home in the United States.  I was in a great deficit physically, emotionally, and relationally, and I needed some desires for the future to give me a hope of something to look forward to.]

My own personal desires about my life and future:

  • I want a piano to play to express my heart and feelings, rather than just keeping everything inside.
  • I want to swim, relax by the water, and wear shorts and a tank top during the hot season, rather than having to always wear dresses or long skirts with short or long sleeve shirts.
  • I want a small white dog and a big white cat who are the same size and will be best friends, rather than not being able to treat cats and dogs as pets, being told by the people not to pet, feed, or talk nicely to the animals.
  • I want a clean house, bug and reptile free, rather than a house that has red dust halfway up the walls inside and out, an outhouse with a just hole in the ground and rats that like to come up at night, cockroach wings on the cement floor, flying beetles bouncing off the house walls, wasp nests in the rafters, poisonous snakes showing up now and then, and a bat hanging under the bed, crunching bugs and singing at night.
  • I want a comfortable bed and a soft pillow, rather than one thin piece of foam over wood slats to sleep on and a pillow made of ripped up pieces of foam sewn into an old pillow case.
  • I want carpet under my feet and the ability to walk in the house without sandals on my feet, rather than having at all times to worry about stepping on bugs and other unknown things.
  • I want to be able to ride my mountain bike, rather than having to walk for 20 minutes to many hours to get to where I need to go.
  • I want to be near my sister so we can talk and share sisterly things with just a phone call, rather than having to write a letter that takes two weeks by mail to get to her, and then wait another two weeks for her reply to come back to me once she has written it.
  • I want to communicate with my mom and hug my dad, rather than being on the other side of the world where I cannot see or touch them.  There is the struggle of only being able to travel once a month to where there is a telephone, then having to figuring out the time difference between Kenya and the US, then trying to get the call to go through, then once through, only being able to speak for a few minutes because the cost of the call is so high.
  • I want to have running water, a refrigerator, and a stove; rather than having to milk a cow or goat for a small amount of milk, then searching for sticks to make a fire, heating up a pot that's balanced on three large stones, putting the rain water that was collected from the tin roof of the house, the milk, some ground tea leaves, and some sugar to the pot to finally be able to drink my cup of chai for each meal and break in the day.
  • I want to serve people behind the scenes, rather than teaching up front in a classroom setting where everyone just stares at me with half understanding.
  • I want to pass along wisdom to young people in an informal setting, rather than leading a study with a large group and trying to answer all their questions on the spot.
  • I want to love the forgotten children in ways that make a difference in their lives, rather than just seeing the trials and injustices in these kids lives, and not knowing what to do and having no way to help them.
  • I want to find a Godly man to love forever, rather than trying to live life and experience it on my own.
  • I want to help the neediest people, those with physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional struggles, rather than let them get forgotten.
  • I want to have some comforts to come home to like a stereo and television set, electric lights to light up the house, and a couch to sit and relax on, rather than only a couple wooden chairs around a wooden table with only a lantern for light and a deck of cards to play solitaire by myself to pass the time.
  • I want to not feel guilty about what God has given me, rather I want to use what I have as if it is not my own.
  • I want to be willing to do the difficult tasks that God has called his followers to do that other Christians are often unwilling to do, rather than being afraid to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  • I want to influence a small group of people for God in a strong way, rather than watching a multitude of people say that God is good while still wandering around in their weakness and relative ignorance of following Jesus.
  • I want to read and study God's Word with access to helps and direction from Christians who have know God than I have so I can share confidently with others, rather than only having one Bible and one Commentary to study and no spiritual help while preparing to teach the word of God to large groups of people in another country.
  • I want to make resources and ideas available to Bible teachers and missionaries in remote locations, rather than having them be in the situation that I found myself in as a lone missionary in a remote location with no resources.
  • I want to connect American Christians to the needs of other Christians around the world, rather than seeing the incredible poverty of basic necessities, safety, spiritual growth, and peace in life, and getting frustrated with the excess that those who are better off in life have.
  • I want to be a bridge which allows others to serve.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Lamb in His Arms - My Image of Christ

Jesus Christ.

Who is he to me?

God, man, the Messiah, my Savior.  Yes, but how do I see him?  When I close my eyes, what images come to my mind before my brain has a chance to formulate them into what Christians or other people expect to hear?  Let me close my eyes and see...

...Jesus.  (Deep breath)

Time stands still when I see him.  There is utter silence as if the whole creation is holding its breath.  It is like that one time or two in your life when you were in a moment that you knew you would remember forever.  Do you remember how in that moment there was a pause?  And, how in that pause everything seemed to fade into the background except that which made the moment?  All sounds became silent and waited.  All movement froze and waited.  All thoughts were suspended and waited in the moment.  Somehow you were conscious that the rest of the world still continued outside this moment, but it was as if for just that second all creation shifted its attention from its normal revolution to this one breath in time, this one perfect breath in time.

When I say perfect, I don't necessarily mean perfect in the sense that it is the best thing that ever happened to you, but perfect in the sense that something is exactly as it is meant to be with no distractions or subtractions.  This could be the moment where an unimaginable dream is fulfilled, but it could also be that intense, uninhibited, real sense of "perfect" sadness, or "perfect" anger, or "perfect" wonder, or love, or joy, etc...   Do you remember that moment?

Now, imagine that in that moment, that which has caused it is Jesus Christ himself.  As I think of this image now, all my attentions are focussed on one feature, his eyes.  Eyes which seem to look past me into the very depth of my heart and soul.  Eyes which nothing is hidden from.  Eyes that see all the filth and grime in my life and look at me as if I am sparkling clean.  Eyes like an ocean of such beauty and intrigue that I could look into their depth forever and never tire.  Eyes that hold my longing gaze.

In my image of Christ, I have never been able to distinguish clearly any other aspect of Jesus face clearly, except for his eyes.  I have had the sense that his looks are nothing spectacular and maybe not even beautiful or quite what I might have expected.  His is the face of an ordinary man, not necessarily even attractive, but for me the one face in the entire world that I long to see.  Sometimes I get the sense that he has a slight silent smile as he looks at me, but usually my sense is that his countenance is serious and peaceful, as if his is the joy that goes deeper than a simple smile could ever convey.

With my eyes fixed on the eyes of Christ, my "image" of Christ is also derived from the sense of touch and feel.  I know Jesus arms are strong because they are wrapped around me in an incredible embrace.  If I struggled, I could not break loose or even move his arms a fraction.  But I do not struggle, and he does not resist my movement.  His strength and power is withheld as he holds me with tenderness and sensitivity to my every need.

In these arms, my body finds complete relaxation.  In this face, my heart knows it has found its forever love.  In these eyes, my soul finds perfect peace.  In this moment,  I belong and my spirit longs to remain.

This "image" that I have of Christ began its formation when I was a very young child.  Every time I was scared at night, my parents would tell me to sing the song "Jesus Loves Me" in my mind, until I wasn't scared any longer.  As I sang, I would think about the motions we made to the song in Sunday school, when we sang "Jesus Loves Me."

We sang, "Jesus loves me.  This I know, for the Bible tells me so..."

As we sang those lines, the motion was to wrap your own arms around ourselves as in a hug.   It was as if Jesus was the one giving that hug of love.

Then we continued, "...Little ones, to him belong.  They are weak, but he is strong...."

The motion then was to hang our arms limp, and then bring them up and flex them like a strong man.  It showed our weakness in relationship to Jesus' strength.

Then we nodded our heads up and down with hugging arms, as we finished singing, "...Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so."

On those nights when I was afraid and I sang that song over and over again in my head, the motions to the song went through my mind as well.  In this way the notion of Jesus' love through my growing up years until now has brought with it the sense of arms around me and the feeling and reminder of Jesus' strength in my weakness.

My "image" of Christ also seems to have drawn itself in a big part from a small picture that I received as a gift when I was maybe five or six years old.  The picture couldn't have been any bigger than my hand, and it was printed on cheap paper, but it was important to me and I looked at it often.  On it was the scene of a small valley in the midst of hills.  The valley that was filled with sheep.  In the middle of all the sheep stood a man, Jesus.  What he looked like was not important, but what he was doing caused me to look again and again.

Jesus was holding a lame sheep safely in his arms and looking down upon it with a loving gaze. As I looked at the picture, I liked to imaging that I was that sheep in Jesus' strong and gentle arms.  I liked to imagine myself as the one that could gaze back up into Jesus' eyes and know that I was safe from all harm.  Time and time again, I looked at that picture of one moment in time: that moment in time when the struggling sheep saw Jesus and was at peace.

Jesus loves me.  He takes care of me.  I am at rest.


~ Cindy

Note: This paper was written August 25, 1999,  as a writing assignment at Bible college.  It was in response to an author's curiosity about what various student's "image" of Jesus Christ was, and how it came about.  This was my response.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

My Psalm - When I Needed Faith

This is one of my first attempts to write a psalm of my own, following the example of the psalms written in the Bible.  This personal psalm of mine is declaring praise to God through the testimony of a time of need in my life.  The set up of this "declarative praise testimony," I learned in a class I took at the church I attended in the late 2000s, on the book of Psalms in the Bible.  The following order of writing a psalm was used by David to write many of his Psalms.  I have included the headings of each section to give you an idea so you too can write your own psalm of praise to God.

(Proclamation of Praise)

Hallelujah!  Yahweh is the one who is true.
There in nothing false in God.
He created us and gave us life.
He is the source of all good things.

(Introductory Summary)

There was a time when all I believed fell out from under me.
I could no longer produce faith on my own.
I needed someone else to do it for me.
My world was rocked to its core.

(Looking Back to the Time of Need)

When I was just a child I knew that Jesus loved me.
I wanted to go to heaven to be with him.
I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my heart.
He did.

As I grew I heard the Bible stories
I learned more about God.
I learned all the reasons that the way of Jesus was true.
It all made sense to me.

I went to Bible college where I learned more about God.
In classes I learned the information given to me.
And then repeated it back on the tests.
I was confident that God was true.

Then I went to Northern Ireland as an exchange student.
At that Bible college I was taught in a different way.
Instead of being taught specific information,
Many questions were asked about the Bible and our beliefs.

For the first time I began to question God.
My philosophy of religion class studied the proofs of God.
We followed each to its end.
It showed that God could not be proved without any room for doubt.

I felt confused.
Why did I believe in God?
Maybe God wasn't the truth.
Maybe Jesus didn't save me from my sins.

How could I believe if I didn't have proof?
I knew that simple faith was the only answer.
I tried hard to create faith within myself.
But I couldn't even do that.

I locked myself in my room.
I cried and cried.
I didn't have any hope.
I couldn't find God.

(Report of Deliverance)

As I was collapsed on the floor of my room at the end of myself,
I cried out to God, if he was there.
I told him everything.
I told him that I could not make myself have faith in him.

With my eyes closed I waited for an answer.
Then, I heard a voice speak to me.
Jesus said gently, "I will do it."
He was saying that he understood my weakness.

I didn't have to create faith in God, myself.
Jesus would give me the faith the I needed.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Peace spread over me, and I rested in him.

(Vow of Praise)

I will praise God forever
Because of his love for me.
Because of his greatness
My lips will rejoice.

(Praise of God's Acts)

Jesus is everything to me.
He gives me the strength I need for all I do.
Whatever God asks me to believe or do,
He will work in me to bring it about.

I thank God that he gives me answers when I seek.
God helps me not drown in the midst of a doubting see
He gives me the faith that I need.
I come out the other side stronger.

God's work is great in me.
I will let faith produce praise for God.
Praise him forever.
Yes, forever amen.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Rose Will Surely Bloom

A Rose Will Surely Bloom.  Jesus Will Return.

The poet says, "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."
Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life."
The rose will surely bloom.
Jesus will return.
Truly, it is what it is to its very essence.
Beautiful hope is before me. I do accept it. 

~Cindy Wolf

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Just Want to Sleep. The Dark Heaviness Pulls Me Down.

Sometimes I just want to sleep.  The dark, heaviness pulls me down.  The muscles on my face droop and will not hold up a smile.  My eyelids lower without help so that I look out as if the blinds have almost been completely pulled closed in a dark house.  A little light gets in as I focus on one thing at a time, but the edges around the circle of my stare are fuzzy.  There is brightness, but I do not notice.  The sun shines, but blinders in my mind keep it out.

The sounds around me bleed into one another to make a jumble and a slight hum in the background of my mind.  Nothing is clear.  My ears close their attention as if my breathing sighs are the only things that are real.

A tunnel of vision in front of me stretches out with a floor of quicksand that with each step causes me to sink in deeper and deeper.  The deepness of the watery fine grains of sand finally pulls off my boots and makes sucking noises and a pop under my feet if I manage to pull my foot all the way out of the sand.  My foot though can only go back down to be in the quicksand again.  No other option.  The only way out is to step backwards and rise further up; or struggle and be engulfed; or stop and be silent and stuck. The slow sink eats me.

On each side of me are rock walls of the chasm I am in, reaching up and up and coming closer and closer together.  I cannot climb up the rocks with my fingers and toes, but if I could, the weights hanging from my shoulders would pull me to slip and lose my grip with every new hold on the wall I make.  My muscles shake with exhaustion.

I feel a pain in my legs and my arms.  Maybe the pain is real, or maybe I feel it just because my focus on the thought of it grows in my mind.  Yet maybe these aches are real, and I am slowly wasting away.

I can find no energy for movement, as if my gas tank needs refilling, and there is no gas station in any direction for hundreds of miles.  It is hopeless.  There is nothing else I can do.  I must succumb.  I must stop.

"Go away. Go away.  Go away."  I tell the world as I curl into a ball, squeeze my eyes closed, press my hands over my ears, and rock my body back and forth.

"You, awareness and life, are too much for me right now.  Is there a reason to stay awake?  This is more than I can take."

Sleep.  Sleep.  Sleep.  Forever.  Yes, I think then the dark heaviness will  go away...

... and yet I dream, as my body and mind succumb to the sleep, that one day Someone will awaken me and will vanquish my sleep to give me a lifted, strengthened, and vivid life.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Resistance to Being Free

Do you have an addiction or way of doing something that harms yourself rather than helping you heal?  You may not know other ways to cope in life, or you may have been shown other ways to cope but don't know if you can walk through the process of healing.  I know.  I was this way during my times of depression and deep down struggles for years.  In my life, I used cutting on myself to numb my pain, but you may use something else like alcohol, sex, anorexia, bulimia, overeating, drugs, violence, pornography, etc... to numb your pain.  All these are self-harmful behaviors that we need healing from.  It is hard, and we don't always want to be healed or escape from our prison.  That is why I have included this entry from my journal in 2006 in which I pondered these thoughts of healing and the resistance in my mind.  Maybe you can relate.

"Oh, to be free."
April 2006
Journal Entry
re: Am I willing to commit to strive toward healing of my addiction to self-harmful behavior?

Feeling of resistance that arise when I imagine myself completely free and healed from my self-harm behavior:
  • I can't do it.
  • I don't want to be healed.
  • I will always want to hurt myself.
  • There is too much pain to sit with when I don't hurt myself.
  • It is hard to imagine not wanting to hurt myself.
  • I am angry that things do not go the way I want, and I need a way to express that.
  • I resent that God did not let me have what I wanted: the man I loved, the future life and career that I wanted, etc...
  • I will be sad to lose my known way of coping with pain (self-harm).
  • It feels like I need a time to grieve the loss of something which has brought me comfort in unbearable times.
  • I do not want to have to feel uncomfortable, to have to feel hurt, anger, incompetence, sadness, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, rejection, etc...
  • I do not want to let go of the feeling of control, of focused attention, of forgetting, of getting what I deserve, of a high through the pain.

What might be stopping me from being healed of my addiction to self-harm:
  • Harming myself is familiar.
  • Having a problem gives me a reason to seek help with this life that I don't know how to handle.
  • When people are concerned about my wellbeing it makes me feel cared for.
  • If I am well, people won't have a reason to love me.
  • I like feeling different from everyone else.
  • I like having the physical scars to show the pain I've been through to get me to where I am today and to make me who I am now.
  • I like having a side to me that most people don't know about.
  • I like feeling like I am one breath or step away from leaving this life and being with Jesus and knowing complete love and acceptance.
  • I like having a way of understanding and sharing the struggles/hang-ups of others and relating on a deeper level.

Am I committed to healing?
  • I think I am ready to be healed of self-harmful behavior.  I am at least ready to try it for a while and see how I handle life.
  • To be honest, I have lots of doubts and I would like to keep the option of self-harm in my back pocket as a back up.
  • The people that are closest to me are supportive, though I don't let most of them know when I am struggling or when I do cut.
  • On the one hand, the approval of those closest to me is important, which is why I hide my self-harm.
  • On the other hand, I don't care if they approve of what I do or not do as long as I feel that I am being true to myself and my feelings.
  • I feel that my loved ones can not possible understand what I do and why I do it. It feels like they look down on me, and so I don't feel supported.
  • I have never really talked with my loved ones and asked them for their support, and I don't know if I want to.  I would feel, and do feel, condemned by them, whether perceived or otherwise.
  • I don't think I am trying to change my loved ones in any way, though I would like it if they would be more understanding of my struggles and also willing to admit to and share their own struggles with me.
  • I am waiting for them to change for me before I am willing to change for them and for myself.

(After looking back over my healing process, I am writing today in August 2014, the following section about how healing from self-harm applied to me.)

Can I put off the resistance, push through the barriers, and be committed to healing for my own sake?
  • That is the question.
  • It is not easy.
  • I need help.
  • It is here.
  • Thank you Jesus.
  • I will try.
  • You will hold my hand.
  • It may take time.
  • I will be free.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Suicide To Me

The Dark Path

Suicide to Me
(My thoughts through time)


The unthinkable
the weak
the bad
the wrong
the sinful
the crazy
the untrusting
the distant


The lucky
the wanted
the possibility
the desired
the believed lie
the escape
the possible hope
the way out


The near
the desperate plea
the choice
the undoable
the tried
the failed
the sorrow
the shame

or a change...

NO suicide NO

The choice to stay alive
the facing of the fears
the reaching out for help
the death to the control
the choice to step and step
the giving death and life to Christ
the moment by moment return
the living once again


The End.
The Beginning
My life is not my own
Christ holds me for his joy
He knows my every need
He provides in his own way
He loved me all along
I wait
He knows when to bring me home!


Don't let it be your end...
look up
give it all to Christ
Let your life begin...

The New Path
To Life Anew



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"A Love from the Lord" : A Song of Purity to My Husband, 20 Years Before I Ever Knew Him

I wrote these song lyrics when I was in high school, when I wanted to make a commitment, to God and my future husband, to purity in my life and love until I was married.  I never put these lyrics to music, though I hummed a little here and there, but I always thought of it as a song.

A Love from the Lord

We have not met each other
But I know that you are there
Someday our love will grow
And we'll be the perfect pair

We'll be brought together 
In God's own time
But I can't help wishing
His time would be mine

And we'll love each other
With a love from the Lord
You will be mine
And I will be yours

It will be worth the wait
There's no doubt in my heart
That in the strength of the Lord
We will never part

I pray for you now
As you go along your way
That your best friend will be Jesus
And you'll be close to him each day

May your steps be guided
By the light of his love
And everything you do
Bring glory to him above

And we'll love each other
With a love from the Lord
You will be mine
And I will be yours

It will be worth the wait
There's no doubt in my heart
That in the strength of the Lord
We will never part

If you should love someone
Before our love comes to be
Please treat her the way
You'd want a guy to treat me

And I pray that neither of us 
Will do anything that can't be undone
So that on our wedding day
We can each say, "You are the only one"

And we'll love each other
With a love from the Lord
You will be mine
And I will be yours

It will be worth the wait
There's no doubt in my heart
That in the strength of the Lord
We will never part


It was 20 years after writing these lyrics that, last year, I married my husband.  It was a much longer wait than I ever thought it would be, but today I am so blessed to see that in all the ways my husband and I stayed true to the pure desires in my song before we were married, we are reaping the joy, and love, and trust in each other and God that has come from that commitment.  

Thank you, Jesus, for your help!  

I love you, my husband!  It was worth the wait to be with you!  There is no doubt in my heart.
With God's strength, we will never part.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Letter of Thanks to the Doctor Who Helped Me

I want to share this message of thanks that just I wrote to the first doctor that I saw when I became very depressed. He prescribed medication to me that helped clear my mind enough that I could think clearly enough to be able to work through the things that contributed to the "bad" feelings that I felt in my life which caused me to want to and even try to end my own life. If you are going through these things, please know that It is okay to get help.

Dear Dr. Greg ______,
I don't know if you remember me or not. I have gotten married since I was your patient from 20__ - 20__ or so, so my name has changed. You were my doctor when I was very depressed, cutting myself, and extremely suicidal. The counselor at my church who reached out to me at that time was the one who originally got me set up with you. I was in a dark depression after coming back from being a missionary in Kenya. Anyway, I know I have thanked you before for all you did for me during that time to help keep me alive, and I thank you again, because God has brought me through that darkness now and given me joy and blessings beyond belief. He has shown me his great love for me, a love that was strong even when I was in the pit of despair. He has even blessed me with a kind, gentle, loving, understanding, and Godly husband. We have now been married one year, and we love each other more and more every day! God has given me life again! (I cry every time I say this because it is so unbelievable to me still that God would do this for me. I was dead, and He now has become my very life. I entrust it to him.) I am just sending you this message to share these things with you and to give you the link to my blog. I am sharing very openly about what I have been through and many of the things that God has taught me. It is amazing and humbling to see how God is using my story now to encourage others who are going through similar struggles. I pray that God will use me even more for his glory. Feel free to read and share my story with anyone you feel may benefit from reading it. I believe these struggles, even among Christians, need to be talked about more openly so that, even as followers of Jesus, we can know that we are not alone in our feelings of sadness, confusion, and hopelessness, and that it is ok to seek help and turn to Christ. Thank you again for how you helped me for so many years and for your efforts to make the symptoms, causes, and treatment of depression more well know. Thank you for being a part of my story. In Christ, ~Cynthia M. Wolf

Friday, June 27, 2014

What I "Can" Do (When I Want to Hurt Myself)

The following are some truths I learned during a session with my counselor in the midst of the years when I was experiencing self-hatred, depression, self-harming behavior, and suicidal ideation.  I wrote them down in a journal.  These truths I learned during that time were to counteract the lies that I told myself in my head about life and about myself.  I wrote quite a few short entries in that journal, and this is one:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My...Pursuit, Steps, Mission, Task, Times...

I wrote the following verses down like this sometime during 2001 when I was 25 years old.  This would have been either during the end of my year spent as a missionary in Kenya or during the first while that I was back home in the US.  This is exactly how I had it written down, even the colors are the same.  I pray that God will help me to keep these as desires and goals in my life, and that he will make them true in my life.

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you," declares the Lord.  - Jeremiah 29:13-14
Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.  - 1 John 2:6
We proclaim him [Jesus], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.  - Colossians 1:28-29
I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.  - Acts 19:24
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands.  - Psalm 31:14-15a

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Soul's Song

Photo by Allison Van Zanten Photography

The following has been my favorite hymn since I was a teenager.  At many different times in my life, I have suddenly realized, in the midst of whatever I am doing, that I am singing a song to myself in my head or humming it quietly as I go, as if the song is coming right out of what is truly in the depths of my soul, without me even knowing it.

 This has been a huge encouragement to me because I remember many of these times of me realizing that I was singing this song were during happy times in my life, when it was easy to say to Jesus, "I love Thee," but more often than not, this song came from my soul when times were not happy and my soul was hurting.  There were some very dark years even when only one line or two lines would be able to come, and I would not be unable to hear the other lines or verses.  At those times, the song came more as a cry and pleading, rather than the easy humming or soft song floating in my mind.  But the song could not ever be completely uprooted from it's intertwining in the depths of my heart and life, so that as more years went by, and the darkness began lifting more and more from my life, I found that the truth of the song in my soul had taken an even deeper root, and now came out as a cry of utter devotion and a bright, flowering spring of joy!  Such a resting place for me.  Yes, I rest, and I sing, and I know that Jesus has saved me once and for all, and in every place and time.   Thank you Jesus! ...

Here is my soul's song:

My Jesus, I love Thee   (English)

William R. Featherston, 1864

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou:
I f ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

I'll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
"If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now."

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I'll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
"If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus 'tis now."

The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration

...And as we sang it in Kenya as I lived with the Kamba people:

Jesu Ningwendete   (Kikamba)

Jesu, ningwendete, Mutangui wakwa;

Mawendi mthuku ndimenda nongi,
We Muovosya wakwa, nzuvia kwamo.
Ndikakengwe nimo, ni thayu kuku nthi.

Yesu wiisuitwe ni wendo muno,
Nundu wambendie, ni mundu mwathe;
Na nthakame yaku yanthesya nyie vyu,
Na yuyu ningwenda kukuvitukya mbee.

Na yila wambiwe mukelanyoni
Nthakame yetika-ni nthembo kwakwa,
Na yu ndi navata kuthemba ingi,
Nundu nthembo yaku nimbianie vyu.

Yesu, watw'ikie o ta mundu ngya,
Watiie usumbi na ithe waku,
Watheeie kuu nthi uthine ta mundu,
Ni kana naitu twose uthwii waku.

Wikalo museo nuseuvitye,
We kuya kwa Ngai musyini munene;
Naw'o ukekalaa ala atheu ngoo,
Mendete kuthew'a ni Veva Mutheu.

Mbathi Sya Kumutaua Ngai

AMEN...and AMEN!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Guard My Life and Rescue Me."

A few questions for you:

  • Do you ever feel like your very soul is hurting and confused?
  • Are your enemies all around putting pressure on you to do what is wrong or trying to drag you down?
  • Do you wonder about the path you should take?
  • And, "what is truth?" you may wonder.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

To Breathe - Do I Want To?


(Warning: Part of this post is a difficult read. It may be triggering to some people.)

Breathing is normally something that we don't even think about.  We just do.  We breathe in and out throughout the day over and over again.  It is something we don't consider until we find there is a change in our breathing, there is a challenge with our breathing, or we feel like we can't breathe at all anymore.  At least, that is the way that it has breached my awareness in many ways in these years I've been breathing.

During my sophomore year at Redmond High School in Central Oregon, I swam on the high school swim team. At first as I swam, I would just swim one stroke after the other. Then I learned to count the stokes I took between breaths. I think I probably started out taking one breath every two strokes, but then I got to it being most comfortable for me to breathe every three strokes. During practice, our coach would have us swim with taking fewer and fewer breaths between stokes. This built up our lung capacity so that during races we could go faster, taking less time to breathe.

There were other times that I would see how close I could get to the other end of the pool while swimming under water before I had to come up for a breath. I would swim and swim and swim pushing myself further and further until I could stand it no more. My lungs would be completely depleted, and I would be just about to suck in water, when my head would breach the surface, and I would gasp for a breath. Later in life, I found, when I had a membership at a gym and would go to swim laps just for exercise, that counting my breaths as I swam was very relaxing. It would take my mind off the concerns of the day and put me in a rhythm which seemed so natural. 

Often we notice our breathing when we are doing different forms of exercise. Take backpacking up a mountain as I have done in the Willowa Mountains and in the Sisters Mountains as one example. When strolling along the flat trail at the bottom of the mountain, I didn't think about the fact that I was breathing. As the trail began to get steeper though, my breathing became a bit deeper. After a while, the continual straining of my leg and other muscles as I carried my loaded down backpack caused me to huff and puff so that I would have to stop for a break to relax and catch my breath again. Then, we would continue on up the mountain again. The great thing for me when backpacking was the sigh of relief and amazement upon reaching the summit of the mountain and looking out over the land on all sides. Seeing God's creation like that is breathtaking!

Breathtaking, literally though is something else.  There was a time, when I lived in Kenya, that I thought I might suffocate from not being able to get enough air to breathe. Mary Kamu (the mother of the Kenyan family that I lived with) and I had taken a bus to a very remote location one day because it was too far to walk there. When the day was almost over, and we were ready to go back home, we went to wait for the bus along a dusty road.  Now, there was only one bus that would be coming that night so we knew that we would have to get on it if we wanted to get home. We didn't want to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere for the night with no way of getting home. So, when I saw the bus coming with men hanging out the door and riding on the top because it was so full, I wondered what we were going to do. The bus stopped and men jumped off for a moment and started pushing us through the packed bodies into the center of the bus where people were holding on to what they could, and others in seats were holding babies and live chickens.  I was pressed in on all sides and could not move. I couldn't get enough air in my lungs in the crushing pressure of the bodies on all sides of me, so I grabbed the bar above me and leaned my head out over the ladies, children, and chickens that were lucky enough to get to sit on top of each other in an actual bus seat. It was only by doing this that I was able to breathe for the ride home. Oh, what a great feeling it was to squeeze off that bus at our stop and be able to breathe again freely!

Breathing When It Was Hard:

My breath has not just been affected by physical issues and exertion, but also by emotional and mental issues and exertion.  There were times that I was hurt so bad emotionally that I thought I was going to die from the pain, that I was going to lose my breath all together. I remember specifically two incidents like this. In both, it involved someone that I loved at the time more than anyone else. 

When I was 23, my Australian boyfriend flew me to Australia to see him and meet his family.  I had been living in Northern Ireland apart from him for an entire year. I believed with all my heart that I was loved by this man, and I thought that he might even ask me to marry him when I was in his country. Once I was there in Australia and had met his family, he took me on a drive in the "outback" to a beautiful secluded spot. There he proceeded to tell me that he had not really wanted me to come visit him. The pain that I felt stab my heart in that moment, in the middle of a country in which I knew not another single soul, was so great that I could only cry, sucking in gasped breaths between sobs. That trip ended any hopes for a relationship with that man I loved.

At another time in my life, I had a friend who was one of the few people whose love and caring I truly trusted and counted on during some times of intense sadness and struggle in my life. One day, my friend turned against me suddenly. I remember cruel statements being directed at me as we talked on the phone one night. I don't remember exactly what was said now as I think back on it, but I do remember that the phone was hung up on me in anger, and I felt a gut wrenching pain like part of me was ripped out. I found myself crying so hard I couldn't breathe, coughing just to get a breath. Trust was broken, and something I needed was gone. 

Later, as depression took over my life, fear and anxiety became a big part of my days. This came in many forms including panic attacks. I found it very difficult to be in rooms with crowds of people. This meant that going to church and sitting through a service was almost impossible for me at times. I would sit in the very back of the room near a door so that I would be close to an escape route if anything were to go wrong. Many times, my anxiety did become too great for me to bear, and I knew I needed to get out of there right away. I would start feeling my chest tightening up and giving me pain. I would breathe in quick short breaths trying to control myself and almost start hyperventilating because of it. The problem was that even though I was close to an exit, in my panic and fear that everyone was looking at me and that they could tell what was happening to me, I was unable to move a muscle. So, I would stand or sit there frozen in one spot with tears brimming in my eyes while I tried to breathe in a such way that the people around me would not notice that I was about to die or maybe go crazy in the midst of them all. It is amazing to me that I did not completely pass out from panic and lack of oxygen to my brain at those times. It was so hard to breathe. 

Breathing can be intense. I know you probably won't like to hear about this next example, but it is part of the story of my breathing so I have decided to include it. During my time of emotional sickness, I often did things on purpose to harm myself physically. It was a way I had of coping with the pain that was inside me. By causing myself physical pain, in those moments, I could forget the emotional pain. These moments were so intense and focused that I wouldn't be able to breathe while doing completing what I was doing. I would hold my breath to concentrate and to stand the cutting pain. The problem was that once the deed was done and I breathed a breath again, the emotional pain was back, right there waiting to have my focus back on it, and now to add to that emotional pain was the pain and shame of what I had just done. 

To go even further than that example, there were the times that I didn't want to be breathing at all. This next thing might seem kind of funny to you in a way, but sad too, considering my state of mind at the time. Back when I was really depressed and wishing I would die, I decided that I would try smoking cigarettes. I thought that maybe I could get lung cancer or something, and I could die that way. So I tried smoking a number of times when walking alone to the MAX lightrail train at night in Portland.  It wasn't nearly what it was cracked up to be, breathing smoke into my lungs. Yes, it did hamper my breathing and even make me cough and choke a few times, but I decided that it was going to be too annoying in the long run and would end up making me feel stupid. I didn't need that. I already felt bad enough about myself. Besides, even if it is said to be bad for your life, smoking was going to take much too long to kill me, so I gave up on that idea.
If smoking wasn't going to end my breathing fast enough, I thought maybe I could just hold my breath and will myself not to breathe again.  Could I die that way? I tried many times while laying in my bed at night, but every time my body won over my mind, and I would breathe again. I could not push through until I lost consciousness. Plus, I was smart enough to figure out that if I did hold my breath long enough that I blacked out, as soon as I did pass out, my body would make me breathe again, and then I would eventually wake up alive. 

I used listened to this song when I was wanting to breathe no more.  Maybe you can sometimes also identify with this feeling.

"Breathe No More"

I've been looking in the mirror for so long.
That I've come to believe my soul's on the other side.
All the little pieces falling, shatter.
Shards of me,
Too sharp to put back together.
Too small to matter,
But big enough to cut me into so many little pieces
If I try to touch her,
And I bleed,
I bleed,
And I breathe,
I breathe no more. 

Take a breath and I try to draw from my spirits well.
Yet again you refuse to drink like a stubborn child.
Lie to me,
Convince me that I've been sick forever.
And all of this,
Will make sense when I get better.
But I know the difference,
Between myself and my reflection.
I just can't help but to wonder,
Which of us do you love.
So I bleed,
I bleed,
And I breathe,
I breathe no...

I bleed,
And I breathe,
I breathe,
I breathe-
I breathe no more.

Encouragement to Breathe:

There were a few people of God in my life during those years in which I just wanted to stop breathing that encouraged me to keep breathing. They prayed to God for me. They were there for me and encouraged me to talk about my pain and to keep struggling to survive until breathing could come easier. Many times they just sat with me and let me do nothing but be with them. They loved me unconditionally even in the midst of my feeling of dying.  They showed me the love God has for me when I have nothing left.  

Sometimes I imagine that my loved ones were singing these songs to me to help me breathe:


"Just Breathe"
(Pearl Jam)

Yes I understand that every life must end,
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go,
Oh I'm a lucky man to count on both hands
The ones I love..

Some folks just have one,
Others they got none

Stay with me,..
Let's just breathe.

Practiced are my sins,
Never gonna let me win,
Under everything, just another human being,
Yeah, I don't wanna hurt, there's so much in this world
To make me bleed.

Stay with me..
You're all I see.

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn't now I'm a fool you see,..
No one knows this more than me.
As I come clean.

I wonder everyday
as I look upon your face, 
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take,
Nothing you would take,
Everything you gave

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn't now I'm a fool you see..
No one knows this more than me
As I come clean.

Nothing you would take,..
everything you gave.
Hold me till I die..
Meet you on the other side.

More encouragement for me to keep on breathing when I didn't want to:


Please tell me you'll fight this fight 
I can't see without your light 
I need you to breathe into my life
Don't tell me this is goodbye 
I won't grieve - it's not yet time 
Each breath breathed is keeping hope alive

So keep breathing
Go on breathe in 
Keep on breathing 
Go on breathe in 
Just breathe

Each breath breathed means we're alive 
And life means that we can find 
The reasons to keep on getting by 
And if reasons we can't find 
We'll make up some to get by 
'Til breath by breath we'll leave this behind
All you have to do is breathe

Finding Easy Breath Again:

In my quest to find easy breathing again, one thing that I started with was meditation.  Not meditation that empties my mind, but a focused meditation on items of truth and imagery that brought moments of rest and peace for my mind.  Meditation often begins with focusing one's mind on one's breath, and breathing in a controlled way. 

One example of this meditation is to imagine a stream or a babbling brook.  Each drop of water comes down the stream, passes by, and keeps going on it's way.  Next imagine that you are a pebble. The pebble is dropped in the stream and slowly drifts through the water landing on the sand in a protected spot at the bottom of the stream.  Then you, as the pebble, look up to the sky through the water from your peaceful resting place.  You notice a large leaf that is floating on top of the water coming down the stream.  As the leaf comes closer for a moment it blocks the light from shining down on you.  At this moment, as in life when something bad blocks the calmness of our mind, instead of focusing on the leaf and becoming angry and depressed about it, we just think to ourselves, "Yes, this leaf is here (or this bad thing in my life is here).  I acknowledge it, and now I will let it go (my anger, my frustration with myself, or my hopelessness), letting it continue to float by on it's way down the stream until it disappears." 

I also like to meditate on comforting Scripture verses.  My favorite, and the most comforting to me is to just sit with my eyes closed, to picture my Shepherd and Daddy, Jesus, sitting and holding me, his arms wrapped around me with such love and unwavering strength and gentleness.  We are silent.  I feel his warmth around me.  His chest rises and falls with each breath he breathes for me as I rest completely, with my weight against him.  I hear his heart beat.  My muscles, every one of them, completely relaxes in his arms.  Then I hear him ever so softly whisper, as if thinking to himself, "I love this girl.  She is my daughter, and I will always take care of her."  Then bowing his head to my ear, he says quietly to me, "Come to me, weak, weary, and worn down, and I will give you rest.  I love you.  Now rest."

Day by day in real life I breathe in.  I smell the fresh smell that comes after a long awaited for rain.  I take a deep breath of the roses while I walk through a garden. When I walk in to a bakery, I breathe in the welcoming smell of freshly baked bread or cookies.  And on a day when I get to see one that I love and his scent comes upon me, though I may not even know it, I breathe in and am happy.

Breathing out, I breathe with a happy sigh of happy moments in real life: a moment of seeing my newly born nephew for the first time; a moment when I know I am now free from the bindings of a sin in my life; a moment of pure joy and rejoicing when I see a follower of Jesus being baptized, showing their commitment to Jesus to all those around them; a moment when I know that that person who was dead in sin, is now going to be alive with Christ in heaven forever more.  Yes, I breathe out a sigh of thankfulness to God.

Finally now in my life, I find myself breathing in and out easily and contentedly, knowing that I am not the one who struggles to find my own breath or stop it, but that God's presence living in me is the very air I breathe. My life is his. 

"I need you, Jesus, my Lord and Savior."

(Michael W. Smith)

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me
And I I'm desperate for you
And I I'm I'm lost without you

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread
this is my daily bread
your very word spoken to me
And I'm, I'm desperate for you
And I'm, I'm lost without you
And I'm desperate for you
And I'm, I'm lost without you.
I'm lost without you.
I'm lost without you.
I'm desperate for you.
I'm desperate for you..
I'm lost, I'm lost, I'm lost without you.. 
I'm lost without you
I'm desperate for you

I keep breathing because of Jesus, what he has done for me, and his desire that I be alive to draw others to himself.  Jesus will be the air I breathe into eternity.

The Word of God says, "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life..." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a).  

His very presence living in me; the air I breathe.