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.....

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Glimpse into My Melancholy

Charpentier, Constance Marie - Melancholy

Do you ever feel it?  Melancholy.  "A feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause."  I feel it.  Sitting on my bed, my cat purring and kneading on my lap, sighing with my eyes softly closed with Moonlight Sonata playing softly and slowly in the background.

I don't want to interact with the world.  I am satisfied to take small joys from my books, movies, and music right here in my own space.  I have no need to venture out into the world, and if I do, I feel as if I am floating along somehow separate.  There is my mind, and then there is every where, thing, and body else.  Colors, sounds, and smells are muted as the world moves along, and I pause in my moment.

What does one do with melancholy?  Drift along with it?  Get out and try to face it in defiance?

Melancholy is hard to pin down.  I think it can present itself in a quiet sort of acceptance of a beautiful, beloved thing coming to an end.  I've had it come to me after a perfect, unbelievable  moment happened, a moment that you can only be believed in the movies that is now, and then it is gone.  This melancholy is like dancing to a slow song alone in the dark.

Pensive sadness, "Reflecting deep or serious thought" over emotional pain.  When I look into a rapidly flowing river all I see is a danger, an anger, a confusion, but when I look into a clear, calmly flowing stream I see a wavy reflection of something that is or was.  I can look deeply and contemplate what can or never will be.  I can see into my own eyes in the deep reflection and possibly get a glimpse of my soul.  For this moment in my melancholy may find me with feelings of loss, despair, grief, helplessness, disappointment or possibly sorrow.  All I can do is sit with it quietly.

The melancholy may last a while, but as I wait, eventually it drifts away.  If I sit looking into the reflection of the calm stream for enough time, the sun eventually comes out in rays of light that touch my face, warm my soul, and bring a smile.  As if Jesus sits down next to me and places his hand gently on my shoulder.  God's love shows itself and wakes me from my revelry with hope for a new day.  With no obvious cause the melancholy came, and with God's touch and his love for me, the melancholy turns into sweet soft smiles of joy and possibly a twinkle in my eye.  A sigh.  Jesus is here even in my melancholy.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Giving Up Suicide. Will God Use Me?

I am sitting with my notebook, pen in hand.  I want to write something from my life that will be helpful and encouraging to other people who are struggling in similar ways that I have in the past.  It has been quite a while since I have written anything.

I want God to use me.  The desire in my heart for God to use me and the struggles I have been through is so strong that I am always thinking of how God could do that.  One of my thoughts is that God can use my writing.  My mind is not cooperating though.  I think of a topic that I want to write about, but the actual words stop before my pen can write anything down.  I have so many ideas, but they remain there, as an idea.  It is as if God is not allowing my mind to go forward.

I have other ideas of ways that God can use me.  I want to speak.  I want to come along side those who are struggling.  I want to break stigma.  I want to start healing groups.  I want to share my story.  I have lived through depression.  I have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and have learned how to still thrive in my life.  I have found hope in God's unconditional love for me, and I want God to use me to help and encourage others to get help and find hope.

These ways that I have for God using my life do not seem to be happening in the time frame that I had thought that they would.  I have taken steps by getting trained.  I have volunteered.  I have prayed.  I thought that things would be happening sooner.  The truth is that I am frustrated.  I believe my desires are from God, but it is hard to have so many doors seemingly closed.  Is God going to do anything else with my life?

As I am thinking about my desire to be of service to others and the steps I have been purposely taking toward ministering to others, I am reminded of a few things that have happened in my past that may apply to my current situation.  The first is of when I wanted God to use me as a missionary to tell people in other countries about Jesus.  I wanted God to use me in a place that other Christians might not want to go.  I wanted to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, specifically I wanted to do this in Africa.

I went to Bible College to prepare to be a missionary.  I made friends with all the African and other international students.  I went to an African church each Sunday.  For my senior project, I chose to do research and make a strategy on how a specific group of African people living in an American city could be reached with the gospel message.  Finally, after I graduated from Bible College, I actually went as a missionary to Africa.  This was my dream of how God would use me for the rest of my life.

I had my future ministry planned out and was even doing it.  But then it didn't turn out as a thought and dreamed it would.  I found I couldn't do it.  I didn't find peace in what I was doing.  I felt overwhelmed, and wondered why God wasn't using me in the way that I thought that He would.  My ministry in my sight had failed.  I didn't understand.

The second thing I am reminded of when it comes to feeling frustrated with my life not going as I thought it should be, is of a specific event when I was on a tour in Israel.  Here is just a little background.  This trip to Israel happened after many years of deep, dark depression and a diagnosis of a mental illness.  I didn't think God could ever use my life again.  I felt like I had failed God, and God had failed me.  I had been through being so hopeless in life that I started cutting myself and even tried to kill myself.

Over those years, I went to lots of therapy and learned to live again.  I felt like I had come out the other side.  I discovered that God loved me even when I was at my very lowest.  The only thing was that I still held on to the idea that if my life got bad again I could go back to cutting or I could commit suicide.  I could just go home to be with God without having to live through the pain.

So, back to my trip to Israel.  I was on a tour with a Christian group, and one of our stops was at the Jordan River.  The Jordan River is the place that Jesus was baptized by John at the beginning of Jesus ministry.  The Holy Spirit had come down on Jesus as a dove, and God the Father had said, "This is my son, in whom I am well please."  So being at the Jordan River was a very special place, and while there, we were given the chance to also be baptized in those waters.

Baptism is an act that shows others that you have given your life over completely to God to follow him the rest of your life.  I was first baptized when I was ten years old.  Even at that young age, I wanted to follow Jesus.  Now at the Jordan River I could show once again to the world, my full life commitment to Jesus.  I would probably never be back to Israel, and I didn't want to miss this special and meaningful opportunity.  So I said, "Yes, I will be baptized as a show of continued commitment."

All of us who made this choice to be baptized, walked into the water in our white robes.  We stood in a line with the pastor waiting at one end.  Other people sat on the shore to witness this show of our commitment to Jesus we were making.

The pastor asked the first person if they believed in Jesus and if they were giving themselves to Jesus to be their very life from that day forward, then he baptized them.  It was then that the reality of what I was doing dawned on me.  If I did this, I was saying to God and to all those watching on the shore and in heaven above that the rest of my life was his.

Life.  That was a big word for me.  In the past eight or so years, I had thought more about death than about life.  I held death/suicide in my back pocket, just in case I needed to end my life.  If I went through with being baptized though, I would be emptying my back pocket and giving all of my life to Jesus.  Jesus would in fact be my life.  That would mean that I would give the option of suicide to him as well.  Death by my own hand would no longer be an option.  I would have to trust Jesus as my life no matter what happened.

The first thought in my mind was, "God has tricked me!"

I had not been planning on giving up the option of suicide.  Now though, I was standing in the Jordan River with a crowed of witnesses watching, and I was getting closer and closer to the beginning of the line.  The decision must be made now.  Do I walk out of the water keeping the safety of the suicide option there, in a sense telling the world I was depending on myself?  Or do I take the steps forward and give every bit of my life to Jesus, no matter what?

I was so scared.  I couldn't turn back.  I must say yes to Jesus.  He would have to be my very life.  He would have to take care of me when things were good and when I wanted to die.  I would no longer be the director of my days or my ministry.  I would follow Jesus and watch what he would do with my life that was his.

One more step.  It was my turn.  I would make the promise to God.

"Yes, I believe in Jesus"

"Yes, I give my life to be his from this point onward."

I was lowered down into the water.  I died to my death and to myself.  I was no longer my own.

I was brought up out of the water, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."  I was alive in Jesus.  He was my whole life.  I would watch to see what he would do with me.

Coming back to today, I remember that commitment that I made to see what Jesus would have for me.  I think of how he has since lived through me, and I am back at peace.  I do not need to make ministry happen in my time or in the way that I think that it should be.  Jesus will take care of me, and he will use me in his time as he wills.  I will walk with Jesus day by day and watch and be available for him.

Jesus is my life.  He is my life not just in this moment, but in every moment until he decides to return or take me home.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Christian Spirituality: Can We Attain It?

We hear the term spiritual, or spirituality being thrown around these days.  It is easy to get confused about what that really means to us as Christians.  The following is a paper I wrote in Bible college on what true spirituality really is.

Christian Spirituality: Can We Attain It?

by Cynthia Boersma
February 14, 1997

Is our physical existence in this natural world all that life has to offer?  Are we left alone in life's reality, or is it true that there is something more, something that is referred to as "spirituality?"  Now today, when we mention this word, it is sure to bring some raised eyebrows and questioning glances.  And it is no wonder.  A definition of the word is rarely given, and yet in these days it seems to be a goal of many people in all walks of life.

Before understanding the truth of spirituality, lets take a look at what the world has to say about it.  Ruth E. Van Reken, in the magazine Today's Christian Woman, gives examples of a number of flawed beliefs the world has about spirituality and the search for truth.  Each individual, the world says, has a right to his own "truth," which is possible to find by listening to your inner feelings and instincts.  These are your guide.  We are encouraged to love ourselves first, pursuing self-fulfillment above all else.  Expressing yourself and using creativity is looked at as very spiritual.  Do not venture to suggest that another man's "truth" is wrong though, for in the end, all spiritual quests are thought to lead to God.  (53)  

Carl F. H. Henry in his study on spirituality suggests that, "experientially oriented religion readily confuses spirituality with the actualization of divinity supposedly lurking in one's own being and like." (Packer 9)  

Can this be?  Is spirituality open to any man's interpretation?  

No, truth is not left for each person to decide on his own, or the end result would be no truth at all.

"The life-sustaining nurture of humanity in its created intention is supernatural and comes from God's realm, not humanity's." (Packer 10)

This struggle toward wholeness that everyone has will not be fulfilled through human measures, but only in Christ. (Hosmer 49)

Yes, there is absolute truth.  It is God's truth, found in His word, the Bible.  It has been told that in order for a bank teller to be able to recognize counterfeit money, he does not study the counterfeit bill.  He never even touches one, but only handles the real thing.  In his study and handling of the real bill; the touch, look, smell, and everything else about it becomes so familiar that the moment he comes across a false bill, he knows it.  He may not be able to tell exactly what is wrong, but he will know that the bill is not the real thing.  So we must be in our with our spirituality.  We must know true spirituality as God designed it and revealed to us through His Word, for then we will not be led astray.  Charles Ryrie states that:
The practical importance of this is simply that all experiences for the spiritual life must be tested by biblical truth, and if any experience, no matter how real it may have been fails to pass that test, it must be discarded. (Ryrie 9)
Let us be sanctified by the truth of God's Word as He desires. (John 17:17)

Where would the Bible have us begin on this journey of spirituality?  

...At Jesus Christ.
For God gives the Spirit without limit.  The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hand.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. (John 3:34-36)
First, we must realize that we are sinners who need a Savior, and then turn our lives over to Him.  Our spiritual nature is dead in sin until we are born again by the Spirit of God who gives us spiritual birth through faith in Jesus Christ. (Van Reken 53)  

"The moment we receive the Lord as Savior, God sets us apart for Himself, instantaneously, certainly and forever." (Ryrie 64)
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13,14)
Once we have made the decision to believe in Christ, God promises us the Holy Spirit.  "We know that we live in Him and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit." (1 John 4:13)  

We have assurance that His Spirit will never leave us.  Rachel Hosmer and Alan Jones in their book Living in the Spirit, give the definition of spirituality as:
Human life in its fullness, lived in an ever-deepening and loving surrender to the Spirit of Christ, that Holy Spirit promised, poured out, and always flowing from the heart of the eternal reality that we call the Father. (Hosmer 50)
The major role in spirituality is played by the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18)

The contrast between being filled with wine and filled with the Spirit is obvious, but there is something in common that allows Paul to make the contrast.  A person can be under the influence and controlled by wine or by the Spirit.  The wine symbolizes the world, while the Holy Spirit is of God.  To be under the influence of wine is to be in a state that is not natural.  So it is with the Holy Spirit.  Under His influence, we are in a state that is not natural to our sinful nature, but supernatural and of God.  Therefore, it is not by our power that we strive for spirituality, but by the power of the Holy Spirit controlling us.

Though we have the Holy Spirit, spirituality is not instantly attained upon salvation.  It is a process of dedication.  Charles C. Ryrie states that, "Dedication concerns the subjection of my life to Jesus Christ as long as I live." (81)  

This involves time.  We are to continually present ourselves to God as willing servants.  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1)  

We do not choose to stay united or to separate from Christ; but we may choose whether or not to enjoy the benefits of the union. (Ryrie 58)  The time that is required for a Christian to mature will not be the same for everyone.  We all know the person who has been a Christian for years , but is no further along in their walk with Christ than the person who only recently believed.  Yet, spirituality is not staying a baby Christian.  Paul admonished the baby believers in Corinth, saying:
Brother, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly, mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready. (I Corinthians 3:1,2)  
Paul wanted them to grow up, to be able to handle the solid food.  The same is true in our spirituality. Charles C. Ryrie defines spirituality as, "A grownup yet growing relation to the Holy Spirit." (Ryrie 13)

The question may arise:  How can I grow in relation to the Holy Spirit if I'm not even sure what the Spirit does or how I am controlled by the Spirit?  Well, let's see what the authority has to say.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by Him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (Romans 8:15,16)
There is never a need to doubt.  God is our Father, we are His children, and we have the Spirit testifying to that truth.  No person can take that away.
"No eye has seen no ear has heard, no mind has conceived that God has prepared for those who love Him" but God has revealed it to us by His spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God that we may understand what God has freely given us.  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (I Corinthians 2: 9-10, 12-13)
The Spirit helps us to understand the deep things of God.  Before we believed in Jesus Christ and were given the Spirit we could not understand these things.  They were as foolishness to us, but now we have our own teacher who opens our eyes to the wonderful truths God has given us.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.  (Romans 8:26,27)
What a comfort this is in our times of need.  The Spirit knows our hearts and minds even better than we do.  He knows what we are to pray for, and He expresses that to God in the deepest way, always in light of God's ultimate will.

The process of spirituality begins with God and His Spirit, and then continues with our reaction.  True spirituality will become evident in many areas of a Christian's life as described in Charles C. Ryrie's book Balancing The Christian Life.  First, it will be evident in our character.  We will begin to display the character of Christ as we follow after Him.  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22)

"These phenomena are to flow from the believer's life as a spontaneous expression of the Spirit's presence and activity." (Packer 11)

It is said that a person becomes like those that he spends time with.  Jesus is the ultimate example of spirituality. 
In His unbroken and unreserved dedication to the will of the Father, in the active fullness of the Holy Spirit in His life, and in His constant awareness that the things of this world have even at their highest only a transitory and preparatory importance, He remains the model of Christian Obedience throughout the ages. (Packer 12)
In spending time with Jesus, we will take on aspects of His character more and more each day, as His Spirit works through us.

Second, spirituality will be evident in our knowledge.  As we study God's Word, the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to the truths in new ways.  We will move beyond only the milk of the Word, and be able to handle the meat.

Another area spirituality will be evident in our lives is in our attitudes.  Following the command to be filled with the Spirit, Paul conveys that we will be, "Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:20)

Our lives will be characterized by an attitude of thankfulness to God in all things, no matter what our circumstances may be.  Verse 21 continues, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Not only will we be continually thankful, but also live in unity with one another.  This is one area that will make us as Christians stand out from the crowd.  If people notice our unselfish love for each other, they will want to know what we have that they don't, but too often today, this is far from the situation we have created.  We quarrel over seemingly important issues or only consider ourselves in a situation.  Many people remain lost because of this poor testimony.

The last area that spirituality will become evident is in our conduct.  Not only will we attain a greater knowledge of God and His truth, but we will apply a mature use of the knowledge  It is one thing to know what we should do; it is another to do it.  
This is genuine and wholesome spirituality.  The concept is that of a mature and maturing relationship to the Holy Sprit which will be demonstrated in one's personal life, family life, and church life.  This is biblical spirituality. (Ryrie 24)
In and weaving its way through all of these aspects is prayer.  In prayer, we communicate with God, we learn of His ways, our attitudes are laid open and refines, and so much more.  We cannot get to know a person very well if we never talk to them.  The same is true with God.

Spirituality.  In the full sense of the word it seems impossible to achieve.  If this life is all there is, then spirituality is an impossibility; but this life is not the end.  There is an eternity more.
Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (II Corinthians 4:16,17)
True spirituality will bring forth a heavenly minded response.
The eternal realms, not one's own resources, constitute the real supply line for genuine spirituality.  Heaven conspires with the longing heart to ready us for ultimate homecoming.  Spirituality springs from a focusing of faith and hope on the invisible, eternal glories of the triune God in His heaven, and such focusing always makes its distinctive mark on us as we run our course here on earth. (Packer 13,14)
Jesus will return, and when He does our hope will be complete.  His Spirit is our seal.  We will reside with Him forever.  Let's make every moment now count for God's eternal glory.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

Works Cited

Hosmer, Rachel and Jones, Alan.  Living in the Spirit.  New York.  The Seabury Press. 1979.
Packer, J.I. and Wilkinson, Loren.  Alive to God.  Downers Grove, IL.  InterVarsity Press.  1992
Ryrie, Charles C.  Balancing the Christian Life.  Chicago, IL.  Moody. 1994.
Van Reken, Ruth E.  "The Truth About Spirituality."  Today's Christian Woman.  18.6 (Nov/Dec 1996) p 50-54
NIV Study Bible.  Grand Rapids, MI.  Zondervan Bible Publishers.  1985.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Alone in My Room

I wrote this poem during high school when I felt sad and alone.  I had so much confusion and sadness inside of me, and I didn't know why.  I was afraid I was a fraud and a bad person for feeling the way I did so I kept it inside of me.  I really wanted to trust someone with my struggles, but was so afraid.

by Cindy Boersma

Alone in my room
My face wet with tears
I long for a friend
To tell all my fears

I try to look cheerful
As I go through my day
But sometimes those sad feelings
Get their own way

You can tell something is wrong
You say you listen well
I hurts to keep it in
But I can't bring myself to tell

I want to spill my soul
And let my feelings out
And I would tell you
If it wasn't for this doubt

Can I trust you my friend
With these secrets I guard
Will you keep it between us
Or will that be too hard

I know I am not the only teen that has felt this way.  In confusion and sadness, desperately wanting someone who might understand what I was going through.  Now I wonder how someone might have gained my trust?  What might they have done to reach within my sadness?  How would I have learned to trust and share?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Are You Okay?

Once upon a time I felt the way this poem expresses.  Just a simple question was asked of me, but there was too much within the answer to even make a truthful attempt.  

by Cindy Boersma

"Are you Okay?" you ask.

What do you want me to say?

I could tell you the truth:
I feel lousy 
I just want to scream
I can't get anything right.
I feel like I could explode.

But that's not what you want to hear.

So I will tell you.

Am I Okay?

"I'm fine thanks,
And you?"

Knowing that I felt this way back then, I think I will pause and listen for the real answer when I ask the question, "Are you Okay?"  I do want to hear the truth.  I do want to be the one that hears.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Daddy God, I Need You

Sometimes it is in the most difficult places that we realize what we really need.  I wrote this during a time when I was struggling in high school.  It is hard sometimes when we can't actually physically feel the touch of our God.  That is what I wanted.  Like a little girl who wants her loving daddy to wrap his arms around her and keep her safe, that is what I wanted from God.

by Cindy Boersma

My God I know...

If I could just crawl into your lap
Snuggle up inside your big strong arms
Feel your love as you hold me
I could keep safe from all that harms

If I could stay as long as I needed
As if time were standing still
If I could rest as you watch over me
And know that you always will

Then maybe I could take it
These trials I'm going through
They are wearing me out and breaking me down
I don't know what to do

Daddy God, I need you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Empty Space

Artist - Celeste Prize
Empty Space

poem by Cindy Wolf

I sit
I stare
My body sinks
I slouch
I sigh
My eyes don't blink

I hear a noise
It floats on by
I want to think
but cannot try

I see a blur
It fades away
I open my mouth
No words to say

Nothing below
Just an empty space
Without a dream

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mist from Tears

Written by Cindy Boersma in her high school years

I sit alone on the back of a river
Longing to see your face
I peer through the warm heavy fog
Across the deep murky waters
and strain my eyes to the far shore

Was that you?

I call out your name
But you do not hear
The ruthless wind has whisked my pleading words away
I try again
But it's no use

Are you looking and calling too?

At my post on the bank of the river
I hope for the fog to clear
Friends come along and stop by my side
With confidence they point your way
I think I see a shadow of you

Is it enough to hold on to?

I want to see you
So I keep trying, seeking, calling, and crying
Until exhaustion takes its tole
From a fretful sleep I raise my head
The fog is rising over the water

Will I be able to see?

Just a cool mist remains
Over the river running by
Without hesitation I jump to my feet
I search the far shore
Until my longing eyes rest on your face

Were you there the whole time?

We reach toward each other
But find the distance still remains
I search your face for meaning
For something to grasp
For some hope to calm my fears

Are you searching too?

Do you know that I long to be with you again?

Can you understand my pain?

Can you sense my fears?

Or from such a distance
Can you tell the mist from the tears?

Can you tell the mist from the tears?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

35 Questions for You about My Time of Depression

Dear Family and Friends, 
To those who know and care about me,

When I was in the midst of my deep depression and mental illness, it was impossible for me to see outside of the pain within me.  I couldn't think about how my life (that I didn't want) was affecting others.  I tried to shut out the world and anyone a part of that world.  

Now that I am beyond that terrible time, my world has gotten bigger and bigger.  The more I find healing, the more I can see outside of myself and care for those who are connected with me.  I used to  look back on those dark years and only see what I went through.  Now, I look back and I see a greater picture.  I see that there were some people who remained in my life even though I pulled away.  There were people who prayed for me and tried to show me that they loved me.

Now I wonder how my family and friends were affected by me and my struggle.  It had to be hard for you too.  You celebrate with me now in my recovery, but there was no celebrating then.  How did you feel?  Would some of you be willing to answer a question or two from this list and send it privately to me?  It would mean so much to me even if it is hard for me to hear.  I want a greater understanding of you.  I want to connect with you through truth and sharing.  I want to understand.

And for those of you who do not know me, I am interested in your answers to these questions in regard to your loved one who struggles with depression and mental illness.  Just imagine that they are asking you these same questions.  What would you say to them?  What did you notice about me at first that was different from my old self?  
  1. What did you think was happening to me in the beginning of my depression and mental illness?
  2. Did you research my illness?  What did you discover that related to me?
  3. Did you wonder if I was getting help?  How did you find out if I was?
  4. Was it difficult to know what to say to me?  How did you decide what to say?
  5. What things did you want to say to me that you couldn't?  Why were you unable to say these things?
  6. How did my reluctance to talk to you or share with you make you feel?  How did you deal with this?
  7. What was frustrating about my state of mind?
  8. Did you want to help me?  Did you think that you could?  
  9. How did you want to help me?  Did you try?  How did I react?
  10. How did it affect you to have to have patience as you saw me struggle?
  11. What did you feel about the possibility of recovery for me?  Did you think it may be hopeless?
  12. What scared you the most?
  13. What feelings came up for you as I did not get better, or may have even gotten worse?
  14. Did you every feel guilty, like it might be your fault?  Why did you feel this way?
  15. What did you think that I needed to do to get better?
  16. How did my limits affect you?  How were you able to accept them?  Or were you able to?
  17. Did you feel that you needed to rescue me?  If so, how did you think that you might be able to make that happen?
  18. Where was your stress level during those years of my depression?  What other things were going on in your life that affected to way you related to me and were able to deal with my illness?
  19. What were the difficulties in being open in communications with me?  How has that changed?
  20. Did I make you feel alone?  Explain that feeling.  What other feelings came up for you?
  21. What did you believe I was thinking about you?
  22. What scared you about my actions?  Why did it scare you?  How did you notice these actions?
  23. Did you want to spend time with me or avoid me?  Explain.
  24. Were you able to tell me the truth when I asked you something or even when I didn't?  Are you able to now?  Can you share a time this happened?
  25. Did you take my emotions and actions personally?  How did you think they were directed at you?
  26. How did you focus on your own life during my illness?
  27. How, where, and from whom did you find support?  How did these help you?
  28. What little steps did you notice in me that led you to believe that I may be going to get better?
  29. What changes have you seen in me for the better?
  30. What do you know about me now that you didn't know before?
  31. What have you learned about yourself during the years of my struggle?
  32. What things do you know about life now that you didn't know before I became ill?
  33. What do you notice about me now that has come about in me because of the pain I went through?
  34. How do you think I can continue to stay in recovery?
  35. How can our relationship grow?  What can I do to let you know that I love you?
Please let me know the number of the question(s) that you are answering.  Thank you so much for you thoughts and time.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ruby's Meal; a True Story of a Meal I Will Never Forget

As we walked up the rock and dirt path to the quaint house, we could already sense that we were going back in time.  A wire mesh covered the small front porch with ivy and other wandering plants winding their way in and out of it above our heads.  Next to the front door a now yellowed paper was tack to the house telling us of the dangers of drugs that had been found grown in the area many years ago.

We stepped in through the front door and had to wait a moment for our eyes to adjust to the dimly lit room as there were only a few antique lamps set throughout the room.  A thin layer of smoke hung in the air just below the beams that stretched at odd angles across the ceiling.  The smell and warmth of the old wood stove greeted our noses and skin first thing.  An elaborate tapestry, stitched by its owner, of "Daniel in a Den of Lions" hung framed on one wall next to another thick antique, but empty, frame.  Next to a well used children's story book with frayed edges, sat a petite, solid brass, ladies' dress boot gathering dust.

The floor boards under our feet creaked in a few places as we ventured our way past inlayed shelves stocked with jars of every kind and color of canned fruit, vegetable, and meat you can imagine.  Stepping into the kitchen, the aroma of food directed our noses and eyes to a huge kettle of simmering stew waiting next to a steaming pan of freshly baked yet crudely cut corn bread.  Tw large pitchers of southern sweet tea sat on the crowded kitchen bar next to many thick glass mugs full of ice.  My thoughts reminded me that caffeine gives me headaches.  To the left of the stone fireplace built by her Cherokee husband, hung a painting of that very spot, with an old couple and a golden retriever gathered around, warming themselves in front of it.

"Isn't nice." Ruby stated, and then all, in turn, exclaimed how wonderful and realistic it was.

I thought the chairs looked like they might fall over and the proportions of a few things looked a little off.

"It's very nice."  She stated again, "Now, my husband really like this one, except he said it wasn't right.  He said, 'My hair's the wrong color.'  He was a Cherokee man, and his hair was as black as night.  We used to laugh at that."

Ruby looked at us out of the corner of her dancing eyes, then turned her own gray head toward us and grabbed our curiosity with her words, "You know, we didn't even speak each other's language when we got married!"

She paused a moment to give the eight of us a chance to gasp and exclaim.

"How did you decide to get married then?" Nancy asked.

"He used to walk down the dirt road by my house every day," she explained, "its possible to communicate without words you know, and when we got married, it didn't take long to find out what marriage is all about, even without language."

Then, just as suddenly as she brought up the subject, she directed our attention back to her old house.

"Why, he even built this very house for me many years ago.  Now look at this wonderful room!"

We stepped down through a small open doorway and saw an adjoining room full of windows, almost like a green house.  The sun sent streams of light in through the vines of various green hanging plants.  An old wooden table filled the center of the room so we took positions around it and stood in awe with what captured our eye.  Paints and brushes of all colors and sizes were scattered about.  All eyes were drawn to a half finished painting of bright life-like irises standing at the far corner of the table.

"Look at this painting, you'll never see anything like it," she stated.

"Never see another on like it?" I thought, "Why, I've already seen hundreds of paintings of flowers.  Sure it is pretty, but what makes this one any different from all the others?"

"Now come over here so you can see it better." Ruby directed, "Aren't these irises beautiful brother Ray?"

With that lead in, Mr. Ray Chitwood couldn't help but continue his boisterous telling of Ruby's artistic abilities that the world never had the opportunity to discover.

"Ruby entered a painting in a contest once, and she easily took first prize, but otherwise her art is just hanging in the homes of her family.  Someone asked her to paint these irises and said they would pay her to do it.  I think she should up the price, and if they don't pay it, Gene and I will."

Mrs. Chitwood agreed with a small laugh that she always used when she wasn't sure what others were thinking.  Her thin face showed a smile as she said, "I think the irises would look lovely in my country kitchen."

"Yes, if Ruby didn't give her art away to all her family, she could be rich!" Mr Chitwood almost shouted.

"Oh, Brother Ray!" Ruby said, but one look at her face showed no signs of doubt or disbelief in that fact.

"Now you boys and girls are hungry.  How about some of that delicious food?"  She turned and headed back into the kitchen, calling over her shoulder, "Come and get some southern sweet tea.  It's the best you'll ever taste!"

"There she goes again, making claims she cannot have the right to claim," I thought, "I will decide that for myself."

Mr. Chitwood said a prayer of thanks for the food and a hearty praise for the hands that made it, then we dug in, filling our large mismatched ceramic bowls to the top as Ruby directed, and taking hand sized pieces of cornbread.

"Mmmms," and "Ahhhs," and "Wows" escaped lips between bites.

It tasted just like any stew to me.

All the girls and Mr. Chitwood sat crowded along the kitchen bar (I sat atop a big stump with my legs dangling down, and Sian and Paul ate at the table by the irises.  Ruby sat down with empty hands and a big smile for she had gotten hungry and eaten while waiting for us to arrive.

I wished that I wasn't being watched as I reacted to what I ate.  The southern sweet tea was as any other I had tasted in Cherokee country.  Our bowls of stew filled with spoon size chunks of beef, potatoes, and carrots, were seasoned nicely to someone else's tastes, but I feasted on the laughter that seasoned the room as Ruby recounted to us mischievous stories of her childhood.

"Have some more of my wonderful stew," she inserted more than once.  "You'll never taste anything like it again!  Here boys, finish this pitcher of sweet tea."

Again my thoughts replied that stew was not really one of my favorites, and yes, I would probably taste many like it in the future.

Somehow Ruby got Mr. Chitwood in such a jovial mood with her stories and her exclamations of, "You tell it brother Ray," that he forgot his problems of the day and entertained us with jokes, silly dances, and wild laughter.

At the point where stomachs begin to ache with laughter and the belt buckles are loosened a notch, each finished the final bite of their second (or third, or forth) helping of food and managed to convince Ruby that we stopped eating because of satisfaction, not distaste, though I had eaten so much that I would probably have distaste for stew anytime I saw it again.

"Now, wasn't that the best food you've every tasted!" Ruby exclaimed, then, without waiting for the answer my mind was forming, she took a few strides over to her pot bellied stove and came back carrying two of the biggest pies a person has ever seen.  My stomach moaned just thinking of stuffing anything more in it.

"Brother Ray, I know you love my lemon pie, and I made a custard too!"

"Woop-ee, would you all look at that!" he exclaimed and received a large slice of each.

"How will I do this?" kept running through my mind.  I watched wide eyed as a piece twice as large as I could possibly eat was lowered on to my plate, and then another.

"This is the best lemon pie you will every eat."

I remembered my mom's lemon pie, and I doubted it.

"You'll never forget it!"

Well, at least that part is right.  My eyes met Jeanna's with eyebrows raised, and we both suppressed a laugh as the same was repeated at each plate.  We began eating slowly.  On small bite at a time passed our lips and stayed for a moment in our mouths before being swallowed, as if we were being sure to savor every morsel, when really we were just trying to find a space for it.  The lemon, though very good when a person has room for it, made my mouth want to pucker, and the custard I slid onto Jeanna's plate after washing a few bites down with tea.

After many stories from Ruby and "Brother Ray," the pie had been eaten clean from all the plates I could see.  Now all I had to do was endure this uncomfortable stuffed feeling for the rest of the visit.

Ruth and Natalie, a student who enjoyed the art that she herself did, were now engaged in a conversation on how to paint a glass vase over the stems of the irises, when fits of laughter burst from the other room.  Seeing that the Chitwoods and Nancy were now involved in conversations trying to help put a bridge of understanding between the generation gap, Jeanna and I slipped into the little room where the guys were.  Sean and Paul each sat (almost laid) slouched on their chairs with their legs stretched out in front of them, staring with glazed eyes ahead at their plates.  The equivalent of half a pie each!  Laughter burns calories, I hear.

Ruby beamed with pride to hear such happiness coming from within her usually quiet home, and suddenly I understood the importance of Ruby'l stew, cornbread, and sweet tea.  My heart was stirred, and at last I tasted the flavors of this meal.  Flavored with the uniqueness of it's maker, and seasoned with sweet laughter and fellowship, draped with adornment from an age most only read about, a meal unlike any I've had before.  And on the day, it was the best meal I could ever have had.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Verses About the Pit and Death

I went down into the pit.  At the bottom, it felt dark, and alone, and hopeless.  Getting out was impossible.  

I gave up on life.  I made attempts to kill myself.  With my mind shifting to death, I died inside.  In my death, I felt no light, or warmth, or spark of a future in life.

I cried.  Help came slowly over the years.  Though I did not know it at the time, it was God who heard my cry and was pulling me out of the pit.

Now that I am out of that pit and have come from death to life, it is amazing to see that God spoke about these very things in His Word.  Take a look with me:

From the Pit
Lamentations 3:54-56 I said, ‘I am lost.’ “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ 
Jonah 2:2,6 “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice…  at the roots of the mountains I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. 
Psalm 30:2-3 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 
Psalm 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth,a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. 
Isaiah 38:17 Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. 
Job 33:29-30 Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life. 
Psalm 103:2-5 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
From Death To Life
Psalm 56:13 For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. 
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 
John 12:24-25 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 
Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 
Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 
Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 
II Corinthians 4:7-11 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me and gave himself for me. 
Colossians 3:3-4 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Psalm 16:1,11 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge… You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 
Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 
Psalm 34:22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. 
Psalm 42:8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life
Psalm 54:4 Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life
Psalm 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life
Job 10:11-13 You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose.
Isn't it amazing how God speaks to our lives long before we even know it!  God was the one who brought me up from the pit. He took my death, and gave me His life. This is how I see things now, and my wish for the future:
Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.