Doubt

Disappearing Tricks: Life With Anxiety

When I was still a child, I learned the secret of how to disappear.

This was something of a miracle because I had always been too loud and too rough, with dirty fingernails and chronically bruised shins and a long golden ponytail that whipped around my waist when I ran. The only time that I was quiet was when I was reading. And I read the way some people breathe – necessarily and without effort. When I read, I traveled through time and space and in and out of reality. I returned to my own world fuzzy-headed, unsure of the line between what was real and what I’d imagined.

This ability to escape through books was a treasure, but one day, I discovered that there were other ways to leave reality behind. I could do it anytime I needed to.

I was born craving approval. From my earliest memories, I wanted to achieve perfection with every fiber of my being. I believed that I deserved love and acceptance because I made the best grades and won all of the awards and obeyed my parents and made everyone in my class laugh. But I was a child, and like all children, there were times when I got in trouble.

When a teacher or my parents corrected me, I was devastated. I lived to please and when I didn’t I felt physically sick with the knowledge that I’d disappointed them. My heart would race until my chest hurt and my stomach would clench and I would imagine myself breaking into a thousand pieces. My body would shake and I would chant to myself, “I’m not here. I’m not here. I’m not here.” And then one day, I wasn’t.

Or at least, part of me wasn’t. It was as if I was no longer quite connected to my body. I could hear my father’s words of anger and disappointment, but they seemed to be coming from a long way off. I was sitting across from him at the kitchen table, but I was also floating somewhere up in the corner of the room watching myself with cool detachment, protected from the intensity of his disappointment and no longer on the verge of breaking.

This, I discovered, was an incredible skill. I now had the power to remove myself from whatever situations proved too stressful or upsetting to handle, and no one else would even know. I had learned to disappear in plain sight.

I became so good at disappearing that I forgot how to stay put. I now know that this is called disassociating, but at the time I heard it called “zoning out.” I got into such a habit of disassociating that I found myself doing it not only when my stress level skyrocketed, but also when I was bored, upset, or feeling anything else I didn’t want to be feeling.

All of this disappearing started to affect my memory. Although I graduated from high school only ten years ago, I have almost no memories of that entire chunk of my life, most of which I spent observing myself from a long way off. High school was possibly the most stressful time of my life as I tried to maintain perfect grades and perfect behavior while constantly trying to earn the approval of my parents, my teachers, my church leaders, and my friends. I lived in a state of constant and severe anxiety, which I didn’t even recognize as abnormal.

I’d suffered from chronic tension headaches from the time I was in elementary school, but during my freshman year of college I developed a heart arrhythmia. It came and went, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. It felt like my heart would skip a beat, followed by an extra hard double-beat at the end of the overlong pause. Some nights I couldn’t sleep because each heartbeat was so strong it felt like it was echoing through my body, rattling my teeth, and making my limbs throb. “Premature Ventricular Contractions” the doctor said. Triggered by stress and anxiety. I told the doctor I wasn’t stressed or anxious about anything and that it must be something else. He said to drink a lot of water, replenish my electrolytes, and lay off of caffeine.

Around the same time I started having stomach problems that I still struggle with. For weeks or even months at a time I would have chronic stomachaches that weren’t affected by what I ate or didn’t eat, by how much I exercised or how much caffeine I drank. My belly bloated and swelled until I looked like I was a solid 5 months pregnant, and most of the time I was in constant pain. This would last for long stretches of time until one day, just as unexpectedly as it came, it would stop, and I would live normally for weeks or months with no issues. I had learned to live with extreme amounts of stress so well that I honestly could not see a pattern of my anxiety correlating with my stomach problems.

There were other physical signs that something was going on, but I simply didn’t recognize them as abnormal. I remember dozens of times when I would meet with a professor, spend time with a friend I found difficult to please, have some sort of confrontation, or be forced to participate in some activity that I didn’t want to do, and my whole body would tremble so hard that my teeth chattered. I would sweat through my clothes, the kind of sweat that stains, and afterwards, when I relaxed, my whole body would ache from the tension I’d been carrying. Now I realize that this was from an extreme amount of adrenaline my anxious body was releasing to help me get through an overwhelming situation, but at the time it never occurred to me that this was abnormal.

It wasn’t until last spring, as we began preparing to move back to the States after two years in Korea, that I was finally able to recognize all of this for what it was – anxiety. As I started looking for a job and a place to live in the US, I was blindsided by a series of panic attacks that would strike without warning – at home, on the bus, at work. My heart would pound and I would feel like I was being stabbed through the chest as fears I didn’t know I had raced through my head. I thought we’d die in Korea and never make it back, or that we’d get back and not be able to find a place to live, or that I wouldn’t be able to find a job and we’d spend all of our savings and not be able to pay our bills and be miserable. Often these panic episodes would start completely unprovoked as I went about my normal routine. I never knew when they might hit and I couldn’t escape them by disassociating, and that was part of what made them so utterly terrifying.

The panic attacks were new territory for me. I’d never thought of myself as an anxious person. I knew people who were anxious – people who could twist themselves up in worry over things that had never even entered my head. I always wanted to take those friends by the shoulders, maybe shake them a little, and remind them to RELAX. And suddenly, I found myself unable to relax. I wasn’t intentionally stirring up an anxiety and worry in myself; it was rising up out of the place it had been hiding for years.

The panic attacks had one positive effect – they made me recognize anxiety for the first time and to realize that what I had been experiencing for so long wasn’t healthy or normal. As I started to look back over my life, I could see that anxiety had been my constant companion since childhood. I could see it in the way I chewed my fingernails bloody and how I laid in my bed at night as a second grader, praying for Jesus to return before I woke up. I could see it in the host of unidentifiable ailments, each one a physical manifestation of a level of stress that my mind and my heart simply couldn’t handle.

Even though I was starting to see a pattern of anxiety in my life, I still thought the panic attacks were associated with the move and that once we’d settled down back in America they would subside. It’s been six months since we returned to the US and while the attacks have lessened, they haven’t disappeared. Sometimes we have to cancel plans last minute because I’m suddenly seized with the conviction that my husband will die if he leaves the house, and for the present I no longer stand in line at the bank or visit movie theaters because these places are triggers for me.

I know that this all sounds very dramatic and maybe a bit depressing, but ironically, I’m feeling more and more hopeful. See, there is freedom in calling something by its name. Sometimes naming the thing takes away some of its power. When the panic attacks started, I couldn’t understand where they were coming from or why, and I felt powerless against them. Now I understand that anxiety has been part of my DNA all along. I understand that my habit of dissociating and my health issues have been a subconscious way of dealing with an unusually high level of anxiety from a very young age.

Anxiety for me is mental and physical—it is not a conscious decision and it is not something I can make go away through force of will—but it is also profoundly spiritual. Learning to manage anxiety requires my letting go of the need to manipulate my circumstances and control every outcome. The anxiety itself may never go away (though I pray that it does), but I am coming to understand that I have a weapon that can keep me from being overwhelmed. Along with therapy for my mind and medication for my body, there is a remedy for my spirit and it’s called Truth.

Anxiety shouts with a loud voice, but Truth always speaks louder.

Truth says that the peace of God which transcends understanding will guard my heart and my mind.

Truth says those who trust in the Lord will be kept in perfect peace.

Truth says, “Fear not, for I am with you!” time and time again.

Truth is giving me the courage to stay put instead of disappearing. It’s teaching me to accept my weaknesses and my limitations and to rely on a strength greater than my own. And it’s teaching me how to live well in a world where I’m not always in control.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com
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The Summer of Unbelief

It rained almost every day this summer –not the brief and angry afternoon storms of my childhood, but in intermittent streams all day long, like someone turning a faucet on and off. The honey-golden days of June and July were swallowed by a colorless sky and air so thick and sticky that walking to work in the mornings felt like wading through molasses. The barometric pressure swelled every day, the pressure inside my head building with it, straining for equilibrium, my nose and eye sockets and temples pulsing with pain like I’d been punched in the face. Sometimes I felt like the summer had been one long headache, though in fairness, I suppose it could have partly been from all the crying.

April and May and the beginning of June were an emerald green haze of hope. I felt energized, excited about the future, and more open to God and to life than I had in a long time. We made the decision to stay in Korea, the cherry blossoms were scattering beauty everywhere and my parents came all the way from America to visit. I joined a Bible study and Husband and I started meeting with our friends each week for “church.” I was running again, my writing was gaining momentum, and I felt like I could see God’s fingerprints everywhere I looked.

When the summer came those fingers I’d imagined sweetly leaving their mark on the world turned into fists that pounded me so relentlessly I was sure that if I looked closely I’d actually see bruises blooming purple under my skin.

Some blows were truly big and terrifying things, like cancer and ISIS and planes falling from the sky. Some were only personal tragedies – losing our cat and saying forever goodbyes to friends moving away, moments of disconnect and frustration. And some were simply annoyances—a broken computer, a busted kindle screen, a new shirt that shrunk in the wash—but piled on top of the big things they felt like a conspiracy to suck all the goodness out of life.

I have prayed more and harder over these past few months than any other time I can remember. In the middle of the night when I have lain awake, exhausted but unable to sleep, I have begged God for mercy – for the world, for my loved ones, for myself. But I always woke in the morning feeling alone and unheard.

Part of me was angry. Because even though this goes against everything I believe, some subconscious piece of me felt cheated. Like I’d been faithfully holding up my end of the bargain and God had let me down.* And another, larger part of me was simply bone-weary.

Husband says these are the moments that draw him into God, make him see his own need. I suppose that’s what the people who suffer so beautifully through great tragedies experience. They are drawn to God in their pain.

I’m not one of those people.

When it seems like the darkness is winning and God feels utterly disinterested, I lose heart. And I lose faith –not in God exactly, but certainly in God’s goodness.

See, I’ve never really questioned the existence of God. My Big Question isn’t if God exists, it’s “Is He good?” And even if He is good, how can I know that he is really involved in the world in any significant way?

I know, I know. Oh me of little faith. But the problem is that you put your faith in the one you trust. And it would seem that I am not to-my-bones and in-my-belly convinced that I can trust God’s goodness. When I see the vast power of the ocean or the way the mists roll over the mountains in the morning, or when I see ordinary, messy people made beautful, I see God’s work in the world and I believe that God is good and maybe even that he cares about me. But when the ugly bits of life break in and I beg for grace and rescue that doesn’t seem to come, I waver. Is God still good here? Now? Or (maybe worse) is He good and simply not interested?

I don’t believe God has promised us an easy life. He has simply promised to be with us. To give us Himself. But sometimes He doesn’t seem to be doing that either.

My wise friend Julie said to me “Maybe God is asking, ‘Will you still trust me now?’”

If He is, I’d like to be able to answer His question with a grumbly, big-sigh, reluctant, “Yes.” But the truth is that I don’t know. I just don’t know.

The summer is ending and I am running out of tears and out of prayers. All I am left with are the words of the father in the gospels whose name we’ll never know: **

“Help my unbelief!”

___________________________________________________________

*Which, of course, isn’t Christianity at all. It’s karma. But that’s another story for another day.
**The man in Mark 9 whose son has an evil spirit.

 

 

Hope for the Evangelically Screwed Up: An Invitation to an Honest Conversation

After my last blog post where I touched on some of the ways that my evangelical Christian background damaged me, I received an email from a woman I deeply admire and respect. She is a mother of five who I used to babysit for when I was in high school and whom I have remained in contact with over the years. I actually thought of her as I wrote my last post, knowing that she subscribes to my blog and would read it. Honestly, I was worried that some of the things I said there would be hurtful to her or would cause her to see me differently. What I wrote was true and I have no desire to hide that, but there is a part of me that just hates letting people down. So when I received her email in my inbox, I opened it with some hesitation. I was worried. This woman is tremendously gracious. I was not afraid she would berate me or say anything unkind. I was, however, afraid she might be disappointed. Imagine my surprise when I opened her email and found it overflowing with gratitude for sharing my story. She shared with me that she had recently been struck by the realization that she had become one of those people I talked about – looking for the right formula to raise kids to be Christ-followers. Imposing certain protocols to ensure their safety from the secular world. “I naively believed that I could single-handedly keep them from the world (pardon the drama).  No account for individual personalities or even more, God’s faithfulness. I believed that they could skip over the part about being insecure, faking it, etc. if only we did things a certain way.  This has been a tremendous burden.” In the end she asked me to share any advice I had for her as a mother. I was blown away by her candor and her graciousness and deeply humbled that she would ask for my thoughts. Me in all my 25 year old wisdom. Ha.

I will be the first person to tell you that I am not in any way qualified to give advice. Probably not about life in general and certainly not about parenting. However, I have spent the eight years since leaving my parent’s home and my charismatic evangelical church trying to forge a way into adulthood. In many ways I am still trying to do this. I can’t speak authoritatively about what it means to be a parent, or even what it means to be an adult, a Christian, a woman. All I can do is speak from my own experience. I wanted to share a little bit of my ongoing conversation with this woman. I have spent much of the past few years grappling with my faith, my evangelical upbringing and the corresponding unhealthy understanding of God, of myself, of the church that I developed. I am only just starting to write about these things, but I believe that writing about them is a crucial part of the process for me. Another crucial element is dialogue. It is continuous conversation with others, throwing around ideas, trying to put words to the wrongs we’ve suffered, to the pain we’ve caused, to the grace we’ve received. It’s something I cannot do alone. So I am sharing it.

The following is an excerpt from a long email I sent back to this mother. This friend.

“Maybe it isn’t possible to avoid the struggles so common to adolescence and young adulthood. Maybe struggling with identity, with insecurity, with our bodies and with the pressure of the expectations of others is unavoidable. Because even if we remove ourselves from the world’s version of these things, they emerge again in different ways- inside of the church, in the youth group, in homeschool groups, in families.

Sometimes, in trying so hard to teach kids the ‘right’ way to act, I think what we have inadvertently communicated is that these actions are what make us holy. That these actions are the mark of true believers. In trying to teach children to act rightly, we’ve become judgmental of others, assuming that certain actions we don’t approve of indicate the state of their hearts.

We try to tell our children not to judge others based on how they look, but we do it all the time. And I think the worst part of this is that we aren’t just judging what sort of personality they have or whether they are nice or not, we are judging their hearts and their relationship with God based on outward elements we have come to believe are signs of rebellion or impurity. Who are we to judge other people’s hearts that way? That’s not the biblical principle of looking at the “fruit” in someone’s life. We aren’t looking at people and asking, “Are they kind? Are they patient? Are they full of grace towards others? Do they speak with wisdom? Are they humble?” We are looking at people and saying, “Are they dressed the way I think a Christian should dress? Are they listening to music I think a Christian should listen to?” 

Something that really shaped me in my tween and teen years was the implication that the only thing keeping me from all sorts of inappropriate behavior was my parents’ strictness. That their vigilance was all that stood between me and a life of sin. This was something I inferred, not something they ever said to me, but regardless of what made me feel that way, it simply wasn’t true…. No, I don’t think they should have let me do whatever I wanted, but I had a genuine desire to do right. While my parents always verbally affirmed that they trusted me and that it was the world and others they didn’t trust, their actions communicated that they didn’t. Jonathan has often commented in conversations we’ve had about my childhood and adolescence that my parents seemed to act out of fear a lot when it came to making decisions. From the outside it looked very much like they didn’t trust me to make good decisions. And I think that’s true. And as a result, I also came to believe that I couldn’t make good decisions. But I wanted to be good and I wanted to please my parents and please God. So the only way I knew to accomplish that was to hold fast to what I did know – follow the rules that have been set for you and don’t associate with anyone who doesn’t follow them. I knew how my parents and the church leaders responded to people who didn’t act the way they expected them to. And I didn’t want my parents or leaders to ever look at me the way they looked at those people. So there was always an incredible amount of pressure to act the way they expected me to act. So much of my “right” actions were not based on the conviction that this was the right way to act, but were based on fear that if I didn’t act the way I knew the church leaders and my parents expected me to act, my heart and my intentions would be judged.

And the thing that really bothers me is that these prescribed actions are so arbitrary. They are man-made distinctions. Being modest is biblical, but it’s the evangelical subculture that has decided that wearing spaghetti straps means your heart is impure. (Not to mention how this kind of judgment skews our perspective of our bodies and of our sexuality, but that is another enormous topic for another time). ” 

I love my parents dearly and I know that in every parenting decision they made they genuinely were doing the best they could at the time. This isn’t about pointing fingers or calling anyone out or living in the past. What it is about is healing and growing. It’s about dialoguing with a new generation of parents (which many of my friends are newly a part of or on the cusp of joining) about ways we can change. It’s about wrongs we can acknowledge, lies we can reject, judgment we can stop passing. It is about hope we can have, grace we can extend, and life we can give. I don’t know where all of my questions about faith and Christianity and God and the church will ultimately take me, but I think it starts here with an honest conversation.

When God is Silent

I feel like a rug has been pulled out from under me the last few days and it hasn’t just left me flat on my back staring up at the ceiling with a headache. When my metaphorical rug was pulled out from under me it revealed a giant hole where I thought the floor was and left me falling through it like Alice down the rabbit hole with nothing to grab hold of and no end in sight

My brand-new nephew

This is my nephew, Jasper Mason Trahan, about four hours after he was born

Over this weekend my breathtakingly beautiful sister graduated from high school and I met her very first boyfriend, I got to hold my nephew when he was just 4 hours old, I got to see my family and friends from home, some of whom I hadn’t seen since my wedding last summer. I also learned some really upsetting things about people that I love. The type of things that I have no control or authority over, but that still make my heart so heavy. And while I was gone my husband received a job offer out of the blue that would move us to a place that I really don’t want to go.

In the past few days there have been three separate things that I was really excited about that I feel have now been tainted or taken from me entirely, the biggest of which being our move to Raleigh. We had already made a decision we felt good about and were making plans to move the first week of July. We even had a place to stay free of rent for the summer. I had been applying to jobs almost daily and Jonathan had made arrangements to transfer with Starbucks until he lands another job. One of my dearest friends is also moving to Raleigh this summer where she’ll be in school for the next 5 years.

And I had found a darling little cottage we were going to look into renting…a white cottage with a stone pathway and a beautiful garden and an office loft for writing

My breathtakingly beautiful sisters at graduation. Maggi (left--graduate), Anni (middle, 16) Me

.

To be asked to give all of that up for a place that holds no charm for me is staggering and painful. However. To refuse to give up my dreams and my wishes in order for my husband to walk through a door that God has opened for him is unbearable. How do you love someone selflessly and still be completely honest with them? How do you make a decision that could change the course of your life without feeling any excitement about it? How do you lay your life down so sacrificially that you never, ever regret it?

I can’t stand the feeling of regret. Just last week I got in touch with someone I hadn’t spoken to in years just because every time I thought about him I still felt regret over the memories I had from the time I knew him. It’s the worst feeling.

I briefly shared the situation with a friend of mine from home and she said, “You will never regret going where God tells you to go.” I needed those words and I so appreciate the encouragement that comes from them, but I am still at a loss. Neither of us have a clear sense of where God is telling us to go. A week ago, we obviously thought he was saying Raleigh, but now we don’t know. And my husband isn’t even sure he wants to take the job being offered to him, but doesn’t want to regret turning down a good job to go to a place where he doesn’t have a job lined up at all.

When we got married, I committed to lay my life down for Jonathan. Somehow I (foolishly) couldn’t conceive of a situation like this one in which it could really mean the sacrifice of more than my choice of movie or not complaining about him watching sports. But I really did mean it. And if God told me to do this I would. But right now all I’m hearing is heavy, heavy silence.

Thought I'd try to lighten the mood with a few more Two days old

Jasper with his Mommy, Amanda, doing Blue Steel

Ask, Seek, Knock: Questioning God and Explaining Circumcision to a Four-Year-Old

I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions over the last few days and weeks. As we have started looking for jobs and a new place to call home I’ve been asking God and asking myself what I should pursue and what things are important in choosing a new location. I’ve also been asking a lot of questions about God and about faith. My small group discussed hell at our last meeting (just, you know, your typical casual Friday night conversation) and it raised so many of the questions that I’ve been grappling with over the past several years about God’s goodness, his plan for creating the world, and why he allows so much of what happens here on earth. And as if it wasn’t hard enough to be trying to figure out all of my own great questions about life, a large part of my day job lately has been trying to answer other difficult questions on the level of a four-year-old. Here’s a sample of a few conversations I’ve had with Sami over the last several weeks.

Me (reading from the Illustrated Children’s Bible): And on the eighth day they took the baby to be circumcised and they gave him the name Jesus

*side note: why the heck would you feel the need to include that in the Illustrated Children’s Bible?!

Sami: What’s circum-skied?

Me: Ummm….it’s a special sign between God and his people?

Sami: Do I have it?

Me: Ummm…only boys had it (No, I am not even about to get into female circumcision)

Sami: Do they still get circumsigned?

Me: Yes….

Sami: Where?

Me: At the hospital when they are born

Sami: Does Dylan have it?

Me: Yes…

Sami (completely out of the blue): I am so glad that Abraham Lincoln helped the brown people. What did he help them do?

Sami: I would never drive my car to hell! (also out of the blue)

Me: Well, that’s good, but you know, hell’s not really somewhere you can drive to.

Sami: Well, where is it?

Me: It’s kind of like heaven because you can’t go there while you are still alive on earth. Only souls.

Sami: A long time ago they used to put people in boxes when they died and put them in the ground.

Me: Well, they still kind of do that

Sami: Will they do that to me when I die?

Me: Probably. But you won’t need your body anymore because you will be in heaven with Jesus so it won’t matter. (Talking quickly so she doesn’t freak out about being buried)

Sami: I’m just really worried about my friend Olivia

Me: Why?

Sami: Because she moved to Bloomington…what if she dies there? She won’t be able to go to heaven.

Me: I’m pretty sure people who live in Bloomington can still go to heaven.

Sami: Why did God make the bad people? (Perhaps there was a context for this one in her mind, but it was very unclear.)

Or, my personal favorite conversation:

Sami: How old are you?

Me: I am about to be 23. (This was right before my birthday a few months ago)

Sami: Maybe when you turn 23 you’ll get taller

Me: I don’t think so. I think I’m pretty much done growing taller.

Sami: That is so sad! Why would God do that?!

(Note: I am 5’3”. I’m no giant, but I’m definitely not the shortest woman she’s ever seen)

Me: I don’t know Sam. Maybe he just likes short ladies.

Most of the time, I just want to look at her and tell her honestly, “I really don’t know! Stop asking me questions!” But instead I do my best to think of an answer that is true to the best of my knowledge and is also on her comprehension level. (A challenge, believe me, because Sam is often not the quickest at connecting A to B.) It can be difficult (although admittedly hilarious) to try to answer these questions, especially since I am not her mother and I don’t want to explain anything to her in a way her parents wouldn’t agree with, but ultimately I think it’s important for her to ask questions. I think it is OK for her to want an explanation for things or to admit that she doesn’t understand something and to ask for help.

A few days ago my husband and I were discussing the failure of the evangelical church to communicate this very thing. I have never been to a church service (particularly the church I grew up in) where anyone expressed that it is ok to question scripture, doctrine, or even God himself. The general view seems to be that questioning is the opposite of faith and a very slippery slope towards losing your faith altogether. As a result the evangelical church has formulated pat answers to complex and difficult questions about faith, God and Christianity. (For example: “Why did God allow the incredible devastation of the earthquake in Japan?” “God is sovereign, so it must be a part of his bigger plan that we can’t see right now.” Technically true, but incredibly unsatisfying.) Frankly, I am of the opinion that if just asking some questions about Christianity were enough to make me lose my faith, perhaps it wasn’t worth having in the first place. On the other hand, choosing to ignore the questions does nothing except create shallow (or blind) faith.

I think asking God questions is as much a part of having a relationship with him as giving thanks and singing praise. I know that I can’t understand everything and there will never be a point at which everything makes sense to me. I am ok with that. But I am hopeful that if I keep asking the questions, God will answer me the way I try to answer Sami—giving me just enough for my comprehension level—but with infinite gentleness, patience, and compassion. “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt. 7:8) But you know what happens to those who don’t ask/seek/knock? They build themselves a little lean-to beside the mansion’s doors and then spend their lives convincing themselves that the house of sticks they built is the real thing.

Confessions: On Bad CCM Lyrics and Doubt

Confession: I don’t know if it makes me a bad Christian to say this, but there are times when I am listening to K-LOVE driving down the road and I just have to turn it off because I find it so irritating (and not just when they are doing fundraising.) I completely believe that the songwriters have great intentions and that many people are blessed by these songs, but sometimes I just can’t believe they got away with some of those lyrics. My husband and I have often ranted to each other that it is possible to write intelligent, true, and powerful lyrics about God. Look at some of the great hymns. I don’t think you should be able to cop-out on writing good lyrics just because your song is about God.

For example, Kutless’s “That’s What Faith Can Do” contains the lyrics, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard/Impossible is not a word/It’s just a reason for someone not to try.” Ok, this makes no sense. Last time I checked, “impossible” is actually a word.. See what I did there. I just used it. I think what he’s looking for is more like “impossible is just a word, not a reason for someone not to try.”

Here’s another great one, Natalie Grant’s “Human”: “I’m human/You’re human/ We are…we are human” It’s a power anthem, and you’ve gotta love that, but these lyrics make it like a Christian version of Rebecca Black’s “Friday.”

But a personal favorite has to be Amy Grant’s, “Better than a Hallelujah” : “We pour out or miseries, God just hears a melody…” So…God rejoices when we suffer and hears our cries of agony as sweet, sweet music?

The redeeming factor in this song for me is that although I think she butchered the delivery, I understand what Amy’s trying to say and I couldn’t agree more. I think God does appreciate our honesty and humility before him. I think he delights in our coming to him with needs instead of only coming to him when we feel like we’ve got everything under control. I think God welcomes our questions, our doubts, and our fears as readily as he welcomes our praises. And right now I am so very glad he does.

Confession: I struggle with doubt. While a part of me remains steadfastly convinced of God’s goodness, his love for me and all people, and his plan for my life, another part of me wonders if it’s true. There are moments when my faith is so real to me that everything around me radiates the truth of it. And there are moments when I just can’t seem to make sense of it and it all seems just a little too ridiculous.

I used to be afraid of the doubt, and especially afraid to express it to anyone. Like if I said it out loud, I’d be renouncing my faith or turning my back on God. I especially feared that anyone I shared Doubt with would think I was experiencing serious spiritual crisis and try to rehabilitate me. Or simply be frightened of me. And of course, I’ve felt it would be the ultimate failure in being a godly wife. But lately I’ve been seeing it a little differently. I’ve been thinking about Doubt as a gift, perhaps even a friend.

Doubt reminds me that I am not God. If I was God, I wouldn’t doubt…I’d know. And the fact that I don’t know reminds me why I need a God who does know. Everything. Doubt reminds me of how small I am and how much I still don’t know. Mostly though, I’ve been comforted to realize that God is not surprised by my doubts. I think he expects them. When Christ was resurrected, Thomas refused to believe it was true until he had seen the wounds on his hands and put his hand into Christ’s side. We always cite this as such an embarrassing story for Thomas, but I don’t think it has to be seen that way. Consider how Jesus responds when he appears to Thomas. He says to him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” I think Thomas genuinely wanted to believe, but he struggled with doubt and the doubt got the best of him. Jesus makes it clear that it was better for those who believed without having to see, and yet…he still chooses to appear to Thomas. He still chooses to address Thomas’s doubts and to dispel them.

Sometimes I believe wholeheartedly. But sometimes, like Thomas, I want to believe but I struggle with doubt. I’m going to try something new. Instead of denying my doubts I am going to embrace them. I am even going to explore them. And I am going to wait for Christ to appear.

Burn Out

I think I have finally reached the point of total and complete burnout as far as my job is concerned. After months of struggling with a sense of purpose in what I’m doing and some frustration with the monotony of it, I’ve finally reached a point where even the weekends aren’t enough recuperation and nothing seems to encourage me. While I genuinely do love the kids I am with, I am tired all of the time and I am bored out of my mind. I am completely out of patience and feel that I cannot answer one more question. Except for naptime in the afternoon, I spend 7-8 hours a day entertaining and verbally responding to a preschooler and a toddler and half of that is correcting, cajoling, convincing, rebuking, or coming up with creative and interesting things for them to do. I’m worn out. I’m committed to this job until the end of May. Intellectually, I know that’s not forever. But right now, it feels like forever. And every morning when my alarm goes off everything in me screams, “NO!”

Jonathan and I continue to wait for good news from the schools he’s applied to, but so far there hasn’t been any. We’ve begun to discuss where we’ll go and what we’ll do if school isn’t on the table for next year. It’s somewhat exciting to think about moving somewhere new based on nothing more than an interest in the location, but it can also be overwhelming and frightening. Mostly though I am frustrated and feel defeated. I am so tremendously proud of my husband for applying to these programs that are highly selective and are evaluating your creative work which is often so deeply personal. I think he is so brave for pursuing something like this and it took a lot for him to even allow himself to pursue it simply because he felt it was impractical. I am frustrated with God because I don’t understand why he would have given him this dream and given him the courage to pursue it if it isn’t even going to work out.  And I feel completely at a loss as to how to encourage him in the midst of this. I don’t know how to make him believe that whatever the outcome, he is tremendously talented and gifted and that I respect and admire what he’s done so much. Just saying the words doesn’t seem to be enough.

I also had a tremendously selfish conversation with my husband in the midst of all of this where I whined about not being seen as a writer or taken seriously for my writing. It was juvenile and pathetic and the truth remains that I have not produced anything new creatively in almost a year. This is my own fault. No one sees me as a writer because, well, I don’t write.

So friends, this isn’t a witty, endearing, or uplifting blog post, but it is an honest post. I feel like I am failing. I am failing as a nanny. I am failing at being an encouraging, supportive wife. I am failing as a writer. I feel empty. Like I have nothing left to give. But this one promise keeps echoing through my mind. A voice that says, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”