When I was at Timberline Knolls, every Thursday I went to a group focused on body image. It was right after a group I had that focused on self-image. Since I have just a FEW issues related to both of those things, I cried in almost every session. (Basically, Thursdays were a real treat.) One of the body image sessions talked about the negative messages we receive about our bodies, ones that come from both external and internal sources, and how we can counter these messages with healthy, productive thoughts. One exercise we did was to write a letter addressed to our body critics. We were given paper with pre-printed lines and text at the top that said, “Dear Body Critics.” It didn’t take me long to realize that my biggest critic isn’t someone else, so I crossed out “Body Critics” and wrote my name instead. Below is the letter I wrote in the few minutes we had. It’s not terribly profound, but somehow seeing the truth in black and white was a breakthrough for me. I hope it encourages someone else to remember to listen to the truth instead of lies.
Be kind to yourself. Your value is not determined by the amount of space you occupy in the world. Your value is not determined by the number on the scale or on your jeans. Your value is not determined by what others think or say about you. Your value is set by God, who declares you fearfully and wonderfully made, who delights in you, who dances over you with singing and joy. In Christ you have the value of a redeemed child of God–pure, blameless, beautiful, and worthy to approach the throne of God with confidence. The only words that matter are the words that God speaks over you. Listen to His voice, and may it be loud enough to silence the voice of hate always ringing in your ears. Remember that nothing can separate you from God’s love–not height nor depth, death nor life, not even your own self-hatred. Walk in the truth that you are loved, and stand tall and live fearless.
When I saw that Glenna Marshall was going to have a launch team for her book The Promise Is His Presence: Why God Is Always Enough, I jumped at the chance to be a member. Not only do I know Glenna personally (we attended the same college), but I have long admired her writing. Glenna is a faithful follower of the Lord who has seen some incredibly difficult seasons of suffering, but through them God has given her quite the story to tell.
The Promise Is His Presence (don’t you just love the title?!) is an excellent encouragement for those Christians who are suffering, wondering if God is present and active in their lives, or who just feel stagnant in their walk with the Lord. Marshall writes with clarity and conviction, showing how the theme of the presence of God is woven into the fabric of Scripture from beginning to end. I love how she personalized the book by sharing with the reader her own personal dark nights of the soul, and I related to much of what she wrote, though our struggles are different. There are so many passages I wanted to highlight that I feel like every page would be yellow! I highly recommend this book.
A few favorite quotes:
“Remembering God’s past faithfulness helps us to believe in His future faithfulness.”
“When we make the mistake of equating God’s inherent goodness with what seems good to us, we limit our belief in His ability to be good.”
“The weight of your heart’s satisfaction can’t be laid on another human being or a particular outcome. Only the giver of gifts can stand up to the heart’s relentless desire to be satisfied.”
Order your copy of The Promise Is His Presence at Amazon or other online retailers!
I stood in the sanctuary, surrounded by voices lifted in song, and I felt tears threaten to stream down my face. The words of “The Solid Rock” were on the screen, and my voice cracked as I tried to sing the second verse:
“When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”
There are times when the words of a song ring so true to my own lived experience that I am overcome, and such was the case with this song. Darkness had been hiding God’s face for months, and I struggled to see the truth. Depression had been haunting my days and nights with frustrating consistency, and I was tired. It is hard to rest when the storm is raging. Merely making it to church felt like a victory, and I didn’t know if I had the strength to sing the words I wanted desperately to believe.
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On Tuesday, I am going to be checking myself into a residential facility outside of Chicago to receive more intensive treatment for depression. This comes after spending nine days at a mental hospital in Memphis because my suicidal thoughts became too great to bear. I knew my life was in danger, and so I made the hard choice to go back to inpatient treatment rather than give in to the darkness. While I did receive help in Memphis, it wasn’t enough, which is why I have made the excruciating decision to leave my family and seek further treatment. It is my desperate hope that by devoting all of my time to my mental and spiritual health I can finally find relief from the pain that has dogged me for months.
The idea of being away from my family for 30 days, which is the amount of time I will likely be gone, breaks my heart. I don’t know how my girls will ever understand why I had to leave them. However, I am praying that one day they will see that I sacrificed this time with them now so that I can be there for them for many more years to come. This is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done, but I also know it is the right thing. I pray that God will use it to bring me healing and to bring Himself glory, and I would covet your prayers for my family and for me.
I imagine there are those of you who are reading this who do not understand how I can leave my family, who do not understand why I don’t just snap out of this depression. I don’t write these words for you. I write them for the ones who are reading them and also feel hopeless and despairing, and I pray that my story encourages them to reach out and get help. There is love and support waiting. I have found more than I ever thought possible, more than I deserve. Even in the darkest night, the light of Christ shines brightly on me, as He shows His love for me through my dear family and friends and church.
The way forward is scary and unknown, but His Word promises to be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, so I will take it one step at a time and trust in the Savior who died for me.