The cover got me. It looked real, raw. Something I could related to. I don't know about you, but I've read enough books telling me how to "better myself" that are written from a perspective of someone who just doesn't "get it." Martha & Christin take turns sharing their own difficult life circumstances and coming clean about some of the less-than-productive ways they've tried coping. This book is a mingle of serious heart-sharing, vulnerable admissions, and humor.
There are some typical and some atypical resources and suggestions for coping with difficult life circumstances. While the recurring theme is indeed, to get out of bed, there are the usual suggestions to look for positives, list things you're thankful for, start by doing something small, etc., this book also includes some unique suggestions, such as movie and song lists that a reader may want to investigate to lighten their mood. The humor was consistently interspersed, but never made me laugh out loud or prompted me to share the jokes with others.
What kept drawing me back to this book (other than the fact that I planned to review it) was how I could relate to some of the author's observations about his own perspective and fears. For example (page 20-21) Tell writes, "Did I deserve freedom? Was I worth it? Was I free to spend money on a hobby and not feel guilty? Free to enjoy a vacation? Go to a movie? Have fun?" For anyone that has gone through a time of grief, trauma, or shame, these questions may resonate. Sometimes we inexplicably find ourselves feeling like we're supposed to stay sad indefinitely. How soon is too soon to go back to living life "as normal" when the new normal is so drastically different and unwelcome?
There are a few places I was certain I'd have to agree to disagree with the author's stance, such as when he is considering whether disobedience distances people from God. The author states that (page 51), "Isaiah 59:2 is not true for the believer, the one who trusts Christ for salvation." He goes on to elaborate that our fellowship with God is not broken because of sin (even unconfessed sin, if I understand his writing correctly). I was starting to wonder whether this guy figured sin didn't have any affect on believer's lives at all, when a few pages later he explained that although our fellowship with God isn't broken based on our sin, we aren't able to enjoy the fellowship until we've been cleansed. I thought he was going to toss out the entire concept of confession, but reading farther along, he states, "Our confession isn't meant to get our sin out from between God and us [because according to the author fellowship isn't broken]. It isn't meant to restore the relationship [because the author stresses our relationship with God is not conditional and based on our behavior; rather it is unconditional based on God's grace]. Confession is the way God washes us so we can stop being so uncomfortable in our relationship with Him." Sometimes, such as in this case, it feels like it took the author several pages just to repaint an idea with different words and a more positive spin, when in the end he was restating the same concept he started off calling a lie.
I have a lot of post-its in this book. I ran out and started ripping them into smaller pieces. I eventually decided this book must be a keeper so I might as well start writing in it. If that makes you cringe, please know that I plan to keep books I've written in to pass down to my children. By the time I was three-quarters of the way through this book, I finally felt like I had a better understanding of the author's writing style and what point he was trying to make in this book. It's not simple to write a book about allowing God's grace to shift our perspectives on Biblical truths, while challenging our application, but upholding a theological premise. The casual language caused me to second guess what he meant and be very skeptical at some points initially, but the more I read, the more I appreciated the heart of his message. We are free in Christ. We can embrace that freedom. We can gain immeasurably from a perspective shift, while keeping our feet solidly on a foundation of Jesus Christ and His Word.
The emphasis on not allowing ourselves into a works, efforts, earning, people-pleasing, perfectionist, legalistic, etc. mentality was very helpful and I appreciated the reminders of my identity in Christ, the freedom which I have been set free to enjoy, and that the "work" of my salvation, as well as my sanctification, belong to God. I can't do them, hurry them along, or mess them up monumentally. God's grace is sufficient to cover the gaps in my performance a million times over. I would recommend this book to anyone middle school or older who is willing to commit to reading the entire book. If you read only half, you may risk missing what the author is pointing toward and clarifies greatly in the latter half. It is best interpreted as a whole work rather than dissected or picked apart for quotation in my opinion.
***In the interest of full-disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are my own.
Laying on the ground;
Darkness all around.
Raindrops are falling in my eyes,
Like God's opening up the skies
And. Letting. Me. Drown.
Why would He allow all this pain
Unless there's something to gain?
Lord, show me through the clouds.
Rain is falling down
Drenching my face.
Though it feels like disgrace,
He has not forgotten my place.
So I will be still
And trust in my Lord,
As He washes away my sin
And prepares my reward.
Here and now will fade.
My eyes are open to the prize.
Maybe this tragedy
Is a blessing in disguise.
My God is good and He will always be
My God is bigger than the fiercest storm
And. He. Will. Rescue. Me.
I didn't jump into this book and immediately love it; it grew on me. The first three chapters set up the scene and get us acquainted with the main characters, followed by a very awkward transition at the start of the fourth chapter. I was a bit nervous that the book wouldn't pick up pace or prove to be a worthy read, but in chapters 5 and beyond, the author's imagination goes into overdrive and the creative writing and descriptive language is inspiring. What makes it impressive is the simplistic writing style gives you just enough information to spark your own imagination and then your mind fills-in-the-gaps better than a thousand wordy adjective-laden sentences could have.
This book has a very authentic, realistic main character, Tommy. He's just moved to a new state and he's ornery about it. So, he doesn't try to make friends, but he complains that he has none. He mopes around and worries a lot. He does have talents, but he downplays them and is letting them gather dust. Tommy's going through a self-pity season and an adventure of a lifetime offers him some timeless wisdom regarding where he needs to focus if he is ready to get out of the rut he's in. Gentle reminders not to allow fear to occupy your thoughts in an unhealthy amount or frequency, a prompting to stop comparing ourselves to others, to take full responsibility for how we choose to respond to things beyond our control, and guidance to build relationships while looking for areas we can be grateful are among the gems woven into the conversations throughout this book.
I have read countless books since I learned how to read. I can't get enough of them. When I was younger, I thought of reading as entertainment- something interesting when life was dull. It didn't occur to me that what I read was affecting me in any way, or would have any lasting impact on my outlook in life. What can I say, I was young! As a Christian mother, I care what my kids read, watch and listen to. I have seen firsthand how their attitude and behavior lean toward mimicry of characters they find fascinating or comical. This book will be set on my shelf for me to read with my boys when they are ten and older. I plan to read it with them, because there are some great discussion topics in here, such as peer pressure, gangs, being judgmental, how to combat anxiety and more. I think introducing earth science by reading this book the summer prior to studying it would help cultivate an interest in the subject and provides a strong sense of the purposefulness of the creation we are surrounded by.
This book isn't written in a fashion that only Christians will enjoy reading it, although there are themes, such as the universe being intentionally created the way that it is, which are very supportive of Christian beliefs. It appears that honesty, integrity, kindness, and generosity are respected values among the characters. I think the unique journey, the scenery and the sound advice in a subtle fashion make this a worthy read and I would recommend it to middle school students through adults. I considered detailing a bit more of the plot or characters here, since they are so interesting, but I don't feel I could do them justice and do not want to be a "spoiler" review, so you'll just have to read the book if it's caught your interest. I do hope the author makes a sequel...
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review; my opinions are my own.
Grief comes in waves, but
Anxiety is a pelting downpour
From which there is no physical shelter.
Turning up my face to the Lord,
Drops sting as though they cut my cheeks,
Not leaving the satisfaction of a scar.
Bending down my head in prayer,
They beat against my skull,
Pushing my face
Closer to the suffocating mud.
What shall I do, Lord?
I cry to You with all my heart-
Deeper down- to the depths
Where my soul must reside.
I fight for You in my thoughts, Lord,
Clinging to the memory of Your promises.
They seem to slip from my grasp,
Ripped away by the forceful downfall which
Offers no mercy of relenting.
I know You will not forsake me
And that Your Hand will not allow this downpour forever,
But I am finding it hard to believe
I shall find rest this side of Heaven.
Perhaps I won't, Dear Lord, and if that's Your Will,
I shall take it.
I fear for my ability to be used
For Your Purposes when every day it seems
All I can manage is mere existence
Paralleling the continual fight
Against this barrage from the enemy.
I desire to model Your love, peace,
Hope, and steadfast lovingkindness
To those around me,
Particularly my children, Father.
My flesh is far too weak.
Please fill me with Your Spirit, Jesus,
That I may live abundantly as You promise.
My prayer is of the Bible, Father:
I believe; please help me in my unbelief.
In Christ's Name, Amen.
Try to overcome depression,
Every negative emotion questions regression.
What's wrong with me?
Maybe I can't do this.
What was I thinking?
I can't make it through this.
I need to go back to being medicated.
No, I quit because it was more like being sedated.
Got so used to just letting everything go,
Years slip by before you even know.
Looking back, there was no joy.
Damn medicine was like a decoy
Convincing me life was real, yet mundane.
Oddly, it never relieved my pain.
Only dulled my responses to the triggers of anxiety,
Nevermind I was a useless follower of society.
I bought into the lie that life shouldn't be messy with tears,
Figured it was a good deal to trade numbness for fears.
You know what I failed to realize?
Some pain and fears have a solid reason they materialize.
I was so set to avoid tears falling down my face
I let myself get to a nasty place
Of disconnect from reality that things can go sour.
Didn't notice my denial till my darkest hour.
I went off these meds before and I cleaned up my life
Caught the clues I'd missed and ditched the abuser who called me wife.
Ran back to those drugs the next time things got scary,
Like they're some kind of magic dust sprinkled by a fairy.
Did they resolve the issues at hand? No,
But they glazed me over so I could watch the sand
Through the hourglass. My life poured out in front of me
Till one day I woke up to see
I'm popping these pills for no reason at all.
There's no drama in my heart or coming to call.
Time to go off! I"m healthy and strong.
But can I? I've been on them so long.
Got myself some health support from a natural source,
Want to have oversight treating depression, of course.
Someone to check in and make sure I'm on track.
I know the reality is I could fall back.
To those days when I didn't want to get out of bed.
The days when the crying caused an ache in my head.
Those days when I was snappy at those around me.
These are all things I don't always see.
Being in the midst of overcoming, I am so short-sighted.
Every tear I do cry, I wonder if it's invited
This monster of depression back without a leash.
Will relationships make it out of this in one piece?
The fear and doubt weight huge on my heart.
Will my quest for 'no pills' tear my family apart?
Shut up! Those are lies designed to make me fail.
I choose to believe the Truth and set my sail.
God makes beauty from ashes
And grows testimony through lashes.
Not saying He causes pain, but he does allow it.
More than we can handle on our own, but never more than He sees fit.
He lets us pass through a fire, like a Refiner with gold,
And He won't be done with us, even when we're old.
If we're brave and we walk through the pain looking at Him
He'll show us contentment and that our future's not grim.
Teaching us patience, faithfulness, and humility,
He can carry us through circumstances beyond our ability.
If there's anything I've learned about depression over the years,
It's that the battle is against a self-centered perspective, not against the tears.
So next time you weep as you overcome
Let the tears fall at the feet of Christ, God's Son.
He knows pain and sorrow more deeply than we,
He'll make you soar on wings like eagles,
How can I feel so lonely
When I know You are right here?
How can I be so isolated
With so many people near?
These old struggles of mine
Are starting to creep
Back up to the surface
Stirring pain so deep.
Why aren’t they gone?
I thought they were conquered in Christ?
What happened to being a new creation?
What happened to a new life?
I don’t feel victorious,
I don’t even feel okay
I thought this was behind me
I feel shackled again today.
Where is my freedom
That You died to provide?
I want to give You my burden
But I am so confused inside.
How do I do that,
Take Your yoke which is light?
If You were physically here and it was literal,
That would help my plight.
Sometimes I just don’t get the symbolic stuff,
How can that help me right now?
I want to obey You
But I don’t always know how.
What would Jesus do?
So simple to say,
But how could I be so pompous as to guess
How You’d behave if you were in my shoes today?
I know Your characteristics,
Like being gentle and kind,
But that doesn’t always help with
The specific decisions I find
Along this road called life
That seems to be dragging me
At a speed I cannot control
To a destination I cannot see.
I’m thankful for Your Spirit
That lifts my requests up in a groan
Because I used up my strength
Falling on my face at Your throne.
I don’t have it all together,
This Christian life isn’t a walk in the park
Right now in this battle
I feel like it’s a shot in the dark.
I know You are there,
The solid ground beneath my feet,
But I don’t know which way to turn
To crawl to the mercy seat.
The war is real
And though I know You’ve already won
The injuries are painful
And my job is no fun.
The description is vague and specific
All at the same time
Believe it or not I get sick of being looked at
Like expressing my belief system is a crime.
This world is not friendly to Your ways
And to be quite frank,
I had a moment last month
When my heart just sank.
I got so heavy
That praying and praising
That’s not what I want
And I will always call on You to talk,
But I’m scared that this dry spell
Will be too far for me to walk.
Time to talk my thoughts captive,
Starting with this one.
It’s not about my strength
It’s about serving Christ, God’s Son.
Enough about me,
This whining session has now ended.
Time to repent for my self pity
So my heart can be mended.
Looking inward at my woes
Didn’t get me anywhere at all.
Time to focus on Jesus
And listen quietly for His call.
And if I don’t hear it,
Or I can’t make it out,
I’ll find His will in the Bible,
That’s what prayer should be about.
Seeking God’s heart
And asking His direction
So my life can have more meaning
Than a hopeless reflection.
I don’t want to mirror
My past or my peers,
I want to be a fool for Christ
And abandon my fears.
I may stumble, but He holds my hand
So I will not fall.
Nice try distracting me, Satan,
But you don’t get us all.
You can read more poems about faith or about struggling with depression, or browse poems by clicking the "Read Poems" tab at the top of this page.
Do you have a long-distance, one-sided relationship with God? Does the Lord seem far away from you or silent?
Don't give up. Don't feel defeated. You may just have to tweak your views on what it means to be a Christian. Check out this chart that JUCE TV Network shared on Facebook:
This post is going to be far too short to address this complex topic thoroughly, but that's okay. My goal here (and bear with me, because this isn't my strongest point) is to encourage you to view this issue in a new light.
I can't even begin to tell you the number of times someone has explained to me:
I am a Christian (I believe in God/Jesus), but . . .
After talking with these people, I get the sense that they just really wish God would move in power in their lives. They desire to see, feel, and hear Him in their lives (and they know this is possible because they see/hear about some other people who experience this), but they are placing the burden to change the way things are right now on God rather than on themselves.
Well, if He's the one being distant, shouldn't He be the One to change?!
I hear where you're coming from, so let me explain. We need to do some very basic background here before we proceed. It's important to remember that our view of things is often limited to our own experiences, knowledge & lifetime. God's view is eternal, so let's zoom-out for a moment to check the bigger picture.
1. God created men and women in His image to bring himself glory.
2. All people have sinned and separated themselves from God- because He is both holy & just, He cannot tolerate sin. His options are to 1) punish sin as it deserves or 2) offer forgiveness through the sacrifice Christ made on the cross.
3. Assuming you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and acknowledged His death, burial, resurrection and supreme Lordship:
You should have repented (turned from, changed) your former sinful ways (this doesn't mean you're perfect, but it does mean the trajectory of your life & your goals changed when you decided to follow Christ) & entered into the personal relationship with Jesus which allows you to accept His offer of forgiveness when you repent. This means you have direct access to the Lord through Jesus Christ & you will be blessed to spend eternity in His presence in Heaven after your life here on earth is over.
4. If you haven't accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, that needs to be your priority. Things of this life will pass away, but your soul (because you are created in God's image) is eternal. Where you spend that eternity is something worth considering and planning for now, because once you die, there's no longer time to change the trajectory of your soul- you will be judged according to God's standards for holiness and punished accordingly, whereas those people who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ will be judged according to Christ's righteousness because His death on the cross paid the penalty (took the punishment) for anyone who chooses to believe on & put their faith in Him.
So, the remainder of this article is written for people who have already placed their faith in Jesus Christ & accepted His free gifts of forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation (saved from punishment).
You may be thinking, "Why rehash all this stuff, I know this and I did that- I accepted Jesus, He's my Savior, He's just not really making a difference in my daily life at all. I did the right things, what went wrong? Why don't I have the kind of relationship with Jesus that I see other people can have, where they get answers to their prayers and have peace & joy in difficult circumstances?" I guess Christianity doesn't work for me. I'm not good enough at it.
So, I hope you can see that I'm not going to tell you to "try harder" at this Christianity thing. I want to encourage you to try differently. Don't work on disciplining yourself into obedience, work on cultivating a real, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, so that you will be able to "tap in" to the grace, strength, peace, hope, joy, and wisdom that His presence offers.
Let's say there is someone you'd like to get to know better. A real person. Whether it is a coworker that seems fun, a teacher you respect, or any other person that is an acquaintance to you, whom you desire to have a friendship with. How do you do that? How could you do that?
You'd probably need to take the initiative to spend some time with the person, right? Ask them to catch coffee with you sometime, walk with them out to their vehicle as you leave work together, get their email address and start up a casual conversation about something you may have a common interest in. Something. You'd have to do something and you'd have to start somewhere. Same is true for Jesus Christ. He is a REAL person. He is alive. He isn't dead and He isn't far away. He is God, though, which makes things a bit different. Good thing He left an entire book for us to read so that we could learn more about His relationship with Creation.
The first step toward an intimate relationship with God may sound like a religious "to-do" list, but it's not, it's a plan to gain knowledge about the Lord. People who love music by a particular band may read every word in the CD insert. They may check out the band's website, facebook page, and/or personal blogs. They read more about someone they are interested in knowing better. Do the same for God. Read about Him to know Him better. Then you'll have more to talk about with Him. ;) Yep, read the Bible. Pick it up and read it. One book, ONE book, written by God, why would you NOT want to read it? Many people suggest beginning by reading one of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, or the book of Romans. Their theory is that these will get the gospel message to you clearly. If you already know the Gospel message, dig into the nitty-gritty- read somewhere else!
The Bible actually explains why we may feel God is distant & what we can do about it.
The next step isn't fun, but it's vital. Not every Christian knows this, but there is a reason that God may seem silent in our lives- He may actually be choosing to remain "silent' despite our attempts to reach Him. The reason for that is unrepentant sin. Sin= Distance from God. (Isaiah 59:2) Plenty of churches will tell you to just "stay strong" in your faith through those difficult times, and they can give you lots of fluffy feel-good verses about Jesus never abandoning nor forsaking us. And that's true, He won't. As believers, He is always with us, but He can't always WORK with us if we are refusing to remain faithful to Him by allowing a lifestyle of sin to mar the new heart He's created in us and distract us from listening for His still small voice.
If you've truly repented of your sins (meaning you've acknowledged they were wrong, confessed your sin to the Lord, asked His forgiveness and turned away from those sins- changed your lifestyle/choices so they reflect your decision to follow the Lord), He will cast your sins as far from you as the east is from the west. Having done that, if you are reading in God's Word, you are on the right track to intimacy with Christ. Relationships require time and energy, and there is no relationship more worthy of either than the relationship you have with your Savior, your Father in Heaven, your Creator, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
If you have questions or would like to request prayer, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me.
Waiting sucks. Especially when there is no guarantee of things getting any better. Cuz let's be honest, life doesn't come with many guarantees. I spent years of my life feeling EXACTLY the way you explained above when you said you couldn't deal with the hurt and felt like things couldn't or wouldn't change. No matter what changed- who I dated, who I lived with (I moved out of my parents), what school I went to (I switched on my own), where I worked, who my friends were and my 'circle' were etc. Seriously, I felt like no matter how hard I worked at and tried to get myself together and remove people who were drama-magnets from around me, I was still miserable. I disagree that time will change anything. I know it sounds cliche and you probably don't want to hear it, but the only thing that made a difference in my life was when I broke down and really gave up all my worries to God. I was on rock-bottom and had tried "doing the right thing" till I was just so exhausted and fed up. I guess I forgot that following the Lord isn't about a big to-do list (or what-not-to-do-list), it's all about realizing that this world SUCKS and we will always long for more because we were MADE for more than this. The world is going to hell, but as a believer in Jesus, it isn't my personal responsibility to save every single person and do every possible good deed. Part of being a Christian that I needed to learn is the opportunity to just receive grace. To just fall down, fall apart, curl up and cry and let God take over. I know that sounds cliche and doesn't make much sense, but all I can say is that there's so much emphasis on how people should live for God that I don't think people understand that God wants to give life, hope, and abundant joy to His followers. He came to give Truth and Freedom. Thinking about living for God shouldn't feel like signing up to be a nun, it should feel like being swept off your feet by the Creator of knights-in-shining armor. It should feel like being wrapped up in security that can never be taken away and being in a relationship with someone Who will never, ever let you down, disrespect, or abuse you. I am reading a book called The Ragamuffin Gospel and I think you'd like it. It'll speak to your heart. I'll keep you in my prayers.
Social Media isn't evil. It is a tool. It can suck up your time (that wasn't spare) or bring you down.
It can teach you things and build relationships. Tools are neutral; they can be used for good purposes, for bad purposes, we can use it wisely or allow it to trample into our thoughts in ways we shouldn't.
It is just a tool. Don't like it, don't use it.
Using it? Use it wisely!
Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don’t be vague but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of God. ~Ephesians 5:15-17 J.B. Phillips Translation (paraphrase)
I am not posting this to brag that I actually had a moment of wisdom and encouragement for someone younger than me. I am posting this because I want to remember what I wrote. I'm not wise, God is. The Holy Spirit stirred my heart and gave me words for this struggling teen many months ago. I saved it because I felt it was a God-moment I may want to hold onto and learn from. Stumbling upon it today, I discovered I really needed to hear that message that I had given the young lady.
I really need to remember that it isn't all about me. It's all about Him.
I've decided to write my response to her line-by-line and I am sharing it here with you since I've kept our blog pretty anonymous. I want to be able to post from the trenches, keeping it real and protecting our privacy while sharing with others via the community online. (Because let's face it, sometimes, when things really hit the fan in our families, turning to an online, anonymous resource sometimes (not always) sounds more welcoming that calling our best friend, aunt, grandma, mother-in-law, etc. and getting their advice/judgement.) This "journaling" style response to a torked off teen is one of the more effective things I've done. Taking the time to examine it for what it is (when my heart and my teen are trying to provoke an impulse response) and answer rationally is a great way to diffuse a situation by speaking a kind word and speaking the truth in love. It's that "intentional parenting" thing I daily fail at but happened to nail this time via the Holy Spirit. Here are my line by line responses, please take a minute to read them:
Want to pin a post? Click on the Post Title (in orange) to be taken to the post page. Then hover your mouse over an image and a "Pin it" button shall appear. I apologize for the inconvenience, but this ensures your pin will redirect to the proper URL.
I am not much of a blog reader. There's only a couple I check on occasion:
Love this girl's writing... feels like she's a long distance friend. Well, her sister is my long-distance friend, so that probably helps. Either way, what an inspiration and encouragement- you just need to check out some of the places life has taken Leah and be strengthened and inspired by the love that oozes (yes, oooozes) from her heart for Jesus, His people and His creation!
If you like nummy recipes, or have special dietary needs (or both!) check it out. ALL of her recipes are Vegan, and many can be made gluten-free. I stumbled upon it when searching for dairy/egg free treats to make for my kiddo and have gotten hooked on several recipes. Okay, "hooked on" doesn't portray it well enough. How about "addicted to"? That's more fitting. Will definitely be going back for more!