something different.

winter scene

Late last week, the song “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” started playing in my head. I don’t know why; I don’t know from where it came. If I knew, I would send it back to its mother.

It was as though the song was on a loop, the sing-along tune repeating over and over and over again. It seemed to begin entirely unprompted, and it hasn’t really gone away yet. But, it’s a little different now.

On Friday, as it played once again, I caught myself changing the words, almost subconsciously, maybe subversively, maybe both.

I’m still deciding if I’m following Jesus.
I’m still deciding if I’m following Jesus.
I’m still deciding if I’m following Jesus.
Will I turn back?
Will I turn back?

Owen spent this past weekend with my sister and her husband. We met halfway between our homes on Friday afternoon and again 48 hours later, agreeing to find each other in the same parking lot the second time as the first. I entered the Chevron’s address into my maps app, but when I glanced at it moments later, it didn’t say Chevron anymore. Instead, it read,

“From: your location
To: something different.”

I laughed at this, took a picture of it. From “your location,” to “something different,” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that. That is, when the rewritten hymn isn’t looping yet again.

A few years ago, I started seeing a counselor. It was shortly after we moved to College Station and I was so unsure where I fit. We were living with my parents while we built a house. Jared was flourishing in his job. I was battling anxiety, though I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. My heart raced any time I heard Owen cry, flashbacks to months of screaming and colic and feeling so isolated that I wondered if I would ever know myself or anyone else again. And so, for these reasons and many others, I started seeing a counselor. And it helped. It helped so much. She gave me, as my mom says, “a place to put things,” a place where I wasn’t a pastor’s wife and a pastor’s daughter and Abby who writes and Owen’s mom. A place where I could be entirely unsure about who I was. A place to look for myself, to see who I found.

I’m still deciding if I’m following, Jesus.
Will I turn back?
Will I turn back?

From: my location
To: something different.

Because of everything that has gone on in our lives in the last few years, people often follow up the question “how are you?” with an apology, or a “that was a dumb question,” or a “you may not want to answer that.” I appreciate this. I generally smile and say it’s okay, I’m glad they asked. I say that there are at least 7 different answers to that question, that we are grieving but grateful, that Gabe pulled up/cruised/crab-walked this week, that Owen hit his head but has recovered, that Jared is working a lot and praise the Lord that he loves it so much.

“We’re doing okay, Gabe had an appointment last week, his braces are fitting well (or aren’t), he’s sleeping well in them (or isn’t).”

They ask how I am and I answer with we. I’m not really answering the question. This is partially because I don’t want to. This is mostly because I don’t know the answer.

It turns out that “Something Different” is the name of a café in the same parking lot as the meeting place Chevron. It’s a small town Texas restaurant with a sign from the 1970s and a menu unaware that gluten is no longer on trend.

It also turns out that I don’t know what my “something different” is right now, that I can feel a part of my old self breaking off and floating away. It turns out that I don’t know if I want it back or if I’m content to let it drift.

Over the last three years, I’ve continued to go back to counseling on a semi-regular basis. When life started to feel like it was falling apart, when words like “genetics” and “mutation” and “potentially progressive” became a part of my everyday vocabulary, I dropped the “semi-“ and became a full-on counseling regular.

I also started taking anti-depressants.

A little blue pill every morning, a little reminder of my humanity, of brokenness, of how entirely insufficient I am on my own. This is my first time to write about this publicly, to share this part of my story. And I’m going to share more about it for many reasons, one of which is that I have a hunch some of you know waves of grief and depression that run so wild in your soul you’re not sure you’ll breathe again. I have a hunch that some of you know what it feels like to want to sleep more hours than you’re awake, to wonder if those memories of thriving seasons are an illusion, if they ever actually happened. I have a hunch that some of you are part of the sisterhood of the long winter, that the wait for spring has wreaked havoc on your soul.

Depression often comes in waves, unannounced waves, waves of various sizes, waves of tremendous force. Late last week, a wave hit me hard, knocked my feet out from under me. By Monday, I didn’t want to get out of bed. Today, it’s 1:20, and I’m under the covers as I type this, embarrassed that my prayers are a pathetic request for God to cause my children to nap or play quietly long enough for me to feel like I can get through the afternoon. This is my day today. There is no praying my way out of it. There are not enough Bible verses. There are not enough encouraging words.

There is the Spirit within me, God’s people around me. There is the little blue pill. There is the cozy chair in the counselor’s office. There are the words waiting to be said, waiting to be written. There is the discomfort that I do not know what those words are.

There is the fact that I wake up every day and have to decide if I believe God is real.
There is the fact that when depression hits like this, I wonder if I will turn back.
There is the fact that I want to believe.
There is the fact that, today, “help my unbelief,” is a much more honest statement than, “I believe.”

I’m not sure where all of this will lead. I am somewhere along a winding path between my former location and something different and part of me wants to turn back and part of me wants to just lay down on the road or in the nearby woods and stop moving and part of me wants to race ahead to that something different, believing that surely its better than here. I don’t know much of anything right now. But I know I’m going to keep writing about all of it. I know that sisterhood is one of the only things that keeps me breathing on these darker days. I know that it is no coincidence that our Bible study covered Ephesians 2:11-3:13 today – dividing walls abolished, the people of God brought together, leaning against one another, built upon the Cornerstone.

A friend in that Bible study today mentioned that we are quick to talk about grief and suffering when its over, when we feel confident of what that season taught us, when we’re a little more sure of things. She’s so right. And my response to that reality is this declaration: I am sure of so little right now. I am very much within the grief. I am very much within the suffering. I have no idea what I am learning or if learning is even the point. But I’m here, and you’re here, and He’s here. And if what Scripture says is true, then the fact that I’m here and you’re here and He’s here is a really joyous thing. That’s what I’ll be pressing into in the days to come, both within my soul and within this writing space. And you are so tenderly, openly, hopefully invited to join me.

Author: Abby Perry

Abby has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, Upwrite Magazine, and The Influence Network. She is the communications coordinator for a nonprofit organization and co-facilitates two community efforts—one promoting bridge-building racial reconciliation conversations and one supporting area foster and adoptive families. Abby graduated from Texas A&M University and currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her family live in College Station, Texas.

8 thoughts on “something different.”

  1. Abby, Thank you so much for you honesty. I have been where you are, and I still take my little pill everyday. It is prescribed for migraines right now, but I have also learned that my depression returns hard when I try to discontinue it. I forward your blog to a friend who forwards to another one whom she has been trying to get to go to counseling and on meds for depression due to serious circumstances in her life. Your post tonight is just what she needs to read, a true answer to prayer. I’m grateful, too, to know more fully how to pray for you.

  2. You are doing such good work, friend. Keep taking care of yourself. When storm winds blow, all I know to do is keep digging in deeper into the simple, not-so-simple, truths of God’s character – the Lord is good, the Lord is love, and the Lord sees you. God sees your daily, moment-by-moment perseverance and counts it as precious. It is not in vain.

  3. Well-Written my beloved!! You are so precious to us and we are with you every step-walking through reality and looking forward. I love you my Amos Twin! 🙂

  4. This…. There is the fact that I wake up every day and have to decide if I believe God is real.
    There is the fact that when depression hits like this, I wonder if I will turn back.
    There is the fact that I want to believe.
    There is the fact that, today, “help my unbelief,” is a much more honest statement than, “I believe.”

    I, too, have been in that darkness of depression. And although I’m doing well now, I still don’t have an answer for why God allowed it. I haven’t come out of it with things I’ve learned or ways my faith was strengthened. I’ve come out of it clinging to the glimmer of faith within me and trying to fan it into flame. I often find myself praying for Him to help my unbelief. Thank you for being honest and putting it into words.

  5. Abby, wow. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve never been where you are but your story is helping me understand how others feel. It’s growing my compassion. It’s challenging me to think more deeply. You and your boys are in my prayers. Keep writing. Keep digging. Keep deciding to follow Jesus. xoKatie

  6. Abby,
    A friend sent me an e-mail about your devotional for Holy Week and there I found this blog. It really hit me that God sent this to me today. Yesterday my daughter check herself in to a rehab center because she and the rest of us were so worried that she might do something to herself. The last few month everything in her life seems to have just fallen apart, her marriage, her job, and a situation with her little granddaughter. She is in such a dark place and I don’t know how to help her. I just pray that all I know to do

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