How to Respond in Times of Crisis

I sat in my favorite corner of our couch, knees pulled up to my chest. A few close friends were scattered around the room, eyes soft, questions gentle. We had been at an event together earlier that evening where words were spoken that caused a part of my heart to fracture. When I left the event as soon as possible, these women called and offered to come, to sit and listen or let silence linger. We did some of both.

Mostly, I rambled, at least that’s how I remember it. I remember tears and I remember closing my eyes as I spoke sentences of which I was embarrassed of, words that made me feel faithless and weak. But most of all, I remember the tenderness of the women gathered in that room, their compassionate strength that bore the weight of my sadness and anger.

When I was in crisis, the physical presence, help, and listening ear of others was critical. Never have I been so aware of the beauty of the body of Christ as I have been when I was dependent upon others to care for me, to support my family, and to pray and believe for me when I was losing my grip on the ability to do so for myself.

When crisis comes, many of us determine to buckle down, to believe that grit and fortitude will be enough to weather the storm. But what this often can mean is that we want to be strong, though Scripture tells us that God’s grace is made perfect in our weakness. We do not want to inconvenience others, though Scripture tells us to bear one another’s burdens. We want to think of crises as linear—as having a beginning, middle, and end, life returning to a happy “normal” after the fact–though Scripture tells us that we will have trouble in this world until Christ’s return.

Keep reading at iBelieve.

deep & lowly: a devotional for Holy Week.

Last week, I posted about my struggle with depression. I shocked myself a bit by actually publishing it, but my surprise at my own writing was nothing compared to my surprise at the volume and vulnerability of the responses I received. I am so sure that I’m not alone in this, because so many of you told me that I’m not.

Convinced of the sisterhood of the long winter (brothers welcome too!), I wrote an 8-day devotional for Holy Week, for us, called Deep & Lowly: taking refuge in the Suffering Servant.

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The devotional is made up of 8 simple, daily pages of with Scripture, my reflections and questions for you. It is for those of us in the pressed down places, and for those of us who want to know the sufferings of Christ more fully. If you’re reading this, I think it very well may be for you, whether your life is a blizzard or breezy these days, whether there is pain in your heart or your past or the lives of those around you. Our High Priest is one who sympathizes with our greatest weaknesses and pain, and that is why I wrote this devotional.

Anyone who is signed up for the mailing list by 5pm today will receive the devotional by email this evening. After that, it will go out to anyone who signs up tonight through Easter Sunday in their immediate welcome email.

Throughout next week I will be publishing reframe posts for each of the Holy Days and coordinated discussion on the devotional. I would be so honored and thankful to have you join me, and to invite a friend or two along, especially someone who knows well the long winter.

My heart craves to know Jesus as refuge, and that is what I am praying constantly for you and me in these days leading to Easter. May we be hidden in Him in every way.

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.