Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Telling myself the truth

My smile hasn't connected with my eyes lately.

I've watched in the mirror as the dullness etched away the spark--the fight--in my eyes over the last weeks. And then it started singing its melancholy lullaby, draping itself over my shoulders and whispering darkness to my heart.


No. I hate that word. I'm scared of that word. I avoided that word.

So the blanket kept encircling. Something was familiar. But what? 


It will pass. Just hormones. Just tired. I'm OK.

Tighter. I've felt this before. I don't like it. Why?


"Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul." (Psalm 142:4) 

Something is wrong.


Yes. Depression. That's it. That's the weight. That's the dull. That's the disconnected smile. I've fought this before. I don't want to fight it again. But it's either let it wrap and smother, or face it. So I'll look. I'll face it. I'll fight. 

It is written that the Lord is near the brokenhearted and binds up wounds (Psalm 147:3). It is written that the Lord is close to the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). It is written that when my spirit faints, the Lord knows my way (Psalm 142). I know from my past battles with depression that He is trustworthy with my feelings...with me. That even in the depths, He is good. He is sovereign.  

I also know that naming the problem is the first step to facing it. 
Isaiah 50:8 says this:
"He who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me? 
Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
Let him come near to me."

I'm ready to take it on. Face to face. Replace darkness with truth. 

So here I am. And the truth is, I feel depressed. 

Looking at my recent past--the grief and transitions faced--I find the root. And with it, shame and blame. 

Listening Sunday to a powerful sermon by Jack Napier, based on Genesis 3:7-24, was a necessary catalyst toward telling myself the truth, as I jotted down these questions in my sermon notes: "Is shame why I am shutting down? Is shame why I am hiding from people?"

I'm telling myself the truth now. So yes. I've blamed myself for things I can't change. I've felt ashamed to be associated with things I can't change. I've blamed myself for not doing more. I've felt ashamed of various outcomes. And I've tried to hide from those lows.

Just as Adam and Eve tried to piece together clothes to hide their naked shame, depression weaved itself around mine. But as God called out in the garden, "Where are you?", so He sought me.

"Where are you, Malinda?"

And I'm telling the truth now. "I'm here in the pit, Lord! I didn't want to admit it before, but yes, here I am in the deep, dark pit. My spirit faints within me! Depression is wrapped around me!"

The Seeker knows my way.

"I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, 'You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.'
Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!
BRING ME OUT OF PRISON, that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.
(Psalm 142:5-7)

Yes, Lord. Please Lord.

"Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." (Psalm 143:7-8)

I feel depressed. 
But it's a feeling, not a definition. 
Depression doesn't define me. 
Christ does.
And I'm telling myself the truth. 

I'm ready for battle.

"Blessed be the LORD, my rock, 
who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;
he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me." (Psalm 144:1-2)

Are you in the clutches of depression right now, or suspect you are? Don't give up. Let's face the truth together. Jesus paid the price to clothe us. He is a perfect Savior. He justifies us. Without Jesus, we live and die in shame. With Jesus, we are covered in righteousness. To Him be honor and glory forever, Amen. 

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Monday, February 5, 2018

My View


After my recent #MeToo post, I've been feeling emotionally drained. That one was hard to publish, and I don't think my hands warmed back up for days! I just want to thank all of you who reached out to me in some fashion. It was good to hear from you, and really helped bolster my courage! 

But seriously, I am fried. So I'm going to keep this one short and sweet...

I want to bounce an idea around. 
If you follow my Facebook posts or Instagram feed, you probably have noticed something I've dubbed "My View." Every morning, I try to post a real-life (and mostly real-time) photo with an explanation. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes serious, sometimes sappy, sometimes embarrassing. And then at the end, I ask questions and invite people to share their own view.


Monday view. In honesty, I took this photo last night, but I'm still laughing...this is a direct quote from the artist: "Mom, this is you in the morning" (giggles). Accurate. Sometimes mornings are hard. But a fuzzy pink robe helps. And coffee. Aside from the elephant part, can anyone else relate to this page? Anyone else wear a big fuzzy robe? What color?

This has been fun (for me at least! hopefully for you, too), and I'd like to expand the concept a bit and occasionally bring "My View" to my blog. What I have in mind is to develop one "My View" from the month into a longer blog post at the start of the new month. Here's where you come in. Sometimes I will use a poll to see what post you want me to expand on. Sometimes I will use the post with the highest interaction. Sometimes I will use a great conversation thread as a catalyst. Sometimes I could see doing a Q&A. The sky is the limit, seemingly, as long as there is interest!

Does something like that sound appealing? I really want to create a little community of sorts on my social media pages, and I love good conversation. I'm hoping this will be a great way to get to know people, have some conversation, and maybe laugh a little while we're at it!

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Monday, January 29, 2018

the Church and #metoo

There’s a song by Sovereign Grace Music* called “All I Have Is Christ.” It is beautiful. It presents the Gospel. And in all timeliness, (praise to the Lord!), we sang it at church yesterday. This is the verse that caught my heart, as this post weighed heavily:

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way you choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

That's my prayer as I share this post. “Oh Father, use my ransomed life in any way You choose….” because this thing...these words...are hard. And as I share them, I don’t want people to get the idea that I’m somehow an innocent victim. I’m not. Just as the book of Romans details over and over, humanity is on a level playing field: Without Christ we are ALL condemned. Without the covering of Christ, I am not an exception. My only way is Christ.

I have been bought. I have been redeemed. I have been restored. And yet, this post makes me scared. I know it won’t be popular. I know I won’t be popular. And I’m fighting fear and pride. I pray you have grace for me as I try my best to be faithful to my call, to the One Who Calls (Romans 9:11), and to my testimony.

When the #metoo movement started, I felt a stirring. But I got nervous thinking about it. Even now, my stomach is in knots as I work on this...as I wonder how this will come together...how this will be received. But in the wake of 150+ women/girls from USA Gymnastics coming forward recently with testimony after testimony of sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted doctor within the organization, I just can't keep silent.

I am a #metoo. But I don't want this to be about the details, because I know too many other women who are also a #metoo. I know girls--children--who are a #metoo. People who are dear to me are #metoos. I know the long-term ramifications of being a #metoo. So I don't want this to be just about me.

But I DO want to talk about it. Not loosely, but specifically...in the context of the Church. Like former gymnast Rachael Denhollander's testimony, I want to talk about #metoo in light of the Gospel. (If you haven't read Rachael's testimony, I encourage you to read at least this short excerpt!)

Here are two paragraphs of Rachael's powerful words: "The Bible you speak [of] carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

"I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well."

Wow. I can’t bring myself to read any of the stomach churning details of the crimes. It is too horrific. The triggers are maddening. But I could read those words over and over. Because the Gospel is where freedom lies.

In my experience, any sort of revealing of #metoo abuse--sexual harassment, sexual abuse, physical violation--has been largely met with resistance. With heads in the sand. With excuses. My most recent experience with this sort of violation was within a church body...where the act was largely met with avoidance. And as a #metoo, the revealing and then disbelief made me hurt all over again. When a #metoo comes forward, there is really nothing to gain. Chances are, a #metoo won’t be believed, and then will face the shame again as people judge them and their story.

Coming forward is counter to all instinct of self-preservation. I believe the high risk of sharing is why so many remain silent for years or even lifetimes. I desperately want that to change. I want the Church to be a safe place...not only physically, but also emotionally.

So here are some thoughts on how to get there: As the Church, we should be the first to understand humanity’s sinful nature. The destruction of sin fills the pages of our Bibles. It shouldn’t surprise us when we have to deal with sin. And yet, it does.

In a way, I feel like we have lost the reality of what sin can do. How damaging it is. How far-reaching it is. And most importantly, how sin completely separates us all from a Holy, Righteous God. It’s the precious blood of Jesus spilled out that covers us from that “final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out” on those without the Way, Truth, Life! The Gospel is beautiful and completely undeserved. And yet, Jesus willingly went to the cross for us! The Church has those things written in black and white.

Because of the inspired word of God, believers know when something is crooked because we have something straight to compare to! Rachael states: "Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was. And I know it was evil and wicked because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation. And I can call it evil because I know what goodness is…"

Because of Biblical standards, believers can (and should!) call evil what it is. We should call sin what it is. We should not make excuses for abuse. Ever.

Survivors of a #metoo incident have a lifetime of recovery. To excuse perpetrators or to look the other way, denies victims basic dignity, but also encourages the perpetrator to tighten the millstone around his/her neck. (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2)

Rachael is right. The crushing weight of guilt is the only way. The Gospel is the only way for any of us! And as the Church, we know that! In the case of #metoo, I would love to see the Church willingly provide dignity and support to victims, preventative care for the future... and the opportunity for repentance to perpetrators.

And that comes by calling sin, sin. By calling evil, evil. By taking a stand against abuse in our local Church bodies. To me, these stats are nauseating: By 18, 1 in 4 women will have been sexually assaulted/abused; and by 18, 1 in 6 boys will have been sexually assaulted/abused. These are our family, friends, neighbors. These are the dear ones who share a pew with us on Sunday mornings.

It's not a matter of IF sexual abuse is part of our church bodies. It IS. It’s HERE. And I think it would be life-changing and powerful if the Church took the intentional lead in the #metoo movement--steered by the Gospel.

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* In no way am I affiliated with Sovereign Grace Music, nor that band to my blog, but I believe this song has a place here...so I want to share the lyrics in their entirety:
All I Have is Christ - Sovereign Grace Music
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that you would own
A rebel to your will
And if you had not loved me first
I would refuse you still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath deserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way you choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is you.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Pro-life must be Pro-Child

This past Sunday was a day set aside to celebrate the sanctity of human life. Humanity was made in God’s image and made to image God. Humans have been crowned with God’s glory and splendor (PS 8:3-9), and it is important for those made in God’s image to respect God’s image in others (this info courtesy of Pastor Jack Napier’s sermon “Made to Image” based in Gen 1:26-31).

There are many different directions to go when speaking of the value of human life. My definition of pro-life not only encompasses life in the womb, but I believe that being pro-life also means that we are to reflect God to others, that we are to respect God’s image in others, and that we are to render all to God (Napier, “Made to Image”). Within the scope of pro-life, then, I could talk specifically about a myriad of topics...race, gender, aging, abortion, adoption, immigration...but I want to hone in here:

If we claim to be pro-life,
we also need to be pro-child.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been out in public with my three children and have been on the receiving end of this comment or others like it: “Wow! You sure have your hands full!” My kids could have been acting up or behaving beautifully...and I still would have heard the same statement. SO, I know it has nothing to do with behavior, and everything to do with having multiple children.

And, I generally feel like the statement contains this implication: “Wow! What a burden. Life would be so much easier if you didn’t have three kids in tow.”

True, being a parent IS hard. It is a huge responsibility. It is a weighty job! But being a parent is one of the greatest blessings I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

I think it can be easy to go from touting pro-life mantra to completely dissing the children we have been given (whether by put-downs cloaked with humor, complaining, verbalizing stress blamed on them, shaming/embarrassing, or even unknowingly). My kids are tuned in to know when people are talking about them. Whenever someone comments to me about my ‘hands being full,’ all of a sudden, I have the complete attention of three sets of eyes and ears. “That person’s putting us down, Mom...whatcha gonna do about it?”

I will admit I have failed my kids here. Worse, I haven't taken God's word seriously in believing Him when He says children are a blessing. I have taken the easy route...smile and nod, agree with a short yeah, even expand the conversation...especially when I was a newer mom and stressed as I learned the role...when I believed I was justified in agreeing.

But then, God grabbed my heart one day when my girls were toddlers and my son had yet to enter the world...He showed me that as a mom, I am a missionary. At the time, I lived with, breathed with, was teaching and training two unbelievers. Even now, years later, I am immersed in missionary life. I am on the front lines. I am my children's first defense.
And if I don't hold value for them--if I don't respect them--I am not really pro-life.

So now when people approach me, telling me how full my hands are, I say that I love every minute of being a mom. That I am blessed. When people verbalize a common assumption that I probably can't wait to send my kids back to school at the end of a break, I tell them I love having my kids home with me. It is a joy. My children are a prize to me. My love for them is unconditional, no matter if the day has been full of giggles or grumps.

Yes, the work is hard. Yes, our family does have tough days! But as a parent, I want to have a bigger vision for life. I want to fall under full authority of my Father. I want to agree with His Words about children:

Psalm 127: 3-5: Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!

Matthew 19:13-14: Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 10:13-14: And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

As pro-lifers, let us become indignant in regards to disrespecting children. Let us band together and respect God’s image in those Jesus laid His hands on and blessed! Let’s agree with and submit to God’s ultimate authority...He says children are a blessing...may we believe it and live it!

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Coloring WONDER for 2018

As you may have perceived from other columns* I have written over the last several years, I am fascinated by the brain.
My fascination began as I worked with a professional therapist in relation to my own trauma and depression. As my understanding broadened, I became more and more convinced that brain health is not optional.
One particular realization I needed to learn and apply for myself was that multiple emotions—even ones that seem in opposition—can (and do!) co-exist.

To help demonstrate, here’s an exercise I learned: 
  1. Draw a heart. 
  2. Color your emotions inside the heart to represent what you are feeling at a given moment or about a particular circumstance.

While simple, I have found this activity to be beneficial and therapeutic.
For instance, when the world closed out 2017 a couple weeks ago, I found myself juxtaposed between excitement for 2018 and waves of deep despair triggered by the anniversary of a past life-altering New Year’s Eve tragedy.
But for some reason, this year the holiday seemed more difficult to wade through than usual. Apply­ing the aforementioned exercise can help me understand why.
If I draw a heart and then color the emotions I have when I think about 2017, what would it look like? A few main colors would be black, gray and blue (I have an emotional black eye right now!), which is probably the source of added difficulty.
But I would also put in a vibrant green, which for me would stand for confidence that things will work out, sunny yellow because even with the black, grey and blue, there were also many happy moments, and hot pink, because I still remain excited about the days to come.

Amazingly, within—not surrounding, but actually in the midst of—the overcast-coloring, I would detail pockets of gold, glittering with hope. The shimmer is key to my word of the year—or overarching theme as opposed to resolution—for 2018.
My word is WONDER.
Wonder is defined like this: “A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable.”
Wonder: “A desire to be curious to know something.”
Wonder: “To feel admiration and amazement; marvel.”
Magical, right? But the wonderful thing about wonder is not that it feels vaguely reminiscent of unicorns, but that it can be fully grounded in reality. It is true that not all my heart colors are hues of gold. The sickish fade of bruising hasn’t disappeared. The colors that ended 2017 weren’t erased at the start of 2018.
But with renewal of my mind has come transformation of circumstance, regardless of its colors. Knowing the difference between being tossed by the waves and firmly rooted in good soil has made it possible to marvel, even in the face of adversity.
And my good soil, my reality, is Christ. Sola Christo. He is where my wonder is sourced, and why even the small pockets of gold hold so much hope and promise for the year to come.
Every time I open my Bible to study, I see clearer. The revealed Word is where life makes sense. At times it leaves me breathless as I read and ponder. Those words are what makes my wonder come alive. It is how I am confident that the shimmery gold will slowly increase, spreading over the discoloration of my bruising.
I expect to feel surprise mingled with admiration as I continue to step forward in faith. I expect to be amazed at the beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable. I expect to press ahead with curious wonder and a desire to learn.
I expect to marvel as I grow in good understanding of the one whose name alone is holy and awesome (see Psalm 111).
In 2018, I desire more moments akin to sitting outside on a summer night—deep in the country away from city lights—where crickets chirp and the breeze rustles tree leaves, blending into a gentle, soothing melody. More moments where I sit, staring up into the night sky, purely captivated by the vast expanse of twinkling stars suspended high above me.
I would like to have more moments where I am in clear agreement of the proof before me: “I am so small.” Where those words aren’t meant in degradation or despair, but as fact.
I am so small!
That’s how I want to approach 2018. In awe--in wonder--of Christ: perfect, enormous and incalculable.
*Originally published as Lipstick & Pearls in the Jan. 17 edition of the Hillsboro Free Press
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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fear First.

I was one of those kids that had to drive 40 miles round-trip to high school. I grew up on a farm down in the valley below a lake in central Kansas...and the path I took to school and back I jokingly dubbed “the safari.” I always needed to be on constant alert for large quantities of turkey, deer, coon, coyote, quail, and occasionally a horse or cow.

One time, a friend (who also lived on “the safari”) and I were coming home from a late movie. It was dark. She was driving. As we neared my home, all of a sudden we were dodging cows left and right. Literally. A herd of cattle had dispersed itself on the sandy road, not a half-mile from my house, and my friend maneuvered around the cattle (which seemed like hundreds to this teen), and a few minutes later we were safe on my yard.

Here’s the thing. My friend and I had been trained to fear “the safari.” No, not to be scared out of our wits, too anxious to actually drive, but to respect the nature of the road...to keep our eyes peeled, knowing wildlife very well could be resting in the prairie grass in the ditch. Or smack dab in the middle of the road. We learned to recognize the glow of eyes in the distance. We were on alert. So, while dodging cattle was surprising, it wasn’t necessarily unexpected.

In being trained to fear, we had a good foundation for defensive driving.

As believers, we are also told to have a foundation of fear.

→ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

all those who practice it have a good understanding. (PS 111:10)

→ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov. 1:7)

→ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Prov 9:10)

But why fear? Why would we want to fear God? Why would fear--yir’ah--be demanded of the believer?

Because God is holy.

He is exalted above the heavens. (Psalm 108) His name alone is holy and awesome! (Psalm 111) And he demands our reverence.

Several years ago, I was struck by this call to a holy fear. It seemed so right. So good. So profound.

If you want to be wise, you must start with fearing the Lord!

Wisdom comes from the exceeding reverence, respect, piety...fear...of an awesome and holy God!

And fear isn’t something that can just be sprinkled in. No, it must be foundational. It must be at the beginning!

Imagine if my friend and I would have had limited fear of “the safari.” We wouldn’t have taken the drive seriously. We wouldn’t have been on high alert. We would have been distracted. And we would have bowled over some beef...if not worse.

Taking the journey without fearing the LORD is dangerous. In fact, the Bible says it is foolish. Yikes!

Mike Mason, in his book “The Gospel According to Job” asks this: “Why don’t people prize and pursue the pearl of wisdom above everything else?” In answering he writes, “The reason is that the gaining of wisdom requires the total sacrifice of our single most precious possession: ourselves. More specifically, what is required is the surrender of our wills. To gain wisdom we must part with the very thing which, to part with, means our annihilation.”

Surrendering the self...surrendering our wills...to the point of annihilation can feel scary. But when our eyes are on a holy and awesome God, it is worth it!

Let's shift our view.
Let's fear the one whose works are great and full of splendor and majesty. To the one who causes his wondrous works to be remembered. Who is lasting righteousness, and is gracious and merciful, faithful and just. His precepts are trustworthy, and his covenant, eternal. Fear the one who sent redemption to his people. Whose name alone is holy and awesome! (all from Psalm 111)

In doing so, we are promised good understanding. We are promised wisdom! So today, let’s fall on our knees with trembling, giving thanks to the LORD with a whole heart.

May His praise endure forever!

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