A Heavy Christmas

My heart hurts right now for the people who are celebrating Christmas during a tough time.  I’m thinking about the family that’s saying an earthly goodbye to a mom.  I think about the parents holding their son’s hand as he fights for his life in a hospital room.  I think about the mom who’s spending her first Christmas without her son and the widow who’s now alone at Christmas.

How do you comfort someone on what feels like a joyous time of year when the human struggle inside reminds them of the pain and/or worry they feel?  What do you say that doesn’t sound insincere or inadequate? 

I’ve been struggling this week to find the balance for my blog post because of this.  I wanted to write to you, Iron Porch, and talk about what the spirit of Christmas means.  But when I sit down to write, I keep coming back to people who are suffering during Christmas and how much it just might hurt to see everyone so joyful and happy when the days, to you, seem to drag out or maybe even in the opposite direction, are going too quickly.  I guess this is my attempt to find the balance…

Humanity messed up the idea of a sinless life.  Because of that, God knew we needed a Savior.  And He went big.  It was foretold in Isaiah 9:6 (NASB), “For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

God knew we needed a sacrifice to cover our sins, a truly spotless Lamb.  So He sent His perfect Son.  It was the gift of all gifts.  A gift we didn’t deserve.  A gift we still don’t.  And yet He so loved us that He sent Jesus down to earth to become that sacrifice.  Jesus gives us perfect answers even when we don’t understand.  He is just and merciful at the same time.  His love as a Father far surpasses that of any human father, and He will bring peace to this Earth once again.

Joseph was told in a dream what was happening.  “She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” –Matthew 1:21 (NASB)

He will save His people.  God sent His Son for you.  We celebrate Christmas because the Son of Man came into this world as a babe lying in a dirty manger, grew up, died on the cross, and rose again so that we could accept the free gift of salvation as believers. 

Being believers, we know that the Holy Spirit dwells in us.  Jesus called Him the Comforter (KJV).  So here’s what I would say to the people I’m thinking about this week…

Because He dwells in us, He’s right there with you while you grieve.  He’s there as you celebrate.  He’s there as you mourn.  He will not abandon you.  He will sustain you.  

I’m praying for these families as I go through this week and celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I ask you to join me in prayer for them, as well, and for all families that may be going through a difficult Christmas season. 

I love you and Merry Christmas,

Erin

Brush Your Hair

(*I have been given permission to share this personal story in the hope that others might let go of the stigma behind mental health issues.)

My daughter, Peyton, texted me the other day begging to come home.  She didn’t want to be at school and felt overwhelmed.  Her depression was hitting a low and she was really struggling.  To make matters worse, she had been confiding in a friend about the struggle on the bus when another girl, overhearing, leaned over and made a comment that she’d noticed something was wrong because it looked like she hadn’t brushed her hair in a few days.  It felt like a gut punch.

I encouraged her to tough it out at least until lunch and if she was still struggling she could give me a call.  The call came as soon as lunch began.  She drove herself home and walked into my office.  I asked her if she was ok, and she broke down in tears, “I’m so tired of feeling like this, mom.  I just want to feel better.”  As I hugged her, I told her over and over again that she would get through this.  We would walk with her in this and that it was ok to feel like this right now.

The diagnosis doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I was diagnosed with depression in my 20’s and have worked through the same kinds of feelings for 20+ years.  I’ve learned that with medication and appropriate techniques, I can manage the symptoms and work through the ups and downs.  I’m not ashamed of it.  It’s just part of who I am.  But over the years, I’ve had to learn to figure out how to take those lows and channel them into leaning into my Creator.

More often than not, when I’m in the mire of an episode I’m not thinking, “Take this to God.”  I’m thinking how horrible this feeling is, how overwhelmed I am, how can I make this feeling go away.  I want to hole myself up in a dark room under the covers.  Sleep the day away.  

But none of those solutions are really solutions at all.  One of the first things I should be doing is calling out to my Protector and asking Him to cover me.  It’s something I’ve had to train myself to do.  It absolutely does NOT come naturally.  But when I purposely call attention to God, I allow myself permission to stop trying to control what I can’t control and give it to Him to take on.  Here are a few verses that help me when this happens.

“Answer me quickly, Lord, my spirit fails; do not hide Your face from me, or I will be the same as those who go down in the pit.  Let me hear Your faithfulness in the morning, for I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift up my soul.  Save me, Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.” –Psalm 143:7-9

“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28

“He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may take refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and wall.” –Psalm 91:4

When I pray on these verses and ask God to help me through the depression or anxiety, it allows me to recognize that my hope is in God, that He knows exactly what’s happening, and that He’s walking with me through it.  It doesn’t change the fact that I’m in the middle of a depression cycle.  But it changes who I rely on in that cycle—HIM!

I encourage you, dear friends, if you struggle with depression or anxiety to know and understand that you are not alone.  God is there beside you, fighting the fight.  And you have friends here at the Iron Porch who support you, too!

~Erin

Suicidal Dream

Recently, my 9-year-old son came to my bedside in the middle of the night asking to lay down with me.  He said he’d had a bad dream and wanted to snuggle. I asked him about the dream and he shared that it included a pretty explicit description of me committing suicide in front of him.

Through the years, I’ve comforted him several times after a bad dream, but nothing had prepared me for him dreaming that I’d shot myself in front of him.  I held him tight and prayed with him to have a calm spirit so that he could fall back to sleep.  He recalled a scripture from Deuteronomy 31:6, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord, your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I felt his heart rate slow down and his breathing level out as he fell asleep.

I, however, was wide awake and troubled by his dream.  Why on earth would his little mind have created a scenario where I would abandon him in such a manner? Are these residual ideas from his birth mom and the adoption process?  For that matter, how did he even know something so horrific could happen to a mom or a child?

I untangled myself from the blankets and the kiddo so I could get on my knees and place this burden at the feet of our Lord.  While I don’t understand the dream or why my child had it, I do know that I felt relief in sharing my concerns with God.

In the days after that situation, other verses of comfort came to both me and my son.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” ~Psalm 34:4

For the Lord says…do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine. ~Isaiah 43:1

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” ~Isaiah 35:4

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ~2 Timothy 1:7

The Iron Porch is a place to be transparent about real-life events.  With that in mind, I’ve got to admit my son’s dream has shaken me up for a few days.  The one thing that has kept me calm is scripture and prayer.  The constant provision of God’s word has encouraged me and reminded us that he does not want us to fear anything.

~Emily

Deuteronomy