life:filtered

…learning to live a life filtered by the truth of the gospel.

indifference January 24, 2015

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 8:36 am
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I’ve been writing a lot about my mental illness recently. So much that maybe I’ve lost focus. For a blog about filtering life through the gospel, I haven’t been doing so much of that. And that’s because I am feeling indifferent towards God. Even hostile at times, sitting in church with my arms crossed defiantly. Not because I’m angry. Not because I’m hurting. Not because of anything other than something inside me. Like most everything else in my life, it just is. And I’ve been struggling to break out of this place like so many times I’ve struggled to break out of a depression. But sometimes I just don’t care.

There, I said it. Sometimes I don’t care.

It’s not that I don’t care about God, I do. It’s just that I don’t care about doing the things that would draw me closer to him. It’s something in my soul that is dragging me down.

So I quit reading my Bible, quit praying. I still go to church, out of obligation or habit. Maybe both. But I don’t feel it. I still sing the songs and bow my head. But I’m a thousand miles away. I don’t feel it. I know feelings are indicators in a life of faith but can’t be relied on as truth. I can’t rely on an experience of God every time I step through the doors of the church or open the Bible. But his name, it’s rarely on my lips anymore. I seldom have a thought that is directly about him.

Why do we walk through these times of apathy? Of being so out of tune with God that we move to the place where we don’t care? Of stumbling along out of step with him? It feels horrible. Until the numbness sets in. Then I feel nothing. I lose my motivation to change where I am and can only hope it doesn’t take a crisis to get me back in harmony with him.

But the truth is, I’m pretty comfortable where I am. Comfortable writing instead of reading the Bible. Comfortable watching Law and Order: SVU instead of praying. More likely to sleep than get up and spend a little time with the Lord. I make excuses for reasons I can’t do it. My kids beat me up every morning. There’s no time alone. I can’t leave my little one alone to read or pray. I’m too busy, too plugged in, too tired. Excuses. Every single one.

Except for times like these, when the comfort irks a little more. When it gets a little under my skin to not care. When I hear a song that calls me home. When my heart skips a little to think of Him. The Holy Spirit poking at me just a little.

So somewhere, buried deep in my being, the desire is still there.

Is that enough?

I hope so because right now, it’s all I’ve got.

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being stable January 18, 2015

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 2:43 pm
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After a lifetime of ups and downs, riding a roller coaster I never bought a ticket for, I can finally say it: I am stable.

I woke up one morning and realized that I felt good. Not the good that comes from mania, but normal good. I felt normal emotions with ordinary highs and lows. Over time, I realized that the “normal” was sticking around. And that makes me really happy. Because after so long being either in mania or depression, mostly depression, I feel like a human being. No deep darkness, no painful emptiness. No sleepless nights and raging mania. It’s a profound relief that I’m not sure I can describe. It’s like getting off that roller coaster when you hate roller coasters. Like finally crawling into bed after a long day. Like finally holding that baby you’ve carried for nine months. Relief where you close your eyes and sigh because whatever it is, it’s finally over.

It’s a combination of medications and therapy (huge shout-out to my psych nurse and therapist!). It’s striving every day for normalcy. Taking meds every day, going to therapy twice a month. Doing things that make me healthy.

And writing is a therapist prescribed part of my treatment.

So here I am writing. Once again stepping out and shedding light into the darkness. Opening myself up to judgment because of my illness. But I’ve found some things out in the last few months. One, that people are way more supportive than I ever thought. Two, that my mental illness does not define me. Three, that there is Light in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. God has answered my prayer, and the prayers of many others, for rest from the disease I carry.

 

counting joys September 9, 2014

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 9:48 pm
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Here’s a piece I wrote a few years ago after a long season of darkness. I fell off the earth and three months slipped through my fingers like water. I tried to go back and recapture those months, only to fall into the darkness again. In the middle of that darkness, I found Ann Voskamp and her book 1000 Gifts and learned the importance of counting gifts. This became the beacon of hope for me.

 

 

May 2012

I may or may not continue to recapture the last three months. I tried and ended up on the edge again; at the gaping hole of darkness. If I pick it back up, it probably won’t take the form of recitation. Maybe it’s a shame that I didn’t capture it then. But if I do go back to it, it will be with the lenses of thankfulness, lenses of the gospel and what the Lord has done, what He’s doing and where He’s brought me. And He brought me. Through a long, dark valley I can only hope is over. Pain, hopelessness, suffocating darkness, fear. But there were these people who looked at those things head on and said, “You’re not allowed to do this alone. We won’t let you.” They spoke truth and hope when truth and hope seemed like myths.

 

Why was I so surprised by the darkness? By suffering? Don’t all good stories contain an element of suffering? If the Lord is the author and perfecter of my faith, the Master Storyteller, how can I question suffering? And how can I persist in anxiety, fear, worry and depression? A good storyteller never leaves out the pain and hardness of his story. The story would be boring without it and I don’t want a boring story. The story He’s writing’s got to better than anything I could write.

 


What do I do? How do I let Him write the story—the one that includes suffering and darkness and pain? I’ve learned a new word. One that I think holds the key. Eucharisteo. Giving thanks. Practicing gratitude. Counting gifts—out loud and on paper. Numbering them one by one. One day of gift hunting—finding even the little ones—grandma’s quilt hanging on the line, the littlest boy turning back to blow kisses, kneading bread dough, the first lightning bug—and the full force of this truth burned into me. See, there’s this God. And He loves me. And He takes ugly things and makes them beautiful. And from darkness He calls forth light. Eucharisteo—even the hard ones—darkness and depression, worry and anxiety. If He’s brought me to this place of light from darkness in three months, how can I not trust the story He’s writing? And this is when I know. The head truth has finally become heart truth. He loves me. I’m His daughter. Praise be.

 

for Trip July 30, 2013

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 6:21 pm
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CameraBag_Photo_1000 (1)
My cousin has cancer. We grew up together, went to school together, played wiffle ball in the back yard together. Shot basketball at the city park. Marched drum line together.


And now he has cancer. And it sucks. And I’m sad and I admit I don’t really know what to say to him and I’m sure I’ve said the wrong things, but at least I’ve said something.


See, Trip, he’s a big reason I survived high school. Just being his cousin was enough to boost my cool factor but he went beyond that. I remember standing with my lunch tray in the cafeteria, panic bubbling inside as my eyes searched for a seat in the crowded room. Then I’d hear my name and look around. There’d be Trip, grinning at me and motioning me to his already crowded table. He’d pull a chair up right beside him, defiantly squeezing one more chair at a table that was only supposed to seat six. He liked to see how many people he could get around one table and I’m pretty sure he holds the FCHS record. I wasn’t brave enough to sit by myself yet. Did he know that? And he laughed and included me and scratched his ear with his middle finger in my direction. Yeah, it was high school. And his friends followed his lead and I was allowed to join in for a while. To be a part of a laughing group of teenagers cutting up in the lunchroom.


He had my back. And now it’s time for me to have his back.


But I don’t know how.


All I have to give him from 300 miles away is words. So here are my words to you, Trippy.


Thank you. For sharing your candy cane at Christmas. For childhood memories of cheese dogs and soap operas at Mamaw’s and wiffle ball home runs over the old water plant. For games of horse and bike rides around the city park. For always keeping the “kids’ table” interesting (long live Ozzie and the Oysters!). For letting me wear your small fry football jersey to a high school game. For Ale-8s at drum line practice. For always making room for me at the table. For seeing me when I felt invisible. For always laughing that crazy laugh.


And this afternoon I lit some candles and said a prayer—to the God of hopeless causes, the Father of mercies, the God who sees and the God who heals, the God of brilliant lights and the God of all comfort. The one who is always near and who has our back.


If you get there before I do, save me a seat.


I love you, cuz.
PicMonkey Collage

edited to say: rest easy, Trippy Gooding, rest easy. 1974-2013