My Journey Through Depression-Anxiety

“And yet, Jesus delayed precisely because he loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. He knew that Lazarus’s death and resurrection would give maximum glory to God and his friends would all experience maximum joy in that glory…God only ordains his child’s deep disappointment and profound suffering in order to give him or her far greater joy in the glory he is preparing to reveal. Before we know what Jesus is doing, circumstances can look all wrong. And we are tempted to interpret God’s apparent inaction as unloving, when in fact God is loving us in the most profound way he possibly can.”  (full article here)

This article was posted right before Easter last year, and it made a powerful impression on me. I had never thought of the story of Lazarus’ resurrection in this light before, and the parallels that the writer drew between that Bible passage and our own dark nights of the soul really touched me. To read that God never wastes any of my suffering, and in fact makes me wait in pain only because He loves me, was a necessary and precious reminder. I highly recommend reading the whole article. 

I have struggled with depression-anxiety, in differing levels of intensity, for nearly four years now. When my struggle began, it was a terrifying and confusing experience to know that something was very wrong and yet not know what that something was or how to even begin dealing with it. As time has passed, God has been very gracious to provide more clarity and progress through medicine, counselors, community, and His Word. I am in a FAR healthier place these days, but I still take 60mg of an antidepressant every day and I’m still healing. The process is slow and there is no guaranteed end date (that is, until heaven :). 

In this process I have learned more than I ever could have imagined learning about myself, the body of Christ, and God’s character toward me. Now I know what it looks like for me to experience depression-anxiety, how it affects all different aspects of my self and my life, and what “triggers” I need to avoid to not worsen my condition. I know now that my depression-anxiety is linked in part to my thyroid disorder, my family’s genetic history, and certain predispositions in my personality. But I am still learning and healing, and as part of that process, I want to share these thoughts with the hope that they help any of you who may have similar needs. 

1. Get Help
For a Type A perfectionist like me, it is hard to accept that I’m not self-sufficient and am actually very needy and weak sometimes (or most of the time…). But learning to ask for help from others is healing on so many levels: it is humbling, and so helps to free me from pride; it gives others the opportunity to use their gifts, which blesses both you and them; it allows you to know Jesus in new ways, through the different members of His body. If you are ready to seek and accept help in your depression, anxiety, or any other mood disorder, seek out Christian counselors and/or psychiatrists. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and discuss the options for medication with him or her. And most of all, share your need with those whom you trust to pray with and for you. Talk with your pastor or another spiritual leader whose wisdom you trust. You will need those loved ones and friends to pray for you in the dark times when you do not have the strength to pray yourself. 

2. Give yourself grace
Seeking out medical and spiritual help is so crucial because you will need those people to remind you of truths that will be hard for you to believe yourself. For example, the truth that it is not your fault you feel this way, and so you do not need to feel guilty for your depression; this is a very complex and multi-faceted issue, and a physical one at least as much as a spiritual one. So don’t blame yourself or feel ashamed for a chemical imbalance in your brain as if it were a spiritual or personal failing. Since it is so complex, healing will need to come on all levels: spiritual, mental/emotional, and physical; mostly likely only taking medicine or only going to counseling will not fully help you. God gives us grace in so many different and surprising ways; don’t deny yourself that grace by letting guilt, shame, ignorance, denial, or fear rule you. I did that for much too long! 

And you are not alone in this; there are so many people who have gone through the same thing you are going through! All of these truths were very freeing for me; I hope they are for you too, and empower you to give yourself grace. Or rather, allow yourself to accept the grace that is already yours in Jesus! He longs to give you the riches of His grace; will you receive His gift?

3. Understand that not everyone will understand 
This was a hard one for me to accept, because I falsely believed that once everyone around me accepted my suffering as real, then it would be legitimate. You cannot put your hope in how others will react to your statement of “I’m depressed” or “I have an anxiety disorder,” or even how they react to your altered behavior or appearance. And you don’t need their approval for legitimate your suffering. 

I thank God that He has been so gracious to surround me with a predominantly very accepting and understanding community of friends and family; I can’t even tell you the number of times that I’ve opened up about my depression-anxiety to someone and been met with only the kindest responses of understanding and compassion. I am constantly amazed by how many people identify with my experience; if not personally, then at least with someone they are close to! 

But it is still a risk every time you choose to be vulnerable with someone. Not a risk outside of God’s love and sovereignty, but still a risk that they may not understand you at all. They may not see any value in the choices you make, or recognize your reasons for the lifestyle changes you’ve made. It is easy for me to feel hurt and angry toward such people in my life, but God tenderly convicts me of this sin in my heart; He reminds me to be thankful that I don’t need their approval to know what I know about myself and to live the way I know I need to live. 

4. Learn (and accept!) your limitations 
And that ties into my next tip: accept your limitations. First you will need to learn your “triggers,” those environmental or situational factors that tend to exacerbate your anxiety or deepen your depression. These look different for every individual, and so take the time to talk with counselors, reflect, journal, pray and do whatever else helps you to identify these unhelpful factors. Some of them may be outside of your control, and those will be the ones that you will have to just pray for acceptance and submission to what God sees fit to allow in your life. But others may be things that you can eliminate from or add into your life as ways to help yourself be healthier. 

I’ve learned that if I wear myself out physically and relationally/socially, it is a recipe for disaster. As an introvert, I don’t have as much people and relational capacity as some other people do. And because of other parts of my physical make-up, I am not the most energetic person in the world. Learning these things about myself and accepting them as good (because it’s the way God designed me) has been super hard, especially because I’m constantly tempted to compare myself with other women who seem to be healthier, more outgoing, and always “on” in life. 

But when I do accept the way I am, I can live more freely; I learn to recognize when my body has had enough, when I need to take myself out of a socially demanding situation and lay down in a quiet, private place to just be. To stop being productive and allow my mind and body to rest. To not drive on the highways and instead take back roads, even if it’s a longer route. I have to build these buffers of rest into my everyday life, and the more demanding my schedule is, the more recovery time I will need. If I ignore this need, I quickly begin a downward spiral into thoughts and feelings of being overwhelmed, helpless, anxious, hopeless, and trapped. Depression is never far away at that point. 

I am still trying to learn the balance between rest and work in my life. Because I’m a very driven person, I know I would push myself through a draining and stressful job, simply because I’m addicted to productivity and afraid of failure. I have driven myself multiple times to the point of crashing, the place of panic attacks, suffocating depression and simply not being able to cope with life. I almost dropped out of college at one of those times, and had to quit my nanny job at another. That is not the place God wants us to live in; His heart’s desire is to give us abundant life, and we can experience that even when we’re not perfectly healthy. But it requires our submission and obedience. 

5. Wait on God 
Ultimately, this is not a self-help situation. And we can only submit and obey by the power that the Holy Spirit gives us. As I’ve already stated and firmly believe, there are many things you can do to help yourself and to accept help from others. But this must all be in the context of knowing and trusting God to be your ultimate and highest Help! It is He who lifts you out of the pit and sets your feet on the rock, putting a new song in your heart; it is He who will ultimately heal your depression. 

This is both a great source of comfort and a great test of faith, because it means we cannot save ourselves and so must put our hope in Jesus. We are freed from the guilt and pressure to fix ourselves, but we are also put in a place of helplessness before God’s throne. But praise Him that through Jesus, it is a throne of grace that we approach! And one before which we can fully expect to find help in our time of need. It may be through medicine or counseling or change of circumstances, but in whatever way God sees fit and in His own timing, He will provide for all the needs of each of His children. 

And so we have the responsibility to wait on Him for the healing we desperately need, but also the privilege of waiting in hope that our God is a God who knows our pain more intimately than even we do, and is able and willing to care for us better than we could care for ourselves. And hope does not disappoint us, because He has poured out His divine love into our hearts to sustain and comfort us even at our weakest and darkest times. 

Resources 
A word of caution: Do not overwhelm yourself with reading, advice and tools by getting into too many too soon! I also made this mistake 🙂 If you don’t have the concentration or energy yet to invest yourself into resources, that is ok; don’t push yourself. If you do, you’ll only end up more burned out, stressed and burdened by a task that looms too large. Wait until you are ready to take small steps of improvement and bite off small pieces of advice; remember, this is a process, not a quick-fix. So if you feel ready to move in that direction, here are some resources that I have found immensely helpful: 

Christians Get Depressed Too, by David Murray
Emotionally Healthy Spiritually, by Peter Scazzero
1000 Gifts, by Ann Voskamp
Hinds’ Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard 
The Psalms, especially numbers 13, 22, 42, 56, 71, 88
And obviously countless other Scripture passages 🙂

“5 Things Christians Should Know About Depression and Anxiety”
Pastor John on Antidepressants, Sleep & Diet”
So many other Desiring God sermons, articles, etc online
“Mental Illness and the Church”
“The Biggest Lessons I’ve Learned from Managing My Anxiety”
“Understanding Depression”
TED Talks: “How Should We Talk About Mental Health?” 

Oxford is for lovers

The hot and heavy humidity of Myrtle Beach has me reminiscing about the very different climate we found ourselves in two weeks ago! England was beautiful, a vibrant green and a wistful gray, and it was COLD! Did not feel like summer at all to this Georgia girl. But it was magical in its own way, Oxford especially lovely in its small-town charm and quirkiness. The place practically exudes knowledge and history, and there is way more cultural wealth than can be delved in a week. And don’t even get me started on London; we saw only a tiny corner of that illustrious shrine to history, culture, and the arts! What we did see, however, only whetted my appetite for travel abroad.
Below are some scenes from our tour of the City of Dreaming Spires and the surrounding area.
But by far the most significant part of our trip was the wedding of my brother Chad and his bride, Grace 🙂 I knew I would like my new sister-in-law from our online interactions in the months preceding the wedding, and also just for the fact that she loves Chad. But now I know that I love her and am genuinely excited for building our relationship in the coming years!! Grace is one of those people who makes you feel loved and valuable just for who you are, by engaging with you and listening to you. She is also truly the answer to all our prayers for a wife for Chad; now that we know her, it is obvious God ordained them to be together. What a gem to have gained in our family 🙂
Their wedding was beautiful, and very British (at least by my American perspective), enough so even for a romantic like me. The service was held in the gorgeous St Ebbes Church, which has been in existence since the 8th century! Full of truth and grace, it was a Gospel-centered wedding, an inspiring thing to witness in a different culture and country. Their awesome friends put on a lovely reception for them, and even the sun was obliging enough to shine on the garden tea.
What a privilege and blessing to be a part of such an important day in the earthly and spiritual life of my family! And what a gift for Peter and I to share in this experience together, an opportunity for us to indulge our ever-growing desire to travel the world. Will God one day call us to live somewhere else in the world? Will we one day work and live for Him in a different context and culture? Is overseas ministry in His plan for us?
These are some of the unanswered questions that we ponder, but it is good to reflect on and record the many, many gifts we have to be thankful for now.

Roses & Thorns, Part Two

The Bible tells us to expect trouble, pain and sorrow in this life. And even though I have experienced this truth to be true, it is still so hard for me to accept. Most recently I have experienced it through my own ongoing anxiety and depression, my thyroid issues, Peter’s recent surgery and long recovery, my frustrating search for purposeful work, our struggles with finding and sustaining financial support, our uncertainty regarding the future, and the list goes on.

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However, that is not the whole story. The Bible also promises that those griefs are never the end, but only steps toward our ultimate transformation into the whole, holy beings we were created to be. And God promises that in some mysterious way only known to Him, our trials are producing for us a far, far greater glory than the disappointments we experience. A glory that we will enjoy with never-ending, all-satisfying, and exuberant pleasure in the presence of Beauty Himself.

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We are, each of us, beautiful because we are God’s creation, made in His image. And yet we are still becoming beautiful through the refining fires that He, in His infinite wisdom and grace, walks us through. We will not be full of beauty until we are finally and perfectly filled with Him. We must first be emptied of ourselves, through this sanctification, to be filled with Him.

Please don’t think that these are easy things for me to believe– it is precisely because they are so hard for me to accept that I am writing on them! I so often value my comfort and safety over sanctification and more of God in my life. I want His gifts of peace, joy and contentment, but I try to avoid the processes that He has ordained for the receiving of those gifts. However, He is faithfully and slowly changing me to love Him and intimacy with Him, more than I love the benefits of salvation. To be grateful for the process of becoming holy and whole, even when it involves much pain and self-denial, because I trust His goodness and love toward me.

Because I can trust that He allows the thorns not in His wrath but in His grace, to bleed me of all that’s within me keeping me from Him, and to heal me for the wonders of His love that He so longs to give me. To trust that this is the way to true life and abundant joy, the fulfillment of all my needs and desires.

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And besides, who am I to think myself better than my Master, exempt from the suffering that He Himself  endured? If Jesus suffered to learn obedience, surely I must be likewise humbled to obedience and trust that God’s discipline of me is all for my joy. To trust that the thorns are only temporary, and will only serve to achieve for me a more beautiful life than I can imagine.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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Roses & Thorns, Part One

It has been almost two months since my last entry, and while I didn’t plan on letting things slide, the past 6 weeks or so have been pretty crazy. A lot to process, a lot to deal with, a lot to trust God with, especially in the context of my depression and anxiety. And, if I’m honest, a lot of time in between of ignoring God and just racing through one day to the next.

But He pursued me with His love, as He always does. A couple weeks ago, on a long walk around Furman, I found myself wandering into the rose garden. It was in full bloom and as I made my way slowly through the maze of beauty, I prayed and reflected over all that the past few months, and year, have brought.

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And God whispered a truth to my heart that I’ve heard many times, but that my eyes were opened to in a new way. It happened as I pulled the lovely and fragrant blooms close to my face to smell and to touch, and I was pricked more than once by the stems’ sizable thorns. The thought was something like this: Beauty– real, true, transcending beauty– is often accompanied by the marks of suffering.

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The kind of beauty that I’m speaking of is more spiritual than physical, although it can often be represented, in part, by the physical world we live in. It is the kind of beauty that God Himself embodies, the beauty of perfect and eternal truth, love, and joy. The beauty that God imparts, in His mercy and in differing measures, to nature, to His Church, through an act of generosity, in a godly marriage, a reconciled relationship, an inspired piece of art or music, and most powerfully, in His Gospel of redemption.

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This is the beauty of heaven that we all so deeply and desperately long for, to be united with it in some mysterious, satisfying and holy way. The beauty that we so often, in our sinful selves, seek in the creation rather than in the Creator, mistaking its poor reflections for its source. In the much better words of CS Lewis: “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things…are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” (The Weight of Glory)

Look at the size of those suckers!

Look at the size of those suckers!

This kind of beauty, the infinite Beauty of the person of God, is so intimately connected with suffering and pain. Nowhere else is this more clearly seen than in the life and death of Jesus: He is God in the flesh, the physical incarnation of all the Beauty and Good that God is. And yet His life was characterized by suffering, and He died the most shameful, painful, and ugly death of all time. He became sin for us, taking on all the guilt and condemnation that we rightfully deserve, and bore it on the cross, completely cut off from the presence and mercy of the God of love, His Father! There can be no greater suffering, no greater perversion of all that is good and beautiful.

And yet this was God’s plan, for our good and His glory, that we be saved by the sufferings of Christ. And He did not stay dead, but is risen and glorified to the utmost state of glory and beauty. For He is the Life that conquers all death and ugliness. This is what He invites us into, an abundant life of joy in which He makes all things beautiful in His time. A life beginning now, consummated in heaven, and marked by suffering until then.

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to be continued soon…

5 albums I listen to on repeat these days

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Sandra McCracken: In Feast or Fallow 
I love Sandra’s music. Her poignant and brilliant lyrics are true poetry, interwoven with beautiful Gospel truths. Her music and voice combine to make a very raw, real and almost ethereal sound. I also love how she adapts and arranges many great hymns, mostly ones written by Anne Steele in this album (Steele has an incredible story of faith- look her up!). Whether I need to express my sorrows to the Lord or my joys, I cannot count how many times Sandra’s songs have given me the words I needed and ushered me into prayer, especially the songs on this album. It is definitely one of my top picks for a prayer walk or a quiet time. 

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Josh Garrels: Love & War & the Sea In Between
Josh Garrels writes original and compelling lyrics; his music draws you in and makes you think. It’s not only inspiring, it’s also challenging, and I admire the way that he juxtaposes and connects our moden society with Biblical stories and truths. In addition, he is obviously an immensely talented musician who traverses the boundaries of traditional genres to create new sounds, new combinations of sounds, and a wonderfully ambiguous style of music. It’s haunting and beautiful. 

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Best of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong 
My brother Chad gave me this cd when I was in high school (we used to listen to music on cd’s back then), and I have yet to grow tired of it- and don’t think I ever will. It’s good music to clean to, read to, cook to, have a romantic dinner to, and of course, sing along to. I love the way that Ella’s voice slides all over her multi-octave range with effortless style and fluid grace. I wish I could sing like that– Peter can attest to my attempts at imitating her timeless mastery of the art. And who can resist Louis and that trumpet. Simply put, this is classic jazz at its finest. 

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Mozart Best 100, Academy of St Martin in the Fields
I don’t feel that I have much to say about Mozart that hasn’t already been said, and said by much more qualified and learned music critics than myself. But he is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to classical music, and what could be better than a Best Of album of one of the best composers of all time, performed by one of the best orchestras in the world today? 

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Bethany Dillon: To Those Who Wait EP 
Ok I really can’t pick just one album of Bethany Dillon’s to say is my favorite. She is on my short list of music essentials, and so many of her songs have been incredibly significant to my own spiritual life. I have sung, prayed and journaled them countless times over the past 10 years. She’s that “famous” person about whom I think, if we lived in the same city we would totally be friends. At least I would want to be her friend. And since I once had the privilege of meeting her and having a short one-on-one conversation, I like to think that we are truly kindred spirits 🙂 This song, “To Those Who Wait,” is deeply moving and helpful to me, particularly because I feel that God has me in a season of waiting right now. Waiting for healing, waiting for direction, waiting for a calling, waiting for clarity and answers. And I frequently turn to this song when my heart grows weary. 

Some (old) poems

Below are a few poems that I wrote a couple years ago, at different points in my sophomore and junior years at Furman. I’ve tweaked them a little bit, and the first couple are in celebration of spring’s arrival.

Spring Awakening
 
Spring is not whimsical like fall, nor ruddy
like summer, but a gentle prelude. Its breeze
stirs every young leaf, and sighs with ease;
the sunlight entwines with soft color; a rhapsody
of bird-songs swells to an alluring melody.
Spring resists the stillness that is
the gray season which threatened to freeze
the tender shoots, now pushing upward, sure and hardy.
The waiting is over and imagination
gives way to consummation
that unfurls every petal and dispels every cloud;
arias not hummed but sung aloud.
A revelation and an unveiling,
welcomed by the sweet opening strains of spring.

Willow Tree
 
gentle sway of green,
lilting caress of tender branch,
hushing whisper of breeze,
generous warmth of embrace

(a branch of green
embraces the breeze
and reaches gracefully
to kiss my cheek)​

I wrote this poem for Peter when we were apart for a summer. Included is the verse that inspired it.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts
in the LORD is kept safe. –Proverbs 29:25

 
Rock of ages, I commit my heart to You;
my soul finds refuge in You alone.
Fears of my failure cannot hold true
when in both of us Your grace is known.
My foolish grasping for control too,
fears of my inadequacy, overthrown
by a King who makes all things new.
 
This seed inside my heart, that You have sown
of affection for him who is my boo,
is material for sacrifice, only grown
if by Your good and perfect plan You so choose;
surety not in how much I feel, but in You enthroned.

Remind us every day, give us eyes to see, 
that within Your will is the safest place to be.

I had forgotten about this one, but it actually fits the theme of this blog nicely.

Jar of Clay
 
Over the edge of her brimming tears,
slumped against the table, she peers beseechingly
at me, the weight of her pain visible as she crumbles
into herself, hair spilling over her face.
 
I hear it in her tremulous voice and timid cries,
and long to offer a balm for her wounds.
But I cannot heal her; even my best efforts
are weakened by limits. Cracks in my clay.
 
Even my best intentions are soiled by impatience
when I see her shoving down her sleeves,
shivering not from cold. In vanity I think to mend her
without having to listen to her. Stains in my glaze.
 
I am a broken vessel, praying for the Light
that even through my brokenness shall shine
just as pure.
 

Cats

I love cats. Let’s just get that out there– I am a cat lady. And because Peter is helping me be less serious in life (a very good lesson for my often melancholy self), I want to share with you some lighter fare. Such as my love for cats. Sadly my two sweet kitties that I grew up with did not make the move from my parents’ house to mine, but I frequently visit our local animal shelter for some “cat therapy.” There are also a number of intriguing cats roaming our neighborhood streets, but alas, none of them have befriended me yet and still keep their distance.

That is, none of them except Stubby. Stubby is a very loveable little thing who is unfortunately missing most of her tail, hence the name that Peter so graciously gave her. Stubby has decided that we seem like good enough friends for her, and often visits our back stoop for some TLC or cold milk.

I am also quite nerdy about my affection for felines, so much so that I enjoy watching wildlife specials in my free time. You know, the kind that National Geographic and the BBC produce (narrated by the affable Sir David Attenborough). My favorites are the ones about mammals, and especially wild cats.

So here are some of my most recent favorite cat videos, should you be interested. The first two are hilarious (in my opinion), and the third is just in case you want to learn more about cheetahs 🙂

Our Wedding Day: learning that even my best plans are not always God’s plans

“You are good, and what You do is good.” –Psalm 119:68

It has been over a year now since Peter and I got married (crazy!!), and in the time that has passed since January 21, 2012, God has been teaching me a lot about Himself, grace, loving my husband, being a wife, and many other rich life lessons that I have only begun to skim the surface of. One of the most significant of those lessons has to do with our wedding day, and the work that God has done in my heart because of that day. For those of you who don’t know the story, let me fill you in.

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Our wedding was going to be picture-perfect. I mean, what girl doesn’t want and plan for that in the countless hours of wedding planning during engagement? So much time and energy (and money!) is devoted to making sure that every little detail is thought for, planned out, double-checked, and perfectly arranged for that happy day of bliss. Our culture demands it. Our families and guests expect it. And I surely wanted it—the wedding I had dreamed of since I was a little girl planning Barbie and Ken’s wedding. And being the type-A perfectionist that I am, I of course wanted to feel secure and happy with every aspect, from my dress, to our wedding colors, to the reception venue and food, and the ceremony music. Even though I would have said that I wasn’t expecting everything to go absolutely perfectly that day, I was expecting pretty close to perfect. I was putting my hope in it being a care-free, beautiful day. And I wasn’t prepared for the alternate plans that God had for me.

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The morning of our wedding day dawned rainy and cold, but that didn’t bother me. Everything was going as planned throughout the morning, from the lovely brunch that my mom hosted for me and my friends, to the giddy excitement of getting ready and putting on my wedding dress, surrounded by my wonderful bridesmaids. But about an hour before the ceremony began, my stomach started feeling really queasy. I thought that was kind of weird, but then again I had never been almost-married before, so I just dismissed it as butterflies. However, it turns out that rumbling in my tummy was more than just pre-wedding nerves, and as the ceremony progressed, I kept feeling worse and worse. By the time that our pastor was delivering his homily, I was sure I was going to pass out (our pastor later told me that he cut his homily short because he noticed that I had a “glazed-over” look and thought I wasn’t going to make it!). By the time that Peter was washing my feet, my vision was almost blacked out and my ears were ringing so loud I couldn’t even hear Helen singing her beautiful solo right behind me. By this point I was praying: “God, please don’t let me pass out. Please just get me through my vows. Just let me say my vows.” And He did. He sustained me through my vows and somehow (miraculously, really) I was able to say them clearly and correctly! And even though when we turned around to face the congregation, everybody looked like figures in a negative photograph to me, I was able to walk back up the aisle on the arm of my new husband.

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I will spare you the details, but basically my health went downhill from that point and the next two hours were spent between a toilet and a bench in the church bathroom. We did finally make it to the reception, and God again sustained me enough to dance the first dances with Peter and my dad (which were so important to me) before I had to pay the toilets there a good long visit. But my loving mom was with me every step of the way, and I had my serving and caring husband who began to act on his vow to love me “in sickness and in health” right away!

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And God sustained my spirit to keep me from tears on our wedding day. So I don’t think I realized how upset I really was until two days into our honeymoon (after Peter had experienced his share of the stomach bug that had first attacked me), and I finally let the tears out. And it was good to cry it out a little. But then I did what I so often do to try to maintain control—I stuffed my deeper, darker feelings of anger and hurt at God down into my heart and tried to lock them up somewhere down there so as not to have to deal with them.

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For the first few months of our marriage it just felt too painful for me to have to “go there” and really deal with how I felt about getting sick on our wedding day. It was easier to just ignore how I really felt toward God and to pretend that I was okay. I would tell myself things like, “this is not something worth crying about in the big picture of life! It’s not that big of a deal.” This is how I rationalized not being honest with God in my heart, by dismissing it as silly that I should feel so strongly about something so trivial. Surely I was beyond such immaturity! But God graciously kept breaking through my walls, peeling back the layers of pride and self-sufficiency that I had set up to protect myself.

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Finally I realized that this was in fact a big issue, because in my heart I wasn’t believing, really believing as it applied to my life, that God is good and that all He does is good. And so one morning in July, six months after our wedding, I finally had my breaking point. The tears started flowing again (a lot more this time) and I cried out to God to tell Him how I really felt. I felt angry, because I had expected something “better” than being sick on our wedding day. I believed that I was entitled to a happy, care-free day. And I felt betrayed by Him, because after all the stress, tension and sacrifice that engagement and planning had involved, I wanted Him to “reward” me with a perfect wedding. He promised me good things in getting married, and right from the outset He had given me something I did not want, something that felt like pointless pain. I mean, really, where was the value in me throwing up for most of our wedding day? What eternal purpose did that serve? I felt hurt by God allowing what felt like a spiteful trick on my day.

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A lot of the sin in my heart was pretty obvious at that point, as I’m sure it is to you now reading how selfishly and foolishly I was relating to God. And as I confessed those sins of pride, self-centeredness, idolatry of my own plans and desires, entitlement, and doubting His character, God let peace flood in like a river. I know that sounds cheesy, but that’s the best analogy I can think of right now.

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As I write down the story and recall the events of that day, I am surprised that my old feelings of anger and pain don’t come back to me. Not at all. Instead, I only feel joy. Joy that God has used this experience to bring me closer to Himself. Joy that I can use this story to bring glory to Him and encourage others to put your hope in God alone and His perfection. Joy that I no longer feel the need to hold this over other women as my trump card in conversation, saying “and you think you had it rough.” Joy that things like a wedding day, even as important as they may seem in this life, are not the things that I have to look to for satisfaction. Jesus is my satisfaction, and has become even more so through this experience of intense disappointment and realignment of my heart’s affections. Joy that I am free from self-pity and anger, free to accept God’s portion for me in this and enjoy more of Him through that joyful acceptance of His will. Joy that I do in fact have a perfect wedding day to look forward to still—the perfect wedding of the Lamb, when Jesus will unite me and all other believers to Himself in final, perfect, eternal intimacy. If nothing else, my experience taught me to look forward to and hope for that day even more!

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Yes, I still wish I had been able to visit with more guests at our reception. Yes, I still wish I had been able to eat our wedding cake and dance more songs with my handsome hubby, and I wish I could remember more details about our wedding ceremony and what it felt like to be in that holy moment. (But from what I hear from other married women, even if I had been perfectly healthy, I probably wouldn’t remember a lot of it anyway!) And there are times when I start sinking into self-pity again for not getting those things I wanted, and I still have to make the effort to choose to be thankful for my experience. But God taught me to grieve for my ruined dreams and then to move on in my life. After all, Peter and I are married, and that’s really what all the planning was for anyway 🙂

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