Where I'm Coming From ...

            (Repost of "How I Broke" from my other blog.  FYI - this is a long post!  A really long post.  Did I mention it will be a long post?) 
            I had the pleasure of talking briefly with a friend the other day about her journey through depression/anxiety and about mine.  It was so refreshing to be able to talk a bit about my struggles, to not feel like I had to answer “I’m fine.  How are you?”  She actually brought up her struggles first, and it gave me permission to talk about mine. 
            For the past year and more, I have only been able to be honest with and share my struggles with one friend.  (Thank God for her!  What a blessing!).  And with everyone else, it’s always been “I’m fine.  How are you?” 
            And I could tell that it has been hurting me to keep it so bottled up inside.  I mean, when you talk to yourself every day, pretending that someone has asked you “How are you?” and you answer “I’m fine.  I’m fine” (and when you do this a couple times every day), you know you are not fine.  You know that you are bursting with stuff you want to tell everyone and anyone. 
            But there’s no one to tell (except for that one wonderful friend). 
            And that’s why you practice your lie of “I’m fine” - hoping that you look strong and pulled-together, and yet hoping that others will see through it and pull the truth out of you. 
            It’s not that I am trying to bottle it up or hide it from people.  It’s just that it doesn’t come up and that most people haven’t “earned” the right to hear my struggles and that talking with people has been stressful.  So I kinda gave it up.  Retreated.  Pulled back into a shell.  It just felt safer and simpler. 
            But it was so refreshing to talk openly last night, to not feel like I had to temper what I was saying or hide it or polish it up.  She understood because she has been there, too.     

            Anyway, after our conversation, I decided that I wanted to make a list of the major turning points in my life, of the things that have led me to being who I am right now, the things that have broken me down over the years.  (I have a similar list in the post “Just Keep Falling” in November 2014 at myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com.  But a lot has happened since then.  And I have also included bits from other posts that say what I want to say.) 
            I used to be so vibrant and enthusiastic and optimistic and hopeful and capable when I was younger.  I used to have dreams and felt like I could accomplish things and believed that what I did mattered and that what I said was helpful. 
            And now, well . . . now I just want to make it through the day.  And I feel thankful each time I do.  And my only dream or goal is to focus on my daily job of being a wife, mother, and homeschooler.  And that’s about all I can hope for and tackle right now.  Every other dream and hope has been squashed out of me and every bit of confidence in myself has been crushed.      
            I really am doing okay.  I’m better off than I was last summer (the summer when I broke).  But I want to map out what has led me to be this less-than-I-was person.  Because if I can see what has led me to be this way then it won’t feel so overwhelming, so unexplainable, so “my fault.”  I didn’t break for no reason.  I broke because life got to be too much for me.  Too “out of my control.”  Too messy.  And listing the turning points that have affected me so much will help me see how much it makes sense that I am where I am right now.  It makes sense.  I make sense.
            (And it helps to get it out of my head so that it doesn’t keep circling around in there.  If I can say it, then it helps me stop dwelling on it.  That’s one reason why holding things in hurts us so much.  Our minds keep playing it over and over again, wanting to say it out loud, wanting to have someone hear us and comfort us and make us feel like we are normal and like we’re gonna be okay.  The longer we hold it in, the more pressing the need to say it becomes and the more we want to scream it out as loud as we can.  And we don’t care how crazy or rude or irrational or broken it makes us look.  Holding it in hurts us, but the truth sets us free.)
            And so, without further ado, here are the major turning points of my life and how they have affected me (this really is for my own benefit, but I hope it might help fellow-strugglers feel less alone in their pain and messiness and brokenness.  You are normal.  And you’re gonna be okay!):

1.  My mom had me at 19.  Being an unmarried pregnant teen, she almost got an abortion.  Or at least considered it.  (I never asked her to clarify how close she came to aborting me.)  But thank God, my father married her instead.  And then, she and my dad divorced about 2 years later. 
            My mom said that for the first couple years after they divorced, she and I bounced around a lot and were always on the go.  There was no stability.  She said that we moved so much that when she got into a fight once with a boyfriend (I must have been about 3 years old) and yelled, “Come on, Heather, we’re leaving,” I ran into my room and grabbed my clothes and cried, “Can I at least take my clothes with me?  That’s sad.
            And my father basically never had much to do with me my whole life.  He did send a couple letters when I was a young teen, but that’s about it.  And I saw him once every several years when we would meet up in Iowa to visit his family. 
            He is from a wonderful family that I met for the first time when I was 15 (the “first” time I met him, too).  And although they have been great and I’ve gotten to see them about once a year since then, I never really felt like I was part of the family, like I really belonged - with them or with my dad or with my half-siblings on my dad’s side who I didn’t get to know until we were older.  I didn’t grow up with them or share memories with them or get to be in contact with them.  I was just the relative who showed up once a year for a brief visit.
            After their divorce, my mom remarried, had a son, and divorced again by the time I was 6 (?).  And then she remarried when I was about 8 and had four more sons.  And they were married until my late 20’s.    
            And although high school was a highlight for me (a time when I felt most carefree and most like things were stable and like I had a place and like I mattered), I eventually began to discover the scars that were left from my unstable childhood.  I had no idea that the divorces affected me until I was eighteen and re-reading some letters that my biological father had sent years earlier.  And for some reason, the thought hit me that I never went to a “daddy-daughter” dance.  And at that moment, I realized that I never really had a “daddy.”  (A father who never talked to you plus an ex-step dad you lost contact with plus a current step-dad could never equal one real “daddy.”)  And suddenly, my heart began to ache. 
            And it hasn’t really stopped aching.
            Over the next years, I would begin to realize how hurt I was inside, how I had always felt like an outsider.  With my father.  With his family.  With my step-families.  (My current tally, as of 2017, is one biological father who died in 2015, two ex-stepfathers whom I have no contact with anymore, and one current step-father.)  And even with my own brothers as I got older.  (I am a lot older than my five brothers and was off at college/grad school and starting my own family when they were still young.  And they are all boys, whereas I am the only girl.  So that separated us, too.)
            This kind of stuff has led me to always feel like I was on the outside, looking in.  Like I didn’t really belong.  And it has caused me to naturally keep my distance from people, from getting too close, from letting others care about me.  It always seemed safest and most natural to not rely on others, to take care of myself, and to stay on the outside.  So I kept to myself a lot and held back when I was with others.  And I put up self-protective walls, keeping my heart safe from the risk that it would get smashed.  Others couldn’t be trusted because life was unstable and people leave and people just don’t care.

2.  As I said, high school and early adulthood was a shining time for me.  I was happy and carefree.  Until I began dating my first real boyfriend.  This was very shortly after realizing that I never had a daddy, a real “felt like I belonged to him and mattered to him” father. 
            All throughout high school, I basically sabotaged any chance of a real, caring relationship with any guy because I couldn’t risk getting my heart broken.  But at eighteen, I finally was willing to take the risk because I found someone worth it, someone who had proven himself to be a faithful, loyal, honest friend. 
            But very shortly after we began dating, all these ugly abandonment fears and “I’m not worthy of love” fears came pouring out.  And I became an incredibly controlling, jealous person.  I guess I was trying to make sure that I didn’t get my heart broken.  I mean, if I could just control everything then I wouldn’t get hurt.  Right?
            I began to realize that I didn’t feel worthy of anyone’s love, and so I did what I could to hold onto it tightly.  And yet, at the same time, I didn’t trust it, so I kept asking him if he wanted to break up with me and date other people.  Because I just couldn’t understand why anyone would want to date me. 
            It was a messy time.  And it took me a long time to work through it all, with the Lord’s help and with my boyfriend’s faithfulness (which gave me a safe place to work through my fears) and with the help of my graduate classes as I got my Master’s in Counseling.  (I can’t believe my husband stuck with me through it all.  What a blessing he’s been!)
            But as time went on, I realized that so many of these “abandonment/not worthy of love” fears also affected my relationship with the Lord.  And so there was a lot of work to be done there, too. 
            Goodness, how this kind of stuff messes you up for life!  It’s taken years and years to work through the scars of divorce and instability.  And while everything’s not perfect and I do still struggle with some things, I am doing a lot better in this area that I was decades ago.  So I am thankful!

3.  And then several years later, my boyfriend and I got married, I got my degree, and we had a couple kids.  And things seemed pretty stable and good.  For a little while.
            And then, my mom and second step-dad’s marriage fell apart and things between them got bad, like “afraid for their safety and lives” bad.  Years of bad!  With police, counselors, restraining orders, a tazer (or stun gun?), accusations of spousal abuse and affairs and drug use and bank robbing, a parent in jail for the night, thoughts of if we should commit a parent to a mental hospital, family picking sides, alienation of long-time family friends, etc. 
            I basically had a nervous breakdown during this time and had to flee to my grandparents’ house in Iowa for a weekend, just to be able to catch my breath.  It got to the point where I was praying that my parent would just end their life like they were considering doing.  Then they could be at peace. 
            My greatest regret during this time was that I pretty much abandoned my younger brothers, left them in a very dysfunctional situation.  I didn’t really mean to, I was just living my own life with my own kids and trying to keep some distance from all the unhealthy drama.  I regret that to this day.  Thankfully, they turned out fine. 
            But I now have very little contact with my brothers.  And that’s sad because they all have their own children now.  I think the divorce was so bad that we (those of us siblings who could) simply fled and went into self-protective mode.  But I wasn’t trying to abandon them; I just needed to have space between me and the divorce during that terrible time.  But since they were so young and still fully dependent on my parents, I couldn’t be part of their lives without also being involved with my parents.  And so my brothers were simply “collateral damage” in my need to keep my distance from the messy, unhealthy, destructive divorce.  And now, I feel like I haven’t really earned the right to be part of their families.  And I don’t expect them to include me in their lives when I wasn’t really there for them.  Plus, I guess I got used to being on my own.
            I had always wanted to have the kind of family where you share in each other’s life, in their joys and struggles, where you grow up together and visit regularly and are there to support each other. 
            But I have none of that.  So many family members – 5 brothers, tons of aunts and uncles, several sets of grandparents, a few different “fathers” – and I have none of that.  It’s amazing how lonely you can be even with such a large family.

4.  I never liked changes.  They always made me feel unstable and unsafe.  But after the divorce and my step-dad #2 fleeing to another state and my mom getting remarried, everything felt different.  I felt like a stranger when I visited my mom’s home because she now had a new husband, new family, and new friends.  
            I had step-dad #2 for around twenty years.  He was the most “father” I ever had.  And it was as comfortable as it could have been.  But suddenly, he was out of my life.  In our last conversation, he told me that he had a late-birthday present (several months late) to drop off for my young son.  And I told him that I was pregnant again – 5 months pregnant.  And he said, “I’m a bad, bad grandpa.”  And he said that he still wanted to be involved with the kids. 
            That was the last time I talked to him.  (Actually, I think I did briefly talk to him once after that when he called and hinted around that he needed money – like $10,000 dollars.  But we had none to give.  And since I caught wind that he might have gotten hooked again on heroin, I couldn’t have given it to him anyway.)
            And while step-dad #3 is a fine guy, I just don’t need another father-figure.  I’m too old.  Too tired.   

5.  Then the economy collapsed and we lost a lot of income.  It was already really tight because I had chosen to stay home and raise my children, instead of working.  This put us under great financial strain because I still had school loans to pay off.  (But I wouldn’t do it any differently.  When I stand before God, I know I’ll be able to say that I chose the better option.)  But with the economy collapse, buying groceries always gave me a headache because of all the incredibly strict calculating and penny-pinching that I had to do.  Buying frozen pizza and apples was a luxury that we barely indulged in.  I didn’t even buy bread.  It was cheaper to make it myself.
            And right in the middle of this, we got pregnant with our fourth son.  And while he is an incredible blessing, it was at the worst time financially.  (God's brilliant sense of humor?)

6.  Every house we lived in has been a huge emotional burden for me at some point.  The first apartment we rented our first year of marriage was the only place where I felt like I could breathe.  After that, we rented a home that was in terrible, disgusting condition, and it was so tiny.  (My parents owned it, and I trusted that it was in good condition before we accepted their offer to rent it.  Boy, was I in for a surprise!)  And because of our meager resources and the growing housing bubble, we were there for several years, unable to get out or afford anything else.  And it made me very depressed and hopeless. 
            And then we found a new rental that was the answer to our prayers.  And the first couple years were good.  And then we realized that it was moldy and making us sick.  (Mold was literally growing out of the walls.  And the owners didn’t believe me that the back room smelled really strong of musty, wet mold.) 
            And we were busting out of it with four kids.  When we began renting it, it was a two-bedroom and we two kids.  But it soon became a one-bedroom rental (we blocked off a bedroom that had mold and a backroom that had mold) with four kids.  But the economy was so bad that we couldn’t get out of the house.  I was desperate to find a place to own, but it was a couple years of sitting in that moldy place before we did.  (For the last nine months in that house, I slept in the boys’ bunk-bed with our new baby while my husband and other three boys slept downstairs on the floor by the moldy backroom.  I wanted to cry all the time.) 
            And during the house-hunting time – when I was desperate to get out of a moldy rental that was making us sick - God basically left me.  I had so feared abandonment, and then He did it.  He abandoned me.  (That’s what it felt like.)  I cried out to Him over and over again for years about helping us get out of that house.  I wanted to wait on Him and follow His leading, but there was nothing!  For years, He didn’t lead or respond or seem to care that I was hurting.  This was one of the greatest struggles I have ever had to go through spiritually. 
            Eventually, He did lead us out of that place, but only after years of struggling through every doubt, fear, and self-esteem issue that I had, only after learning to place everything in His hands and to say, “You Will be done.  I still trust You, no matter what.  Blessed be Your name, even if my situation never changes.” 
            Looking back now, I can see that this was the good that came out of the “abandonment.”  And this trial was critical to my spiritual journey.  It was necessary for humbling me, for building and purifying my faith, and for learning to be content and to praise in the pain.  But at the time, it just really, really hurt.  More than anything.  More than being let down by earthly fathers.     

7.  Also during this time of my parents’ divorce, the economy collapse, and the moldy rental (right before Baby #4), we ended up paying thousands to get some dental work done for my husband and me.  And I was dealing with an active infection from a failed root canal that I had for seven years.  The next step would have been a thousand dollar procedure to fix it.  Money we didn’t have.  I was so stressed out just thinking about all the bills.
            And we discovered that our one-year-old had Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, even though he never had a bottle or sugary drink.  This sent me into years of stress and tension headaches as I tried to slow the decay down and figure out the best course of action for a toddler.  Also (I think because the moldy rental was suppressing his immune system) he was susceptible to all sorts of other infections and problems.  So we had one minor-ish problem after another with him.  For a few years.  It was an incredibly stressful time for me, especially since I felt so trapped in that house and abandoned by God at the same time.   
            And in response to the Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, I began to scrutinize our eating and research every food item and additive, and I did a major overhaul of our food choices and my cooking.  While this ended up being a good change, it was still hard, especially since I was making major changes overnight in a panicked, desperate attempt to stop the decay.  (And eating healthy really did help heal the decay in his front teeth.  And it healed the active infection from my failed root canal.  I never did need that $1,000 procedure.  We are all healthier today because of his tooth decay.  It’s one of the best things that happened to us.)
            But all the stress and the financial strain and fear of everything and feeling abandoned by God led me into a deep depression.  I became a shell of a person and gave up the desire to fight for better things.  If just felt like I was destined to always lose.

8.  A couple years into struggling with all of this (just months after having Baby #4), I also began facing some clearly demonic harassment - five months of nighttime demonic harassment (in the “Supernatural Stuff and Spiritual Armor”post). 
            It was really scary at the time and I felt like I had no real support.  Even my husband didn’t really believe me and kept his distance from my struggle.  And a friend from church who offered to bring a pastor with him to pray over our house never came.  I felt like I was really alone in that struggle.  Like I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it and like those I did talk to didn’t believe me or care. 
            Now, though, I see that time of harassment as one of the best things to happen to me because it really opened my eyes to the spiritual battle going on all around us, it reminded me of the incredible need for prayer and to abide in Christ and to seek righteousness, and it set my focus on eternity.  But at the time, it was terrifying and I basically had to go through it alone.  But even going through it alone turned out to be for the best.  My faith is stronger for it.

9.  And then came this home that we are in now.  The first home we owned.  What a blessing and long awaited answer to prayer.  And it was great at first . . . until we began to find one expensive problem after another that have to be dealt with.  And it’s taking years to get them done.  Most are still not done. 
             Oddly enough, I still do think this home was His answer for us and a blessing to us.  I just wish sometimes that answers to prayers didn’t always come with crushing blows.  I wish that I could enjoy the blessings without waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I wish that we could live in a place that actually felt like a home, not a refugee camp.    
            And dealing with this house and the repairs it needs has reminded me that I don’t have family to lean on, to call when I am in need.  It’s amazing because my own biological father built houses for a living, and yet he’s never been there for his own daughter when I needed a father to help me fix up mine.  I watch our young-ish neighbors as their parents come over every couple days and help them fix their place up and celebrate the birth of their first child with them . . . and I think, How cool is that!  The way it’s supposed to be.  And yet, they probably don’t even realize how special something like that is.

10.  Recently, all of my family – cousins, brothers, aunts and uncles, mom and step-dad (all but one brother) – has moved away.  It was after an aunt had died of stomach cancer (at about 58 years of age), and everyone else went, “What are we all doing hanging around here?  Let’s go live the life we want somewhere else.”  And they all left, practically in the same year.  I remember that when Christmas came around, I thought, “Oh my goodness, there’s no one left.  No one to visit.”  It happened so fast.
            While we were not super close anyway, my aunts and uncles and cousins were the most tight-knit family I had.  We saw each other on several holidays a year.  And it was a pleasant, wonderful family.  Lots of laughter and love and joy.  But now, it’s been years since I’ve seen any of them.  And I feel a bit orphaned by the whole change.  Once again, I feel alone in this world.  Everything is so different now.
            And then my husband’s mom died just a few years ago of a brain tumor.  And my biological dad died in 2015.  He never even told me he was sick.  He died in his house, with his other daughter there.  And he was buried on his property in his own handmade coffin.  I never cried when I heard.  And that’s kinda sad.

11.  Another huge stressor for me has always been homeschooling.  I have very, very strong reasons for why I homeschool my kids, and I wouldn’t change it unless I had no choice.  But I’ll be honest, homeschooling is terribly hard when you are your own worst enemy, when you are someone who is always down on yourself.  I struggle all the time with never feeling good enough, with being afraid that I’ll fail and never do enough for them.  I don’t know how to relax and just “enjoy the ride.”  And so I have to fight long and hard to be okay with who I am and with my shortcomings and my choices, to “stay on course” and trust that the Lord will help. 
            In fact, I was just struggling over all my fears the other day (like I do most days), feeling like I’ll never do good enough or be enough for my children, when I heard the tiniest little voice say, “You’re not alone in this.”  It was as if God was reminding me that no matter how alone and frail and pathetic I feel, He is with me and He will help me raise these kids.  I might have barely anyone else to lean on, but I always have Him.  The burden doesn’t rest on my alone.  As long as I keep throwing myself at His feet in humility and desperate need, He’ll help do the things that I can’t do and He’ll pick up the pieces that I can’t carry. 
            I am not in this alone. 
            And I cling to that truth with all I’ve got.

12.  Despite the fact that I feel so alone in life, I had one friend whom I could talk to freely.  She knew me better than anyone.  She was the closest thing I had to a “sister.”  And I desperately needed our weekly conversations to keep me sane.  She was the one person I leaned on, that I trusted completely (besides my husband). 
            But a few years ago (during my depression over the condition of this house and feeling like God didn’t care), she stopped returning my phone calls.  We went from talking once a week for an hour to talking once a year for a half-hour. 
            It Broke!  My!  Heart! 
            What happened is that I had stepped in to try to support her crumbling marriage.   But she thought that I stepped in because she had been “complaining” to me too much about her marriage.  But no!  I simply wanted to help them.  I knew how it felt to be a child of divorce.  And I knew how much it would destroy her, her husband, and her four children.  So I sent a letter saying that I believed in them, that they could work it out, that I loved them as a couple and as people, and that I wanted to help in any way I could. 
            And in response, she stopped calling me. 
            There are no bad feelings between us.  I still love her dearly and pray for the best for her.  But that friendship – of nearly 20 years - is now over.  And I have gone through a lot of pain learning to accept it.  But I’ve never really recovered from it.
            I think losing that friendship caused me to reevaluate myself.  It caused me to see myself against the backdrop of “You’re such a loser that even your closest, oldest friend would abandon you.” 
            Maybe I have always been nothing more than some pathetic joke, no matter how helpful or intelligent I thought I was, no matter how much of a friend I thought I was to others.  Maybe I am always the misfit.  The screw-up.  Maybe I’m not worth sticking with, unless it’s for pity’s sake.  I have nothing to really offer a friend.  I mean, I used to think that I was good with words and that I had insight and wisdom and could encourage others.  I used to think that I was a valuable friend to have.  But when my oldest friend could walk away from me that easily then I have to conclude that I’m not who I thought I was. 
            My self-view has been shaken up terribly bad and I have been going through a huge identity crisis.  And it’s making me pull back even more from people.  When you feel like you have nothing to offer . . . when you begin to realize that you might not have been as wise, inspirational, insightful, or helpful as you thought you were . . . when you begin to apply “you are such a joke and you didn’t even know it, no wonder people don’t value or respect you or stick with you” to all of the moments of your life, it really does make you want to pull back from everyone.
            I mean, what if all the things that I think sound helpful and wise really do sound like idiotic gibberish to others?  (Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy, right?  They think that what they’re saying sounds completely logical and wise.) 
            Or what if I come across as a smug “know-it-all” who always thinks that I have the answers and that everyone should listen to me?  I can’t stand those kinds of people.  But what if that’s me?  I mean, the very fact that I keep writing stuff – even though no one reads it – shows a certain level of self-absorption and self-glorification, as though I continue to think that the things I say are worth listening to.   
            What if - when I am talking to others and think I am being helpful or intelligent or encouraging - others are just looking at me with smiles of pity and thinking, “We’ll just wait for her to shut up . . . and then we’ll go back to talking to those who really matter”? 
            This whole “self-reevaluation” thing has led me to not want to talk to people anymore.  It’s hard to talk to people now.  When I talk too long or share things about myself or talk too confidently, all I can think is, Shut up.  Shut up now.  They don’t care.  You’re making a fool of yourself! 
            And yet, not talking is pathetic too.  So what do it do?
            I don’t know how to fix this kind of broken self-view.  (Or maybe it’s that I don’t know how to adjust to this accurate self-view.)  I don’t know how to enjoy people or friendships anymore.  I try to make sure to keep the focus on others, to meet their needs, to let them talk about themselves because . . . who really wants to hear what I have to say anyway!?!  It’s hard to feel like you deserve to be listened to or cared about when you feel this way inside.
            This is where I have been for awhile now, trying to figure out how to live the life I have.  A life that I didn’t expect to turn out this way.  A life that has more loss and heartache than I planned for.  I feel like everything has been stripped from me and like everything has fallen apart.  (Except for my own husband and children.  And thank God for them!  I guess I’d rather have everything else fall apart and my own family be good then have my own family fall apart and everything else be good.  And I thank God for another friendship that I have that has been growing deeper.  I don’t need many friends, but I do need one deep one.  And our friendship is at a point where I can ask her for prayer support as I struggle with all this discouragement.)

13.  And at the same time as losing my friend and the struggles with the house, I had to come to grips with the fact that I failed in a very huge area.  In the last area where I dared to dream. 
            I wrote a book about my life that I put on my other blog, hoping that it would encourage other people in their lives and faith and maybe deepen my relationships with others.  And I tried and tried to share it with many people I know.  But no one wanted to read it. 
            I can understand when no publishing company wants to publish it, but I can’t understand that the people closest to me (friends, family, church friends) won’t bother to read it, even though I asked. 
            That has been the hardest thing to accept, that I failed at something I was so excited about and had so much hope for.  And that no one really cares that much about me to take the time to share in this dream with me.  I had laid bare my heart and my soul in my writing and I was inviting people to read it, to see the “real me” deep inside.  And I took a huge risk in asking people to read it.  I don’t usually ask people to do anything for me, to care at all about me or something I’ve done.  And it wasn’t easy for me to share my writing – myself – with people.  I took a risk and offered my heart every time I said “I wrote a book about my life, if you’d like to read it.” 
            But no one wanted to. 
            While I never thought I was good at much else, I always thought I was good with words and encouragement.  That was my thing.  It’s what I could use for good, to help others.  But I just don’t know anymore.  This failure made me pull back even more from people because I had put myself out there so vulnerably . . . and no one cared.  It made me not want to share my hurts with anyone because I couldn’t even trust them to care about my joys. 
            I can’t tell you how many people gave me excuses like “I have too much to do already . . . I have too many books to read . . . Oh sure, I’d love to read it (but then they never do).”  I even put a comment on the church blog sharing the blog’s address so people could find it.  It was going to be my last attempt to share it with others.  And, lo and behold, someone did look it up.  They looked up the post on the introduction to the Bible study that I wrote.  But then the very next post on the church’s blog a couple days later, written by the pastor, was a post about how we shouldn’t study the Bible on our own, without input from godly sources.  It felt like a direct criticism of me.  In my last attempts to dream and hope, I crashed and burned.  And all I wanted to do was help others with what I wrote about my journey, my pains and struggles. 
            This has been one of the biggest heartbreaks for me because it further confirms the idea that I don’t really matter to people, even church people.  It’s been hard to accept the fact that I’m so invisible, overlooked, and such a failure.  All that time and energy wasted.  I had such hopes for it. 
            I don’t like to hope anymore.
            (And additionally, our church has recently gone through some personnel changes that I really don’t like, bringing with it doctrinal messages that I really disagree with.  And I wish that we could leave that church and find another one.  But my kids are established there and I don’t want to move them from their friends.  And so I sit there and listen to the sermons and get frustrated and yet can do nothing about it.  It kinda hurts my heart.  And I no longer invite anyone to come to our church.  I actually tell them to check out the one I wish I could start attending.  Everything in my life – except my husband and children – feels like it has changed for the worse.)

14.  And if everything else wasn’t enough to make me feel like I don’t belong around other people: For several years, I had developed an ongoing eczema rash (or other “allergy” type rash) that occasionally covered my neck and face in bright red, weeping “blisters” or in really dry, flaky skin.  I felt so diseased, like it’s further proof that I just don’t belong around other people.
            Eventually, I did realize that it’s a reaction to the mineral make-up I was using and to the coconut oil or olive oil that I used as lotion.  My skin is simply too sensitive for that kind of stuff.  And last year, I began using a rose lotion which has really helped.  So it doesn’t look bad anymore.  But I can tell that my skin is still really sensitive, so I have to be careful.
            But even if it looks better right now, I still keep my head down.  I just feel so ugly.  (It doesn’t help that I had to stop wearing makeup because of my sensitive skin and that my hair is prematurely gray and I refuse to color it because of health concerns/sensitive skin.  So I am stuck looking like a grandma, like a person who “let herself go” and doesn’t care.)

15.  In response to feeling so lonely and like I really don’t have friends and I am not good with people and I have no success with my writing and I can’t fix up the house, I threw myself into the garden.  I remember thinking to myself, At least I have the garden.  I can find solace there.  It can be my “safe place.” 
            After planning for a garden for 11 years while we rented, I was finally able to have one when we moved into this place.  And it was good for the first couple years.  It was the place where I could be creative, where I let myself dream, where I felt most relaxed and closest to God.  It’s where I talk to Him a lot and enjoy His presence and blessings.  It’s where I retreated to when everything else was going wrong.  So it’s no wonder that it was the next thing to get attacked.
            A few summers ago, we learned that our neighbor has a very moldy garage and that it was blowing all over us when we were outside.  The garage is loaded with garbage and it had a broken window and rain would get in there and soak everything.  And all that stuff has been rotting there for years, despite my attempts to call the city and the owners and get someone out there to clean it up.  But since no one’s living there, no one else cares.  Because it affects no one else but my family. 
            The garage is about 10 feet from the garden, and I can smell the mold all summer.  And having just come from a moldy rental that broke my heart, it broke my spirit to be faced with it again.  It almost felt like God led us to this house as a cruel joke or experiment.  The one place I felt like I could retreat to no longer felt safe or enjoyable.  And I spent the summer of 2014 in tears while I gardened in the moldy smell, pleading with God to make the owners do something about it.  But nothing has been done.  And I am too tired to care anymore.  To hope.  To feel like life should be more than what it is. 
            And if that wasn’t enough … I had contemplated giving up gardening altogether, after only a few years of being able to enjoy it.  Because it would hurt less to give it up than to have my heart break every time I smelled the mold out there.  But I decided to give it one more year. 
            And things were looking pretty good in the summer of 2015.  Even though I didn’t get out there often because of the smell, the garden was doing very well and producing a lot.  And the raspberries – which I was eagerly waiting for and carefully tending to – were loaded with blossoms. 
            And then it stormed.
            And then the next day I woke up to find a giant dead tree from the neighbor’s yard (the one with the moldy garage) sprawled across my garden.  It had managed to smash through three sides of the chicken-wire fence, to hit almost every crop but the tomatoes, and to obliterate the raspberries.
            At first I wanted to cry.  But then I laughed at the absurdity of it and in thankfulness that the tomatoes were unharmed.
            But then, I went into a deeper depression than I had been in.  A “Why bother or care about anything because it all gets ruined anyway” kind of depression.  A “You don’t deserve to have dreams or to enjoy anything in your life” kind of heartbreak. 
            I had already lost fathers and family and my one close friend and it felt like God wasn’t listening and didn’t care and like He had let us languish in a moldy rental and then led us to a joke of a new house with a neighbor’s moldy garage . . .  And now, I wasn’t even able to enjoy having a garden.
            Why bother caring or hoping or wanting or dreaming anymore!  I just couldn’t do it!  I was done!

16.  And then . . . it got worse.  Then came the summer of 2016 – the year my already-fragile-self broke into tiny pieces that I am still staring at, that I have no strength to put together and don’t care if I ever do.
            I had decided to garden again, with no real effort or desire or hope.  (The only thing that made it good is that I let a wonderful neighbor use some of my garden beds so she can grow stuff for her family.  It’s been a delight to see her and her young children out there, enjoying the work and the harvest.  One of the best decisions I ever made!  Fyi, I did warn her about the mold.)  And I guess I have to thank God that I decided to garden because I was going to need it later that summer.  I was going to need to have that space to retreat to when I encountered the trials that broke me.
            First, on May 30th, came my panic attack, brought on by my despair over all that has gone wrong in life and all the losses and my fears/heartbreak over the moldy garage and the concerns about all the house repairs that weren’t getting done.  That panic attack (written about in "My Panic Attack" on my other blogs) was the first one I ever had, not counting the minor “nervous breakdown” I had during my parents’ divorce.  And it wrecked me physically.  I lost six pounds and could barely eat and had no energy for life.  And it wrecked me emotionally.  I feared losing control again for many months afterward.  (I still do.)  It was exhausting to try to keep myself calm.  Every morning was a trial. 
            [My wonderful husband did the best thing anyone can do for someone going through a panic attack – he simply put his arms around me and held onto me as I sobbed about how wrong everything was and how much I hated life and how I felt like I was losing control.  He just sat with me and listened and held me as I fell apart, never trying to offer pat answers or acting like he had to fix me or scolding me or acting like there was something wrong with me.  He just let me go on and on as I cried uncontrollably.  And then, he prayed for me, out loud.  What a comfort!  And I was able to breathe again and to feel like maybe I didn’t have to go to the emergency room after all.] 
            Slowly, I began to gain my strength and my sanity again.  And then . . .
            June 3rd, four days after my panic attack, I got word from my brother that my mother had been committed to an in-patient unit because of a risk for suicide.  He said that she was acting crazy and the ambulance guys (or cops - can’t remember which it was) had to wrestle her into the ambulance and she had tried to viciously fight them off.  They thought she had overdosed on something, so they took her to the hospital and then put her in observation for three days. 
            A couple days later, I learned that she did overdose on something – Nyquil.  Apparently, she couldn’t fall asleep, so she kept taking Nyquil.  And then she would forget that she took it, so she’d take some more.  And this Nyquil reacted with the normal pills that she takes her for health, and it made her appear “drunk” and loopy.  But they adjusted her medication and she began doing better.
            And slowly, over the next several weeks, I began doing better.  And then . . .
            July 19th, I got word that my mother was bleeding out both ends and that she was in the hospital and they didn’t know what was wrong but it was very serious.  My aunt wasn’t sure if she was going to come out of the hospital alive (she ended up being in the hospital for over a month).  And if she did live, my aunt wasn’t sure that her mind would ever be the same again.   
            July 20th, I woke up to find that one of my sons had a temperature of 103.  And he had it the next morning too.  (I am a wreck when the kids have high fevers, anxiously checking on them every couple minutes.)
            July 21st, I woke up and thanked God that I had a good night of sleep.  And then I found blood in the poop of my 7-year-old.  (I felt like maybe I had caused it to happen because I had just been researching “blood in poop” because of what my mother was going through.)  And I had to rush around in a panic and find a doctor because we didn’t have a family doctor yet (the one we used to have and that we really trusted had retired).  Thankfully, for my son, it ended up being a reaction to bananas which made his rectum swell up, and then he had tried to push out a hard poop which “cut” him inside a little, which led to the blood.  But it took me a few couple stressed days to make sure that’s what it was.
            July 23rd, I . . . well . . . let’s just say that something else happened that I can’t talk about yet.  And that’s all I can say about it right now.  But it was the last straw.  And I broke.  I broke really bad! 
            Thankfully, we were on summer break with the kids because I couldn’t get out of bed for days.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t move without throwing up.  And I threw up a lot.  My husband would come home and the kids would be playing video games and I’d be lying in bed in the dark, barely able to acknowledge his presence.  And I lost eight more pounds, on top of the six that I lost from the panic attack.  It took me weeks to be able to eat normal-ish again.  (I still can’t eat like I used to, though.  And oddly enough, I had grown to “like” the feeling of being hungry.  Because during that time if I didn’t have anything in my stomach, it meant that I wouldn’t have anything to throw up.)
            July 24th, I discovered something else that was really stressful.  And I can’t talk about that one, either, other than to say that someone had gotten us involved in something without our knowledge that could have gotten us in trouble, and we had to run around in a panic and undo it.
            July 27th, I went to a pastor in tears, nearly falling over from the stress and hunger and from my nerves being shot.  I could barely stand.  I had been crying so hard and throwing up and not eating and unable to get out of bed.  I felt like my mind had broken in pieces, literally.  I felt like I was in a really bad dream and couldn’t get out and “How could this be happening?  It’s not real, is it!?!”
            And I told him about what I was struggling with and I asked him for his professional advice (like me, he’s a mental health professional) about what I can do – should do – in the things I was struggling with.  And he gave me the right advice – the advice that helped me pause for a moment, clear my head, and put the burdens down.  Things didn’t feel so urgent anymore and I had time to rest and wait and see how things played out.  And I could finally breathe a little.
            July 30th and 31st, a skunk let loose right outside the house two nights in a row and we had to shut ourselves in.  And then July 31st, right after the skunk, a bat got into the house (maybe trying to get away from the skunk smell).  And we had to run around at 10:30 at night, trying to catch it and get it out.  Which my husband finally did by cornering it in the bathroom.  But then I told my kids to wash their hands in case of “bat germs” and they went right into the “bat bathroom” and washed up and dried their hands on a towel that the bat had been flying over.  And then my youngest picked his nose and made it bleed.  And I suddenly was overcome with a horrible fear of rabies.  I did some research and found out that rabies is in the brain matter and in the saliva of the bat.  And it gets in to our bodies through wounds.
            What if the bat spit on the towel and then my son dried his hands with rabies spit and then he shoved it right in his nose and put it right in his bloodstream?  I was a panicked mess for the next couple days, not only from everything else that had happened the past week but now from the fear of rabies. 
            And I was the one who told them to wash their hands!!!  It would be my fault that he died from rabies.  I was a bad, bad mom.
            (Thankfully, we were still awake when the bat got in the house.  So I know that it didn’t bite any of us.  If we had gone to bed earlier – like I had tried to do – then we probably would have had to get rabies shots.  They recommended that if you wake up with a bat in the room then you get the shots because you can’t know for sure that you weren’t bitten while you slept.  Thankfully, we had decided to stay up late that night.  So thankful!)
            I had never known such stress in my life.  And all in one summer, too. 
            All in all, my mom spent over a month in the hospital.  One of the main contributors to her health problems was that her gall-bladder had burst, spilling out oodles of gall-stones into her abdomen.  And the ruptured gall-bladder led to sepsis.  But since the blood poisoning made her look and act drunk, no one knew she was dying of sepsis.  They thought she had just been drinking too much.  (She'll never admit this ... but we know that she was trying to drink herself to death.  That's what led to the ruptured gall-bladder and the severe bleeding she would face in the coming months.)  
            She also had a double lung infection (which she apparently had for years), both kidneys were shutting down (did shut down?), pancreatitis, and now a scarred heart from the blood infection.  (She shouldn’t have lived.  God must have some plans for her that He kept her alive through it all.)  She was so close to death that she said she literally saw images from her life playing out on the walls of the hospital room.  And apparently that is a real phenomenon that happens when a brain is gasping its last breaths. 
            And all that summer, I was left wondering if she would recover, if her mind would be the same, if she was trying to drink herself to death.  Several times, I fully expected to get a call that she had died in the night from her drinking or by her own hand.
            September 10th, my husband, sons, and I cleaned out the basement of the house that she was losing to the bank.  It was surreal to be tossing out – into the dumpster or onto the bonfire – all of the stuff that she had accumulated over the years, the stuff of her dreams, her previous life, the stuff she had worked for and saved for years.  It was sad to see that this is what life amounts to - rotten, musty old things, covered in mouse droppings, sitting in a basement for years before ending up unceremoniously tossed onto a bonfire or into a dumpster.  Oh how temporary, meaningless, unfulfilling, and perishable our earthly possessions are!  The things that we thought would bring us so much joy! 
            And while sorting old papers, I found the report card of one of youngest brothers.  It was from the time of the messy divorce of his father and our mother.  And it broke my heart to see 1 B, 2Ds, and 3 Fs.  My brother was only 13 or 14 at the time.  And I could see in his grades how crushing the divorce was for him, for all the brothers.  How much they hurt and struggled.  How much they needed something stable to lean on.  I should have been there for them!  It broke my heart!  I’m a bad, bad sister!
            September 11th, my mom called and told me that she been vomiting up blood all night the night before, toilet bowls full of blood.  (Apparently, in her despair over everything that was going wrong in her life, she had been drinking and wasn’t eating anything.)
            A few days later, some of my fish died.

            It was only by the grace of God that I could walk in a straight line, that I could get out of bed in the morning and make my kids food.  I’m sure that if someone had jumped out from behind a door during this time and yelled, “Boo,” my nerves would’ve blown, my heart would’ve stopped, and I’d have fallen over dead on the spot.  (Which didn’t sound like such a bad thing at the time.) 
            Everything was bad (except for my husband and children).  It had gotten so bad that I was picking beans in the garden one day (having to tend to the garden got me out of the house and into some fresh – moldy – air, it gave me something monotonous and mind-numbing to do) when the thought suddenly hit me – “So this is the point people get to when they decide to kill themselves.” 
            I knew that I wouldn’t do anything to hurt myself because I had a husband and children that I love, but I suddenly understood how people could be so hopeless that they would calmly make plans to kill themselves and then carry it out.  I understood how people cut themselves, because the pain has filled up every fiber of their body, like filling a balloon with air way beyond its capacity, and they feel like they are going to break open and spill out all over the place, and so they cut themselves to let the pain out, to get it out of their body, to relieve the pressure that is threatening to crush them.  It breaks my heart every time I hear that someone has committed suicide or that they cut themselves because they hurt so bad.  I understand how they got to that point.  They make sense to me.  Because it could have been me.

            So where do you go from here?  How do you recover from this?  (And I know many other people have stories way worse than this.  I know they would happily trade their sorrows for mine.  So I want to be sensitive to that.  And for an update, my mother is doing much better, nearly as good as she was before the sepsis.  So that’s a blessing.  But it was touch-and-go for a long time.) 
            I am not sure where to go with all this or what to do about it.  I don’t know what life has in store for me next.  I’m not sure how to recover after being knocked down so many times.  I don’t even know if “recover” is the main objective here.  Maybe it’s just “Learn to live the life I have, through the grace of God, instead of trying to make life into what I think it should be.”  (And yet for some people, it may be “Don’t settle for life as it is.  Fight it with all you’ve got, with God’s help.  Make it right.”  And only you and the Lord can know when it’s time to fight and when it’s time to stop fighting.)    
            All I know is that I wake up every day and say “I need You, Lord.  Please, help me” with a sense of desperate neediness and weakness that I’ve never felt before (and frankly, with some hopelessness and joylessness, a sense of existing, not living, and the goal of “Let’s just get through this day.”).  And then I get up and put one foot in front of the other and do the jobs that God has placed in my path today, nothing more than being a wife and a mother.  And that’s okay. 

            And you know what?  It’s also okay to be desperately needy and weak before the Lord.  It’s okay to admit your brokenness. 

            In fact, as a Christian, it’s the only way to be. 
            Humility requires brokenness.  Letting go of the control.  Honesty.  Crying out when we are in need. 
            We need to stop fighting against brokenness, stop trying so hard to polish ourselves up nice and shiny so that we are “acceptable” to the Lord and impressive to others, stop trying to handle everything in our own strength, stop trying to earn His love and attention and grace (those things which are already freely available to us, things that can never be earned but only accepted by a needy, humble heart).  We need to take off the “happy Christian” mask and the “I can do everything and do it all with a smile” costume, and we need to fall down before the Lord in humble brokenness, telling Him that we can’t do it without Him, that we need Him to carry us, that we even need Him to help us stand if life has badly kicked us down. 
            We need to let our brokenness humble us, mature us, to grow and purify our faith.  Because brokenness does what self-sufficiency and self-confidence never could – it drops us at the feet of God so that He can scoop us up into Him arms.  His strength shines best when we have none of our own.     

          It’s okay to fall apart in front of the One who can put you back together.
          It’s okay to bring your chains to the One with the key to free you.
          It’s okay to be weak when you are leaning on the One who is strong.
          And it’s okay to not have all the answers when you know the One who does.

            It’s okay to be broken, to hurt, to not have it all together, to admit that you desperately need God’s presence and care and grace.   
            In fact, it’s not just okay.  It’s a great thing! 

            If there’s one thing that being broken has done for me, it’s that it has caused me to truly cherish and cling to God’s grace.  I knew all about it in my head before.  But now, it pulsates through my veins because it has gotten deep into my heart.  When you realize that you cannot do it all and that you are weak and desperately need the Lord . . . when you realize that you are as needy and broken as the next person, that we are all on the same level ground at the foot of the cross . . . it makes you so much more aware of your need for God’s daily sustaining grace.  It makes you humble.  Deep down - all the way to your toes - humble. 
            And humility – learning that you are just as human as the next person - makes you more aware of others who hurt, too.  It makes you compassionate instead of critical.  It makes you want to comfort instead of condemn.  It makes you come alongside them, put an arm around their shoulder and help them on their journey, instead of just preaching at them about how a “good Christian” should live.  It makes you more comfortable with the messes – messy situations, messy people, messy relationships - because you’ve learned that that’s what life is, instead of always demanding perfection and smooth sailing and that everyone pleases you.  It makes your heart hurt for those who hurt and your arms desire to reach out for them, touching them with the same grace and love and forgiveness that the Lord has given you.  And these are wonderful by-products of pain.  The good that comes from the ugly.

            It hurts to be broken. 
            It’s being vulnerable, taking a risk with our hearts . . . sometimes winning, sometimes losing. 
            It’s leaning on others and opening ourselves up to them, to trust, to hope.  Sometimes finding support and acceptance and help, being caught before we hit the ground.  And sometimes being let down and battered, falling flat on our faces when others pull back and fail to catch us. 
            Sometimes, it’s just a minor annoyance, a pain that we absorb with relative ease, and we realize we are better for it.  And sometimes, it’s more pain than we can bear, feeling like we’ll never be whole again, wanting to curl up in a ball in a dark, lonely corner and fall asleep forever. 
            Being broken hurts!   
            And it leaves us different, changed.  It leaves tear-stains on our cheeks.  Scars on our hearts.  Bruises on our souls.  A limp in our walk. 
            Does anyone care?  Is God listening?  Does He see us cry?  Will He make it all better?  When will the pain end?  When will I go from just existing to really living?  Is this all there is?
            Being vulnerable is risky.  Being broken hurts. 
            No matter how hard you try and how much you hope, life can be mean and unfair and unstable.  It can leave you exhausted and discouraged and depressed, unable to want to care anymore or to try anymore or to hope anymore. 
            It can make you feel like you stepped into a giant balloon that you pulled up over your head and tied off . . . and then someone sucked all the air out of it, causing it to seal tightly around your whole body . . . and you can’t breathe . . . and you begin to panic . . . and you start to punch and kick and pull at the balloon that is covering your face to get it away from your mouth so that you can breathe . . . but no matter how much you punch and kick and pull at the balloon, the balloon moves with you, sealed against your skin, holding you tightly inside . . . you can’t get it off because it’s become like a “second skin” . . . you can’t breathe, you can’t get away from it . . . all you can do is accept it, stop fighting it. 
            It can make you want to claw your way out of your own skin. 
            Or to run and run and run as fast and as far as you can in any direction, just to get away from where you are.  Maybe even to get away from yourself. 
            Life hurts.  Being broken hurts.  And the scars that are left on your heart and your soul are ugly and tender to touch.  And they never really go away. 

            But . . . they make us more human.  They make us real.  The pain lets us know that we are alive.  That we need God. 
            Life will kick us all down at some point.  It will stomp on our heads and repeatedly kick us in the sides while we lie on the ground in a battered heap, crying and bleeding and hurting. 
            And we will have a decision to make: 
            - Let the brokenness harden us more, making our self-protective walls stronger and thicker, to keep out God and others, to protect us from vulnerability and pain.
            - Or let the brokenness soften the walls around our heart so that God’s love can break through and flood it with His healing . . . so that we learn that it’s okay to be human, to be more real with God and others, to let them see our pain and brokenness . . . so that we can see and admit our need for grace and mercy and forgiveness and love and compassion, the very things that God offers us so freely . . . and so that our heart becomes soft enough that it expands, filling with grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and compassion for others, too, for those who hurt and are broken and who mess up, just like we do.
            Being broken either makes us more phony or it makes us more real.  It either makes us “different from others” or it makes us more like everyone else - the vulnerable, the hurting, the human.  It either fills us with indignation and bitterness or with humility and compassion.  It either makes us shut down more or it brings us to life more. 
            I choose real.  I choose human.  I choose humility and compassion.  I choose life.
            It’s okay to be broken! 
            I do not regret the things that have broken me.

            In suffering, I have learned to let go of control and idols and wayward priorities and the kind of “trust in God” that comes only when I am getting my way.  I have learned the difference between gratitude and entitlement, between humble faith and presumptuousness.  I have learned that it’s okay to not know the answers when you know the One who does, to be weak when you are leaning on the One who is strong, to fall apart in front on the One who can put you back together.  I have learned to trust Him, even in the dark.  To cling during the heartbreak and long trials.  To praise in the pain, instead of just when things are good and I am getting what I want.  To be as content as possible in the “lack of . . .” and in the unfulfilled dreams because I know that this life isn’t all there is, the best is yet to come.  You can’t learn these precious lessons during the easy times but only in the heartbreaking trials.   
            In suffering alone can you learn to say and really mean, “I need You.  I trust You, no matter what.  Your will be done.  It is well with my soul because I know You are there and You are walking with me and You are going to work it out somehow, even if I never see how until eternity.  My hope is in You.  My joy is in You.  Whether You give or take away, blessed be Your name!” 
            In fact, I have learned how stable He is only by going through times when everything else that I trusted in was shaken to pieces, when all my efforts and dreams and hopes have failed, when I have been forced to learn to simply sit at His feet in exhausted silence instead of trying to force my will on life, to “be still and know He is God,” even in the storms.  Because nothing else but Him is worth planting my feet on.  Nothing else really matters but His presence and comfort and grace.
            Going through the world-shaking, sky-falling, self-confidence-crushing times has taught me to listen instead of talk, to follow instead of lead, to transparently and humbly cry out to Him, to desperately reach for Him, to need Him.  Not just need His gifts or His help . . . but need Him.  Just more of Him. 
            Even when my world is shaking and the sky falls down around me, my feet are planted on a sure, stable Foundation.  The only sure, stable Foundation there is.   

            I do not regret the things that have broken me. 

            They are the things that have humbled me.  That have made me feel more deeply and purely.  Made me reprioritize.  Made me stronger in invisible ways.  Made me learn that life is okay when bitter is mixed with the sweet.  Made me more sensitive to others.  Made me learn what trust really is and what it really isn’t.  Made me reach more for my God.  Made me more human, more real.  Made me know that I am alive and that pain can lead to good things and that life is still worth living and that eternity is right around the corner. 

            Someday, He will welcome me Home and make all things right again.  And I’ll see the beauty that was wrought from the heartache, the perfect that was created from the broken.  And I’ll find eternal rest and joy for my soul. 
            And I can live with broken until then. 
            For it’s made me recognize just how weak and needy I am, how I am just like everyone else.  It has made me want to make a difference for others.  To extend grace and compassion and forgiveness because I know that I live in such daily need of it, too. 
            A heart that has never been broken - a soul that has never been humbled – cannot really understand its daily, desperate need for the Lord and cannot feel genuine empathy and compassion for others when they hurt.
            I do not regret the things that have broken me.
            I just really look forward to finally seeing the beautiful things that God will make from the broken pieces.  Someday! 
            And until then . . . Life is good (even when it’s not) because God is good.  A good, loving, gracious, merciful, forgiving, compassionate God.  Life is worth living because God knows how to weave it all into good in the end. 
            Hang in there!  It might not be easy . . . but it will be worth it!  Because God is good.  Always!

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