"Do You see me, too, Lord?"

Allow me to vent.  And don't get too alarmed.  I'm fine.  Really, I am.

I was reading today about a woman who gave a prophetic word of encouragement to a young girl who needed to know that God saw her, that she wasn't overlooked and insignificant.  

It was a sweet thing, nice to know that God would reach down to tell a young girl, "I see you.  You matter to Me."

But it also made me a little sad.  Because it made me think, "Me, too, Lord?  Would You send me a note that You see me?  I could use a little encouragement, too."

It seems harder when you're older sometimes, especially when you're well-grounded in the faith.  I mean, life is easier in a way because I know what I believe, Who I believe in, and why I believe.  I've had my turns when God's reached down to encourage me before.  I know Him well!  So I do not struggle with my faith.  I have gotten to the point where I know it's Jesus or nothing, where I know I would never be able to turn my back on Him or this faith.  

But I guess what's hard is that it almost feels like it gives God reason to "overlook" me - like He's saying, "Well, she's had her turns being encouraged.  I've answered many of her prayers before, already proven Myself to her.  And I know that no matter what happens, she's not going to turn from Me, so I don't have to spend as much time on her."  

I know that's not how He is, but sometimes it feels that way.  Sometimes, I want to scream out, "I hurt, too, Lord!  I still need encouragement.  Just because I'm older and my faith is mature and I've learned to live with tremendous heartache and to cling to You no matter what doesn't mean I don't need encouragement now and then, that I don't need to see evidence of You like someone who's new to the faith would." 

(Want to see what "mature faith" looks like?  When I was younger, I focused on how God blessed Abraham with a son in a miraculous way.  Now I focus on how God promised that son ... but then made Abraham wait 25 years before He fulfilled that promise, only giving him the son when he and Sarah were too old to really enjoy him and to watch him grow up.  God's got mysterious ways!  And the "faith journey" is a lot different than I used to think it was.  A lot more time in the valleys, in the waiting, in the "not yet.")  

Maybe some of my frustration comes from being who I am, from my place in life.  Always the caretaker but never the one being taken care of.  Always "on the outside, looking in."  

And sometimes, I just want to be the one being taken care of.  Sometimes I just want to be on the inside, where everyone else is, having a place to belong.

I am the oldest of 6 kids.  I've got 5 younger brothers.  I grew up feeling separated from them by fathers (there's 3 fathers among us 6 kids, and now a different step-dad), by gender, by age.  I was always the caretaker with them, more mother-like than sibling.  (And I was kind of expected to take care of myself, to decide everything for myself and make it happen.  I didn't get much guidance or emotional help or encouragement in that way.)

But I always thought that once I got older, I'd have a daughter who I could form a friendship with (or maybe 5 great sisters-in-law).  But I have four sons.  I love them dearly, but it's a different kind of relationship than the one I imagined with a daughter.  My husband gets to be their friend, while I get to be their caretaker and encourager.  And so once again, I am just a little bit on the outside of a "members-only club." 

I can't share any "girl talk" or any of the female lessons I've learned over the years.  I can't pass on any of my female wisdom or experiences or tips.  One thing I really wanted to do was to be able to celebrate the day my daughter "grew up" and got her period, like what my best friend's mom did for her.  I wanted to take her out to dinner and celebrate her entrance into womanhood.  To tell her she's amazing and growing into such a wonderful young woman.  I wanted to buy her a bra.  

I guess I've always wanted to make up for the day I got my period - when I nervously admitted to my mom that it happened while I was at school and that I stuffed toilet paper in my underwear ... and then she yelled at me and made me feel stupid for not going to the nurse and getting a sanitary napkin.  And she never mentioned it again, just threw a box of pads on my bed.  And when I asked my mom to buy me a bra (because I was one of the last two girls in my class to get one and the boys would make fun of me and it was embarrassing), she told me I didn't need one.  But I did - if only for my hurt self-esteem, to feel like I was "one of the girls."  

I never really got over these times.  They're so symbolic of my relationship with my mom for so long.  And I always wanted to make up for it by "doing it right" for my daughter.    

But, oh well, God knows what He's doing by giving me four boys.  And it's good!  It's just different.

And then, as I mentioned, there's the different dads I've seen come and go in my family.  My own father - a very nice man - had almost nothing to do with me (he died in 2015 without going to the doctor or ever even telling me he was sick, buried on his own property in his hand-made coffin, no funeral, no goodbye) ... then there was step-dad #1 who I lost touch with when I was 13 ... then #2 who disappeared after a horrible divorce in my late 20s (I mean HORRIBLE!  It's a miracle no one died during that time!  And I think he's on heroin now, no contact with me or his sons, probably for the best) ... then #3 who is a nice guy but not a dad (I don't need another dad).  

And my mom and I ... well, we have a complicated relationship that's pleasant when we see each other but is probably best limited to seeing/talking once every couple months.  We can go just fine for several months without talking.  

And my brothers and I - given the age difference and gender difference and the horrible divorce my family went through which made us all go into self-protective mode - we don't really have a relationship.  I am just now getting to know one brother better, out of five.  And so there's no friendships with any of the sisters-in-law, either.  It's sad.  And my cousins and aunts and uncles have basically all moved away, almost no contact with any of them.  So many people, so much potential, all amounting to basically nothing.  I just don't seem to belong anywhere in my family, but with my own husband and kids (so thank God for them!).

And then there's the loss of so many dreams and joys (I've talked about this on my other blogs, but it all still fits today):  

1.  A best friend who never calls because I tried to help their troubled marriage.  In fact, she was my only real friend at the time.  I desperately needed her friendship.  But she needed "marriage help" more.  So I took a risk and stepped in to help.  And she stopped calling.  She wasn't mad, just afraid she might have been complaining too much, so she stopped talking altogether.  I still love her dearly.  I just really, really miss her friendship.  

2.  A garden I don't want to plant anymore because of the abandoned, moldy garage right behind us that blows a super-strong moldy smell all over our yard.  For me, the garden was my last "sweet spot," my "sacred ground" - the thing I waited 11 years for, the place where I met with God, talked with Him, enjoyed His creation, vented my frustrations and retreated to when I needed refreshment.  

After waiting for it and daydreaming about it for 11 years, I got to enjoy it for a mere 2 or 3 years before the mold smell became overwhelming.  It was the passionate hobby I clung to and poured myself in to when I couldn't do anything about my broken-down house (a house we waited years for and prayed for and felt led to buy when our 6-person-family was desperately trying to get out of a "one-bedroom" moldy rental that was making us sick - only to discover one huge problem after the next, enough to crush your spirit, in this new house that was supposed to be our answer to prayer).  

And now, the neighbor's moldy garage smothers us with moldy smells all summer.  Despite my calls to the city and county, no one will get it cleaned up.  No one cares.  No one will step in to help me.  I hate gardening!  I hate my backyard!  I hate plants!  I want to rip up my garden beds and never go outside in my backyard again!  

[I try not to enjoy anything too much anymore.  When you do, you get crushed!  And I get a little afraid to pray for anything specific, to want more than the most basic necessities.  Because we prayed for and waited for this house for so long.  And look where it got us.  We desperately tried to follow God's leading, to trust Him to answer in His timing.  And it led us to this broken-down house (which didn't seem so broken down when we bought it) and the neighbor's moldy garage (I'm more upset about the mold than the broken-down house).  I'm not too sure how to pray anymore, how to know what to pray for, how to follow God's leading, how to want anything or hope for anything.  Not when it leads you to something that destroys your spirit.  

And yet, I still do feel like this house was His answer to prayer.  I just don't understand His reasoning.  I don't understand why.  And then I feel bad for acting like I won't be happy unless God gives me what I want.  I desperately try to make sure I am content in all situations, that I praise Him and am thankful regardless of my circumstances.  Who am I to demand that God makes me "happy"?  When I know that He has blessed us greatly, probably in so many ways I take for granted.  Honestly, He has far more reason to be disappointed with me than I do with Him!]

3.  A new-ish pastor I dislike so much that it made me stop "attending" church.  He is very dogmatic about predestination and his extreme view of God's sovereignty, as in "God causes everything, even child abuse, people's rebellion, the Fall of Adam and Eve, etc."  And he strong-arms people into agreeing with him by framing those who disagree as unhumble Christians who dishonor God and deny the Word.  

My husband and I go, but we don't listen.  We sit in the hall and read godly books while our kids go to their children's church.  And it's especially frustrating because we can't talk to fellow church-goers about it because they all seem to love him.  

But I've studied this issue deeply, and I truly believe it's free-will, that we choose between obeying and disobeying, between believing and rebelling.  (I've got an upcoming series on predestination.)  And it makes me very sad to not want to be at our church anymore, the church we've attended for almost 20 years.  All because of this new pastor and his favorite topic - predestination.  (We're not the only ones, though.  Others have already left the church quietly, and more are talking about it.)  

4.  The loss of my favorite pastor, who left our church - the one whom I most trusted, with whom I shared the terrible "burden" I'm keeping inside that I can't tell anyone else but those two or three people who already know (the thing I think about every day and will think about until I am in a position where I can talk about it), the pastor who made me feel ok with still going to that church because "At least he's still here" (like I told my husband just months before this pastor had to leave).  

5...6...7...8...etc.:  I could go on and on ... 

... about my discouragement over looking so old (I have prematurely silver hair and incredibly sensitive skin, so I can't dye my hair or hardly wear makeup.  But I thank God I have hair and skin.  It could be worse!) ... 

... my anxiety/sadness over that secret I can't share (Lord, how much longer will I have to carry this one?) ...

... the depression I've been dealing with for years ...

... the panic attack that changed me ...

... the fears I carry around as a homeschooling mother (although, I'll admit that it's getting a little better now that I've graduated one son and he's taking college classes, starting to take responsibility for his own life and future) ...

... the dog I would like to have but never got ...

... my identity crisis as I realize I'm not who I was and I don't know who I want to be anymore and I don't really care anyway ...

... etc. etc. etc.  (Am I as pathetic as I sound?  Yes, probably!)  

But the point is ...  

I'm struggling.  I have been for so long.  Wondering "Why bother?  Why care anymore?  Why hope?  It just gets ruined anyway!"  When I read people's posts on "dream big" and "God wants to use you greatly" and "be joyful," I want to snicker.  I'm just too cynical now.  Too broken. 

When I "dream big," I can only think of these things:  

1.  I want my sons in heaven with me and my husband!

2.  I want Jesus to come back again!

3.  I just want to do well in my job as a wife and mother.  

4.  I pray and hope that God keeps us safe and healthy.

5.  And it would be nice to get my house clean and to see it stay clean for more than 30 minutes.

And that's it!  I want nothing much more out of life than that.  Dreaming big, aiming high, wanting more - it only leaves you crushed and hurting and more broken in the end when it all falls apart.  I don't find joy in much anymore.  And I don't really want to find joy in much anymore.  Joy is overrated.  (I know it's not.  But sometimes that's how it feels.)  

I know it's not good to feel this way.  And honestly, don't feel too bad for me.  I'm just venting here.  Rambling about the things that have gone on in my head over the past couple years, making it sound worse than it really is (and yet not really).  

I've learned to live with these disappointments and heartaches, to do my best in spite of them.  I've learned to count my blessings, to praise in the pain, to not worry if I'm not "happy."  

I've got my family and my faith, and it's good.  (Which also, though, makes me afraid.  If my family is the only thing I really have left that I care about, then it's the only thing left for Satan to target or for God to take away from me to test me in one way or other.  See how my mind works!  It's a dark, dark place sometimes.  Whenever I think of what I would scream out if I could scream anything, it would be "WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO COME BACK, JESUS?  WHY HAVEN'T YOU RETURNED YET?"  I often scream that in my head while I'm laying in bed at night, talking to God.  I just don't know how much more I can handle.)  

I am a little bit stuck here.  More than a little bit.  And I'm not sure how to get past all this anymore.  Not sure if I even want to.  

It's kinda like that old experiment when they put dogs in electrified cages and shock them.  At first, the dogs jump around, desperately trying to find a way out.  But over time - after much effort - they realize they can't get out.  And so eventually, they lay down and just take the shocks.  And even when the researchers give the dogs an "out" - an escape route - the dogs don't care.  They don't try to get away from the shocks anymore.  They just take it.

That's where I'm at.  And I don't know what to do about it.  

I used to walk through life so boldly, enthusiastically, and confidently.  Humming a happy tune.  And now I feel so beaten up by life that I have the hardest time taking even a timid step forward, always flinching, ever fearful, always waiting for the next pummeling.    

And I guess this is what's behind my "Me, too, Lord?" thing.  Sometimes, I just want God to see me like a young girl.  Like a new believer who is unsure and vulnerable and needs reassurance.  In reality, I'm past the point of needing reassurance about my faith, about Him.  As I said, I will cling to Him till the end because I believe in Him with every fiber of my being.  

I don't doubt Him.  I know He listens.  I know He moves.  I know He answers prayer.

It's just that I'm still learning how to live with the fact that He doesn't always prayers the way I want ... that life doesn't always go the way we want it to ... that it's not always about being "happy" ... that despite our best efforts to make things good and beautiful and polished and whole, things will often be bad and ugly and messy and broken ... that sometimes the answer is in accepting our brokenness and hardships instead of trying to run from them.

I'm not exactly sure if I should share this kind of whining, complaining, pessimistic stuff.  It's not what a "proper, polished Christian" does.  (I got rid of "proper and polished" a long time ago.)  

But I guess I want anyone who's reading to realize that when I talk about my faith, it's not a naïve faith.  It's not a faith that's about making life easier or getting what I want.  It's not a faith that came easily and smoothly.  

It's a hard-won, battle-tested, scarred-heart, walk-with-a-limp-forever kind of faith.  

And that's okay!  

It's not pretty, but it's real!  

(There's a song I love called "Superman" by Five for Fighting.  It's about how even Superman gets scared and feels vulnerable and doesn't always want to do what he's got to do.  I really like this song.  I can relate to the idea of feeling like I have to be a super-person, but just wanting to be human.  Always taking care of others, but sometimes just wanting to be taken care of myself.  At least that's how I hear it.  I really love this song.)

o be honest, I don't know how to end this post.  Because there isn't really an ending yet to what I'm going through.  But I guess that's okay, too.  That's life.  That's being human.  A journey.  A process.  Walking that long, difficult road to Home, when God rights all wrongs and wipes all tears and makes all things good again.  And it is then that I will be able to rest and to truly know joy.

But until then, I struggle on as best I know how.  And I pray (for myself and for anyone else struggling):  

Lord, please encourage the broken hearts out there, mine included.  I'm not asking that You change my circumstances; I'm just asking that You show me again that You see me, that I matter, that You've got it all in Your hands.  The bad, the ugly, the messy, the brokenness and all.  I can't carry these burdens on my own.  I'm too weak, too hurt, too broken.  Please, carry me while I carry these burdens.  No matter how old I get or how secure my faith is, I still need You.  I still need my Father to reach down and help me, comfort me, and hold me.  Until I have the strength to stand again.  Surround me and my family with Your heavenly angels while I am feeling so vulnerable, to keep evil away.  And open my eyes to You - to Your blessings, Your Truth, and what You want to tell me.  Lift my eyes from the muck, and help me to see Your glory again.  (But, if You would, please don't let it be by some big trial.  The mere thought of more trials makes me panic.)  And thank You for all the earlier times that You've helped me, comforted me, guided and provided for me.  I know You are there.  I know You are real.  I'm clinging to You.  But please, help me feel Your presence again.  It's been so long and my soul feels so shriveled and lifeless.  Please, Father.  Please.  Amen.    

Additional posts:
26 tips for dealing with depression/anxiety (long version) 

26 tips for dealing with depression/anxiety (short version)

Fighting Back a Panic Attack

Is Depression a Sin?

Where I'm Coming From (A more in-depth look at the trials I've been through)

Help For Anxiety, Depression, and Suicidal Thoughts

My When Anxiety Strikes Playlist

Getting Through The Broken Times 

[Okay, so I've vented, and now I'm okay.  I know how to vent it out and let myself cry ... then pick myself up, find the silver linings, thank God for the blessings, sing anyway, blast some music as I drive, cuss a little under my breath, and carry on.] 

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