On Depression and Being Deeply Known

Y’all, I think I’m hilarious… the majority of the time. Due to my sanguine personality, stuff just flies out of my mouth before I can catch it and realize, “Uh, don’t say that.” Need examples, ask ANYONE on my staff team. There’s been quite a few doozies this year.

The extraverted, Sanguine-ness can be super fun sometimes. I love being with people. I love adventure. I love hugs. I love quality (and quantity) time with people. I’m always connecting with someone in some capacity. Being the introverts worst nightmare, I often say, “Community is the best kind of unity!” But something has been off…

A few weeks ago I went to grab lunch with a pastor and new friend, Kevin. We have had similar experiences in ministry where we are just naturally gifted and really enjoy ministry-but for whatever reason, have felt deeply alone and depressed.

My first year in Detroit was probably the hardest year of my life since struggling with severe depression 10+ years ago. I found myself in a new ministry context, new culture, new climate (God bless this weather…), new co-workers, new friends, new church and still struggling with navigating healthy family relationships (#adulthood). All this mixed in with feeling a high need to be deeply known almost instantly, led to heightened depression and anxiety. I had not experienced depression like this since before I became a Christian and was knocked back pretty hard by it. I didn’t know you could be a Christian and feel this way, so instantly I felt isolated.

I won’t get into how that manifested itself, but I will share a huge lie I was believing: Christians shouldn’t feel this way. You are supposed to be a leader. Therefore, you cannot let people see this in you.

There was a lot of shame in being open about, “Hey, I’m really struggling to see how God is good in this season.” I personally felt shame because:

  1. “Christians are supposed to trust God, right? You’re not acting life you’re trusting God voicing your fears.”- I’ve gotten this before.  Literally.
  2. My own thoughts of what a Cru staff member/missionary looks like, right? I have such high standards for what I should be like as a friend, discipler, church goer, Bible study leader, and teammate. I oftentimes feel SUCH guilt when I don’t meet my own standards.
  3. Who wants to support a missionary who can’t even confidently say 100% of the time, “God is in this; He is for me; and He is good”?

Somewhere between STINT and moving to Detroit, “Community is the best type of unity!” became just another phrase for me. I’ve lived most of my Christian life in deep, authentic, Christ-centered community. Cru was amazing for me in college-friends like Bonnie, Rachel, Lizzy, Aimee, Jasmine, Maury and Jenny were healing balm to my soul. My STINT team, I experienced such hard, sweet, redemptive community that has lead to six years of friendship with seven of the best people on Earth.

Since being in Detroit, I have been really great at connecting with my team and my students, but I have really had a hard time establishing community beyond those two. I don’t think it is because it isn’t out there. I think it is because, for me at least, depression and shame murder intimacy, vulnerability and authentic community.

The past month, the Lord has been graciously showing me my need for the body of Christ and how condemnation has no place in my life. As I sat with Kevin, he asked me about how I was experiencing gospel-centered, loving community. I talked about how I connect with my team, and am always meeting with students, but rarely have peer relationships or even “one up” relationships where I’m being poured into outside of work. Eek. Welp, not saying that is 100% the cause of my depression, but since I do have such a high need to feel valued, known and understood, it makes sense that a lack of community would lead to feeling alone and pretty miserable.

This past Sunday, Woodside taught on belonging and growing with the body of Christ. I was reminded that we need each other. I need people, and people need me. And that’s okay to be needy and to be needed. I took a risk and finally tried out a Neighborhood Group after months of pushing off my need for community. It’s easy leading and creating authentic community for others; it’s another stepping in one to be known and know others.

Yesterday, I was diving into my new favorite book Befriend: Create Belonging In A Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear by Scott Sauls and was reading about the impact shame has on us emotionally and how isolating it is. Highly suggest this read.

Today, as Ashley and I sat in our living room for an extended time with the Lord, I happened to be in 2 John. It’s the book about living in the truth, in love for one another, and in obedience to what God has called us to do: love the body of Christ. I am loving the Lord speaking so clearly to me this past month, calling me to lay down my pride and say: I’m not perfect. My life is a MESS ON SO MANY LEVELS. But, Jesus is perfect. He makes beauty of my ashes. If MESS wasn’t the norm for 100% of fallen people, then Jesus wouldn’t need to redeem or make beauty out of it.

I need Jesus, but I also need the body of Christ. And not on solely on a Great Commission journey/linking arms getting work done, but a “hey, let’s experience the beauty of the gospel and live it out together as we expand the tent of Heaven to the nations.

So tomorrow, I want to keep diving into loving the body well and allowing the body to love me well. I want to know others and be deeply known, as icky and raw as that feels sometimes, trusting that in Christ rests my identity, all the grace, mercy, and peace that I need to step into the family of God.

Thanks for being a part of this messy journey with me. I’m learning a lot, growing a lot, and as a typical ESFJ, feeling a lot. 😉

 

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Sometimes I’m a Genius: Discount Shopping for Contacts

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Y’all, life is tough being visually challenged. Contacts and glasses are a necessary evil in my life. Before this year, I was on my mom’s very great flex spending plan so I never had to worry about footing the bill for these things. My money could go to better things like, you know, Senegalese clotheses.

I asked my mom if she would go through my new insurance policy with me so I could make smart decisions about where I am going to go to purchase my 2014-2015 supply of contacts. I didn’t realize how expensive contacts were and how much planning needs to go into finding the best bang for your buck.

Here are few tricks I’ve learned about shopping on a budget for those necessary, budget-busting evils like contacts.

  1. Know your insurance policy, what providers are in your network and how much is covered. Mine covers a certain monetary amount and then after that it covers a percentage of what’s left-over. It’s important to know this to know what kind of budget you’re working with. This saves your from missing something you could reimburse or the frustration or paying for something out of pocket that you didn’t realize you were responsible for.
  2. Know what contacts work best for you and your lifestyle. Monthly contacts don’t work for me because I don’t wear contacts enough. On average, a one year supply of dailies lasts me 20-months. Please note: monthly contacts are good for 30 days from your first wear not good for 30 wears. There’s a difference. If you wear contacts everyday, these might be a good choice for you. If not, discuss your options with your optometrist and she what they recommend for your eyes and lifestyle. This can help reduce cost and waste.
  3. Unless you’ve done your research, be patient and don’t buy your contacts the day of your eye exam. I know it’s fun. The excitement of a new pair of glasses or a new supply of contacts is great (NERD), but please do your research on your options before you get stuck paying double. **SEE BELOW.
  4. Research rebates and the rules! Acuvue always has great rebates. Their standard rebate is $50 or $100 off your year supply. There are strict qualifiers though- for instance you must buy the product in a store. You can’t get a rebate for a product you bought online. See if the brand you’re looking for has a rebate by calling customer service or googling “your brand name + rebate.” **NOTE: If you’re really dependent on this rebate, please read the fine print before taking the plunge!
  5. Speaking of rebates, check point-earning sites or cash-back sites like SwagBucks or EBates.com (GREAT ONE, thanks Kristin!) for partnerships. Sometimes there are special offers through these search domains that give you points if you go through their website to shop online. The more points you have the better the rewards. Rewards are often times gift cards/certificates to partnering stores (like Starbucks). Also, it’s rare that there would be a Groupon for contacts or glasses, but rare doesn’t mean impossible!
  6. Free Shipping: Most online retailers will give you free shipping if your order is over $50.  Trust me, your order will be over $50. Double check that so you don’t debate over a $3 difference between two online stores and get stuck with a $40 S&H fee you assumed was free.
  7. How Low Can You Go? While a lot of retailers with physical locations do not advertise that they do price matching, ALWAYS ask. Know what their policy is. Generally, it is before rebate prices or manufacturers coupons.
  8. Please be careful using online sites. There are a plethora of contact retail sites out there. I am not an expert on what the laws are regarding selling contacts, but know where your contacts are coming from. If you wouldn’t buy prescription pills online from a little known source, maybe don’t by them from lesser-known websites. Know that going through third-party dealers means you probably won’t have much of a warranty or much help after purchase. Check on their rules and regulations as well.

Here are some examples I used while researching Acuvue 1 Day contacts in the 90 count pack.

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  • LensCrafters: You’re killing me smalls. One box (45-day supply) is marked at $69.95. Year supply is $559.60. If someone doesn’t have a flex spending plan to pull from or insurance, I don’t know how they do it. The good thing about LC is they do price matching. They will even call around for you if you tell them which places to check. If you have had a recent eye exam and purchase these contacts in a store, there’s a $100 rebate available on the Acuvue rebate site. Dropping the final cost to $459.60, averaging at $1.26 per day. Holy expensive batman…
  • 1-800-Contacts: I can’t tell how I feel about this place... I will say I am impressed with their Unbeatable Price Guarantee policy. Not only do they match prices, they go 2% lower in the price. Normally, price per box is about $70. But, if you buy a year supply, PPB is dropped down to $57.49. Bad news, you can’t use a rebate with it because you bought it online. And since LC’s initial cost is  before the “rebate,” 1-800’s price is lower so you can’t use the 2% decrease. If you’re a returning customer, this is as low as it goes. Good news,  if you’re a new customer you get an automatic $25 off your purchase. And like most other places, shipping is free for purchases over $50. The sales price before taxes is $424.92 averaging at $1.16 per day.
  • Walgreens- Is this a new thing? Has Walgreens always sold contact lenses? I found out that Walgreens has a 20% off promo code until 4/30/2014 (SEASONS20) for any contact lens purchase. They also have my contacts listed at $62.99 per 45 days. This is the second lowest price I’ve found. Bad news, ’cause there always is some, the Acuvue Rebates specifies that it is only valid for in-store purchases. Unless I am mistaken, which I may be, Walgreens does not carry these contacts in store. Good news, this is the lowest price available without insurance. The final price would be $403.14. Price per day: $1.10. 
  • Pearle Vision: For those who eat Pearls for breakfast... I just want to say, my initial total came out to be $719.76. You’re funny Pearle Vision, but for real though. There was absolutely nothing on their website about contact discounts, rebates, etc. I’m not even going to do the math on this one. Free shipping for orders over $50. You can keep your $50 and I’ll keep my arms and my legs, thank you!

While I try to be a loyal customer to LensCrafters, I may just have to go to Walgreens for this one (if they are covered in my network for contacts). Thanks for reading and learning with me!

What are some ways you’ve found to help budget in the necessary evils of life?

Is there another site you and your family use?

Mary Lou

I died a thousand deaths. [And then picked up my boxing gloves]

I can’t say it better than my dear friend JMTK put it in his most recent blog, so I’m not even going to try. But I will say, he hit the nail on the head in regards to life after doing long-term ministry overseas.

That’s one of the worst feelings- knowing that you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It ain’t gonna happen.

Little did you know, mostly due to me being in and out [mostly in] the pit of despair and solitude, the waves are raging and the sea of life is rough. This quote-unquote season is rough. Faithful is asking me to trust Him, and to be honest, I haven’t. Since I’ve been in America [exactly 100 days], I’ve tried to plug myself into two different states and have visited 8 different cities. I’ve church hopped like nobody’s business. And don’t even get me started about the job searches {Immigration Officer at the London US Embassy, sign me up! ‘Cause nothing says “Welcome to the UK” more than having hot tea sloshed on my blouse by a bunch of angry people whom I just denied a VISA}.

In all reality, I’m tired of trying to figure out what’s next. I appreciate and love that so many people are willing to sit down an brainstorm ideas with me about potential jobs, living situations, etc., but I am overwhelmed with what’s behind the door the illuminated by the good ole’ red, white, and blue that the Lord just lead me through. As much as I enjoy funnel cakes and Christian Chicken, the buzz has worn off.  As JMTK stated perfectly, “The smoke has cleared, the ink has dried…and now I sit on the shore of my life skipping the past years into the foam like stones, wishing with each splash that I could dive in and pick them out again.”

I’m weary and exhausted. I’m tired from doing it in my own efforts for self-fullfilment, purpose and satisfaction.

[Here’s my cycle I’ve been trapping myself in for the past 100 days] Starting point: unemployment which leads to feelings of lack of purpose mixed in with anxiety about finances, BUT then there’s the feeling of not only not fitting but feeling like I’m not supposed to be in Ohio or Memphis or wherever it is I’ve made camp that week. Again, I do know that I’m not made for here so I won’t necessarily feel that “sense of belonging” until Heaven, but I have this ever present feeling that being in Cincinnati isn’t where the Lord wants me, called me or even lead me. Which makes me a much bigger peg and Cincinnati a much smaller hole. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some amazing, sweet, gospel-centered believers in Cincinnati. I’m excited for what the Lord is doing here, I just don’t feel called to be a part of it.

So, what do I do? Look for a job in Cincinnati? If not, then where to? And doing what? But then I think, if I get a job then I’m trapped to a city and so far, I hate all of them! [I’m dramatic, but reallyyyy…. a commitment phobe]. And so the US Embassy job search continues with planning a month long escape to scope out how I feel about living in Belfast. [what?!]

I haven’t done this on purpose [but let’s be honest, who ever really DOES do this on purpose?], I feel like I’ve tried to be the God over my own life the past 100 days. But in the true Christian, sinful spirit of justifying my sin, I needed to live somewhere. I had to make some kind of decision about where this little lamb would lay her head. It’s hard when you grew up in two states, half of your family lives in one city, you went to college and have community in another city six hours away and then you lived overseas for two years. Knowing where you should call your “base” gets tricky. Add reverse culture shock into the mix and you get one big dose of…. I can’t say. People will think I really dove off the deep end.

People, let me tell you. I long for the day that I can say, “Yes, that season was hard but the Lord showed Himself faithful.” Right now, in this moment I’m faced with, “Mary, you’ve been trying to run your own show. Are you ready to hand it back over to Me?” To which I sheepishly reply, “Yes, Lord. Please.”

I’m gripping, grasping and clawing at deeper faith of “Yes, this season is hard but the Lord is and will show Himself faithful.” I want to fight for that stance and will. I am not throwing in the towel just yet. Right now it feels as if my punches are packing very little heat, but I will fight the good fight of faith ’til the day of redemption because He is worth it and His kingdom is worth it.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare…

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into.” Jeremiah 29:4-7;10-14

Rhonna #2: My Perfect Day Looks Like This

“And when the hourglass has run out, the hourglass of temporality, when the noise of secular life has grown silent and its restless or ineffectual activism has come to an end, when everything around you is still, as it is in eternity, then eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing: whether you have lived in despair or not.” -Søren Kierkegaard

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I appreciate that the caption for this photo is not, “My Perfect Day.” That sounds far too definitive, without room for improvement or leeway for personal growth. The fact that it is followed with “…Looks Like This” gives me visionary space which my ever-changing tastes appreciates. I mean, can you imagine the travesty of saying, “This is exactly what my perfect day looks like!” There’s no room for dreaming bigger. And we all know that I like to dream big…

Yesterday was one of those almost perfect days. I started off my day reading “The Pursuit of God” by AW Tozer. I haven’t been sleeping well lately [I blame it on the espresso overdoses], so after my brain was shot from reading one chapter, I fell asleep for four hours. So intellectual, I tell you.

After a quick shower, Whit and I headed to our planned hiking date. We prayed and sang worship songs on our way to the mountain and got in some sweet sisterly fellowship. And then there was the hike…

Y’all.

Don’t let this skinny body fool you; home girl is out of shape. And I’m not talking about Whit; her skinny self is on top of it. In my defense, the climb was steep. Nevertheless, here’s a quick play-by-play of our hike:

  • Starts off strong.
  • Feeling the burn a little.
  • Wooo, man, is that my heartbeat I feel in my ears?
  • I’m not trying to twerk it like Miley, but I really just need to lean on this bench for a little.
  • “Mary, you’re laying in the dirt.”

So, why was this day close to perfect? I love seeing creation and being reminded how infinitely great the Creator is. He has designed everything so beautifully and wonderfully. The way creation mirrors His faithfulness and splendor! The way the body of Christ reflects His character too! Being pushed out of my comfort zone, embracing challenges and doing life with people who are sinful, fallen and messed up is so beautiful.  I love seeing the way Whit is so patient and walks so well in her unique gifts. She isn’t perfect, but she sure does love to try to love me like Christ. I love going through small challenges and doing things I’m not naturally good at because it allows room for humility and room for others to grow in areas they are called too as well. I love seeing people come and work together. It just reminds me we are not alone and are not meant to do life alone.

My beginning quote, however it is truly supposed to be interpreted, reminds me that this world is temporary. Everything we can see is temporary; everything we don’t see is eternal. My mind is tempted to float away into a daydream that is actually more real than here. The beautiful mountains will melt like wax. The trees will die. My body, which is apparently in tip-top shape, will decay. But then there, in the stillness, before all creation will stand eternity. We will be there, with unveiled face, before the holy of holies. And as I refocus back to the temporal, try to catch my breath, I long for the eternal to come make His kingdom here.

I’m enthralled by my King and long for the perfect day.

Rhonna#1: The Year to Fly

Wendy: Peter, I can’t come with you. I’ve forgotten how to fly. I’m old, Peter. Ever so much more than twenty. I grew up a long time ago.

Young Peter Pan: No, no, no! You promised!

Wendy: I have children of my own now. They have children of their own. That’s my grandchild, Moira, asleep in the bed.

Adult Peter: [voiceover] When I saw her lying there sleeping, that moment, something changed in me forever.

Young Peter Pan: I shall give her a kiss.

Wendy: No. No, Peter. No buttons. No thimbles. I couldn’t bear to see Moira’s heart to be broken when she finds she can’t keep you.

Young Peter Pan: No. I mean a real kiss.

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One thing every kid wants more than anything is the freedom and ability to fly. The wind beneath our wings and the limitless possibilities of where those wings could take us tantalizes our confined minds. I suppose that’s where we get the expression and heart behind the saying, “I’m as free as a bird.” That’s what we all long for, I guess. Freedom.

Once we grow up, as Wendy did and eventually Peter chose to, what does freedom and flying look like? Just think happy thoughts.. doesn’t always work in a world torn apart by natural disasters, wars, and real life pain. I think it is getting back to remembering. Remembering who we are, what we were created for and where true joy, hope and purpose comes from.

When I was little, my daddy was my best friend. I thought he could do anything, and I thought his jokes were hilarious (that’s where I get my sense of humor.). He always reminds me of anytime I got out of the car I would say, “Hold my hand daddy!” There was dependence upon my father that allowed me to live in freedom knowing that nothing bad would happen.

I think we lose that blissful freedom as we see the corruption and devastating affects of sin in the world. We become aware of the limitations we have and the thought of flying moves, at best, to the back burner of our hearts. But I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to go. We are created for something greater. We’re not supposed to forget how to fly, as Wendy did. There’s freedom to live in the security of our Father that is offered to through His son. There’s security and purpose and hope and joy, unending joy! And that’s where we fly..

Remembering today that the only place to find liberation is in the One who liberates. And who better to fly with than the creator of heaven and earth?

Wendy: So… your adventures are over.

Peter: Oh, no. To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.

My Night At The Mansion

It all started at a mansion. What a cheeky start, huh?

My really good friend was house sitting the largest and best decorated home in [all of what I dare to believe] America.  The house was amazing. This mansion where it all started had over eight bedrooms, a child’s playroom, a gym, a prayer room, a designated man-cave with a zebra skinned rug, an island in the kitchen made completely of marble that was [not exagerating] bigger than the kitchen in my sister’s house, an indoor pool, and a grotto that puts Hugh Hefner’s to shame [sorry honeys bunnies.].

If I had a permanent address, I’d say I was living the high life by having a sleepover in a place like that! Considering the fact that I don’t have a good enough answer as to why my license says I live in East Tennessee, my car is registered in Illinois, and I am temporarily couch-surfing across the East Coast, I can claim that I’m not living in the lap of luxury despite popular beliefs. [I think I made that up. I’m pretty sure living out of a suitcase is not luxurious to anyone.]

Oddly enough, while I was sitting in the world’s most lush guest bedroom the Lord began to rock my heart in a really deep way. I was reading “The Pursuit of God” by AW Tozer when I felt such a burden of spiritual dryness. Surrounded by the American Dream, I began to recognize that I felt like my hunger for God was rocky. In every sense, I oftentimes desire more from God. I long for more out of my prayer life. And I want more of Him in the day-to-day study of the word. There’s a part of that book that really struck my heart. It’s about being so centered around the intellect that we miss our hearts.

I know without a doubt I am wired to depend on logic and intellect; some of that stems from fear of emotions having seen them displayed in unhealthy ways. Combating my desire to “know” in exchange for constant dependence in an intimate, grace-filled relationship with Christ is a daily struggle. And sometimes if I’m honest, it’s not even a struggle because I stop fighting. And I know that might be something some of you are going through too. Daily fighting off pride, independence or complacency gets tiring when we’re doing it in the flesh. If there is anything I’ve learned through my night at the mansion it is that God: The Master Illustrator shows up in complete, unabashed surrender.

One of my prayers that night was that my heart would stir for the word in a way that helps me to fall in love with Jesus. Now, what I’m about to say might make some of you take a step back and think, “This girl is off her rocker.” Bear with me! It’s not what you think.

I had a vision, and no it wasn’t like a prophetic-incense-burning-3D-projection-from-heaven. It was more like the Lord wanted to cast vision in my heart for how He wants me to have a renewed heart for Him and His word. I just pictured myself in that room reading scripture as if it were a love letter to me. Studying it. Reading it over and over again. Yet, not even noticing that the Author of that letter was sitting with me. God was showing me that oftentimes I read the word because it’s something I’m supposed to do and know, but I completely ignore the Person who wrote it.

Then I imagined myself sitting on the bed with Jesus, reading verses, and discussing them with Him. The verses about His love for us made my heart radiate with JOY! as I got to read them aloud to the God who authored them. I pictured me reading to the Holy of holies 1 Peter 2:9 about being His special people and being in awe that He would die for me! And I began to fall in love with Jesus all over again.

In total surrender of fears and performance, although I was feeling less than competent or even worthy in this massive mansion, the Lord met me. He illustrated where I was at in my walk with Him and where He wants to take me. I felt a burden lift off my shoulders as I felt God’s pursuit of me and see His heart for me. He is an amazing God!

I am excited to walk in this renewed vision and deeper love for the Lord. I am excited to be in prayer about what I’m reading in the word, getting excited with Jesus, and feeling the weight of what He’s saying. If that’s brokenness for the lost or joy in being His, I’m ready to walk through truth with Jesus because I’m confident He gave us His word to know and have His heart.

Thanks for letting me share about my night at the mansion. The Lord is good and His love endures forever!

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