One of those days

Hard to get up and go days,

Hard to put on that smile

To just feel normal days.


Feeling the air press against me days,

Feeling like I’m not awake

Like I can’t find my center days.


Seeing the darkness days,

Seeing my own frailty

The horror of separation days.


Finding you with me days,

Finding you gentle

Finding you listening

Finding you solid ground

Finding you here

Finding you loving me

Finding you with me days.

Sacred Sadness

**Disclaimer about this post: Chronic depression is an illness just like any other, and should be treated physically (in addition to spiritually) with the help of a medical professional, whether that be through lifestyle changes, counseling, and/or medication. Please, let’s all get the help we need.**

“Why should I be sad when Jesus is with me?” That was pretty much the thesis of every testimony I grew up hearing in the church. Between the lines I read, “I shouldn’t be sad, and if I am that means something is terribly wrong with me. I’m not faithful enough, not trusting God enough, and just plain not good enough.” For many years that message didn’t cause major problems for me – I was a mostly happy kid.

But in my early twenties I started to struggle with fairly regular bouts of depression. At first I simply had no idea what to do. Nothing in my faith narrative had equipped me to deal with depression. I thought it was all mental – that if I just willed myself to believe I was happy because God loved me, that I would be. Because, let’s face it, it’s pretty freaking awesome that God loves us. For real!

So yeah, I knew that God loved me and was with me. I mean, I really knew it. I started to engage in inner healing prayer and dove deeper into scripture narratives, where I regularly found myself encountering God’s presence.

But it didn’t, and still hasn’t, erased all sadness. And I don’t know that it should.

I no longer believe that my depression is only personal to me, that it’s merely a sign that something is wrong with me. Rather, sadness is a sign of the sacred. It’s a reminder that something is terribly wrong in the world, and that we have a God whose heart aches as a result. God allows the depression, giving me a glimpse of the horror that is the separation between us and the Father. For a time I am privy to the pain and isolation that so much of humanity experiences on a daily basis. God doesn’t shield me from all hurt because if he did, I would would miss the sacred calling to truly know Him and to enter into others’ pain with Him.

In walking through depression, I walk a sacred journey hand in hand with Jesus. He too was a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” To know sadness is to know Jesus.

My desire now, when I feel the heavy mantle of depression descending is not only to ask, “God please let this be taken away from me.” It is also to say, with fear and trembling, “Let your will be done,” expecting that no matter what happens with my own life, God will surely show up.

The art of not giving up too soon.

I’m the kind of person who likes to start new things. I learn a little bit of a language. Practice guitar until I can play a few chords. Write half a poem. I inevitably get bored or stuck and suddenly – like magic – I have a new idea or a different thing to try out. New ideas are always fun and exciting. Anything is possible! The sky is the limit!

The gap between what I envision and what feels possible is not yet that big.

But once that giddy feeling wears off, I usually get tired of slogging through the grunt work of getting the darn thing done. Suddenly, everything but the project at hand seems infinitely more exciting. There are piles of dishes to wash in the sink? Score! Corners of my house that have not been vacuumed in 3 years? Thank God!

Suddenly the grand plans I had when I started this project 3 weeks days ago seem like a very ridiculous pipe dream.

BUT. The few times that I’ve actually pushed through that time in the doldrums have been infinitely rewarding. Three years ago I ran a half marathon, after several months of preparation. Believe me when I say those training runs did not feel magical. But I did them anyway. Currently, I’m trying to write a novel in a month. I hit a spell of the doldrums today and thought I’d not be able to write another word. But I sat down at my computer anyway (after a great brainstorming session with a friend, mind you). And suddenly, the words came.

I’m learning that usually, when I say I want something so bad, I don’t actually want it as much as I think I do. I don’t want it enough to suffer through the doldrum moments. I’m not willing to descend into the of mess and confusion, where I’ll have to battle my doubts and insecurities, and play through the pain. I want to climb up, without first going down.

This novel project is teaching me to embrace the mess. To keep going even when failure seems inevitable. If I give up now, I won’t see what’s possible if I persevere. A couple days ago, when I had about 18,000 words and was at least 10k behind schedule, I decided:

I want to see what I can do with the talent that’s been given to me. Tonight, I reached 30,000. I’m coming for you 50k, and I’m not giving up yet!

Lessons from the creative process

It’s now been a week since starting this crazy novel-writing project, and already I feel like I’m learning so much. I know I’m probably nuts for blogging mid-madness (wow, that’s a lot of insanity talk for two sentences) but I feel like I had to get these nuggets out before my characters stole and buried them in an undisclosed location.

  1. Stories are puzzles that come together slowly. This idea has been revolutionary. After days of writing scene after scene without a completely clear idea on where the story was going, I started to panic. How will these scenes connect to each other? Where is my story going exactly? Am I just creating a huge mess that I won’t be able to clean up later?? I sent out an emergency tweet, confessing my panic to the NaNoWriMo Twitter powers-that-be, and got a prompt response: “Wait ’til all the scenes are written. I think of stories as a puzzle, the scenes the pieces. At the end, assemble!” I breathed a sigh of relief. I guess I don’t have to have it all figured out yet!  I’m looking forward to being pleasantly surprised by the way the pieces fit together.
  2. Feedback required. But not too much. After several days, my story and characters decided to start banging their fists against the inside of my skull. Translation: I quickly found I needed to get the story out of my head. I shared my process with a select few – 5 to be exact – and have benefited from their questions about the characters and story. It’s helped me to see the story from different perspectives and consider different possibilities. However, too many more people involved would become burdensome. Find the right people and use them well. Yes, you must use people for their brains. Don’t worry, all 5 of you will be mentioned in the special acknowledgements of my novel if when it’s published. Fair?
  3. Chocolate can work miracles. That’s it. Eat lots of it.
  4. Make it fun! I’m following a couple NaNoWriMo Twitter handles, one of which offers “Word Sprints” throughout the day, every day. After every 10-30 minute “sprint” everyone tweets back their word count and sometimes shares a funny line they just wrote. This is one of those times I’m loving social media! Writing and other creative pursuits can be super hard (when it’s not a blast), so it’s good to have something that keeps it enjoyable and exciting. And bonus, I’m now interacting with two legit authors I met doing the sprints. We’ve been regularly motivating each other to write!
  5. Just do it. When it comes down to it, I’m learning that there is no way around the grunt factor of creating. The ideas and words don’t just magically plop into my head (well, not usually anyway). If I waited until I had the perfect idea or until my story made total sense to me, I would probably never write another word. I’m learning that sometimes you just need to get your butt in the chair, and do the work, even when your output feels less than stellar.

Yikes, I’m writing a novel!

That’s right, if you haven’t heard, I decided to attempt the nearly impossible this month. After hearing about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the past couple years, and seeing friends participate I’m finally swallowing my fears and giving it a try. What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? Basically, it’s a month-long salute each November to every crazy out there who’s ever entertained the idea of writing a novel, but needs some fire under their ass to make it happen. You’ve got to write 50,000 words in the month in order to be granted success. In a month! Yeah, never done anything like this before. It’s been a wild ride so far, and I’m only 6 days in.

Why have I been afraid to do this? Mainly I’m afraid of failing. I’ve been afraid that after telling everyone what I’m attempting to do, that I’d fall on my face and have to eat my words (haha, get it?). But something changed this year.

Maybe I just don’t care anymore if I fail.

Maybe my desperation to write something – anything – has reached a peak and I can’t say no any longer. Not sure exactly, but all I know is it’s going to be one sleep-deprived, highly caffeinated month, and I’m not sure what shape I’ll be in on December 1st (note: doing this while still studying Turkish 30 hours a week and other work-related responsibilities!). I do know I’ll be satisfied, that the gnawing hunger to get my story out will be somewhat satiated. Or maybe my appetite will just be whetted for more. That remains to be seen.

Oh, so you want to know what my story is about? Sorry, but that’s for me to know for now….and my lovely housemate, Jill, because let’s face it, she ain’t getting through this month unscathed either (sorry, Jill!), so the least I can do is let her come along for the ride. 😉

My Current Life Soundtrack

Music has been sNothing Left To Lose - cover artuch an important part of this season for me so I’m sharing my top hits from the past few months. Each song represents an album that I’ve been listening to on repeat during my morning coffee, on the bus, while cleaning and cooking, and just whenever. There’s a bit of a progression from song to song, so I’ve tried to order them accordingly. At the same time, walking through pain and grief is not exactly linear so although I may be feeling #6 one day, the next day I’m “back” to #1.

I’ve linked all the songs, so take a listen when you have some minutes. I hope the music and lyrics can connect with you wherever you are at today. All are important to me, but my current favorites are Renaissance by Mat Kearney and Best Shot by Birdy and Jaymes Young. I could write a whole post on each song, but for now I’ll just let the music speak.

1. Wandering, Gungor

2. Carry on Wayward Son, Kansas

3. Best Shot, Birdy and Jaymes Young (Fault in Our Stars bonus track)

4. Renaissance, Mat Kearney

5. Sözlerin Bittiği Yer, Kayra Akpınar, Murat Susmak and Beste Uyanıkoğlu

6. Echoes of Heaven, Keith and Kristyn Getty

*Since most of you don’t know Turkish, if you’re interested in the lyrics for #5, here they are: Sözlerin bittiği yerde isam sana taparım (In the place where words end, my jesus I worship you). Gözlerimi kaparım, kalbimi açarım, sana taparım (I close my eyes, I open my heart, I worship you). Gül getirdim sana hayatımdan (I brought you a rose from my life), kalbimden topladım senin için İsa (I picked it from my heart for you Jesus).

Pain demands to be felt.

tfios“Pain demands to be felt.” This quote from the film The Fault in our Stars had me ugly crying a couple nights ago. I’ve never been a fan of pain, whether that’s the migraines that feel like nails pounding into my brain, or recently, processing the death of a good friend. I’d rather just medicate. Pop some pills, turn on Netflix, and disengage.

I can’t answer why it is that we need to feel pain. I’m still half in denial myself that we do. But pain seems to cause a whole different sickness, quite separate from the physical manifestation. Unfelt, unprocessed, it festers in our souls, making us capable only of attempting to shut it out. But, truth? That attempt is too exhausting to keep up while also trying to live. So, I’m choosing to feel my pain not because I’m courageous, but simply because I am tired. I’m tired of holding up the façade that I’m unaffected, or even more dishonest, that I’m happy with the way some things go. As comfortable as it is sometimes to smile and pretend, I’m confident hopeful that transparency brings life and intimacy.

Here’s to feeling everything. Fully. Let’s do this!

Child

This is no fragile knot tied with my own fumbling fingers.
If it was we’d be done and I’d be gone,
Pulled under by the crushing weight of this ever-surrounding darkness.
I am tormented day and night
Until my soul sickens and my will weakens.
I doubt you, doubt us, doubt the me in us,
Afraid of crossing impossible lines.
But you.
You are.
And in your eyes, I am, too.
I am yours.
You chose me.
You said, “That one there, she’s mine. I choose her.”
Your words blazed brilliancy into utter black nothingness.
Your words summoned life from loose earth that lay useless.
You. Do not. Misspeak.
Your words are your will,
You create, you call,
You claimed me.
You did not misspeak.
I am your own.
I’ll never know it the way you do
But I take you now,
At your word.
Come what may there’s no changing it,
Though my spirit fails and my soul darkens
I shall always belong to you.

The Road Ahead

photo (16)Yesterday I went on a run with a friend through the English countryside. It was hilly and green, canopied with trees, and deliciously rustic. A few horses and sheep grazed in the woods and fields alongside us, and the roads were so narrow that we had to stop when the occasional car trundled past.

I was quite enjoying the jog until we found ourselves at the base of an uphill path, and it occurred to me that we’d gone downhill for a few kilometers. I pressed on for all of 200 meters before my lungs seemed to collapse and my legs felt like jelly. In defeat, I slowed to a not quite brisk walk. While I huffed and puffed, my friend jogged happily along beside me. Sensing my distress, she kindly said, “Let me run ahead and see how far we have to go.” She ran back shortly and encouraged me that the road leveled off in just a few hundred meters, though we couldn’t see it because the road kept bending. She did this twice more, running ahead, and coming back to cheer me on with the news that it was just another kilometer, or just another track lap until the next checkpoint.

As I trudged up that hill, I realized how grateful I am to have friends journeying alongside me as I settle in Izmir. I have American friends that have gone before me in the work of cultural adjustment, and I will look to them for encouragement when the road gets tough. I’m grateful also to Turkish friends who can help me navigate the twists and turns and point me in the right direction when I am lost – both figuratively and literally!

The road is long and lonely when we walk it alone, but when we travel with friends, though still painful and exhausting, it becomes a journey of hope.