An Ode To Joy: When Chasing Significance, Ministry, Motherhood, & Alcohol Isn’t Enough

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My daughter thinks she Knows My Dreams, she pushed hard recently trying to get me to admit them. Telling me “Go to seminary and be a pastor that writes, mom. That’s what you want. Just do it.” It’s so easy for her to say, I think to myself, with my incessant dissatisfaction and oh so many fears.

I think to myself: I’m stuck. I’m not worthy. I’ll never Be.

First came sin.

I mean we’re all sinners for sure, but the home I grew up in, I never met Jesus. I never knew Grace.

I didn’t know Jesus who is the Lord of the Universe and Hope for the world, that my Dad was always talking about.  I couldn’t believe, not for decades, that I was loved and that if I were the only Blessed Sinner on Planet Earth, Jesus would have died that grizzly death, for me. No Way.

Work Harder.

I have lived day by day, believing that if I could just be A Better Person.  If I accomplished that much more than other people, worked harder, worked longer, worked better, then, I’d be okay. And so for years that’s what I did. I worked and worked and worked, and I lived a lie.

I was never okay. I was always terrified.

I was a mess inside, deep down where you cannot admit working at a Christian organization that you’re not sure that you ever believed.

Motherhood.

So I quit all that, thinking Being a Mother is noble (enough) and even a very good thing to do.  I mean, who doesn’t find meaning in motherhood?

Never mind that I just wasn’t ready to be at home.

Too Broken Up Inside, Not Even Knowing Jesus and With a Hole in my Heart, I quit work in ministry for all the wrong reasons.

Then came Despair on a Colossal Level.

Was I ever unprepared for the depth of my anguish. For the loss of meaning without Work. The hole in my soul was frantic with fear, day after day, still.

I thought to myself I must miss My Important Work!  All those years of Chasing Significance and Feeling Important, all that had made life meaningful in the past was gone.

Stripped Naked, the rug pulled out from under me, I fell hard; I fell flat.

Major Depression.

Depression hit just as I was starting to meet the Jesus Everyone Knew and Believed in. We were now attending a lovely church that ministered to my Broken-down Heart.   Just as I began to learn and study scripture for myself.  Just as I was learning that no matter what things I did or didn’t do with my life, I was loved and okay.  Just as a little of that truth sank in,

I slid down into the darkest pit of misery and hopelessness and despair. A place So dark, so bleak, so heavy that I was surprised by this new level of unhappiness.  I never knew that people could feel that lost. (I wrote about that in Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression.)

Broken by a life that was bereft of meaning, tired beyond comprehension with three babies in diapers, bored by being at home, dissatisfied with my contribution to the world, rejecting Grace still though I had begun to understand it intellectually, then came drink.  It was a respite in the beginning, an oasis.

Alcoholism.

As the years went by what had been a brief escape, a place to go when all else seemed

Worthless, Hopeless and Endless,

I drank.  And drank. And five years passed, and I was

Work-less, Meaningless, and soon a Fallen Down Drunk. I was addicted.  And working through the Depression and All Of The Above, I finally heard the

Sweet

Whisper

of the Spirit.  By this time I knew a bit more, I believed in the Grace of Jesus and God broke in and confronted my

Cycling Toilet of Shame, the hole in my heart leaking pain all over the floor, and

my F E A R.

An Ode to Joy.

A decade has passed and I’ve been sober almost five years.  I’m still

a colossal addict even sober, who wakes up every day on the verge of an existential crisis.  Deep, DEEP within, I crave significance. I crave making a meaningful contribution to the world. I long for Joy, real Joy.

Even now, listening to the mystical, providential, sweeping Spirit of God who Speaks and Holds me every day and quiets my frantic heart, that says:

{Just Be. And wait and Trust me.}

The surrender daily is bittersweet. Because I still don’t know What I’m Doing with my LIFE.  This poverty of spirit within me breaks my heart; I feel I betray Jesus in every moment that I’m

fearful, restless, dissatisfied, and confused.

Because unlike what my daughter believes, I don’t know what I am to DO, more than

Just Be. And so, I wait.  And in the waiting, I am transformed.

[I Asked God for More] than Motherhood

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I woke up on Sunday full of lament. The depression that had been crushing me was now a throttling choke. I woke up straining. Strangled and gasping for air, for truth, for relief; I woke up.

I woke up on Sunday already giving up. Begging for it, the answer to the question depression always asks:  Why am I here?

All night long, relentlessly; a jangling chorus, a litany of failures, a litany of fears, a litany of shame. Making a list, my brain ordered them into meaningful classifications, one by one, a citation of what’s gone wrong.

Then, I went from listing to knee-deep in real water that came in while we were sleeping.  While he slept and I tossed about listing endlessly my disappointments. They were a song, the cacophony of my failures, singing and dancing in a winged frenzy above the bed.  Those songs have always been there for me, silent to him.

The water is rising around us and soon I forget my question, my list while living the longest day that I can remember. We vacuumed 600+ gallons out of the basement, while it kept coming.

That day, on a Sunday, I woke up, realizing the only one who declares me a failure is me. I am my own worst enemy. Only I am disappointed and angry with me and

I am angry at God.  I thought God and I had big plans.

A missionary kid, I watched my parents traverse each Continent of the world, going where others feared, doing what others wouldn’t, changing things, making good happen, and always leaving us to DO THINGS.  I assumed – I thought I would be a part of this in the end, do something big, significant. Eventually I would do something special.

I thought I was special, when I was doing, making, performing, achieving.  God and I, I thought we had plans.

I woke up on Sunday and realized, failure isn’t at all what I thought – and when life took a detour for me, into shame, regrets, sin, my mistakes, it all taught me and turned me into a new person.

Redeemed, New and Different, I woke up.

And knew, again. And the question changed.

What is success in life if we cannot be there for our family, to be nurturing, teaching, holding, comforting? What I rarely felt growing up, this is my offering now. Even though it isn’t within my control what my children choose to do with their lives, who or what they become, I woke up on a Sunday and realized.

I’m no big shot, except in my kid’s lives and there I am.  And I’ll struggle for this to be

Enough. And I know it’s not forever

Except it will last forever, for them.

Silent for Days, becomes Years

Silent for Days, becomes years
when the Girl Child now Woman is afraid of her own words,
allowing her many fears to overwhelm.
sometimes offering Powerful Utterances
that shape, guide, portend,
sometimes paralyzed.
Deep calls to Deep, inside
the Place Where She is Full, saying
lay down, let go.

Silent for Days, becomes years
when the Girl Child now Woman
knows and comes to love
herself and comes to believe
in the One who Gave His Life for us all.
Still waters, Silent
deep, deep inside
the Girl Child now Woman is daily groping,
hoping not to misstep.  knowing
she holds one, two, three, four
Souls in her sweaty, grasping hands.
she is hopeful and
needing, wanting to nurture and heal.
so much faith, so much potential, so much possibility.

Silent for Days, becomes years
when Girl Child now Woman
lays down her life, lets go
of control,
of results,
of Knowing her Future or
knowing anything at all.
building calluses on her knees, head
bowed, tears flowing, hands
open, heart
free.

the Girl Child now Woman knows
how little she knows.
she lets go.  her heart
bursting from the agony of it,
the birthing of the one, two, three, four lives
put into her hands and
her One Life.
Just ahead, Looms.  Just ahead,
the One who Gave His Life for us all
Asks it of her
and she lets go.