5.24.2016

taking refuge



I've been sad lately. Some days it's been to the point that I've worried if my postpartum depression is coming back. Months of uncertainty and sorrow wore my optimism down, leaving me vulnerable and too weak to fight that all-consuming sadness. My heart has felt battered and bruised. It's been a long season of bad news and waiting.

We signed another lease this afternoon. We were supposed to be moved into our very own house by now, but we're not, so I'm rearranging the dishes in the kitchen cabinets to make me feel a little better about it. It feels like the social media world is full of dream homes and kitchen renovations lately. I can't paint walls or knock them down or install a subway tile backsplash, but I can buy pink and purple flowers and plant them in little black pots on the front porch. It helps. It really does. We've made a really good home here, one that I love, but that doesn't mean I didn't sign my name with tears in my eyes. Every time we promise each other it will be the last time, but there's no fighting the housing market or cash offers or water damage in the basement. I long for the day I don't have to stare at my wall of bookshelves, knowing someday in the coming months I'll have to box them up and carry them and load them and unload them and unpack them. I'm longing for permanence. It's like holding your breath and waiting for the exhale. 

It's easy to say your kids will hit milestones at their own speed, that you'll make friends if you keep putting yourself out there, that you won't be stuck in your apartment forever. But it's another thing to feel the defeat and discouragement when you try and try and it feels like nothing changes. But, feelings are deceptive. As James is always telling me, sometimes you have to let your heart catch up with your head. Until that happens, there's a lot to be said for eating lunch outside and making scones in the afternoon and planting flowers. Finding joy in simple little things. In this circumstance--as well as many others--I'm trying to take refuge in that truth that His ways are not mine. Earthly comforts will bring me no lasting peace. I know all these things are true, but sometimes it's hard to feel that. Some days are good, and I overflow with gratitude for my little family and our home and every thing in our life, but many days it feels like the fog won't quite burn off.

A large part of this is because I've looked to all the wrong places for comfort. I get frustrated and angry when things don't go my way. As a Christian, I know that I deserve nothing, even if my pride tries to tell me I deserve everything. My good works are as filthy rags. I've sinned in the eyes of God, and that merits death. But death has already been conquered for me. Death has no sting; I have eternal life. I have everything I could never deserve or work enough for. And when I shift my view back to this eternal perspective, everything falls into its proper place, and I'm filled with peace. The fog finally starts to burn off. Sometimes there is still sadness, because that's just a part of life, and sadness can be good. There's no use pretending we're happy all the time. But I'm taking refuge in the fact my feelings don't dictate the truth. And the truth is this world, this apartment, is not my home. Heaven is. And there is no greater joy than that.


26 comments:

  1. My heart is heavy for you reading this, Michelle. I wish there was more I could do, or that I was closer. Preferably both!! If I were closer, I'd be on my way over to your cute little two bedroom right now, with sweatpants on and Mexican take-out in hand (from that delicious place down the road that you took us to) ready to spend the night on the couch, watching New Girl. How great would that be?

    It's scary how our depression, fears, and anxieties can just lay dormant until they are triggered by something. Knowing it never truly goes away is a scary thought. But your faith is bigger than all of that. And the fact that you can recognize that despite how you're feeling says a lot about the power of your faith.

    Thinking of you allllll the time <3 xoxoxo

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  2. I LOVE YOU, MICHELLE!!! I'm sorry you have to go through this fog. I hate the fog. I've been weaving in and out of it for the past several months (well, you know! Lol).
    Remember that book excerpt I sent you? That was from the book Simply Tuesday and it really helped me when I was in the thickest part of my fog.
    I agree with you. It's much easier to suddenly find ourselves in these situations when we have taken our eyes off of God and started trusting our feelings. I do that so often. It is funny, I was just thinking about that today. I'm currently going through a situation with someone that has caused me to be really bitter and angry and I know those feelings only make things worse. And I asked God how to not constantly focus on that situation and stop getting myself so worked up and I really felt His response was that I struggle because I don't keep my focus on Him. My pride ruins everything! Haha

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    1. Love you so much, Jo! I keep forgetting to grab that book, but I need to, because that excerpt you sent me was amazing. So grateful for you.

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  3. I get this. I so get this. You say apartment, I say job. It's hard when things don't work out the way we hope, especially when it doesn't make sense or seem fair. Thank God life isn't fair, though, because I really don't want to be on the receiving end of that. Grace is so good. Great things are yet to come.

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  4. I get this. Oh how I do. I have my name on a mortgage, and I've got the kitchen remodel- but 3,000 miles from my friends and family. And we will go back- in two years- and the projects we do here (financially motivated for equity in our home when we sell) will shift from the "making our house a home" narrative to "we must do this before we sell." And sometimes I wish I could skip the deployments and the next two years and just be there- where we might live for more than a few months or years. But this is life, and it's now, not in the future. And I'm excited about the promises of heaven, but it would be short-sighted for me to wish away the here and now that I've been given (with so many blessings I forget to count!!) as well. It's a mixed bag of emotions. Thank you for being the one to say it.

    I hope you find your awesome little house and I hope you keep making great memories in your home for now. And if it is the tide of depression, I hope you get the therapy and meds you need. Fellow sufferer here. :)

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    1. Ugh, yes. I'm far from all my family too. It's horrible. It makes it hard to plant myself here when I feel like my heart is scattered elsewhere. It's definitely a mixed bag of emotions, and I honestly vacillate between the two all day every day. It's all about perspective.

      Thank you! Just writing this out has been so therapeutic. Sometimes you just have to call yourself out.

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  5. totally relate in more ways than you will ever know. thank you for writing and sharing this :)

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  6. I so appreciate your honesty, Michelle. I'm sorry you're feeling so sad lately. I slip, too, sometimes and I wonder why I'm not getting paid more or traveling more or doing anything other than what I'm doing. It's so tough to feel optimistic when something huge (like your living situation) is dragging you down :( I'm so glad you're finding some peace and some truths to live by, though. When I see or hear about others less fortunate than me I immediately feel the kick in the pants and have that realization I that don't deserve what I have AT ALL. And in the end none of this is permanent. You're so, so right.

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  7. Oh, Michelle. This post is so human. Which makes it the best kind. I feel your pain, in sympathy and in empathy. I can only imagine how disheartening it must be to be so close to the next step, while the distance between you seems to grow rather than shrink with each year and each signature. I harbor similar yearnings to have a place of my own- to nurture and nest in, to reflect my own version of home. My situation is rather complicated in regards to family obligations, and there are many times when I curse myself for the natural resentment that tethers me in place. It's not an unusual story. But it's a personal one, and can consume me.

    Ultimately, though, you seem to have perspective. You see the bigger picture (the biggest picture, if I'm being honest). I can't always rationalize this life in such succinct terms. But boy, does it give you peace of mind when you can. I have a mantra I try my best to keep in mind whenever I'm feeling discontented or stagnant. It comes from the ultimate source of wisdom (in my not-so-humble opinion): a Beatles song.

    "There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be." - John Lennon

    I invoke that line a lot- maybe too much, if I'm being honest. I think I just used it in a post on Alissa's blog last week. But...it's just so perfect! It cures a multitude of sins, as you mention. It puts me at ease. It keeps the wolves at bay. There is a plan, I believe. And it has to do with my own free will and choices and autonomy SURE-- I'm not denying human consciousness. But I think it exists as the afterthought rather than the driving impulse. Am I still making sense? Have I completely rambled myself out of the point? The point is- I think there is a reason why you are still in that little cozy apartment, even if it's just to learn that planting flowers on the porch can make what's heavy on the heart less so. And like all things, this too shall pass.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kate. I love everything you said, as usual. I agree 200% there's a reason we're still here. Many good things have come of our years here, and many life lessons we probably wouldn't have learned anywhere else. It's hard to keep that perspective when it feels like so many aspects of life are falling apart, as they kind of have been the past year. But as you said, this too shall pass. I believe that with my whole heart even when it doesn't feel like it. Thank you <3

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  8. Yours is the post I have been trying to articulate for a while now. A few months ago, and only three months into marriage, my husband unexpectedly lost his job. We're going on 4 months of unemployment, and I sometimes have a hard time being joyful, as so many people say I should be. So many of our friends and family are buying houses, new cars, traveling across the world, going on fancy dates, etc. Meanwhile, we just signed a new lease on our one bedroom apartment, I feel guilty for getting Subway for lunch on occasion, I fret over the many wedding gifts we need to get for friends, and I'm looking for things to sell to pay for the new tires we have to buy for my husband's car.

    I know our time will come, but I feel like we've been left behind. And while I know it's temporary and God has a plan, sometimes I just want to wallow. Because it does suck, and it's a lot of stress. While our situations are a bit different, I understand at least some of what you are feeling and empathize with you.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep a big picture perspective.

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    1. Oh Amanda, I'm so sorry. I completely understand your feelings. Our rent is unmanageably high, and we have the same financial stresses of figuring out how to buy wedding and birthday gifts that are no big deal for most others. It feels so defeating, doesn't it? But man, have we gotten good with budgeting and getting creative in the kitchen and all kinds of other things. I'm thankful for this season of life if only for those things. I constantly battle feeling left behind too, for more reasons than just this apartment saga. Sometimes I let myself wallow and it helps, but I can't let myself stay there long. Sometimes the hardest thing is getting back up on your feet to keep going when it feels like so much is working against you. Praying for you!

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  9. You always have the ability to put into words a lot of the feelings I cycle through over and over again. Depression has been something I've struggled with for quite awhile, but nothing has been like the postpartum depression I've had with each of my children. To me it has always eventually come down to my expectations. I eventually hit bottom and realize I desperately need to evaluate my expectations, because usually they aren't being met because they aren't obtainable. I'm still struggling with that now even after adjusting my expectations.

    This life isn't easy. It's a hard reality to come to grips with the fact that it wasn't meant to be easy. I need to remind myself of that more often.

    I'll be praying for you! One day we'll party in paradise together & by partying I mean drinking coffee & eating donuts!

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  10. I feel this post so much. You've written it so beautifully, much better than I ever could. I have struggled with some real sadness as of late too. I am a perfectionist at heart, but obviously I fall short every.single.day in all aspects of life- bc hello?! No one is perfect and no one's situation will ever "feel" perfect- yet I want it. I feel like I could type a novel on this, but I'll spare you. Know that I'm sending hugs your way and also THANK YOU for writing this.

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  11. You posted this at the perfect time. I, myself, have been feeling so down. I have also wondered if I am getting my postpartum back. My family just received some bad news regarding my Grandpa. My heart is broken; sure he is going to be 83 & has lived a damn good life. It doesn’t matter… he is mine and I am losing him.

    You will get your forever home, I know you probably want to slap me across the face for typing that but it will happen, and it will be everything you ever wanted and more. It will come, I promise.

    I love that, “sometimes you have to let your heart catch up with your head.” I am going to steal that & repeat it to myself daily. I know exactly how you feel, I have more than I could ever deserve already in life. I have a loyal loving husband and two healthy beautiful children, but some days I just can’t lift that fog. I think it is pretty normal to feel this way, without sadness how could we ever know true happiness?

    You are a beautiful person with a really incredible outlook on life even when the times are tough. I hope you know just how much your blog means to someone you have never met before.

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    1. Emily! I have tears! I'm so glad I've started to get to know you. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I know exactly how you feel--my grandma is battling brain cancer, and it has been excruciating for the whole family to watch. It's heartbreaking. Praying for peace for you and your family.

      Isn't that such a great phrase? James tells me that almost every day, and every time it helps center me. I battle myself every day wondering why I feel so down when I have all the things I used to pray for. But the good days are SO much better after a string of hard ones. We'll get through this. We will. <3

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  12. I recently came across a book by CS Lewis called "God in the Dock," which is a collection of essays, and I came across this quote: “If you think of this world as a place simply intended for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place for training and correction and it's not so bad.” We really feel so entitled, especially in America, when we actually deserve nothing at all. Thanks for the reminder. I do hope things start turning around. We've only had our house a year, and I KNOW the feeling of crying about signing another lease. It felt like everyone was leaving me behind in my apartment life, and I just wanted a house so badly. Who puts down cash offers these days anyway? Lame.

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  13. I want to run over there and hug you tight. I remember how much I hated renting. I wanted to paint my walls and not ask the landlord's permission to hang things on the wall. And then when we moved in with my in-law's I nearly went insane. Actually, I give most of the credit to that living situation that started me on running. haha

    I want to tell you to hang in there, and that I promise that one day you will have your forever home. And when you do, and you find yourself passing by your old townhouse on your way to something and find yourself flooded with nostalgia. And I might even say you'll miss it and all of the memories. But I also want to tell you that it is absolutely okay that you are feeling the way you do. And I am sending all of my love and prayers to you. And hopefully I can do even a little more someday.

    Until then, I just want you to know how incredible I think you are. You inspire me with every post. Your faith in God and your spirit are so contagious and I find myself coming here knowing that I will leave a better person. I just love you. <3

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  14. For what it's worth-- each time I've been to visit you, your apartment has felt like a home to me. Home is something I've struggled with (because how do you make one by yourself?) and you nailed it. And you'll nail it again when the time comes to move into a house.

    You'll get there. You will. And until then you have a great husband, the best baby, and two crazy friends from NY who are all on your team <3

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  15. I didn't get to read your post before now, so I'm late to the party (usually how I like it). I can relate to this in so many ways. I remember sneaking into the heart bathroom in the middle of the night when I was pregnant to cry so that I wouldn't wake Dean. We live in a small, 1 bedroom apartment with a toddler. We do have plans to move this summer, but I know the "its not supposed to be this way" feeling all to much. A year into I can say this: it's hard, it's not ideal, but we make it work. Im.with the people I love and this whays most important. It gets easier, but I know hearing that is hard. I remember a post you wrote way back when I first started following you. I think it was titled "Its okay to not be Mrs. Cleaver" or something like that. For back nd read it. I think past you did current you a favor.

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  16. Tank you for this honest post. It's so easy to know something but hard to keep that perspective when you're in the middle of a trying situation. For what it's worth, I think it sounds like you're doing beautifully. There are things you can't change, but you're making the best of what you've got right now and the small things (planting flowers, eating outside, etc) really do make it better.

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  17. Oh girl, you are so beautiful to share your heart like this! Real and genuine. Thank you for letting us in. I will be praying for you in this hard season. I can totally relate on so many levels, and it can be so discouraging when it feels as though God is silent to our desires. I will be praying for hope in each area that feels a bit hopeless. For God to fulfill those desires of your heart, whatever they may be:) Thank you again! xoxo

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