Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

The Storm Inside – Disappointment…

“Life can deeply disappoint us. God’s word doesn’t shy away from it, so why should we?” (The Storm Inside, p27)

There are some things in life that severely disappoint us, to the extent that we question God regarding his love and power.

When MiniMe was six months old, I broke my upper arm – seriously, in three places. Recovery took a good eight months, and I still have issues with it now, when the weather is cold and damp, or when a small child swings on it, or when MicroBob goes dead weight on the school run forcing me to lug him home under my arm.

The broken arm was a huge deal for me. I couldn’t care for my baby on my own, and needed help 24 hours a day to look after her on the most basic level. What for some mothers would be a dream, for me, not changing a nappy for four months served as a painful reminder that God wasn’t doing what I thought he’d promised.

I was convinced that God would heal me. I knew he could do it. The God that I knew, from scripture and experience, could fuse the bones, remove the plates, screws and other metal work, and restore the situation in which I found myself. I was determined that it would happen – I knew God was capable, and I knew that the story of a miracle would rock the world of our local hospital, where I had been warned of the months of physio, pain killers and inconvenience.

It never did. God apparently did nothing to make it any easier – the recovery time was as long and painful as I’d been warned, and as time went on I lost hope that God would or could do anything or that he really cared in the first place. I asked over and over again those age old questions: How do we reconcile an all loving God who doesn’t show his power in our greatest disappointment, or an all powerful God who doesn’t love us enough to give us the desires of our heart?

Lots of people reminded me that I could learn things from this, that it would make me stronger, and that God would show himself to the people around me if I could just keep trusting him. But it fell like rocks into water. King Solomon had it right: “Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in the cold or pouring vinegar in a wound.” (Proverbs 25:30)

The truth, as Sheila Walsh says, is that “sometimes we act as if God is obligated to make all our dreams come true and give a happy ending to every earthbound tale.” (p39). We forget that we are in a spiritual battle, and that battles have casualties. This is why Jesus says “Take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:34b) – to remind us that even when we are the casualty of war, we know who the winner will be, and that every knee, whether it wants to or not, will bow before the King of Kings.

There is a happy end to the story. I have my arm back, and am able to look after both my children in the way I want to. In some ways I have been able to see more clearly how I want to raise them because I was forced to have a time where I couldn’t do my job. I got to know people I’d hardly spoken to before – people who had seen the problem and stepped up to help make it better because that’s all they could do. I found out that sometimes I have to rely on other people to help me, and that I can’t do it all alone. And it’s not lost on me that this was probably the practise run for being diagnosed with bipolar, where I often have to completely rely on others to know when I’m unwell, because I literally can’t see it for myself.

I still don’t know the answers. It’s still not clear to me why God didn’t do this one little thing for me when he is so powerful. And I’m still disappointed at times. I still don’t think the good outweighed the bad. And no-one was ever really able to answer my question ‘why’.

I’m also not going to claim that Sheila Walsh can answer my questions. She’s good, but not that good! She acknowledges: “We rarely teach disappointment 101 in church…” (p30) and never claims to have all the answers – a breath of fresh air in the church, where we think having the answers is the only way we will persuade people that God is worth their time. Sheila’s gift is that she doesn’t pretend, but she acknowledges deep pain and goes on to give us a crash course in moving towards a place of hope.

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Storm Inside – Heartbroken

“Just because something is true doesn’t mean you should voice that truth in all circumstances” (The Storm Inside, p8)

I don’t know about you, but I think the Christian Church should be purveyors of Biblical truth. God’s Word should be the basis of everything we do and say, because it’s only through His word that any of us can learn how truly loved and valued and treasured we are. I say this at the beginning of this post because I don’t want what comes next to be taken wrongly.

Sometimes, although the Bible is full of truth and love, the way we use it is not. We take verses and throw them at struggling people because we think that it will somehow help them out of their situation, and turn them into the Christians and church goers that we think they should be.

“God didn’t give us His Word to use like a weapon or some kind of Hallmark card we can pass across the fence and keep some distance. It is meant for encouragement, not pat answers in the midst of pain.” (p8)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had all sorts of verses thrown at me out of context, that have been supposed to encourage me but instead just made me feel worse. As a bipolar sufferer, this is my favourite: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:6, italics mine). I’ve had this one trotted out to me in all guises, from the well meaning church elder to widely distributed books and courses.

I’m not quite sure what my response to this should be. Perhaps people are expecting me to jump up and shout: “Hurrah! The Bible says God gives me a sound mind! Now I know that, I’ll no longer have bipolar! I shall stop all my meds and give up therapy and frolic in daisies for the rest of my life!” Is it any wonder that our churches have a far lower ratio of mentally ill to mentally well people than the rest of the population?

Shelia Walsh’s example of what she calls ‘arrow verses’ is: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). It gets trotted out whenever anyone puts their hand up to say that life is hard and it gets them down and they just wish it would stop, and it hits like a poison arrow into their pain, implying that if you’re not being or feeling strong, then you obviously aren’t relying on Christ’s strength. That can hurt almost as much as the original pain, and make us feel isolated and misunderstood by those closest to us – exactly how the enemy wants us to feel.

So how about we stop throwing out-of-context verses at our struggling brothers and sisters, and just agree with them that life is hard sometimes? How about we stop trying to make each other feel better and just allow one another to feel?

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The Storm Inside – trading the chaos…?

20140120-131612.jpg“Here is the Hope that you’re looking for. Here is the Truth you need” promises author Liz Curtis Higgs.

Quite a promise for a book I haven’t started yet. The praise for Sheila Walsh’s newest book goes on for three pages at the front, with names as big as Amy Grant and Joni Eareckson Tada applauding it. Even Kay Warren, who lost her son to suicide last year, says “Sheila understands.”

I’ve been given the privilege to be a part of the launch team for Shelia’s latest book: The Storm Inside: Trade the chaos of how you feel for the truth of who you are. Part of this privilege is the opportunity to read the book earlier than everyone else and let other people know what I think of it.

I’m a huge fan of Sheila Walsh, but even I wasn’t sure that she could achieve what the cover claimed. So much of my life is dictated by chaos – the chaos of bipolar, of managing and preventing mood episodes, and the frustration of being told that God has a plan for my life that must include this illness I struggle with.

And yet, as early as the introduction I am somehow convinced. In her intro, Sheila writes about a speaking event that saw her talking to a group of women in full time Christian ministry. Many of us would be intimidated by such a group of women – I speak to groups fairly frequently, and this certainly isn’t a gig I envy. And yet Sheila’s perception was not of a group of totally sorted women:

“I thought of the women I would speak to in just a short while and wondered if Christ’s promised gift of peace was tangible to them today or if they were facing such devastating storms that peace felt like a distant dream.” (p.xii)

A ‘devastating storm’ is exactly how I have described having bipolar disorder to people with little or no understanding of what it’s like to live a life dictated by moods that blow in unexpectedly, wreaking havoc and leaving confusion and desolation in their wake. From the first few pages this seems like a book I can get on with, written by a woman who understands what it’s like to have your world turned upside down by mental illness (Walsh spent a period in a psychiatric ward when ill with severe depression, and is open about still taking medication). I am left feeling understood by someone I’ve never met.

On the first page, before Sheila’s writing even makes an appearance, Christine Caine, founder of A21, tells me to “read it as soon as you can.”

That’s me told then. In I delve….

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Back in the world….

So, I disappeared.

Not so much disappeared, as fell into an enormous hole that was so dark I couldn’t see the footholds to get out.

October started off so well. I actually thought I was doing okay, and took my eye off the ball, and once I stopped thinking about bipolar, even for a moment, symptoms crept up and caught me by surprise.

Even reading my last post on this blog, I can see how much I was kidding myself at the time. For me, a week of hypomania felt great in so many ways, but looking back – and talking it over with those around me – I was not as fun to be with as I thought I was. I was childish, petulant, and thoroughly teenager-ish when told I wasn’t allowed to go out in my car and find a bar at 5pm on a Saturday evening. I apparently sulked. So it seems that the high wasn’t all high.

For a week or so, I thought I’d got away with it, that there would be no repurcussions, but then the depression set in, and literally sucked the life out of everything. I cried for Britain, slept for Europe, and became blind to the sparkle in my children’s eyes. A season of numbness came in with the cold, sad weather, and lifting my fingers to type was as impossible as lifting my feet to walk or my mind to hope.

So, I disappeared.

But I’m back! And hopefully to stay – not hypomanically overdoing it with eighty four posts a day as I find my fingers and start to craft sentences again, but as my normal self, as I start to find out again what that is. I’ve taken up again the things I lost in the fog – like singing, guitar playing, socialising, knitting – and am starting to enjoy life again.

I’m also heading back into work. My main job, which I was never able to give up, and was probably the one thing that kept me from giving up, is parenting MiniMe and MicroBob. They are as awesome as ever, surprising me every day with something new they do. All of a sudden, MiniMe can read. And MicroBob is doing sums like they’re going out of fashion. They are amazing – despite their mother and her crazy moods.

My other work is all writing and book related. I have a new book coming out this month, which I will be saying more about as the days go on. The launch of my new website was supposed to coincide with the book release, but depression stole so many weeks that I fear the website work will fall behind. Still, I am writing copy whenever I can, and The Cable Guy will be doing the restyling as we go along. Adullam Ministries has always had a place in my heart, but has been let go of over the past few years of having children. Hopefully, MicroBob starting nursery will give me more time to work on this area of my calling, and give me the opportunity to bring Adullam up to date with all that social media can do to further the cause of raising awareness of self-harm.

I’ve also been given the special opportunity of being part of the launch team for a new book by Shelia Walsh. The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are acknowledges and speaks against the wrong things we believe about ourselves – and our life experiences – with the irrefutable Word of God. I’m so excited to be part of the team, and looking forward to sharing some of the life lessons as I read – giving a sneaky peek into what the final copy will contain! This is what Shelia says about her latest offering:

It’s clear that as women we all face storms so I’ve poured the last two years of my life into asking the question-how do we handle these storms and navigate the tough seasons in life? If we rely on our emotions alone we are in danger of serious shipwreck but I know that God’s Word is like a lighthouse on the darkest night that will guide us safely to shore. So that’s my prayer for each one of you.

So, exciting times! I pray for everyone reading that this coming year will be one of blessing and truth, that you will know God and see his unique plans for and that your mental and physical health would be stable and less burdensome than before.

I’m so thankful to be back in the world.

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