Friday, January 23, 2015

A Rest

"God does not write the music of our lives without a plan.
Our part is to learn the tune and not be discouraged during the rests....
If we will only look up, God Himself will count the time for us.
With our eyes on Him, our next note will be full and clear.
If we sorrowfully say to ourselves, 'There is no music in a rest,'
let us not forget that the rest is part of the making of the music."
--John Ruskin from Streams in the Desert 

It's time for a rest. Following this post, I will rest from social media. My Facebook account will be deactivated, and my blog will be left fallow for a season.

As a musician, I think of rests as intentional silence. Intentional silence isn't not having things to say. It's choosing not to say them. For a reason.

There are several reasons behind the decision, but before I share those I want to clearly state what my reasons are not:

  • I am not angry with social media or with any individual who uses it. 
  • I do not believe social media is an inherent evil. In many ways, it is a good.
  • I am not unhappy with the pitfalls of Facebook or blogging. I don't care much about page hits or likes, and I don't begrudge anyone their pizza, night on the town, or Disney vacation. 

The bottom line of my choice: My life presents many difficulties and challenges, which I have taken to God in prayer. In response, He has offered a season of rest as a solution to all of them.

Choice. That's an important word. For once, I'm the one closing the door. God guided me to the threshold, displayed my options, and while I know full well He is sovereign over my choice, He has also entrusted the verdict to me. His confidence is precious to my soul.

Piece by piece, the Lord has created a mosaic with my questions and His answers. Now the picture sits complete before me, and I can see the thing that needs doing.

Embracing Obscurity

The first piece came to me two years ago when I read the anonymously authored book, Embracing Obscurity. My disease has forced me into obscurity, and I have complied without bitterness. But now I have the opportunity to actively, worshipfully embrace it by laying aside my online presence. That may not seem like a big deal to some, but my online presence is the only presence I have in the world outside of my home. I don't work. I don't have a church. It's me, my family, and a handful of friends brave enough to enter into my madness.

You may ask why anyone would want to embrace obscurity. Here it is--the kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom in which the truths don't always make sense. Sometimes, the truths oppose sense (i.e. the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12). Jesus had a lot to say about condescension preceding exaltation, most of which was spoken with actions, not words. As a believer, I desire to follow in my Savior's footsteps. But more than that, this is me cooperating with what God is already doing in my life. This is my "yes" to His call to become less that He may become more (John 3:30).


I'm Melissa, and I'm addicted to Facebook.

I'm not being cute or silly. I'm dead serious. I use Facebook like druggies use heroin.

I'm not happy with my life at the moment. Things have been hard since October of last year. I thought I'd be healed by now, but I'm caught in this crazy cha cha of two steps forward, three steps back. I'm lonely, sad, and discouraged, and too spent to deal with any of it. Escape is easier. I fill empty moments scrolling my newsfeed because I am too terrified of my own darkness to face it.

There's a flip side to this addiction. When I'm doing well as I was last summer, I can easily shift from being a Facebook addict to what Paul David Tripp calls a "Glory Junkie." According to his two part article, I exemplify at least 5 of 8 signs of glory addiction.

(You can read Tripp's articles here and here.)

By eliminating Facebook and my blog for a season, I can rehabilitate from both addictions at once. But according to this article, which discusses the probable cause of addiction, I'm going to have to do more than cut myself off. I also need to reconnect with "actual, real-live people."

Elsa is Winning

In my previous post, I elaborated on how I resemble both Elsa and Anna in Disney's Frozen. But let me tell you--I'm in full-blown ice queen mode right now. Emotional detachment is the name of the game because it's easier than feeling the pain.

Facebook enables me to detach. I can scroll my newsfeed, and not have to connect to anyone, not even the souls living in my own house.

My Facebook addiction is a double-edged sword because it's both the enabler and the drug. You want to know what scientists believe may be the cause of addiction? Isolation. Let that soak in for a moment.

Johann Hari writes in his article "The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think:"

"The rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did....
After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days -- if anything can hook you, it's that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can't recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is -- again -- striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them....
Here's one example of an experiment that is happening all around you, and may well happen to you one day. If you get run over today and you break your hip, you will probably be given diamorphine, the medical name for heroin....[I]f the old theory of addiction is right -- it's the drugs that cause it; they make your body need them -- then it's obvious what should happen. Loads of people should leave the hospital and try to score smack on the streets to meet their habit. But here's the strange thing: It virtually never happens....
The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different.
This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction....
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection."
My goal is to improve human connection, and thereby kick the habit.

Better Invitations

My connection to my kids needs improvement. The first part of my mornings are spent away from them in sick person self-care. After that, breakfast and email. Then I lose myself in Facebook Land until it's time pick up Micah from school, cook lunch, do laundry, etc.

When the inevitable "Look, Mom!" comes, I greet it with a passive "Mmhmm" at best, with a side of grump at worst. But "Look, Mom!" shouldn't be a burden. "Look, Mom!" is an invitation into their world, and if I don't start accepting the invitation, I will eventually stop being invited.

If I need a drug to ease my pain, Kid Land isn't a bad choice. It's costs very little and gives quite the high. Strong relationships with the kids are a side-effect of regular trips.

Meaningful Communication

The reason I did not simply fade into online oblivion without comment is that I'm not seeking further isolation, but deeper connection. Whether we visit face to face, over the phone, through text, or by email, it's all more meaningful than likes and page hits.

"In The House"

Christian friends: That moment when you are--tra-la-la--reading your Bible and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit lifts the words off the page like a hologram. You know what I'm talking about. It would be super-duper awesome if the words didn't trample all over your toes. Right?

So there I was memorizing the beatitudes and similitudes when I came across Matthew 5:15--
"Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."

God isn't so interested in me shining for the world right now. He wants me to shine "in the house." I'm not the only one around here flailing dangerously close to the mouth of a pit. My entire family is in a rough spot. Sara is now a threenager. Micah and I were once thick as thieves, but have lost our closeness. And while I do my best to honor Brandon's privacy here, I will tell you his life is far from easy.

The world doesn't really need me but my family does, and I only have a little to give. It's time for my smouldering wick to focus it's light upon those "in the house."

 "Shut The Door"

The hologram effect happened last summer, too, when I read the story of Elisha and the widow's oil in 2 Kings 4. In the story, the widow owes money to creditors who have threatened to enslave her two sons. She seeks the prophet Elisha's help. He tells her, "Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors--empty vessels; [gather many]. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones." The next verse reads, "So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons."She followed every detail of Elisha's orders, filled many vessels, and sold enough oil to pay her debts and cover her expenses. Her sons were saved.

There are no small details when it comes to God's commands. "Shut the door" was an important aspect of the miracle. God wanted to work something in the widow privately before He provided for her publicly.

Just as there are times husbands and wives must shut the door, there are times the believer and her God must do the same. What happens behind the door is private, but it eventually evidences itself.

God and I have a lot of work to do. There is sin to be put down--yes, always--but there's more. God and I are in a grappling match. I know He's going to win, but the work must still be done. Here is a recent excerpt from my Job study notes which will give you a peek into my heart--

"....[Christians] isolate a piece of God's sovereignty--His goodness, might, or wisdom--and reject the piece that doesn't fit with the God they want. In this, the Christian becomes a practical atheist. Here is the the truth: No one is 100% comfortable with I AM. We all like the loving God who paints beautiful sunsets and blesses us with prosperity, but we don't know what to think about the God who feeds young lions with innocent lambs, who allows children to die, and who destroys a good person's health. But God does not exist to be liked. He exists because He exists. He is I AM WHO I AM. The work of an authentic worshiper is to accept the wild and glorious God who has accepted us. To take Him as He is. To say with Job, 'God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?' (9:4)...Like is too insipid an emotion for a God like this. He leaves us with two options only: to reject Him or worship Him."
Since the day the words "shut the door" leapt off the page, I've had to continually ask, "Is this something I should share or keep to myself?" So many ideas never made it to the blog because the Holy Spirit within gave a great big "NOPE!" as the words began to form. Now I don't have to wonder, decide, or waste my time forming a post only to have it axed later. I'm shutting the door.

But not forever. Eventually, these intimate moments will produce something to be shared with the world. Like the city on a hill, it won't be hidden.

Making Space

If I want intimacy, I must make space for it. Because I fill every empty moment with social media, there is no room for silence. Silence is vital to the believer because it is in silence that God speaks. I need to give God room to work life in this mortal body, to revive this wounded and weary heart.

Speaking of silence, I think it's time for me to shut up for awhile. I need to improve my listening skills. Not only with God, but with people. Sufferers don't need a blog post telling them how to manage their suffering as much as they need a listening ear and a praying friend. I have a lot to learn, which means I have lot of listening to do. It's time to step away from the podium and open my ears and my heart.

And, of course, there's the novel. I completed my rough draft December 20, 2014. And--wow--is it rough. Since then, I've taken the advice of a family friend who is also a published author, and set the work aside for a time in order regain a reader's perspective before diving into rewrites. Meanwhile, I've been researching in order to better define the world I've built around my characters and story. Rewriting is the real work of writing, and it's time-consuming. I'll be in that place soon. By giving the blog a rest, I can focus my mental energies upon my larger project rather than dividing them between the two.

Accomplishing My Goals

Before the pieces were all in place, before social media rest crossed my mind, I journaled this list of goals for 2015:
  1. Listen. Listen, listen, listen. Listen carefully, respectfully, humbly, thoughtfully, and compassionately.
  2. Wait to speak. Wait 30 chapters before uttering a peep.
  3. Speak when it is time to speak. Be brave!
  4. Speak truth in love.
  5. Love mercy. Show mercy.
  6. Be thank-full.
  7. Forget myself.
  8. Dance! (Learn "Thriller." It's time.)
  9. Be "joyful in hope, patient under trial, faithful in prayer."
  10. Love creatively, thoughtfully, meaningfully.
  11. Look for the plank. It's there. Forgive the speck. It's small.
  12. Produce a readable draft of the novel. Let someone read it.
  13. Read more. Facebook less.
  14. Live. Consider risk and reward. Choose life at every opportunity.
  15. Live purposefully. Seek God's will. Do it.
Do you see how many of these goals are met in this one goodbye? Do you see how God had this all figured out, and led me here in His own gentle way in His own good time? Do you see that stepping away is necessary?

Even if you don't, I do. I see it, and I'm certain. And I'm not often certain when it comes to change. 

So this is goodbye. For a time, anyway. If you want to keep up with me while I'm away, I plan to send out periodic newsletters via email. You may send your email address to if you would like to receive those.

Now for a poem I recently penned to mark where I am today so I can appreciate where I'll be when I return--

Some diseases are a death sentence.
Some are a life sentence.
Which is easier to bear?
A small cell or the chair?
A cage or a casket?
No one knows
and both are hard
on the sick one and the watchers.
Some of us die in here,
but I believe
there is a key
for me,
an early release.
Or so I've been told
by the Prison Ward
who is kind and good and wise and hard.
The door will open
when the cell has done its work
and the bars have made me free.
Or so I believe.
But all I see
are steel and concrete.
Spare walls and a lonely lock
mock my faith.
I smell sky and pine.
Sun shafts through the window.
Voices chuckle and cluck,
a murmur through stone,
a reminder of what I'm missing,
a promise of what's to come.
But the Warden visits me--
and this place has be-come
"For a while," He corrects.
So I believe. 

"Let us not forget that the rest is part of the making of the music."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Something happened to my girl child when she turned three. A switch flipped, and I'm not sure I like it.

The last few weeks have been.....intense. Yes, that's the word.

What has happened feels like regression. Three's a biter. Three has forgotten her potty training. Three's testing limits, observing reactions. Like a tiny, mad scientist.

My hands were plenty full before this nice little developmental stage sniffed us out. Now I'm all I have no idea what I'm doing! I was such a great mom last month and now the whole thing is falling apart!! What happened!?!

Y'all, Three is hard. 
Three presents all kinds of problems, problems I have no idea how to solve.
Three scares me. Scares us.

Three keeps me on my toes and on my knees.
Three is good for the soul.
Three reminds me I'm not in control. Of anything.

And Three heralds precious moments like this one from last night:

Three still likes to be rocked. As we tilted back and forth, she tapped her chin with that still-chubby index finger, a contemplative expression in those big, brown eyes.

"How to make Momma feel bettuh?" she wondered aloud.

I smiled, waiting. I knew whatever she came up with would be good.

"Hmmm.....I know! I'll pway for her! And sing her a song!:
God is so goo-ed. God is so goo-ed.
God is so goo-ed. He's so goo-ed to me.

Jesus loves me dis I know
For da Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
Dey are weak but He is stro-eng."

I tucked her in as she prayed, "Dear Jesus, Please help Momma sleep good tonight and help Micah to have a good day at school tomorrow and thank you for this lovely day and for Momma cooking us lunch. Amen."

Our lips met.
I didn't understand this one. Reaching up, she clarified. "Honk! Honk!" She squeezed my nose, and demanded I honk hers in return.
"Honk! Honk!" I said, laughing.
My reward? Giggles. Three giggles.
Three giggles are the best.

A song and a prayer and a couple of nose honks were just what the doctor ordered. Funny--I didn't know I was sick until I was made well.

To my Momma friends who also have no idea what you are doing, I lend this little ruby of wisdom from the mouth of Three:

Little ones to Him belong.

All we can do is love, love, love, pray diligently, and do our best. We'll have victories. We'll have failures. No one gets this Mom thing 100% right, and chances are if you are daily rolling up your sleeves for hard work in the Mommy Trenches, you can't get it 100% wrong either.

[We] are weak but He is strong.

So you don't feel up to the task. Let me tell you a secret: Whether it's because of poor health, a full quiver, a special needs child, an absentee father, or what have you, most moms feel inadequate. We all have days we believe the lie, "I can't do this."

(Which is why it's so important to encourage one another rather than compete and tear each other down.)

Maybe you can't in your own strength, but you can through Christ who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13). With God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

God isn't looking for Supermoms. He's looking for moms who are dependent upon their Super God (2 Chron. 16:9).

We can't always do the right thing. Some problems don't have three step solutions. And the wisdom of the world can only get us so far. But in Christ, there is grace to cover every mistake, wisdom in abundance for the asking, and everlasting arms to hold the whole she-bang together.

My favorite Momma verse is Isaiah 40:11--

"He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young."

Little ones to Him belong.
Three is carried in His bosom, right next to His heart. 
My days are long and hard as a sick, overwhelmed Momma, but the Shepherd leads me gently on, day after day, question after question, problem after problem, through victories and failures, when I get it right and when I lose my mind and get it so wrong I'm sure my kids will be ruined. 

God is so goo-ed.

So I'm out of my depth. Okay. I know the One who made the deeps and we're in this together.
Three will be just fine. And *deep breath* so will Thirteen. 
But we'll cross that bridge in a decade or so.

And for the record, Jesus did help me sleep good last night.



Sunday, January 11, 2015

Closed Doors, a Reluctant Ice Queen, and Frozenness

Confession: Having escaped multiple daily viewings of Disney's Frozen, I still like the movie. In a lot of ways, I live the movie.

Because I'm a human being and not a caricature, I fall in the ambiguous zone between fun-loving Anna and isolated Elsa, and sometimes the two within me are at war. Honestly, it would be sweet release to just let the Elsa in me take over. Fear, false freedom, and emotional distance seem easier somehow. But my inner Anna refuses to stay down.

The last four years have been a series of doors in my face. One after the other--bam! bam!--until I'm all but trapped inside a 16x72 mobile home on a little dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

I suppose the Ice Queen's heart must break before it can melt. 

So cut through the heart, cold and clear.
Strike for love and strike for fear.

The reverberations of the last door slammed still rattle my bones.

On Thursday, I ventured into 20 degree air to pick up Micah from school, and suffered my first reaction to the cold. While driving, no less. With my two preciouses in the back seat.

When my chest tightened, I concentrated on deep, slow breathing as I now do automatically during reactions, a technique which has calmed or delayed serious reactions in the past. This time, however, I was not relieved.

Thank God for Acute Rescue drops. But even they didn't keep my brain from fuzzing or my limbs from turning numb and useless. 

Driving while reacting with my babies in the backseat is pretty much my worst nightmare. I was scared, but I couldn't think clearly enough to be as scared as I should've been. Why didn't I pull over?

Graciously, God heard the desperate "Help!" of a sick mamma who couldn't think beyond that one word, and guided us safely home. Getting the kids inside and dropping into bed like a rag doll is a watery memory. Brandon was home soon after. Provisions all around.

The irony of being an obligatory "Ice Queen" who is bothered by the cold isn't lost on me. (There is always a laugh buried neath the snow even if it does sound hollow.)

The days since have been tired, achy days. January and I were getting along just fine this year, then this happened. And the world turned gray.

While it's okay to grieve, I must hold fast the truth--sometimes love is a closed door.

Sometimes love puts you in prison. All for good reason, of course.

God is not the author of evil or disease. He is good. He is Jehovah Rophe--the God who heals physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Complete health is my ultimate destiny. But that doesn't mean He shields me from every harm along the way. He took upon Himself the Big One, the one that would destroy me. The ones which will work together for glory and good, He lets through.

The arrows loosed from Satan's bow are aimed to kill, but God transforms them into surgical instruments and uses them to remove the cancer in my soul.

The hammer swinging down upon my head is remade into a chiseling tool which shapes me into the image of Christ.

The thorny messengers sent by Satan to prick and poison my heart against my Creator (2 Corinthians 12:7), God shapes into an inside-out hedge of protection, one that keeps the world and all its lover gods out and me in. With Him, my Ishi.

Therefore, behold, 
I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and wall her in....

(Hosea 2:6)

That may sound harsh, but my prison is no stark, lifeless place. He has magicked my "kingdom of isolation" into "a door of hope" (Hosea 2:15), delivering me in my affliction rather than out of it (Job 36:15). And I sing and dance about on high hills in broad places as if there was no restraint (Hab. 3:19; Job 36:16), until I no longer grieve the life I left behind.

I get there on my good days, but haven't figured out how to stay.

I often sing in minor keys.
I dance. I weep. Sometimes I dance while weeping.
I'm happy, sad, restless, and content all at once. It's exhausting.

That's okay, you know. God is honored by honest, trustful suffering. So go on and feel. Don't conceal. Let it hurt.

It's not "blessed are the tough." Nor "blessed are the strong or independent or happy." It's "blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). Our blessedness is not derived from our emotional state, but from what God does when we live in honest relationship with Him.

Fight that frozen heart. Let them see you cry. You never know who you'll bless with your brokenness.
Soak that handkerchief if you need to. God counts and keeps your tears like treasures (Psalm 56:8).
Let 'em go.
Souls are worth melting for.

We aren't meant be ice queens. It's okay if we are bothered by the cold. Figuratively or in my case.

When Elsa stormed out of Arendelle, she thought she was free because she could finally open and close doors at will and do whatever she wanted. But options aren't always helpful. They weren't for Adam and Eve. They lived in a "garden of yeses," and chose the single wrong option. Left to myself, I do, too.

Do you know why God hedged Israel in?

So that she cannot find her paths.
She will chase her lovers,
but not overtake them;
Yes, she will seek them, but not find them.
Then she will say, 
"I will go and return to my first husband,
for then it was better for me than now."
For she did not know 
that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil,
and multiplied her silver and gold--
which they prepared for Baal....
"And it shall be, in that day,"
says the Lord,
"that you will call me 'My Husband'
and no longer call Me, 'My Master.'"
(Hosea 2:6-8,16)

God hedged Israel in to limit her options. They had given their dowry from the Lord to Baal, and thought of God as a slave driver cracking a whip when He just wanted a marriage, one in which He would do the brunt of the work. But Israel preferred to whore around with the real task master.

As Timothy Keller says, "We are all in bed with something." For one person, it may be money. For another, family. Sex, status, substances, whatever. You're spiritually sleeping with something, and that something doesn't have to be a bad thing to be dangerous to you.

Before I was sick, I was in bed with admiration. I was willing to do almost anything to get it, which is why my personality changed depending on who I was with at the time. But there was no way for me to know that until it was taken away.

How do you spot the alcoholic? When the rum's gone.

How can you tell if someone needs their wealth? When the stock market crashes.
How can you tell if someone's identity is rooted in being the good girl they always have to be? When they fail big (i.e. throwing Arendelle into an eternal winter, shooting ice into a beloved sister's heart, etc.).

A baal will never forgive failure and cannot satisfy a heart. It takes and takes and takes and never gives anything back.

Jesus Christ, our Ishi, will always forgive failure and never ceases to satisfy. He gives and gives and gives and only asks for our hearts in return.

"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38), meaning there is always more of what we need in Christ. It never runs out because He never runs out.

My illness is not punishment for sin. Jesus paid my debt in full. I owe nothing. Rather, God has taken the thorns of Mast Cell Activation Disease and FQ poisoning and shaped them into a hedge.

Sing it with me! All my life has been a series of doors in my face. Then suddenly I bump into Yoooouuu.....

Notwithstanding nobody wants to be hemmed in with this guy.
Important life lesson: Beware [the overly compatible stranger with] the frozen heart.

My options are painfully, mercifully limited. And yet I'm free. God has hemmed me in with Himself so I can forget those Hans-like lovers of the past and we can go about the business of becoming one.

He has overcome my people-pleasing addiction by cutting me off and filling the infinite void with His infinite self as only He can.

That's what God does. He fills the voids.

True freedom is when you don't have to run from anything to be liberated and you don't have to succumb to emotional iciness to survive. It's not needing transient things to give you purpose. It happens when Christ is enough and you're free to feel and let Him fill you up. You're free to live. Closed doors and all.

One day when the bars of my little cell have served their full purpose, I'll rise like the break of dawn. This chronically ill, people-pleaser will be gone. I'll stand in the light of day for the first time in forever. With "actual real live people. It'll be totally strange."

Until then, I'm looking forward to summeeeeeeerrrrrrrr!!!!!!