depression & the Giver

this morning is crisp here in montana, the sky's pale blue deepening in hue and mountains distinct in the skyline so clear they look to me like they've been cut & pasted from a painting .  i'm sitting in a little café on main street, my coffee's steam rising into my face .  you know these moments, the ones where all the details feel right & good?... the sunlight is glorious, your heart is at peace, some moments alone .  if you & i were sharing a cup of coffee this morning -  i wish we could - we might ask each other 'how've you been?' and then, i hope, we would share trustful and genuine of what the week or handful of recent days has been like .  as i've come to recognize my very intimate & personal struggle with depression i've become less apt at hiding it, or wanting to hide it, or pretending i'm always fine .  and the last few weeks have been hard ones, i'll admit . days i'm not proud of, marked by sadness deep enough to make me thankful that today i got up, got dressed, and walked to the coffee shop, spirits lifted, eyes lifted .  this is Grace, dear ones .  another morning, another breath, another _________ .   

depression can press down so heavy it feels like a thousand crashing waves, violent and unceasing . it can hover as a fog so thick can't make it dissipate on your own, or lift yourself out of it, above it, and far from it finding you again .

in that place, Light peeking through is a gift .   the energy to make yourself food is a gift .  a bit of relief in darkness . 

psalm 3 says : 

'i lay down and slept;
i awoke again 
for the Lord sustained me' .

these words permeated my life this week,  reading them over & over .   
the Lord sustains me . 
the Lord sustains me .

the formal definition of sustain is to strengthen or support physically or mentally . to comfort, to encourage,  to assist . 

my sisters and my brothers too,  i wish with all of me i had a formulaic cure for depression, the crashing waves, the fog, the hopelessness that can settle in so quickly it rattles your mind and spirit .  i don't have a step-by-step-feel-better plan .  but as this on & off battle of mine continues i want to share all i'm learning in these seasons, as sporadic or long-lasting as they may be .  i'm finding in my seeking in darker places i'm confronted with deeper Realities -  essential & altering discoveries about our Maker, our Redeemer, Jesus .

because when you read a verse like the one above you will likely either read it and pause, knowing a reason for holding hope -  or feel a lackluster sigh of disbelief .  it confronts our self-centeredness,  our believing that we are the sustainers of ourselves, and our lives are about us .  

this last week i was confronted with all of the above . and again & again came to these two intertwined Realities, beautiful & true :  

God is our Sustainer, our Redeemer, our only Savior .  and this life is not about us, me or you . it's about Him .  

from the beginning of time, all through the Bible, from then until now continuous, the stories of brokenness & healing, running and rescue, crazy characters who boldly praise or unabashedly abandon - they're all meant to show us God .  pointing us to who He is,  to our desperate need for a Savior,  to His indefinite mercy and faithful love for people who are inherently needing wanderers .   and in our present, in your life today and my life today it's no different .  it's not about us, it's about Him .  

it may sound like a truth too grand or too removed from all the stuff of everyday life to grasp onto or mean anything,  but i just ask you to sit with it awhile . let it marinate your thoughts and permeate what's inside .  

you are awake, breathing & reading these paragraphs because the Lord has given you life,  and He is sustaining you . He is pursuing you, in whatever place you're in,  joy or deep sadness . 

not for your own glory,  not to be more awesome,  but to be broken and know it and look to Him to be your all,  in the dark, in the messiness .  He sustains you because He loves you,  and wants to draw you to Jesus, to look beyond yourself & your immediate reach to know more of Him & His love for you .  His love is far better than anything here,  anything we can conjure up .  And God's love is not a grand notion, far & removed from you & i, but rather the opposite and more - near,  constant, and overflowing . a Love that sees us where we are, intersecting even in the dark places where we feel like hope's gone missing .  


the Lord sustains you . 

this is comforting to me in the day-to-day real life wrestling with depression, knowing He has brought me to another day for Him and His glory, even as laughable as that can seem most days, and though many moments i think ' in all my crap you choose to sustain me for Your glory? '.   what a remarkable and wild Reality .  but it is the truth of what God does - He redeems us surely,  even when it's hard to see, even when we doubt, when we're struggling to get up off the floor, or out of bed .   another morning,  another day that dear ones my hope is you know His sustaining and love for you in the thick of it .  

--- >>    if you want to share your story of depression, redemption, or anything in between, or you want me to pray with you,   you can write me at amymessenger@icloud.com .  

my great thanks

to you, for reading .  & to all of you who left notes on my last post, or wrote me a letter sharing your story about your own diagnosis .  there are so many of you choosing to take a closer look at food and natural remedies as a means of healing your body, and for that i am encouraged and inspired greatly . 

diagnosis of longing

it's the start of february, the start of our longing for something, always something .  the longings that seem to always be there, the ones that just surfaced this morning . a reprieve from winter's chill,  for spring,  for a lover to return,  for a hair cut, a newer car, to see friends in far-from-here-cities,  Heaven .  

the past few days have been a resurgence of longing for me .  a sudden reoccurring of abdominal pain reminding me:  you may not be well .  striking fear in me that i am not well .

i feel heavy, and my feet heavier yet .  tired and weary,  slow . 
the last time i felt this way was in early winter almost a year ago, signaling something was wrong, and prompting me to get to a doctor to find out what it was .  in april the diagnosis came that my cervix was one step away from full blown cancer, cancer cells already forming in the perimeter and needing to removed immediately .  so we made the appointment, walked through the diagnosing, the procedure and the healing in hopes (and feeling certain) it would all be taken care of . 

the healing process was not pretty... i opted to have the procedure done without going under anesthesia (lowering the cost significantly for those of us without health insurance) which was difficult in its own rite, and healing after - regardless of anesthesia or not- - was downright painful . 

in a matter of time, though, i mended . feeling a sense of relief and thankfulness we’d caught the cells before they had mass multiplied and spread, i walked into my follow up visit with my doctor a few months later with newfound glow & reignited energy in my body . 

she told us news we didn’t expect .

chris was standing next to me and i could feel us both held still, in shock .  the tissue they’d removed showed signs that the cells had spread and they hadn’t removed it all, to finality .  it was still there .

to say that i dreaded going back to the doctor for what felt like the hundreth time for yet another biopsy was a gross understatement .  i didn’t want to go . i had to go .

the biopsy declared what we had feared, that the cells were still there on the perimeter of the cervix, one stage away from being invasive .  i was told i needed surgery immediately, and with that news came a rush-to-action of phonecalls to the surgery center & hospital trying to find out how much it would cost and my incessant reading & gathering information about this second procedure .

but a pointed conversation with the doctor after my second biopsy kept replaying in my mind :
as i was sitting in the room with my gown on, in pain, and trying to hold steady, she said to me :

‘ do you have any children? ‘ . 
‘no’, i replied .
‘do you want to have children?‘
the question caught me off guard, and even hearing the question hurt . 
‘we would like to, yes’ . 
and then she said,  ‘well, if you didn’t want children then i would say we should be aggressive and take out a lot of your cervix . but if you want children then we need to be more careful, given your age, and since after this second procedure your chances of carrying a baby & delivering are quite slim’ .

this conversation didn’t sit right with me, and after getting my results back and faced with making decisions about where to have surgery and how we would pay for it,  i started asking questions, like “isn’t there another way to heal my body and preserve my cervix than with removing tissue or body parts?” .  i started asking,  and i starting finding . 

over the course of about a week i came to the conclusion -  after talking with chris about it constantly, reading books on cervical dysplasia and natural remedies, and going with my gut - i wanted to approach healing naturally,  for a time, and see if it made any difference .  i decided that these procedures would always be there as a last resort . but if i could curb the spread of diseased cells, and give my body what it needed to create new, healthy cells, i could keep my cervix in tact and whole, and make it well again .

i went to a naturopath and the decision felt a lot like jumping off a cliff . am i crazy? what if this doesn’t work?   and yet i felt peace inside and strength in knowing there has been proof that the right intake of food and vitamins can not only halt the spread of diseased cells but also reverse them and bring about healing . 

since that visit i’ve been taking:
myomin, a chinese herb that balances estrogen 
folic acid
beta carotene

vitamin c
a liquid multi-vitamin
echinacea
and eating all the broccoli and greens i can get my hands on .  the naturopath also recommended i eat a vegetarian diet and cut out anything that can cause inflammation like sugar, alcohol, oils, dairy and gluten .

this hasn’t been easy .  i love coffee . and oil . and cheese .  and bread . and pumpkin pie . and sometimes a hamburger, if i knew the cow, or at least knew where he grew up .  but this has been a challenge, to say the least .

and i haven’t been as faithful in it as i should be .  a part of me feels like i’ve failed... like i’m failing my own body at trying .

i'm speaking this verse today:

when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled .    
1 Corinthians 13:10 .

this tangible, physical body makes me long for Heaven, where our every messy need will be reconciled and fully met,   where our aching hearts and bodies will be made new and we will be with the Savior who we truly desperately longed for all along .   

maybe i’ll have to go through another procedure to take out parts of me i wanted to keep .  next month will be more tests to see the progression, or regression, to determine what's next .

i know there is Grace for what we know, and there is Grace for what we don’t know yet . there is Grace for making it through .   

if you’re facing dysplasia or cancer or you have in the past, i’d love to know how you approached it .  or feel free to ask me any questions about my diet & vitamin intake .  you can write me a note at amymessenger@icloud.com .

& a postscript:   my sisters, if you haven’t had a PAP in a while, please go .  i know you dread it, and i know it’s awkward, and for those of you like me, really painful . but that’s how they find things like cervical cancer . 

 

dontgiveup

house & home

if i were to draw lines on a map of our comings & goings the last two months it would look like a spastic lightning bolt,  a distinctly scrawled zig & zag, back & forth across western montana . it feels like we’ve been in a pinball machine . 

since my last post about our house hunt (& my hamster wheel) much has happened .  some things haven’t changed... like our living out of two duffel bags & two suitcases (and two boxes of books, a laptop bag & our record player), driving through blizzards and searching out internet wherever we can find it . but in a quickly shifting, unexpected, curious series of events we found ourselves standing in montana’s bitterroot valley, looking at houses to buy . 

i thought we’d be in helena, our sights locked & steady on the place, searching like hawks and waiting as patiently as we could .   (when you’re living on the move, patience grows weary mighty quickly) .  and then something happened .   we couldn’t have predicted it but after a string of small disappointments that by nature added up to a feeling of giant disappointment in our house search, it hit us both -   it’s time to leave helena .   

what a strange knowing....

we loved helena . we have friends there, and we were so certain it would be where we would make a home .  but in the course of only a few days we felt broken - and in the breaking, opened - to looking somewhere else, and to leaving .

i am in awe of these kinds of shifts inside ourselves... how what seems like certainty can be replaced by new questions in a matter of days, or minutes .  and how the grasp of holding tightly onto something can be loosened by a prompting stronger than your clutched fist .

so we revisited the map . and i’m not even sure how our sights narrowed, but they did, on the bitterroot valley, in the most western part of the state,  a place i’d actually never been, oddly enough, and a place that on paper seemed like just what we’d been after to find .

in our hunt for a home we’ve looked at farmhouses,  we’ve looked at cabins . we’ve looked at land that stretches to the horizon, and on said land accompanying living quarters that demanded more energy than we could give it .  we looked at an off-the-grid homestead whose view & potential living space was so spectacular i almost could be talked into living there if it hadn’t been for the harrowing drive up the mountain that nearly crashed our car and made me cry . 

it’s been an adventure .  after the off-the-grid-mountain-top-we-need-to-buy-our-own-plow property, we laughed  -  once we got down to lower altitudes .

i think i like adventure more in my mind & imagination than i do in real life .  the tiring reality of living on the move sets in when you’re loading your belongings into your car for the thirtieth time in three weeks and being (and feeling) organized is impossible .  a few days ago we packed up yet again, to relocate from our rental house back to my folks’s house in northwest montana, and we simply ran out of bags & boxes .  so all of our bills,  taxes, bank paperwork, and any important-like documents got thrown into a giant garbage bag .  at least now i know where to find stuff . it’s in the garbage bag .  right here on the floor .

alllllllllllll of that to say,

hallelujah,  HALLELUJAH,  we found a house, and we are in the process of making it our home .

i want to tell you all about it .  
okay, i’ll tell you a little now .

it’s a modern take on a cozy cabin,  and from it you can see the mountains . and we’ll be planting a garden . and you’re welcome to come stay with us if you cross mountain passes between idaho and central montana and you feel weary from driving .  we’ll make you coffee, and you can sit by the fireplace and read a good book in the quiet .

truth be told,  i’m praising and mentally placing furniture .  
a home in sight.....................
& God leading us,
still .