Please enjoy this guest blog written by Katerina Ballsmith from Beauty in the Pain
This year, I have wrestled with thoughts and questions about healing. Will I ever experience healing? Can healing come in the deepest of pain? Is healing out of reach in my life?
I was only fourteen when I first started feeling depressed. I wanted to isolate myself from others because of the suffering and deep emotional pain. Not only was I going through some hard months, but I was trying to understand how I could be around others and still feel completely alone.
Instead of continuing to lay down on my bed and cry, I started dancing more. I would play worship songs or classical music and dance in my bedroom or anywhere in my house where there was space.
Dance has been part of my life for several years. I started at a young age and quickly felt a passion stir inside me when I was dancing. The movement I used became how I expressed myself when there were no words to say. It was how I felt closer to God. I used movement to help me get through those months that continued to spiral into negative thoughts and sadness.
In time, I felt that I would receive healing from the depression in my early teenage years. But, as my life began changing because of chronic pain and a diagnosis, I didn’t think that my struggles emotionally would go away. I thought the depression would be part of me because the physical pain was severe. The pain in my body continued to progress quicker than I had time to process what was happening. I started believing the negative thoughts that healing would never be possible.
What if healing takes time?
This is something that has been on my mind. It’s been over four years since being diagnosed and experiencing physical pain that was a constant battle.
This year, I have noticed a change in my heart. It feels as if the Lord is starting to take away the emotional pain that has weighed heavy on my life. The last few months have been a journey of healing on the inside. Though my physical pain may never go away, emotionally, I can get better.
What has led me on a journey towards healing from depression?
To answer this, I need to reflect on what has helped me. What has impacted me the most is prayer.
Prayer is a beautiful act of surrender and talking to God. It has led me to focus on the truth that the Lord is always constant, even when pain is there. And prayer has helped me in the sleepless nights.
I spend time in prayer throughout my day. Sometimes praying is through writing in my journal or through dance. Sometimes it's when sitting in a quiet space or driving to work.
Dance has been another way that helped me to heal. When I start playing a worship song or dancing with banners, it turns my focus away from the pain. Instead, I feel God's love covering me with grace and comfort.
Then there has been the healing through conversations and being part of support groups or speaking with my counselor. When I started seeing a counselor last August, I noticed the beginning of the change. I shared about my depression, and my counselor has helped me work through the pain that I wanted to keep hidden.
So, I have continued on this journey of healing emotionally. I know that it’s a process that will take time. But, this year, those negative thoughts about the possibility of healing from depression have changed. I’m in a better place because of the continued reminders that God is there with me. I'm not enduring this suffering alone.
Encouragement To Those Struggling
Friend, healing can come. I know that I don’t have all of the answers. But, I believe now that breaking free from emotional pain can happen. This doesn’t mean that all suffering will disappear. For in this time on earth, everyone will experience seasons of pain and grief. But, the pain that is prevalent deep inside your heart can change.
I hope the Lord will lead you towards a journey where you will get better. It may not be what you expected, but it can bring you peace and comfort.
There is a beautiful verse that I reflect on when hurting inside. I hope that it speaks to you today and this season.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
God will always be with you. Let Him go through this journey of healing alongside you.
Katerina is a young adult - born and raised in Southern California. She has Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT), a neuromuscular disease that affects the peripheral nerves and weakens the muscles. Even with her pain, she is continuing her college education and working towards a bachelors in psychology. Some of her passions include dance, teaching, and writing. In the future, Katerina is looking forward to more opportunities to share her testimony and be a light to others through her suffering.
You can find her at: beautyinthepainblog.com
Or connect with her at: Katerina (@beautyinthepainblog)
“As long as the candle is still burning, it is still possible to accomplish and to mend.”
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
Rosh Hashanah falls in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar and just like Shabbat, or the Sabbath, it is set apart. This time is set aside to celebrate all things new, fresh, and sweet. It is a happy time but carries serious spiritual significance as it commemorates the creation of the world. Rosh Hashanah literally means "head [of] the year" and it often symbolized with a fish head or a head of lettuce. The biblical name is Yom Teruah, literally "day of shouting or blasting" - or, Feast of Trumpets. It is the first of the High Holy Days - the Days of Awe.
Rosh Hashana is full of deep and meaningful symbols. It is a time set aside to remember the goodness of God and His many blessings He has given His people. The shofar is blown to get our attention, to warn us, and to help us focus our minds and hearts on Him. In Exodus 19 and 20, we find that the shofar was used to blast the people into attention as the Ten Commandments were given as a gift. "Listen carefully!," it cried out. Along with the shofar blasts, there was smoke, fire, thunder, lightning, and the mountain shook! It is safe to say that God really wanted to make sure they were paying attention!
Another well-known symbol used on Rosh Hashana is the apple and honey combination. The more you dig into the holiday, the more meaning you will find to this combo - but, the main thing is that it symbolizes sweetness. "God's ways are sweet!" is a common phrase used around this time. His commandments are sweet because He gave them to us to keep us safe and able to live a robust life. We eat the apples dipped in honey to declare His Word to be sweet!
One of my favorite symbols is to take bread crumbs to a moving body of water to symbolize the washing away of our sins. Now, in the interest of being completely transparent, I do not focus much on sin but rather focus on where I missed the mark. This allows me to have mercy on my own self knowing full-well that God has total grace and forgiveness for me. Each bread crumb represents a situation in which you did not do your best - talking behind someone's back unintentionally (or intentionally!), losing your temper, etc. This year, we are using paper that dissolves in water. We can write on the paper and watch as it dissolves, imagining God's love and mercy as the water covering all our missed targets.
Each and every family has a different way to celebrate but you will always find certain elements represented. If you have not grown up celebrating these holidays, do not feel pressured to do things exactly how another person says you must celebrate. If all you can muster up is a bunch of Granny Smiths and a honey bear - DO IT! You'll find that each symbol you incorporate - even if it is only one symbol - will leave you feeling deeply connected and strongly rooted in your faith.
“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.”
Rosh Hashana offers a beautiful time for healing and introspection. It is a time to ask God to reveal things that you need to let go of and to symbolically let go. There is something powerful about taking external action to symbolize an internal change. By forgiving yourself and forgiving others, you are actively participating in your healing.
Some things, though, seem as though they are just here to stay and no matter the amount of letting go, you just cannot shake it. That burden seems set on staying. This is when you lean in, hold fast, and focus intently. Your burden may not fully lighten but you can find the strength to thrive through it.
In the quote above, the prayer is for strength to shoulder the heavy burden instead of for a lighter burden. What I find so beautiful is that those broader shoulders come when we lean up against our Creator. Our burden suddenly becomes lighter because we have the Most High God helping to carry the weight!
“Change what you cannot accept, accept what you cannot change.”
Once you have released the concerns and positioned yourself leaning on your Creator, you can take a huge sigh of relief and begin nourishing yourself with the sweetness of God! You may find extra space in your heart now that those concerns have been washed away! Fill it with God's sweet Word!
As you nourish, you will begin to understand the meaning of the burdens that remain. You may even begin to feel joy in the struggle! But, nourish yourself now so that when it becomes too heavy to carry - you can quickly readjust your posture and He can shoulder that weight for you once again.
THE HEAD OF YOUR HEALING
Every year, Rosh Hashanah arrives right on time. It is the head of the year and the head of your healing. As we walk through the High Holy Days - these Days of Awe - we will find more opportunities for healing moments. This is only the beginning! And, if you miss it, it is more than okay! God's cyclical nature gives us chance after chance, moment after moment, celebration after celebration to lean into Him and grab hold of our healing.
I'LL LEAVE YOU WITH THIS QUOTE
“In a world without forgiveness, evil begets evil, harm generates harm, and there is no way short of exhaustion or forgetfulness of breaking the sequence. Forgiveness breaks the chain. It introduces into the logic of interpersonal encounter the unpredictability of grace. It represents a decision not to do what instinct and passion urge us to do. It answers hate with a refusal to hate, animosity with generosity. Few more daring ideas have ever entered the human situation. Forgiveness means that we are not destined endlessly to replay the grievances of yesterday. It is the ability to live with the past without being held captive by the past. It would not be an exaggeration to say that forgiveness is the most compelling testimony to human freedom. It is about the action that is not reaction. It is the refusal to be defined by circumstance. It represents our ability to change course, reframe the narrative of the past and create an unexpected set of possibilities for the future…In the face of tragedy, forgiveness is the counter-narrative of hope. It is not a moral luxury, an option for saints. At times it is the only path through the thickets of hate to the open spaces of coexistence.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
L'shana Tova! May your year be blessed and your healing be sweet!
A friend sits across from me - shoulders slumped, face down - and recalls recent events that have filled this dear heart with overwhelming sadness and despair. Words fell from down-turned lips as the emotions rolled off the body like waves. Forgotten. Worthless. Anger. A look up toward the sky as expressions of "Why God?" are shouted.
A beautiful human soul left in the dust.
We all know the story of the Good Samaritan - it is a story that is taught to us from an early age. Even those who have not been raised in the church seem to know this story. It offers a wonderful allegory on how to (and, how not to) care for someone who has been injured on their journey. But, do we understand this parable? Do you take to heart the mandate set forth? And, do we apply it to our lives in a meaningful way?
A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. (Luke 10:30)
If you see someone who has been wounded - physically, emotionally, legally, spiritually - stop and give aid. Honestly, it is just that simple. A wound is not always something that can be seen and as neighbors we are to be vigilant in watching for the well-being of those around us. Pay attention! Keep your eyes peeled! Who is God putting in your path today?
NOT MY PROBLEM
By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31-32)
Seeing someone who has been wounded can be a scary thing! We tend to assume the worst about these two men used as examples of what not to do but in all reality - we shouldn't judge. Now, it looks bad. It looks like these two are just not willing to care for their neighbor and, in reality, that is probably a fair assessment. They most likely thought in their mind, "Not my problem!" We should also entertain the notion that their actions were driven by fear. It is noteworthy to mention that helping someone who has been wounded is not only a caring act but it is a brave act.
What if the wounded person was a robber? What if they were already dead? We know for sure that the man lying in the path was at this point quite physically and spiritually unclean so what then? Goodness! Who has time for this? It's simply NOT MY PROBLEM! I cannot get involved!
LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR
Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ (Luke 10:34-35)
Noticing the wounded man, the Samaritan stopped assessed the needs and took action. Notice that the Samaritan did not tell the man to get up and help himself. He did not demand that he find something to cover himself with because he did not want to see his nakedness. He did not yell for someone else to take care of him. No, he spared no cost, sprung to action, and took this man who had been wounded so deeply. He allowed himself to become the very hands of God. Through his action, the displayed the heart of God.
THE CALL TO ACTION
Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37)
Jesus ends this parable with a mandate - now that you know better, do better. As I looked across at my downtrodden friend, I thought to myself, "How can I do better for this wounded soul?" Sometimes the wound is so overwhelming to both the victim and the on-looker that a pause has to take place. A pause is not a problem! The pause shows that we are taking the wounded's pain seriously and we are seeking a careful answer. That answer can look vastly different depending on the role God's needs you to take on in this person's healing.
The answer may be to lend a listening, non-judgmental ear. The answer may be to physically meet a need. It may be that you commit to serious prayer for and with the person God placed in your life.
The answer is NEVER to cross the road and keep walking. This is not fulfilling the mandate to leap into action.
You may feel that you have far too little to actually make a difference. Let me tell you that there is no such thing as "far too little" when it comes to healing. In fact, there are times when those with "far too little" offer the most impact! A kind word, time spent, investing a little money, or even helping to find someone who can meet bigger needs - these are all actions that can go a long way toward the healing of a wounded heart.
When all else fails and you just do not know what to do, sit with the friend, ask what they need - if they don't know then continue to sit and be patient until one of you comes to the understanding of what to do. We live in such a fast-paced world. Healing takes time. Hold space for that healing so that when it comes you have room to accept it in. This goes for both the wounded and the one who is desiring to help.
"If you are starving and can find nothing to satisfy your hunger, then come.
Come, and you will be filled."
Have you ever been in the position of having to smile through a storm? On the outside, you plaster a smile on your face while you straighten your back in order to look like you have it all together. But, on the inside, you are crying - you are screaming for someone to see through the facade and make it all better. Oh, friend! I have been there!
In fact, I may or may not be there right now. In fact, I may or may not be preaching to myself right now! If you don't mind, I am going to continue on with reminding myself about some things God led me to that bring me back to shalom.
You have my permission to eavesdrop.
KEEP IT SIMPLE, SISTER
In all my efforts to grab hold of shalom, I often find myself concocting elaborate travel plans on how to get to my destination. Most of the time, these plans are made while I am laying in bed attempting to quiet my mind enough to fall asleep. By the time morning comes, my elaborate plans have been forgotten.
Because they were too grand! Too elaborate! Too much for an already bogged down soul to carry even through one night.
The beginning of 2018 God told me, "Keep it simple, Sister!" He wanted me to lay down all my elaborate plans and "just" sit with him. He did not need me to busy myself; he needed me to quiet myself. In the quiet, I would find that seemingly elusive shalom.
WHEN IN DOUBT, WORSHIP IT OUT
Worship can blow your mind! My family has been through so much over the past few years that sometimes life feels completely unbearable. Those times have always been remedied by worship. For me, worship looks like singing really loud or grabbing one of my sets of banners and dancing. It always involves music.
Recently, I have found that worship also looks like praying alone in my car using my prayer language. A lot of times, I find myself speaking very quietly - very gently.
How do you worship? I would love to know what you do that brings your focus back to the sweet shalom of our Creator.
COME, AND YOU WILL BE FILLED
In the quote (see above) by Jeanne Guyon, the word "come" is used twice. The simplicity of the word does not escape me. God does not require us to become presentable before we come to him. No where does he instruct us to get our act together and then come. In fact, quite the opposite!
“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis."
Matthew 11:28 TPT
Not only does he want us to come to him, he has appointed times for us to meet up! Scripture outlines holiday (feasts, festivals, celebrations, fast days) for us to set ourselves aside and focus on our family, community, and HIM! He did this for US! Each Friday night, we are to set aside life for awhile and rest - this is Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Now, not all of us can take all of that time but we can certainly take the spirit of the time. Setting aside time for a weekly family dinner complete with prayers, a special meal (remember to keep it simple), and a time of family worship is enough to set us right for the week ahead.
We come - he fills.
He's good like that!
THE UPCOMING SEASON
Fall is coming! The holidays are upon us! Join Nourish Ministries as we walk through the Biblical Holidays and find SHALOM in the traditions of SHABBAT, ROSH HA'SHANAH, YOM KIPPUR, SUKKOT, AND MORE! We are going to celebrate, feast, fast, worship, and spend time going before the Most High God as we allow his appointed times to bring us the peace so we desperately seek.
"Imagine myself crying and using my tears to make myself stronger."
The story of Hannah has long held a place in my heart - so much so that we named our youngest daughter after this beautiful woman of God. For so long, though, I read it as a story of a faithful prayer warrior - and it is - but it is also so much more. Hannah was a woman who longed for a child She was bullied by her husband's other wife - who does not seem like a very nice person in this story. Hannah endured the taunting of another woman, and that pain of another woman using such an intimate part of her life against her was too much for her to bear. She would be reduced to tears and not eat. Poor, sweet, well-intentioned Elkanah, her husband, tried desperately to cheer her by suggesting she not be upset over not having sons; she should be happy to have him. (Scripture points out that Elkanah had a deep love for Hannah.) Her husband already had two sons through his other wife, and men are often known to be a bit oblivious to the emotions of women. Hannah was alone in her grief.
Hannah prayed. We can glean from Scripture that Hannah was faithful in her prayer life. She attended a meal at Shiloh and went to pray at the tabernacle. In 1 Samuel 1:10 we are told that, "Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the LORD." She was so deep in prayer that the priest thought she was drunk as her lips were moving but he did not hear a sound. Her grief had rendered her without sound before her God. How many of us women have been in this place? The anguish of the situation before us brings us to our knees, uttering in silence, or crying hot, bitter tears - begging God to make it so. On this day, God saw Hannah and he gave her what her heart desired most. God's answer is not always yes and to some, the story of Hannah can be frustrating and even off-putting. She got her yes, so why am I still living in the maybe? Or, why did God say no. Why did he choose not to spare my family? Dear heart, these are questions that may never get answered. But, in the meantime, let's look at some good lessons from Hannah's journey.
IT'S OKAY TO CRY
Oh, how I cannot stress this point enough! Serving God is hard. Taking care of people is hard. Caring about both these things can put you on the fringe of our culture. We live in such a me-centered world that those who purposely seek to serve the Lord and take his mandates to heart find themselves in a great deal of emotional pain. We are told to LOVE, but that is HARD! Imagine how hard it was for Hannah to love her husband's other wife. God does not say love unless they are being mean. He simply says, "Love."
OWN YOUR FEELINGS
Friends! It is not only okay to cry - crying is beneficial! When the pain of the world is pressing down, take a step back and allow yourself to release the pain through tears. Do not apologize for your tears. Own those tears! Hannah was quick to tell the priest the reason for her tears, "But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the LORD." (1 Samuel 1:15) As the tears fall, embrace them, own them, and allow them to heal your broken heart.
CONSECRATE YOUR TEARS
Consecrate means to make holy or sacred - this is kind of huge. Tears can forgive hostility, release blockage, and allow for sweet refreshing. Hannah's tears were mocked. The other wife openly ridiculed her and her husband subtly teased her. We must be careful who we allow to see our tears! Any time your tears are mocked, you are not in a safe space. Find a safe place where your tears will not be mocked. Consider them sacred. Your tears represent the pain you feel for your situation or for the situation of someone you love - compassion moves us to tears.
And, when it was all said and done, Hannah worshiped. When you have cried and it feels like you cannot spare another tear, worship. Even if the promise has not come - even if the answer is no - worship. Your healing will come. It may arrive looking completely different than what you expected but it will come.
(This was written on 6/13/16 after my brother passed away. Yesterday, my husband's co-worker passed away and it caused me to seek out this post.)
I am no stranger to grief. My life has been consumed with the grief cycle and helping my children through the grief cycle for the past few years. Last week, however, I was introduced to a different sort of grief when I received a text message telling me that my brother had passed away. It was sudden and very unexpected. He had been sick, he had diabetes, and his body said "Enough!".
This grief was not numb. It was immediately painful. It brought up memories - joy-filled ones along with hurt-filled ones. I found myself struggling with insecurity regarding our relationship. Anger rose within me and spilled out as hot tears streamed down my face. It was not fair that he was taken so quickly. It was not fair that I didn't get a chance to have another conversation with him (even a Facebook chat would've helped!). It was not fair that I didn't get the chance to make darn sure that he knew just how much I love(d) him.
It was not fair.
"They" say there are five stages to grief. I disagree. In reality, there are five portions of grief and several hundred grey areas in between that can sometimes be experienced separately within a span of an hour, and sometimes they can all fall on top of you all at once like a giant heap of emotions. To say that grief is linear is not only wrong but it is harmful. Linear means that acceptance is the end goal and that once you reach that end you will no longer deal with the other four portions. This just isn't true for a majority of those who find themselves in the midst of grief.
Grief is so not linear. It is messy. It is a jumble of emotions that sometimes attack us at really weird times. You could be standing there discussing a t-shirt and suddenly find yourself weeping. Grief is sneaky. It is sneaky and it is messy. No one wants to deal with grief. But, oddly enough, grief can also be beautiful.
Memories will come. They will flood your mind and your heart and completely inopportune moments. Let them come. Let the emotions that are attached to those memories come as well. These memories are honoring a life. A precious, beautiful life. Even the messy, messy emotions. They are honoring just as much as the beautiful, fun memories. Maybe even more so. Anger over the loss of someone you love makes sense. Denial, bargaining, depression...they make sense! Those messy, messy portions of grief give you a chance to really honor your loved one.
The one thing to hold on to, though, is that there is no real end goal. The goal is to be able to not be consumed with grief after a period of time but there should not be a goal to no longer feel when remembering your loved one. Portions of grief will continue long after the all-consuming grief subsides. And, that is okay - it is testimony to the love that still remains.
"Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, let us have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." Romans 5:1-5
Too often we find ourselves caught up in begging God for a breakthrough, for a miracle, for some grand gesture. In the natural, life feels so hard and confusing that we petition God over and over to make it all right. This is where I have found myself for a few years now. "God make things right! Restore to me what has been stolen! Bless me abundantly so that I may have the honor of blessing others! Father, are you hearing me? I need a grand gesture!"
Sometimes, when I pray out of desperation, I feel disrespectful. I feel shallow and somewhat ridiculous. Then I remember that my God is two things: he is the Most High God and therefore able to handle anything I can throw at him; and, he is my loving Father whose desire is for his children. He can handle it and he wants to handle it.
OK, so that's out of the way. Now, on to what God just (gently) hit me over the head with...
I am so busy looking for my breakthrough, for my miracle, for my grand gesture that I am completely missing the intimate, loving exchanges that happen in the most unlikely moments. To put it another way, I am missing the trees for the forest! I am so focused on the bigger picture that I am utterly failing to see the details of how he cares for me minute by minute.
He comes to me when I am balled up on my bed weeping into my pillow. He wraps his arms around me and allows me to sink into his peace.
He comes to me with an encouraging word from a friend, a co-worker, or even a grocery store clerk. He meets me in unlikely places.
He comes to me when I sleep and whispers sweet songs. He dances around me, covering me as I rest under his protection.
He comes to me with provision when it feels like there is no way. He takes care of my needs and even springs for some wants every so often.
He comes to me because I am his child and he delights in me. Each moment is like a beautiful tree, strong, mighty, and life-giving. Each tree builds the bigger picture. The bigger picture is in his hands. I do not need to concern myself with the bigger picture. I walk from tree to tree, from glory to glory, and I trust that he is the canopy above my head.
My breakthrough will come. My miracle is life lived for his purpose. Each tree is a grand gesture from my Father. The trees sustain me. These moments when he comes to me in the still of the night, or while experiencing the anguish of loss, or during the confusion of the journey...each of these moments will propel me into the person he created me to be.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for helping others to find their healing. The past few years have been a test in trusting the Creator for provisions and living in complete and total worship to my King. As I find myself coming through the other side of the valley, I am learning to live with both wings moving; flying balanced and fully committed to the process of living a life of faith and trust.