This beautiful mess

What do I say about the last few weeks, months? It’s been November since I’ve said anything publicly about our family’s situation, though some of you close by have picked up details along the way.

What I can say in the simplest way is that we’re in the midst of a beautiful mess.  This is my dear friend Keisha‘s statement about life (thank you in advance for letting me borrow it, Keisha, I know you understand).  I can’t think of a better way of putting it. As I ramble on with my thoughts maybe you can make sense of it, too.

So back in November, I was on an upswing. Yes, I did wish I was all better, but I was getting better and that can feel so amazing, even before you get to being actually well.  My mom even said to me at one point “Yes, you are definitely doing better because you’ve started to boss me around again.”

December came and we had a lovely Christmas, with all kinds of fun and festivities, candles and music, Pinterest inspiration and delicious sweets, hosting and going to parties.  I wanted to post about these things, but I didn’t because I was worried that other moms reading my blog would think “Wow, she has PPD and she’s doing this?! And making 250 Christmas cookies with her husband? And writing her own liturgy for her family for Advent Sundays?!  What kind of mother does that make me?”

Well, at the time I felt really happy.  I was feeling a deep sense of satisfaction about things in life that I had really forgotten existed.  I felt invigorated (returning back from what you thought was hell can do that to a person).  And I like being crafty and I like Christmas, so sue me.

But in January things changed.  And now I’m the mom who drops her child off at preschool every Monday and Thursday wearing the same sweatpants, winter hat, and my glasses (to distract from my face if I’m not wearing makeup or have been crying). And now I’ve just let out all my self-protective methods of coping.

And did I mention that my mother-in-law has to drive us all to preschool drop-off because I’m on the kind of happy medication that makes it difficult for me to safely maneuver a large moving vehicle with precious children in it?

Yeah, you don’t see any of that on Pinterest.  But then again, maybe you should.

To clarify, there were numerous factors as to why January became such a hard, hard month.  These included changes in medication, tanking sleep, and just the toll this has taken on Jason and I’s relationship.  Jason is trying to help me function while growing a small business and transitioning his career, and finishing up his accounting classes to eventually take the CPA.

Because of the load he carries, sometimes I ask if he wants to partake in any of the wide of array of medications I’ve acquired in my own personal pharmacy.  He turns me down because he knows I’m kinda crazy right now.

I don’t mean to be jokey and sarcastic about this and to make too much light of it.  When it hurts, it hurts a lot.  When it’s scary, it’s really scary, and my personality is one that naturally wants to stick to fear anyway.

It’s also hard to know what to do with myself and I get the impression it’s hard for other people to know what to do with me, too.  There are a special breed of people out there who know just how to listen, what to say and not to say, how to speak or act the love of God into a person’s life who is struggling with mental illness.  I am thankful I know some of these people and they have shown me the love of Christ in hard times.

But, I can’t say that I’m even one of those gifted people and I don’t blame others who aren’t either.  It’s just a hard, uncomfortable, invisible, intangible thing that’s messy.

But back to my original metaphor.  It is messy, but it is beautiful, even on the hardest days. And here are some reasons why:

  • I’ve listened to The Welcome Wagon’s version of “I know That My Redeemer Lives” many times.  I just keep listening to that album over and over.
  • I run (which is such a wonderful thing in my life), even if it is with tears streaming down my face.
  • Even though there have been many times I’ve been so mad at Jason for one reason or another (founded or unfounded), he goes and writes me a love letter on Valentine’s Day.  He tells me that he misses the true me, but that he loves the me that I am now just as much.
  • I think about eternity every day.
  • In the middle of a panic attack, laying on the floor, at least I can look up and see my husband’s face and feel his hand holding mine. I am not left alone (mental note: must repeat that to myself a MILLION times and continue counseling for this very reason).
  • The other day, even though I was feeling down, I found myself sitting at a sunny Golden Gardens in the grass with Ian in my lap, watching the sailboats come in and out and talking about whatever came into his mind.
  • The invigorating and practical conversations I’ve had with my BSF small group and all the ways that what we’re learning about Abraham and Isaac and God’s promises to His children applies to my struggles with such timeliness.
  • The expertise and insight my psychiatric nurse practitioner has given me that has guided me through confusing and unknown territory.  God has used her to talk sense to me and she allows me to share what I believe about God and what He’s doing in my life.
  • Some friends and pastors praying over me and anointing me with oil. It felt like a very natural thing to do (why is that surprising to me?).  And I did not feel shame in sharing or being spiritually cared for in this way.
  • How Ian saw my tears this morning and he came up and started singing me a song he made up about how God is good.
  • Our prayers to God to bring us help for our family when we felt totally at a loss as to what to do next.  And how my mother-in-law was the answer to that prayer by stopping her life in Georgia, taking medical leave from her job indefinitely and coming up here to help our family get through this time.  How is that not God’s beautiful provision in a royal mess?

There are many more, but there’s one last one that I want to share.  It’s just so my personality to have just one more thing to say.

I had seen the millions of heart balloons hanging all over Fred Meyer for weeks and I decided I wanted to get one for Ian for Valentine’s Day (remember, I am superficial about this holiday).  He had a Valentine’s Party that day in preschool and I was going to pick him up and bring the balloon to give it to him when he came out the door.  I wasn’t sure if he would think it was lame or absolutely love it, but I knew there would be no in-between reaction.

Well, he LOVED it.  He thought it was the best thing in the world.  There’s a little courtyard outside preschool where the kids run around, and he bolted out there to pull it around in the air, so proud and excited.

But then, within five minutes, the unthinkable happened.  That shiny red helium-filled heart detached from the string and gently floated away.  It wasn’t like Ian was yanking on it.  In fact, he just stood there as it happened and watched.

And then the tears came, and I think some shame, and he walked over and burrowed his face in my chest.  It was going away, it was gone.  At the very least, I hope someone, somewhere saw it floating in the sky and it put a smile on their face.

Well, we went right back to Fred Meyer and the nice, older ladies thought Ian and his story were precious and were happy to give him another balloon.  This time he picked out a blue heart.

But now here’s where the mess gets really, really beautiful.  We got home and were walking towards the front door and out of nowhere Ian said to me, “Mom, when Jesus comes back for us I want to bring my balloon with me. It can just be me, Jesus, and my balloon and we’ll hang out.”

That, people, is the beauty that God is bringing us all to, in the Kingdom He is making, even now as we deal with hard things.

Ian held onto that blue balloon all day.  He held it as he sat on the couch and watched TV.  He defended it every time someone insisted it was really purple.  He felt extremely threatened with the mention of it being taken away as a suggested consequence.  He loves that balloon so much I think it has become a permanent fixture in our home since he’s attached it to the handrail of our stairs in such a way that we can’t get it untangled.  And we don’t dare cut it with scissors.

Why am I telling you all these details? Because it’s a story I want to remember.  And to say that life has hope even when it’s really, really shitty.  Jesus is coming back, but He’s also here.  God makes a beautiful mess out of it all.  And to Him it’s not really even a mess, but He must understand when we use that terminology to help make sense out of what’s going on in our lives.

This is my story today.  And though I question it at times, many times even in the course of a day, it is beautiful.

“I am convinced that if I had been healthier, I would not have been able to write this book.  I might have been able to write a different book, but I could not have written this one.” -Sarah Young, commenting on the writing of her devotional Jesus Today

8 responses to “This beautiful mess

  1. Thank you for your honesty Elizabeth. You are so courageous 🙂

  2. I’m sorry I didn’t know . . . . You are in my prayers! He doesn’t promise all things will be good. He promises “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him”! Keep looking for “the good”! You’re doing that quite well!! Romans 8:22-28
    New International Version (NIV)
    22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

    26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

    28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

  3. I appreciate so much that you share all of this, beauty and mess. It’s good to know what this struggle looks like, and maybe how to come alongside. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

  4. Marie Hirsch-Mahugh

    Lisa — I always love your messages, your raw emotion, your love of your family and your love of God. Even in the middle of a mess great works are taking place. Thank you so much for sharing. You are truly a gift to so many without realizing it. Hang in there and know that you are in my prayers.

  5. My heart was nourished this morning as I read your poignant and glorious account of human life. C.S. Lewis called us “glorious wrecks” and that has sustained me through many arduous and confusing seasons and now I will add “beautiful mess” as in we are glorious wrecks in a beautiful mess awaiting the ultimate glory and beauty in Christ. I am loving and praying with you Elizabeth!

  6. Thanks friends for your kind words of encouragement.

  7. Thanks for being so open, and I’ll definitely keep you in my prayers. I had PPD after Thomas was born, and Bryan and I really struggled in those years.

    I found writing to be very cathartic during that time, and you can read a lot of The Crazy in my blog archives. It was therapeutic to get it outside of my head, to be aware of when I was whining vs truly struggling, and to connect with others in a stream of consciousness sort of way.

    Writing helped put everything into perspective.

    You will get through this (we did!), and it sounds like you’re surrounded by people who will remind you of this when you forget or don’t believe.

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