You’ll never find what you’re looking for in a medicine cabinet….

I just spent the most amazing week back home.

Apart from the rainy days ruining my plan to spend the majority of my days lounging by the pool, I could not have enjoyed my time with the family more.

Ironically, it was during one of these laugh-til-you-can’t-breathe moments that my soul was devastatingly crushed.

We were watching old home movies. You remember those big clunky camcorders with the VHS tapes? Well right there, in between shots of my kids opening Christmas presents and blowing out birthday candles, I sat. There, but not really.

There was NO LIFE.

It broke my heart, not so much for myself, but for those kids on the screen.

I was depressed, locked away in my mind, detached from my surroundings, by all accounts, dead.

The video reminder was painful.

It wasn’t like I’d forgotten. Over the years, I’ve counseled many men and women struggling with depression. I’ve been there, I’d tell them. I know how frustrating it is to hear, Just snap out of it! I know what it’s like when suicide oddly seems like a lifeline.

But seeing this?

I was mad. Furious at the woman I saw. I, too, wanted to shake her and make her wake up to the life around her. I wanted to tell her how selfish she was. I wanted to warn her that her actions would have forever consequences on those babies scattered around her. Most of all, I wanted to hug her and tell her that it was all going to work out all right.

I went to bed crying that night and even now, reliving the memory, I can’t stop the tears.

She was me and yet I don’t even know her.

I wish I’d had the foresight then to turn to the Lord instead of medication.

Back then, I thought antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines were the only things keeping me going.

Looking at the woman on the screen, I now know I was wrong. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was barely living. At best, I looked sad. Mostly I looked like a zombie. The drugs designed to give me back my life took even more away from me.

I remember the week I got off the medication. The first three were excruciating. Like a 72-hour tornado blowing through my body. Then came the calm. My mind was reset. My body was reset. I felt like a child again. My brain started throwing out memories of old Atari game patterns. Pitfall. Pac-Man. Frogger.

It was like I got a factory reboot.

That was almost twenty years ago and I haven’t forgotten the excitement of that new (old) brain. It was like He scrubbed the viruses off and restored it to mint condition.

There have been ups and downs, of course, but I’ve never returned to that deep, dark hole I resided in for so many years.

I only wish the woman in the video had surrendered her life sooner.

(Please note that I am not encouraging anyone to get off their medication or stop seeking treatment. This is a retrospective look at my life and what has worked for me.)

Was I wrong?

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I’m not alone in wondering lately if I’ve been wrong about my views and/or how I’ve handled something. Many people, especially women, spend as much time looking back as we do forward.

The thought process always ends with one question, Was I wrong?

Some will ask this only seeking affirmation. They aren’t truly prepared for an answer that holds them accountable. I probably feel that way sometimes myself.

But lately I’ve been sincerely wondering.

Especially after today.

And I haven’t found my answer.

It starts with a lingering battle I’ve had about my blog. I try to stay away from political  or hot topic posts while still speaking Truth. I try to reach a diverse audience to offer a message of hope without accepting the way of the world. I try to provide insight into the Word with the compassion He showed me when He pulled me out of the miry clay.

But am I watering down my message? Does He see me as lukewarm?

Then the storm came. I saw the preparations as a perfect analogy of the lost, the saved, and the backslidden. I blogged a post, one I didn’t consider lukewarm but certainly not fire-and-brimstone. In any case, it WAS truth and I still stand beside every word.

I thought it was a special little picture the Lord gave me and I wanted to share it with the world. (Or the handful that would actually read it.)

The attack that came was not pretty. “You doom-and-gloom hack. How dare you say anything about God coming back. The Bible says no-one knows when that will be so you people shouldn’t listen to this idiot…”

I’m used to spiritual attacks but this nevertheless shocked me. First, I thought, when did I say anything about knowing when God was coming back? I know that Jesus will, but I don’t know when. Maybe I’d alluded to it being soon? But telling readers to disregard me as a fraudulent doomsday prophet stung a little.

I never questioned my post. What I questioned was my decision to delete his comments and block him from future posts.

Was I wrong?

I’d only had one negative comment befoe in my blog writing and that was when someone told me I was wrong for telling people not to give money to panhandlers, but rather to give them food or other necessary items when writing my Tents, Tarps, and Tears blog about our homeless ministry. She said that wasn’t right and I wasn’t a good Christian. I didn’t delete her comments nor did I respond, mostly because I didn’t have to. People responded for me, and besides, she was entitled to her opinion. This was my suggestion, written after many people asked for my advice regarding helping panhandlers. They knew I had a heart for the homeless and that my advice would be based on love and experience.

This detractor, though, was different. I think he was attacking God as much as he was attacking me. Should I have responded? Allowed his thoughts to stand? Or did I do the right thing?

Then came today, a dilemma ironically about a panhandler. Or maybe it was by Design, irony being only for those who don’t believe. I don’t know. But I know as I drove off, I had the worst case of WAS I WRONG? ever.

Pitbull, one you may remember from the homeless ministry blog, was sitting at the end of the exit ramp as we got off the interstate after taking two of the grandkids to Biloxi for the day.

Pitbull was the one who taught me the trades of panhandlers, from fake veteran signs to “prop” crutches. He taught me the lingo (“I’m gonna fly a sign for a few hours”) and even gave me cash to buy him markers for said sign. (I discovered that day that he had way more money than I did!) Anyway, despite his oft-anger outbursts and obvious cons, I think a real friendship was formed. I visited him in jail throughout two stints, as he cleaned up and we worked on a release plan to keep him off the streets and clean.

The last time he returned to the streets, I was done.

You just can’t help someone who doesn’t want help and you can’t want it more for someone than they do for themselves.

(I do want to point out here that there are a few success stories from my homeless ministry. People who are living happy, healthy productive lives now and stay in touch regularly.)

But some, like Pitbull, don’t want real help.

So even though I’ve seen him from a distance, I hadn’t talked to him in about nine months. Face to face at the end of the ramp, a conversation was unavoidable.

I saw the emotions play on his face. Recognition then surprise then hurt followed by relief.

“I’ve got to talk to you. I’m in trouble.”

Keeping it light with a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old in the backseat, I laughed. “Oh yeah, what kind of trouble?”

I could tell he was sober and he wasn’t joking but I wasn’t prepared for his response. “I killed a man and I’ve been in jail.”

Now, in moments like these, it can be hard to hear the Spirit. My mind was racing. First and foremost was the need to protect the kids in the back from a conversation they were too young to hear. With The Lion King soundtrack playing in the car, I didn’t think they could hear but I wasn’t sure.

Then I was aware that the light was going to change any minute and the long line of cars behind me wouldn’t take kindly to me continuing a conversation while a green light displayed overhead.

Not to mention that I didn’t know how to respond.

I wasn’t surprised. I’d seen that murderous spirit on him from time to time. It was the reason my husband didn’t want me stopping to visit him alone anymore, even if it was in broad daylight under the bridge. Even though he’d never turned that wrath on me,  I respected my husband’s wishes and didn’t put myself in that position.

Wise as serpents, harmless as doves, Jesus tells us (Matthew 10:16)  and that’s how I’d handled him.

But here I was now, not sure how to respond.

He went on to explain an act of self-defense and said the charges were dismissed but he was really struggling. I think the sheer act of taking someone’s life, even if unintended or unavoidable, had damaged his already weakened soul past its breaking point. I know he needed comfort but my mind was still racing.

Was there more to the story? Can the kids hear us? Is the light going to change?

He looked at Dale, who could only half-hear in the passenger seat with the game broadcasting on his phone and the sounds of Disney still emanating from the backseat, and asked if we could buy him dinner. I don’t know if he’d noticed the kids in the car by then or not.

“We can’t right now,” I told him. “We have grandkids in the car and we’ve got to meet their mom at home.” It wasn’t a lie; we’d even bypassed the ice cream store so she wouldn’t be stuck outside waiting for us to get home and unlock the door.

Visibly upset, his body tensed up and he walked away. I realized later that he had bared his soul only to be rejected. What I saw as anger for not getting what he wanted was more than likely the resurrection of a normal wall, one that he’d risked lowering for some solace from someone he trusted.

I wasn’t sure if he was genuinely hungry but I wasn’t giving him cash. Self-admittedly, he often spent panhandling money on “bad spice” so I prayed that the Lord would send him food if he truly needed it.

But I knew what he’d needed was our time, and our ear, and I just couldn’t give that to him right then.

“When they go back home, I’ll come find you and we’ll finish this talk,” I called out as the light changed.

Rigid as a board, he mumbled, “That’s all right. Don’t worry about it.”

I drove off, his hurt as evident on the outside as my turmoil on the inside.

Was I wrong?

I’ve replayed the scenario over and over in my head for the last four hours. I couldn’t change that I had kids in the car. I couldn’t change that out-of-town guests were waiting on me to get home. I couldn’t change his need.

What could I have done differently?

Or did I do everything I could?

And if I did, then why do I still feel so bad?

 

 

Facebook is many things. A hanging line for your dirty laundry is not one of them.

I’ve seen no less than four personal feuds and one over-the-line, disguised-as-a-joke jab at an ex-family member on Facebook so far today. And because of the hurricane-that-ended-up-being-a-tropical-storm-instead that blew through here last night, my day started later than usual.

Why?

When did Facebook become the de facto justice system in America?

People want vengeance; they want sympathy; and they want everyone to end up on their side. It’s like Red Rover for adults.

People post on Facebook for many reasons. But the underlying theme is quite similar: we crave emotional support and acceptance from our peers.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and Facebook can be an amazing tool to connect with others. But some things aren’t meant to be shared with the world:

Marital (or relationship) issues top that list. No matter what you do from that point forward, whether it is reconciliation or divorce, you’ve aired your dirty laundry for the world to comment on, make assumptions, and offer unsolicited advice. Gone are the days of confiding in your best friend. Now we post secrets openly, often embellishing the truth to win the “jury” of our peers.

Friendship spats are another. He said/she said. She said/she said. We all know the truth lies somewhere in between both stories so why make us choose? You often end up losing the friend you’re posting about and those who don’t want to get caught in the crosshairs.

Family issues make everyone uncomfortable. Whether it’s your own family, or someone else’s, reading about family discord is always unpleasant. Bring it to the Thanksgiving dinner table (Isn’t that where the most epic family feuds happen?!) and leave everyone else out of it.

I really don’t mind the arguments over politics and shoemakers and who has the best D-1 offense. They are definitely hot topic button pushers but that’s okay. We are all different and we all have different opinions.

But airing your relationship issues. That’s just out of line.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29