About 6 months ago, my girls and I were having a conflict one day—it wasn’t a huge fight, but it wasn’t a small one either. One of the girls was not impressed with how I was handling the situation, and she blurted out to me, “You need to go to counseling!”
Honestly, I was so mad at her haughty little attitude in trying to tell me what to do. But the next day I thought about her words and decided that seeing a counselor to help me sort through everything would be beneficial for me. And maybe it would be a good example to them.
Thankfully I knew a lady from some church events from years ago who is a wonderful counselor. We had only been acquaintances, but I respected her. So I called her office and left a long message…that I’m struggling, that I feel emotionally unstable, that I have to make a change because my health and my sanity keep slipping.
We met a few weeks in a row. But more conflicts and difficult things kept happening in our home, and one day I laid my head down on my desk and thought that there will never be enough counseling sessions for me to untangle this struggle.
This week I read over 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
I was identifying too much with each of these phrases. But I realized that my outlook on my situation was confused. In this verse, it says, “hard pressed on every side,” which I relate to. But then it says, “But NOT crushed.” Unfortunately, my soul did feel crushed most of the time.
At church I serve alongside a man who has known me for probably five years. Not too long ago, he told me that he had observed my countenance and demeanor week after week, and he finally told his wife, “We need to be praying for Mary.” He could see it in my face that I was feeling crushed.
Maybe one day I can figure out a way to describe what led to me becoming crushed. So much of it is due to mistakes I made, and some of it is that I’m suffering the consequences of mistakes others have made.
I can’t go back and change the past.But I can't let myself be crushed either.
I have to be solid, firm in my identity as a child of God. The words and the decisions of others will press against me—and the more I care about that particular person, the harder their words and decisions will press against me. But I have to shield myself from letting them crush me.
God, even when I’m HARD PRESSED, help me NOT to be CRUSHED.
I chose to make these counseling sessions a priority because I want to come up from my situation stronger. My counselor is the type who will hold me accountable to make the changes that we discuss in her office. It’s not okay for me just to come in and tell her everything that has hurt me; I have to be willing to do the hard work of making things better.
She wrote down a few action steps for me. She showed me a few note cards that have biblical principles about parenting. The verses on those cards were familiar to me, but I hadn’t been able to implement them with my daughters in the way that I had hoped. The thought of that made me want to weep.
I didn’t break down completely; I kept my tears controlled.
She pointed to the action steps that she wrote down, and she asked me, “Is this something you can do?”
I stared at her list, and for the first time, I knew what people mean when they said that they are too scared to change. I really wanted the change, but the process seemed terrifying to me, and I knew that I didn’t have the strength to do these things.
I looked up at her. “The best version of me could do these things. But I’m not the best version of me right now.”
The next phrase in 2 Corinthians 4 is that we are “perplexed, but not in despair.”
Challenges make me feel perplexed. I’ve often prayed, “God, if you just show me what to do, I’ll do it….but I’ve tried so many things, and I have no clue what else I can do to make this better.”
Feeling perplexed is going to be a part of every struggle. But according to this verse, we need to guard ourselves from sinking into despair.
Unfortunately, during a huge conflict a little while ago, I gave into despair… I was discouraged because I was trying to implement the advice I had received in counseling, and everything still blew up. I felt like things were never going to get better—that even though we had gone to counseling, even though we had tried to talk about what to do better in these types of situations, we still couldn’t get through it without a big fight.
I flopped on my bed and said that I was ready to cry. I didn’t do anything for the rest of the day. I had other plans, but I didn’t want to go. I had given into despair. It was like my hope broke finally on that day, and I didn’t believe that things could get better for us. I felt like I had let the girls down because I couldn’t fix it for us.
But thank God—now that a little time has passed, I can say that things have gotten better. Of course, they got worse before they got better. The days that followed that incident brought a lot of stress and heartache...
But the Lord’s mercies are new every morning, and things did get better. Just this week I’ve been surprised at how God has shown me a few ways that He is working in our little family. And maybe the Lord is granting me a glimpse of clarity where I used to feel perplexed, new hope where I used to feel despair.
God, even when I’m perplexed, help me not to give into to despair.
Time to Rise, Part 3 is coming next week. xoxo
Mary is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.
I want to do a 4-part blog series called “It’s Time to Rise.” I don’t know what all I will share. I don’t know how long it will take me to write the 4 parts or when I will post them.
I JUST KNOW THAT GOD IS CALLING ME TO A SEASON OF FINALLY RISING UP!!!!!!!
And I hope a few of my readers can rise up with me from whatever they’ve been facing lately. If that’s you, know that my heart is with you.
Preface: I’m careful to share anything too personal or negative. I don’t want people to blame my emotions on my daughters. This is about me and how I’m handling the difficulties of life. Being a single mom is just hard, and dealing with the effects of trauma is even harder. I don’t want anyone to label my daughters or assume things about them because they’ve had a difficult background…because everyday they are overcoming a lot from their past. When we see people that they used to know from their old school or their old town, it amazes me that pretty much every single person makes a remark about how much the girls are different--how they've grown, how pretty they look, how their facial expressions and countenance look softer, kinder, lighter. It still takes me off guard because it happens every single time we run into someone from their past. Some days it's hard for me to see the overall change because I'm dealing with all the daily details, and we're yelling in the car and arguing way too much. But those brief interactions with people from their past remind me that God is working.
Gabby is 16 and Anna is 15 now, and everyday they have to deal with all the weird things about me! They have seen the best parts of me, and they have seen the very, very worst parts of me.
It’s Time to Rise
Let’s back up to almost a year ago. I recognized a martyr-mindset in myself in the summer, and I was intentional to uproot it from my life. I knew that I was letting my concerns for my daughters and the stresses of parenting affect how I interacted with others on a daily basis. (I felt like I should make a public apology.) All throughout September, I would repeat to myself the phrase, “It’s time to rise.”
I’m not sure how I chose that phrase, but I just kept saying it: “It’s time to rise.” I meant that it was time for me to pick myself up out of self-pity and keep my heart open to all my family members, friends, coworkers, etc. It was time for me to be a good listener to them and empathize with them and support them—even if I was stressed about other things, even if I couldn’t sleep the night before.
That same month, an incident blindsided me, and one particular Saturday in September, I felt absolutely shattered. (I feel like even almost a year later, I still need healing from this incident.) That was the first time in my life that I had ever felt that shattered. I sobbed on my couch and texted friends to pray for me. I was discouraged because I wanted so badly to not slip back into the martyr-mindset. But for that weekend, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. I remember I stopped at Walmart and thought, I can’t believe I even have the strength to push a cart around this store. I saw an old classmate there. I knew that I had to look awful, but I tried to smile and ooh and ahh over her toddler. I went back home, lied on the couch, tried to eat half a bagel.
I woke up the next morning and went to church. Somehow I greeted people, set out supplies, hugged kids, and taught a bible lesson even though my heart was so bruised. But the hugs helped.
The next week I sat next to my friend at a conference. Let’s call her Dara. I’ve known Dara for about 5 years, and in that time, I’ve often heard stories about the challenges in her family. As a wife and mother, she has stayed strong in her faith even when all the others haven’t. Dara serves in the children’s ministry with me at my church, and I see her come faithfully Sunday after Sunday. I know her heart is breaking over her family, but she always musters up the strength to laugh and help the kids have fun. She’s so good at what she does, and she is faithful because she doesn’t want to let the kids down.
As I sat next to Dara at the conference in September, I leaned over to her before the session started. I asked her, “How do you do it? How do you serve with so much joy at church on Sundays when your heart is still black and blue from the week?” I told her about the incident I’d faced the previous week and that maybe I understand a little better now how she feels.
She smiled at me. She reminded me that there have been some Sundays where she didn’t make it, when the burdens were too heavy, and she couldn’t leave home. She admitted the mistakes that she had made in parenting her children and how she has come to terms with the fact that she can’t go back and change it. She told me about the worship music she listens to and the ways that God keeps encouraging her heart. She believes God will answer her prayers.
I looked at Dara, admiring her attitude. Her example reminded me that even though I’d been knocked down again, it was “time to rise.”
October was easier than September. But then November came, and another incident pierced my heart. I couldn’t help but think, This is the worst day of my life. After thinking that for about a week, I realized that if others—particularly my daughters—heard me say that, they would probably be offended. My daughters have faced such trauma in their lives, and what I experienced that day…even though it was very painful and worrisome, it was still minimal in comparison.
But the grief and discouragement were real. As I worked through the pain, part of me was mad that once again, just as I was trying to “rise” and not have a martyr-mindset, here I was again in survival mode.
I was thinking that no one else that I was close to knew what I was going through, and I showed up at work one day with my hair wet and a numb expression on my face. A lady—let’s call her Ruth—walked over to talk with me, but my phone rang. I gave a heavy sigh and explained to her that I needed to take this call. I closed my eyes as I answered my phone, feeling like I had all the problems in the world.
After my phone call, I walked back over to Ruth and told her a little bit of what was going on and what I was afraid of. Then she told me that she was actually living that same reality right now. She had actually lived through the things I was so afraid of.
As I listened to her story, I settled into my chair, stopped thinking about myself, and took in her warmth and perseverance. The very thing that had been keeping me up at night for the last 7 or 8 days, the very thing that I was so afraid of… was a reality in her life today. And can you believe she was even smiling tenderly as she described how she was working through it? Can you believe that she was still functioning, she was still okay????
I want to know that there is hope. I want to believe that I can be strong again.
I WANT TO RISE.
To be continued…
“It’s Time to Rise, Part 2” coming next week.
Mary is the Associate Director at Hope Center Indy.. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.