Behind the Smile

Ok who’s ready for some testimony? I am. I’m reaching back into some painful memories with the idea that God will use these words to touch someone’s heart. This is gonna be pretty uncomfortable for me in some ways, but I truly believe that God called me to be as honest as I can. I struggled with this subject. What should I write? The Holy Spirit told me, write the truth. All of it. Here I go.

When I was fourteen, one of my family members tried to commit suicide. That was my first encounter with this ugly thing called death. I had to literally talk him off the ledge. I begged and cried “please don’t leave me alone in this life.” I had to call the cops on my own family and as they handcuffed him and carted him off to the crazy house I remember thinking, please let that be a singular experience. Flash forward to a year later and my other family member tries the same thing. I was fifteen carrying someone down the stairs from my bedroom while their drugged feet dragged down the steps of my house. I was angry. I was FIFTEEN. How? How did this happen? I had grown up in the church and the word “suicide” had never even been brought up in a conversation let alone faced head on. When time passed and everyone retreated to their own emotional corners to heal their wounds, I decided repression was the only way I could handle it. I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t seek help. I built a mental wall in my mind and in my heart. I stuffed that pain as deep as it would go and tried to move on with my life.

Flash forward. I’m eighteen years old and I move to St Andrews, Scotland to attend university. For the first time in my life, I felt free! Free to do whatever I wanted! No one could tell me what time to get home, or who to hang out with, or what I could or couldn’t drink. I went wild y’all. As I started binge drinking almost every week, I would lie and tell myself “its ok! This is college! It’s what you’re supposed to do!”. Something super weird started happening to me every time I went out. I would cry. Uncontrollable shaking and tears that wouldn’t stop. I’d laugh it off the next day with friends, blame the tequila, and I never gave it much thought. As the months moved on, the crying increased. Unleashed pain. My entire body would shake violently and I’d crouch over all huddled up on the floor of my dorm room. People started to notice. They asked questions. I went to the doctor (shoutout to the NHS) and he asked me if there were any issues in my past that I hadn’t faced. He suggested I had depression. I laughed in his face. Me? The party animal? The social butterfly? The prankster? With depression? No thanks sir. I started seeing visions of my carefully built emotional stone wall crumbling. I would see these images in my dreams almost every night and wake up in tears. I stopped eating. I stopped smiling. I wanted to sleep all day and drink all night.

Another flash forward to my second semester in college. I was very physically weak and officially was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. I was in a different country away from home and I had never felt so alone in my life. I remember walking home from the hospital after the diagnosis thinking this couldn’t be my life. I had repetitive nightmares of the suicide attempts from my past almost daily. I felt so far from God. I didn’t think He would listen to me because I was so clearly not following His path. Why would God help someone who got drunk every night? On one particular night, I felt the lowest I had ever felt. My “friends” had turned against me and no one could understand why I had turned into a zombie. No one knew I had started taking anti-depressants except my boyfriend at the time and my best friend. The idea of living in this amount of solitude became suddenly unbearable. I remember thinking “ well, it obviously runs in the family. I’m such a burden to everyone. I shouldn’t be here anymore.”

I raided my room around 11pm and took every single pill I could find in my and my roomate’s drawers. I stuffed them in my sweater and headed to the pier. I sat on the edge of the stone pier overlooking the North Sea. It was a full moon. The water was black like onyx and I could have sworn I heard it whispering to me. It was so enchanting and eerily beautiful. Black, black waves that moved and churned. My plan was to swallow every pill and then jump into the ice. I sat and stared at the water for what felt like hours. My feet were dangling off the edge and the icy froth of the waves seemed to reach up and tickle my feet. On the way to grab the first pill my fingers brushed against my cell and I sent one text. I’m JUMPING. Those few seconds is what God used. I felt Him. I felt Him whisper to me, “ you’re not alone”. That’s all I needed. Those few seconds. I sat there stunned, tears frozen on my face. A few minutes later my friend pounds down the pier at full speed screaming my name. He had gotten my text and sat with me while I sobbed.

I was SURROUNDED by the word “suicide” for the next 4 years. So many friends attempted to hurt themselves. In a parallel moment a year later, I was the one running down the street at full speed at 3am trying to save someone’s life, every single cell gripped by fear. I would go on to have another attempt myself. But I never ever forgot those few seconds. “I’m here. You’re not alone”.

Man, listen, I’m not saying it was easy. It was not a walk in the park at all to get though those years. I had my own stint in the crazy house after my second attempt and I was on and off various anti-depressants for years. But those very few precious seconds always stuck with me. God used those seconds as a launch pad for the healing that was to come. I can confidently say God has healed me of my depression today. I carry those scars with me forever but I don’t need to wear my sadness like a badge anymore. God has replaced them with so, so, SO much joy. Even today, I use those seconds as inspiration for all areas of my life. I draw strength from them. No matter what I’m going through, God is with me.

If you’re out there and have similar thoughts of depression and suicide, please reach out to your pastor. Reach out to your parents. But most importantly, reach out for GOD. Honey, HE IS WITH YOU. HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU. EVER. EVER. EVER. He’s with you as you read this, He’s with you while you cry alone in your room at night, He’s with you always.

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Lightning Love

Have you ever met someone whose very presence hits you like a bus? You walk away from your time with this person changed either in a catastrophic sense or for the better. In my case, it was earth shattering in the worst way.

I had a relationship in my past that I refer to as my “lightening love”. We met and ZING!!! I was a goner. Completely head over heels in love. I was convinced with every cell in my body that we were going to get married and have babies and do the whole Disney Princess movie thing. I was SO convinced, in fact, that I blatantly ignored the many blaring red flags that popped up almost weekly. I always had an excuse for him on hand. Well, he doesn’t do this because of that. Or he loves me but he hasn’t had a good relationship yet so he doesn’t really know how to behave. You know the drill here ladies.

When he broke up with me over the phone (how lame right?), I was devastated. I burned. My whole world burned down. He had struck me like lightening. ZING!!! Toast. There one minute, gone the next. I begged God for answers. How could someone that I had given my heart to just throw it away like that? He PROMISED he was different. He PROMISED he was better. How could he have done that to me? I had a million questions.

Proverbs 4: 23

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

When I ran into that relationship I didn’t consider for one second what God wanted. I was led 100% by feelings. Emotions. THE FEELS. I got wrapped up in the hazy drunk feeling of first loves. I didn’t stop to guard my heart or consider if this what God really wanted in my life.

1 Corinthians 13 (a must-read) explains the many wonderful virtues of love but this wasn’t the love I was experiencing. I had a different problem. The problem was that my heart wasn’t aligned with God’s will for my life. My heart was left unguarded and ZING!! Lightning love. I left my emotions out in the open, flapping in the wind where anyone could come and affect them. That experience changed me in so many ways.

I look back and I’m actually very thankful for my “lightning love”. Like I said, I’m not perfect and I’m not sure I’d invite this dude out for a cup of coffee or anything quite yet but I was able to forgive him (over a LONG period of time). God placed him in my life for a reason. It was the lesson I needed to learn. I needed to align my life with the will of God and ask God to protect me in every single way. I needed to learn that no matter how “in love” with whoever I am, I love God first and foremost and His Holy Presence should be the focus of any relationship I enter into. My lightning love actually completely changed what I looked for in a man and God really used my heartbreak to grow closer to Him. God uses your MESS to bring you a MESSAGE.

Even know as I wait on God’s promises, I pray for Him to guard my heart. Even if I’m just crushing hard on someone, please guard my heart Lord. Don’t let me led into something by feelings, where I can lose my focus on the Lord and be burned all over again. Trust me, once you’re hit by lightening once, it’s not something you want to experience again. I encourage all my single gal pals outchere to really mediate and pray on the verse above. Guard your heart so you can remain unshakeable and unwavering while you seek God’s presence.