Third Time

The roof. Sitting on the edge, both feet dangling out. The 3rd time. How did I get there again? I don’t remember. What caused me to go here? I don’t know. I just did… And it’s scary how comfortable I was. Like each time I get up there, I’m a little more daring.

I probably should have picked a less visible place, but I wanted to watch the cars zoom by on the freeway for awhile. Okay, maybe I haven’t lost ALL my marbles. Some survival alarm in my brain still thought to send the code word. Man, what am I doing with myself?

More debris. Now I have a fear of stairs… Great. More trauma added to the volcanic ash. I can’t walk by a staircase and not think about where it leads to… Keep fighting. Don’t walk up. Another battle to worry about.

Also, panic disorder… Apparently, you can develop this if you have habitual panic attacks. Like after a certain amount of panic attacks, you become paranoid and fearful about when your next panic attack will come, which is basically another stressor that induces new panic attacks. Another downward spiral… Great…

PTSD. The symptoms?

  • Bad Dreams/Nightmares? Check
  • Flashbacks – reliving trauma? Check
  • Angry outbursts? Check
  • Distorted feelings guilt/blame? Check
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities? Check
  • Feeling “on edge”? Check
  • Blocked out memories / blank spots? Check
  • Frightening thoughts? Oh yeah…
  • Lack of sleep? Check, Check, CHECK!

Article after article. Book after book. About trauma, coping with anxiety, various types of depression, psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, energy psychology, neuropsychology and so on. Rewire. Reprogram. FIX ME. Because there’s something terribly wrong… I’m terribly wrong. No friend really gets it…

The fatigue is getting to me…

The Communal Mask

The message we stress is that we’re all broken. But how much of that brokenness are we really willing to deal with? And what’s going to happen to it? Do we stay broken?

We tell people we’re having a bad day while keeping that fake smile on our faces. We’ll acknowledge that we’re not doing so hot, but no way are we going to lay out all that ugly on the table. We still have to LOOK OKAY. That’s my community right now. Not okay but trying to be okay. There have been hints of vulnerability and openness. And yet, I still feel the division. Like a bunch of old, cracked walls set up in the middle.

The mask is on. We love to portray this awesome place where broken people can come and find comfort. We have a lot of hang outs and events and climbing. We fill our Sundays with church friends and activities and we seem super tight knit. But take off the mask, and there is struggle and tension and sadness. We need healing and love from God and each other. More than just, “hey let’s meet up and spend some quality time”. I want us to be a place where there’s a lot of heart and care. A place where we don’t just TRY to point people back to God, but that we’re actually effective. That God is using us to really display his love and redemption. And it doesn’t have to be any super intentional “let me pray for you”, but that we’re able to display Christ just with our PRESENCE. I think about some of the people I encounter, and they don’t ever really have to say an encouragement or even try to have a deep conversation with me, but I can feel and see Christ there… in THEM and just from interacting with them. It’s like the love of God permeates through their being because they are soooooo intimate with God, even in their sin and struggle.

What does it really mean to “bear with one another’s burdens”? What does it really feel like to walk with one another? Do a meetup or two? Pray once or twice? Or do we actively seek to draw so close to God and care for these people in the way God calls us to, that just our presence means something?

Everyone is struggling with something messy and rough. And people can sense it and know it’s there. But it doesn’t feel like we’re really tackling it head on. We’re still hiding and covering ourselves, hoping that the bomb won’t drop directly on us. We’re tattered up and beaten. We’re crawling on our knees trying to make it just a little farther.

I keep thinking Jesus, can we do better than this? Don’t you give us the power to do better than crawl? Your spirit is in us, even in our worse state. In war, soldiers don’t give up without a fight. They stand if their leg hasn’t been blasted off. They’re wounded, but still, they run to their fallen comrades. They lift them up and carry their brothers. And they don’t shrink back and avoid the bloody fields. They run back into battle day after day and continue the fight.

Renew. Let’s not lie. I know, we’re holding up the best we can. But how do we do it together? We’re broken, but we don’t have to stay there. We can still move.

“let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter4:19)



An Inkling of a Strawberry

Surprisingly okay meet up. I didn’t want to think about it. And I didn’t want to share it. And part of me can feel an anxiety attack coming on because now I know he lied. But I’m powerless to do anything.

Spent some time listening to Josh share. I’m not the only one who sees the danger in where the community is headed. Unrepentant sin, unsafe place, people in leadership that maybe shouldn’t be, wishing that God was at the center. All vague sharings, but I’m glad. I empathize and find myself relating to all your concerns, Josh.

We PRAYED for this group tonight. We prayed for ourselves. We prayed for change and for God to work through us and in every person at Renew. God’s will be done.

Find the strawberry in the midst of trouble. It’s tiny and I almost missed it. But I have to enjoy even the littlest things.

Therapy. It’s honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Going to therapy sucks… And I came out of today’s session extremely discouraged.

“Panic attacks are your body’s signs telling you that this person is dangerous. LISTEN TO IT! You’re feeling pain and rejection, you can’t ignore that. You can’t just get over it like it didn’t happen, that this person didn’t hurt you deeply!”

Why can’t I? I used to do this so well… Suck it up, and move on. I did it in high school. I’ve done it all my life. It should be no different.

“You want to keep everyone safe. And you’re noticing that there’s a lot more unsafe people than just him. You’re afraid of what it’s going to do to your community. But you can’t help others until you create a safe place for yourself.”

Will these people ever feel safe??? The answer I got: a vague “hopefully, you can eventually get to a place you can tolerate them.”

Not exactly what I wanted to hear. You’re asking me to cut out multiple people that I kind of enjoy. And really, the only person who kind of gets what I’m going through. And it hurts… real bad. But maybe it only hurts for me… From what I hear, he doesn’t seem too bothered. Maybe he never really cared for me at all.

God… What are you doing? Please hear my cries and redeem these relationships. I don’t want to question you, but please show me that people aren’t as hurtful and heartless as my mind keeps making them out to be.

Climbing. So much fear and discouragement and angst after the session, I had to climb. I think I’ve climbed more than I ever did. It helps that it was day time, there were less people, and no Renew distractions. I did so many climbs and tried so many more. I fall and get back up. Kept going even when my arms hurt and throbbed. It didn’t cure anything, but it was something. Not to mention, Kevin was there. He’s just one of those people that ooze encouragement. Jokes too much, a little too loud, but with him, you don’t even really need to have a deep conversation to feel encouraged. Okay Ellis, your friends aren’t THAT bad.

Last Morning

Some of us stayed an extra night here. The cabin felt ominously empty, but I kind of like it. Peace and quiet, outside on the deck facing Lake Arrowhead. I can’t find a better spot to write.

Yesterday, in presence of God. 20 minutes. That’s how long I stood there, watching the boats, listening for Jesus. It was honestly the only moment for semi-rest I found all weekend. He’s here, up in the mountains. Somewhere… Not exactly beside me but too not far off. Pastor Josh, this is really really hard (I wonder what everybody felt like doing this at the Renew retreat).

Fun. Climbing onto some guy’s truck, hanging off the bumper, and wailing as they drove us down the mountain. I doubt he would have stopped and offered us a joy ride if the girl-guy ratio was anything but what it was.

Rocky and steep. There was a lot more grabbing, jumping, and climbing than expected for such a short distance. But that’s how I like my hikes. Also, if they end up at a waterfall where people can go cliff jumping. Highlight of the weekend? Yes.

Episode. Then night came and it was almost 8:30 by the time we made it back to the cabin. People were either cooking or showering or gaming. And I just went upstairs. Nothing bad happened. It was fun. All of it. And somehow I still ended up on the mat, curled up in a ball and wishing I were dead. I saw myself at the bottom of the staircase inside Renew somewhere, in some empty hallway, on the ground and shaking. I felt ready to make it to the roof. And then I stop myself from thinking… Why is it always thoughts about Renew that make me this way? They’re not a bad church… What’s wrong with me… Maybe it’s him.

This entire weekend, last night, even this morning… He’s always there. Popping up anytime I might actually feel safe. It’s like a demon put on his face and invaded my mind. It just doesn’t stop. How can God be present in one moment and gone in the next?

A bee fell onto my laptop! Omg… Okay, I’m done.

Day 3

The Gospel is raw and harsh and uncomfortable. It offends people and it’s hard to accept. But that’s the basis of our faith. If we don’t have that, then all this fellowship, community, and supporting each other, means nothing.

There’s a choice and it demands to be made. Because it matters that much.

This retreat was meant to be restful. But I spent the majority of the time talking to people that aren’t even at this retreat. The gospel, my testimony, and what it means to be a Christian. I didn’t expect that. I wasn’t looking to be THAT intentional. But it happened anyway.

Drained and scared. But in the end, trusting. I’m drained. I wanted my own rest. I wanted this retreat to be about me and God, but God had a different plan. It can’t be me and God without God working through me. But even though I’m tired, at least I’m being used for the kingdom.

I’m scared. Did I say something wrong? Did I come off offensive? I tried my best to empathize with them because let’s face it, my walk ain’t looking so hot. I shared my insecurities, my doubts about God, and the things I felt uncomfortable with before I was a Christian. And here I am still, feeling like I’m failing or I might be rejected or I might have come off too strong. Not to mention, I’m so mentally unstable. My depression made me feel weak and ineffective. Like I can’t do anything or help anyone or even just be present with people…

“When you believe nothing significant can happen through you, you have said more about your belief in God than you have declared about yourself.”

God convicts. We do not. It displays my lack of faith that I think God can’t redeem my slip ups. Therefore, TRUST. Because he is in control.

Anger. I have zero control. I got so angry last night that I threw a bunch of plates and even my unfinished yogurt at a chair. I slapped a bottle off the table and huff in my seat. Why was I so pissed?

I hated the fact that I had no control over whether I live or die.

I couldn’t even take my own life… And the thought made me so angry cause I was so sick of living. What an extreme mood change. One moment I’m preaching this message of hope and love, and then next second all I want to do is run away from this cabin, jump into the lake, and drown myself. But, I couldn’t do it, because I knew the truth. And I can’t un-know truth…

I’m sick of not being able to control my breathing, not knowing what days I’ll be able to get out of bed, not knowing if I can talk to this friend or that friend. I’m sick of caring about whether I’m a burden and then still caring that I am. I’m sick of trying, trying, trying and failing all the freakin time. I’m sick of trying to explain to people what exactly it is I’m going through and having nobody understand… I’m really sick of being angry with my church. I’m really sick of caring. And I want it to end.

God didn’t help me process much here. This wasn’t a retreat about helping me heal… Which was a bummer for me to realize. I’m not going to go home and be a little more cured. I’m still going to have the same struggles and problems. My circumstances are still the same. And worse of all, I’m still the same. God didn’t change a thing about me… My perspective hasn’t shifted. I’m still here. Feeling everything all at once.

And that’s supposed to be okay because I shared Christ… So glory be to God and God alone…

Day 2

Last girl to sleep, first to awake. I’m not sure what today brings and I’m anxious in what God is working. Though I shouldn’t be. My thoughts are a little cloudier than yesterday. Is this just more of my sinful heart, wanting to listen to anything but God? Am I just submitting to wild day dreams without so much of a fight?

“Search me, O God, and KNOW my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there by any grievous way in me, and LEAD ME in the way EVERLASTING” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Deliver me from my own mind and heart. Make me yours: body, mind, and soul. Set my path straight before you, and take away the distractions and hindrances. Make it so nothing else matters…

Night 1

Here I am at retreat #2 of this month. I wonder what God will reveal to me throughout this retreat. Ellis’s wish for us is to find something, ANYTHING, from this weekend that will make us fall in love with God more.

Luke 7 – A Sinful Woman Forgiven. Not even the disciples understood their position in comparison to God. Jesus makes that very clear when he calls out Simon. He tells his disciples that they didn’t display the love and humility and care, that this sinful woman displayed. This woman, publically shamed and abandoned, understood her unworthiness. And more than that, she understood who Jesus was: the righteous, holy son of God. And still, she boldly approached Jesus. She didn’t hide in her unworthiness. She went to Jesus, honestly and openly loved Jesus. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

Heart Rate. It spiked. And I want to say I don’t know what caused it, but I think I do know. Out of nowhere, the memory came, and I could hear the words again: It will never be you. Never… What is so wrong with me that it will actually be NEVER? But more importantly, why do I care? Why do I care so much that it will cause me to descend into another episode? If it’s not him, please take these thoughts and feelings away. I don’t want the distraction anymore. God, please just change my heart. You can, can’t you? Of course you can. The question is, will you really? Does it work like that?

I want to fall so in love with God, that no other opinion matters but His. Because His is the only one that SHOULD matter.

But feelings get in the way. Sin gets in the way. Everybody struggles with acceptance. I definitely do. Every time I send a text to anybody, I wonder how others would respond. Would I be risking too much if I let too much of myself out? Will it be encouraging or annoying? I find myself wanting to take back a lot of what I give out because it’s scary.

But then again, SCREW it.

Here I am. Accepted or rejected, I lay down my life.