“Mom, What’s your favorite food?” He was in kindergarten and filling out a “Get to Know You” worksheet. As a self-admitted food addict, I found it a profound question, because the truth is my favorite food is “whatever is in front of me.” After a few moments he announced, “I know what your favorite is, Mom. Bread.”
There’s something both filling and fulfilling about eating bread. Knowing the process of rest and rising. Of chemistry at work between living yeast and all the rest that combine through the heat of the fire into perfectly warm chewiness.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for Daily Bread. Just enough for the moment. The perfect portion of provision. We are not meant to overstuff today for tomorrow’s needs. Eat a big dinner tonight, and you’ll still need dinner tomorrow.
Daily bread. Today enough for today. Remembering yesterday He gave me enough for yesterday. Faith that tomorrow will bring enough for tomorrow.
Even more, faith that God doesn’t deal in day-old bread. The bread delivered today is no mistake. Even if it’s hard and crusty — tough to chew — full of seeds that stick in my teeth.
Through Isaiah, God told his people, “Though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your Teacher will not hide Himself and your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:19-21)
The warm and soft bread is my favorite. But when the Daily Bread comes in another form — even the Bread of Adversity, even then will I eat. And find satisfaction in the deliverer — The Bread of Life himself.
Then one day you realize you were feeling like a shell of a human being because you were molting.
The new skin is tender. The legs shaky. The next steps undetermined.
But the shell is discarded.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the courage it takes to say “I’m Not Ok.” A lot of readers found themselves in my story. Because it’s hard to admit being out of control.
Sometimes, though, it’s even harder to see when it’s happening.
At times, my “I’m not Ok” is a fleeting set of moments that corrects itself fairly quickly with a new circumstance or a good night’s sleep or the right song on the radio. Sometimes, it’s a “funk” — a lingering cloud that overshadows my joy, hope, and peace. And in some seasons of my life, there’s been no other word but depression to give an honest name to the state of my spirit.
But, over time, I’m becoming more discerning of the signals that I’m sliding in a direction I don’t want. That a moment of disappointment is becoming a pattern of discouragement. And I’m learning to wave a white flag when the red flags appear, so I can get help more quickly and get back on the path of fulfilling all God has for me.
My Warning Signs include…
- I procrastinate. As a journalist, I’m a deadline kind of girl anyway. But here I’m talking about things like not putting gas in the car until it’s really, REALLY on empty. Or not doing laundry until we absolutely have NO clean underwear. Or feeding the dogs leftovers instead of stopping for dog food. Or having to pick up dinner AGAIN because I haven’t really done a good grocery shopping in a couple of weeks.
- I neglect self-care. Sometimes I skip washing off my make-up before bed. I skip brushing my hair and just run my fingers through it (or default to the ponytail). I wear my contacts too long and make my showers too short.
- I stay up too late. Add that to the self-care neglect category. I substitute sleep for bad TV. Because “you” can’t stop me.
- I stop reading anything remotely inspiring. Those blogs I usually love and the books on my nightstand. The ones I usually devour and nod my head at and repost and comment on. I just scroll right on by. The inspirational quotes and status updates — skipped. And I read instead (if anything at all) the comments that are full of complaints. After all, misery loves company.
- I forget to look for everyday blessings. I know they aren’t gone. I just don’t see them.
- I eat when I’m not hungry. And eat junk. And eat in secret. And eat stuff that doesn’t even taste good.
- I’d rather be sitting still. Anything requiring more energy then it takes to click a remote or play a computer game becomes VERY unappealing. And my couch becomes imprinted with my outline. Because I feel like a shell of a human. And shells don’t play catch. Or write blogs. Or go to the movies. Or invite people over. Because shells might break if they move off the couch.
- I let my inner monologue get mean. So I bite my tongue a lot because my default setting says other people are the problem with my mood. And sometimes my tongue-biting doesn’t work, and I don’t just think ugly things — I say them.
No one of these items means I’m in a downward spiral all on its own, and they rarely all manifest at the same time. But the common thread in many of these is “I don’t feel like it.” And that’s my depression in a nutshell — living based on how I FEEL and forgetting that God is, and always will be, more concerned with my holiness than my happiness.
Some of these things may hit home for you. Perhaps others aren’t trigger points for you at all. But we all have our own signals — warning signs that we are living less than the abundant life we have been promised.
Consider yours. Then pay attention. Heed the red flags and be brave enough to admit it when it’s true for you — I Am Not Ok.
And know you’re not alone.
If the troubles of this world were mere nuisance, You would have armed us with knee pads and fly swatters. Clothed us in bubble wrap.
But this life is hard, and the enemy darts are indeed fiery. And so you have gone all the way to the cross to procure the heavy-duty armor we really need.
That Jesus did for me what I could not do for myself, and that by His wounds I am healed. This is the salvation helmet that guards my mind, lifts my head, and puts joy in my eyes.
That God himself is my mentor and is daily adding to my reflection of His character. This is the breastplate that guards my heart. My breath. My hunger.
That faith is not a wimpy stick I shake at Satan’s lies. No! It is a full-body shield that deflects untruth.
Because the truth. Oh, YES, the truth — that God is who he says He is, and I am who He says I am. This is the sword that slices away all that clouds my judgment, confuses my mind, and attacks my Spirit.
The sword is sharp. Accurate. Deadly.
Too often I let it hang by my side. The truth laying limp. All power at my disposal. And still I practice my dart-dodging.
Instead, Lord, teach me the art of swordfighting.
(Reflections on Ephesians 6:10-18)
I have cried them into a pillow at night. Nearly yelled them at the sky. Whispered them with my eyes to the floor. Swallowed hard and shared them with professional helpers.
I have contemplated them alone. I have dared speak them to company. And sometimes I’ve had them forced upon me by those who love me most.
Each and every time, though it feels like I’m screaming from a depth where no meaningful sound can reach the surface, the admission bubbles up hope. The kind of grace that starts as a whisper, but bounces off the canyon walls until it is an echo that reaches the heavens.
The bravest words I know are these: I Am Not Ok.
For much of my life, personal autonomy was my source of pride. I’m told “me do it” was my favorite toddler sentence. It’s a phase I never outgrew.
There are hundreds of blog posts that could be written on the topic. Because, really, learning to love myself through not being Ok is the story of my life.
And whether you know it or not, it’s the story of yours. It is the gospel. Crimson made white; blind who see; lame who walk; “not Ok” made holy; dead brought to life.
It’s the story of the ages. A story that never ends.
My verses (and yours) continue to be written. But the refrain, the chorus, the portion that never changes… Well, it goes like this:
I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
and wonder how he could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean.
How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!