I Could Ask the Darkness to Hide Me

I’m not excited for Halloween. This has nothing to do with the sizzling annual debate: What’s wrong with kids dressing up in cute costumes and begging for candy? Everything’s wrong with a day that glorifies witches and ghosts and dark magic! Sincere Christ-followers sincerely hold both points of view, so I defer to the Apostle Paul when he mediated a similar debate two millennia ago: Was it okay for believers to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols if they only worshiped God? Paul says,

“It’s true we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.” ~ 1 Cor. 8:8-9

All that to say, the attitude behind our actions is what matters most. 

Now back to me and Halloween. I’ve fallen on both sides of the Halloween debate at different points in my walk with the Lord, and that’s not the point of this post. The point is how I’m guarding my heart this year.

Like most Americans, I take the holiday for granted. Ghoulish decorations and bargains on jumbo candy appear in grocery stores each time October rolls around, just as predictably as Christmas deals will outshine Thanksgiving in November. That’s just how it goes.

I was not a skittish child, so neighborhood Halloween decorations didn’t scare me past kindergarten, or first grade at the latest. “They’re only make believe, just like Christmas decorations,” I vaguely remember an adult telling me. This made perfect sense. After that, the only question in my child’s brain was whether or not I’d be allowed to Trick or Treat. 

Last year I was twenty-eight years old. That’s a bit old for Trick or Treating and Ivan and I don’t have any kids. Typically we don’t think much about Halloween until the day itself – and that’s only because many of Ivan’s students dress up for school. But last year was different. On October 15th, 2021, I was admitted to a locked-door mental health facility and placed on a fourteen day, involuntary psychiatric hold. Wonder of wonders, the placed was decked out in Halloween decorations.

To this day I’m not sure what kind of sense it made to have large posters of witches, ghosts, black cats and slit-eyed pumpkins leering down at us from the walls and ceiling. (Okay, so maybe the cats weren’t that bad.) Locking a group of people in a room with these dark images – especially when many of those people had “dissociated from reality” – seemed like the opposite of helping them get better.

I had been admitted to the facility because I was hearing evil voices and seeing violent visions telling me to hurt myself and other people. The doctors there diagnosed me with schizoaffective disorder, a type of schizophrenia. 

My first clue that something was off about my psychosis was when the Halloween decorations started talking to me. As I’ve pointed out, this did seem like an accident waiting to happen, especially since psychotic people may believe they’re receiving messages from an outside source. But what unnerved me about my own experience was that these decorations told me they were the same voices in my head who’d been ordering me to harm myself and others. I was confused: if those voices had just been in my head, how could they leave and go somewhere else?

The decorations eventually stopped talking to me and I was released, but with unanswered questions. Was my experience entirely schizophrenic? Or was the content and context of what was happening to me a sign of something darker?

Halloween 2021 passed without further incident, although I would be hospitalized three additional times in the next three months. We found a new equilibrium around April, which we credited to God’s healing and medicine – but mostly medicine. 

This August everything changed again. Or more correctly, resumed.

All the evil visions and voices and compulsions to obey them reappeared out of nowhere. I hadn’t altered a thing about my life; I woke up at the same time, got dressed, read my Bible, wrote, cleaned the house, you name it. I did everything the way I’d always done. But the voices were back, and far more terrifying than before. They told me God wouldn’t hear my prayers, that He couldn’t save me from them, that I had to obey their commands because I wasn’t His child anymore. Suddenly talking Halloween decorations looked like a walk in the park.

This was not one of those trials that passed in a day, or a week, or a month. The medication we’d been so cavalier with earlier in the year turned out to be a tool God could choose to use if He wanted, but not a guarantee. I had to face the fact that the voices I was hearing were in direct rebellion against God. I was not like my old roommate in the mental health facility who thought dinosaurs still existed, or the trans person across the hall convinced the CIA was out to get us. No, mine were intelligent, specific voices intent on separating me from God and commanding me to sin. 

All I could do at that point was pray, fill my mind with Scripture, and ask others to pray for me. This was a battle I had no idea how to fight, but I knew I couldn’t fight it alone. By God’s grace the voices went away again at the beginning of October. I fully believe God heard everyone’s prayers and freed me from whatever darkness was at war within me, but I do want to add here that I never stopped taking my original medication and am not giving medical advice.

As joyful and thankful as most of this October has been, I confess I’ve looked the other way or scurried past all those Halloween decorations this year. I know they can’t hurt me, that whatever was talking to me last year has no power to cause real harm. I know that I’m a child of the Lord, that He always hears my prayers, and will always come to my rescue.

I remind myself over and over again of Paul’s words in Romans 14:5:

“In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.”

Technically, he’s addressing the question of when to worship, but the point is the same. Calendar days are just calendar days to God. 

I’m no more likely to be harmed this Monday than any other day this week. There’s no reason I should creep around the house, wondering if the voices will “come back.” I have no more reason to worry about my status before God than on any other day. Christ’s blood is always enough! The lesson for me this Halloween is not to be enslaved to bad memories from the past or fear of the future, but to cling to what is true right here in the present. I know I’ve quoted this passage from Psalm 139 before, but it encapsulates my heart very well this weekend.

“I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night – 

but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.

To you the night shines as bright as day.

Darkness and light are the same to you.”

Housewife: Curse or Calling

“What do you do?” Neither one of us can see very well in the dimly lit patient lounge.

“Lights out in fifteen minutes!” someone belts down a neighboring hallway. 

“I’m currently in grad school but my husband is a school teacher.” 

“Oh. You’re a housewife.” The label rolls off her tongue like a dirty word. 

My stomach tightens. I think about arguing that I write part-time for a magazine in Seattle, or that I’m legally disabled and therefore not required to work. I don’t. Why am I ashamed? I wonder. Since when has living as a married, dependent woman become a sin?

If you’re a woman from a middle-class family born within the past fifty years, it’s pretty likely you were expected to graduate from high school, attend some sort of trade school or college, then find a job for yourself. As a graduate student, I think education is very good. Women are just as intelligent as men and deserve equal opportunities to challenge their minds and broaden their thinking. We have an entire book of the Bible – Proverbs – devoted to developing wisdom and understanding in all readers.

What about the cultural expectation that women work? This isn’t entirely wrong either. I got my first job when I was sixteen and worked continuously until my accident at twenty-three. The model woman in Proverbs 31 trades textiles and purchases real estate, generating income for her family. 

So when we strip these concept down to the bare essentials we’ll find that our culture’s basic education and career paths for women aren’t evil. Some might even say they’re biblical!

Clearly that’s not reality, you might say. Surely God didn’t plan for families to struggle because neither parent is home, or populations to plateau because fewer adults are having kids?

You would be right. Even if our culture stumbled upon part of the truth regarding school and work, they can only see a tiny portion of it. And if we don’t shine light into their darkness, we’ll begin stumbling right along behind them.

Post-Christian thinkers teach women to idolize education and career over friends, family, romance, and sometimes even emotional and physical health. No matter how hard these women fight, the Academy will remain established, the glass ceiling just a few inches out of reach. Their most radical effort is never enough.

The Bible describes a much simpler – and more attainable – life for women in the church: 

“Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.” ~ Titus 2:3-5

Notice the passage does NOT forbid education or work outside the home. It just reminds us that those endeavors are not what brings a godly woman true fulfilment. 

Not surprisingly, I’ve been asked my occupation by various clinicians and patients in a variety of settings over the past year. My standard answer is “writer,” which is true. But after the questioner asks a bit more about my daily activities, they realize I spend at least as much time doing chores, cleaning, and cooking as I do writing in my ivory tower. Their expression changes and I know the H word is due any second now: 

“Oh. You’re a housewife.

Sometimes I still bristle at this, as if “housewife” demoted me to some lower iteration of humanity. But as I think about it, “housewife” should actually be a great compliment for those of us who are Christ-followers. Eve was designed as Adam’s “helper suitable.” Sarah is a role model to all her daughters in the faith because she obeyed Abraham, calling him “lord.” Proverbs describes many qualities of righteous women, ending with the vivid technicolor portrait of the model woman many of us know so well.

The Old Testament is full of stories about women – bad as well as good – who risked their lives to obey God or rescue his people. So when we read the Titus passage in the New Testament, we realize God’s given modern women a different challenge. We might not be rescuing babies from rivers or hiding spies in our wells, but we can love and serve our families – even if that leaves us stereotyped or isolated.

When I think about the “housewives” I know, I’m humbled by their passion for God and their families and their competence to be good stewards of what God has given them. One homeschooling mother-of-four recently told me, “I saw we had an open day on our weekly schedule, so my husband and I thought we should start a small group for young families!”

If that’s a housewife, then I want to be like her when I grow up.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise,
    and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household
    and suffers nothing from laziness…

…Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
    but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” ~Prov. 31

The Night Shines as Bright as Day

Hi everyone! I want to share with you all an essay that I wrote recently since it explains what’s been going on in my life and why I haven’t posted here. Some of the content is mature, but my hope is that you will be blessed by reading about God’s power.


God’s voice is described many ways throughout Scripture. Sometimes it uproots cedars and makes the mountains dance. Other times it calls your name in a still, small whisper. Jesus describes his voice as a shepherd’s: carrying across the wilderness, summoning wayward lambs. His call is unmistakable, he says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). 

I am afraid of voices. Last year I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a rare type of schizophrenia. Occasionally I’m paranoid or see things that aren’t there, but my worst problem is hearing a plethora of evil voices that command me to hurt or kill myself. Last year I was so frightened that I gave in to these commands, which landed me in the hospital four separate times. It took five months to find a medication that helped, and I dreaded repeating the awful cycle ever again.

Five weeks ago, my medication stopped working. No one knows why, not even my doctors. All we know is one day I heard sinister voices saying “We’re coming back for you! We’re coming back for you!” and then they were back. Unlike last year, when only two or three of them spoke to me at once, this time there was a whole chorus. And this time they were directly attacking my faith by telling me that prayer wouldn’t drive them out, God couldn’t rescue me from them, and I was a child of Satan. 

My first thought was to go straight to the emergency room so I’d be transferred to a mental hospital for twenty-four-hour supervision and a potential medication change. That would have been the “easy” way out since it meant I wasn’t responsible for any part of the episode. But it also would have reinforced my irrational fear of these voices as well as the incorrect notion that my situation determines my actions. True, I couldn’t be held responsible in the same way a cognitively stable individual would, but I was still under obligation to read my Bible, seek God in prayer and meditation, and aspire to the fruits of the Spirit as much as I was able. After much prayer, my husband and I decided to address my new “symptoms” for what we believed they were – a spiritual attack. This would require aggressive biblical action before we reinvolved psychiatry. 

While I did not stop taking my current psychiatric medication, I also did not immediately request a higher dose or different medication. I made my three closest friends aware of the battle I was facing, and set up specific times to meet and pray with them during the week. My husband removed all the knives and sharp objects from our house because the voices were constantly ordering me to hurt myself, in addition to attacking my faith in God. 

Two weeks passed, and I was beginning to doubt I could continue standing firm against these daily attacks – some of which lasted up to eight hours – much longer. One of my friends challenged me to find a few key Bible verses to tape on my wall so I had something to look at when I felt like giving up and hurting myself. The first passage came to me almost immediately:

I could ask the darkness to hide me

and the light around me to become night –

but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.

To you the night shines as bright as day.

darkness and light are the same to you. (Psalm 139:11-12)

Giving in and cutting myself would literally be asking the darkness to hide me because I’d be doing exactly what the evil voices told me. But even in that worst case scenario, I wouldn’t be separated from God. That was the lie the voices wanted me to believe. No, God would shine his light into my darkness and rescue me no matter what happened.

I wish that marked the end of my trial. But Satan, who tempted Jesus himself by quoting Scripture, was not giving up on a frightened twenty-nine-year-old so easily. Three weeks into the battle, I found a pair of scissors that my husband had forgotten to remove from our house. Instead of turning them in like I normally would, I obeyed the voices and hid them in my nightstand “just in case” I decided to hurt myself later. I knew this was wrong and dangerous, but I told myself everything would be okay, that I didn’t really intend to go through with it.

I took a nap that afternoon, and was awakened by sinister, heretical voices. Unlike the horrible things I’d almost grown used to hearing spoken, this was worse. This time there was a chorus singing a hymn that I’d sung earlier that morning, with a much deeper voice chanting “You are a child of Satan, you are a child of Satan!” in the background. I lost my mind. I couldn’t grab the scissors fast enough: some part of me knew what I was doing was wrong, while the other part of me couldn’t work as hard or fast as I wanted. By God’s grace, my husband walked in a couple of minutes later and took me to the emergency room.

Surprisingly, the ER did not put me on a psychiatric hold, although I suspect that was because they were understaffed due to a strike. But even at home I knew I had a lot of heart work in front of me. Some might argue I was out of my mind when I woke up from my nap, but I was in full possession of my faculties when I found those scissors and chose to hide them from my husband. I’d capitulated even further to the voices’ deception when I agreed to put the scissors in my nightstand “just in case.” The truth was that I would have never ended up in the ER if I’d followed God’s command to be honest. Even if I had started by making the wrong choice, I had several opportunities to “course correct” and confess my deceit before I gave in and actually used the scissors. The truth was I was so prideful in my own strength that I couldn’t tell I’d been blinded by the evil voices. I’d set my own trap in preparation for the next level of intimidation.

I confessed my sin to God, my husband, and my accountability partners, and asked everyone to pray that the Holy Spirit would keep my eyes fixed on him. Around this time I began meditating on John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” This reminded me of several truths about God. First, no matter how many other voices I was hearing, or how confused I was about which ones to obey, I would always recognize God’s voice. In fact, I didn’t have to do anything unless God’s voice was speaking. Second, he knows me. I’m not a child of Satan, no matter what anyone or anything tells me. I hear God’s voice and he knows me. Finally, he will give me strength to be brave and follow him. There’d been many times over the past four weeks where I’d been so frightened I’d wanted to give in and obey the voices. Now I even have purple scars climbing my left arm to prove I’m not a saint. But God knows me and I’ll follow him. 

And that’s why my story also doesn’t end with the ER incident. The following week I stayed at my parents’ house while my husband worked because I was still hearing voices and we all agreed I wasn’t ready to be alone. At first changing location helped a little bit, but the voices quickly returned to their old strength, then grew even more intimidating. That Friday, my dad decided to come stay with me at our condo so I wouldn’t have to be out of the house quite so much. But I was worried. What if I couldn’t resist the voices at home as well as I could somewhere else?

Our morning passed smoothly. We went out for coffee and then returned to our work: Dad to his sermon and me to a nonfiction piece I’d been writing. Everything was fine until I found the toolbox. I’d gotten up to use the bathroom and spotted my husband’s toolbox on the in our second bedroom. Although he’d already removed sharp objects like kitchen knives, scissors, and office supplies from our house, my husband had fixed one of our dining room chairs last night and must have forgotten to put the box where I couldn’t find it. My first reaction was to walk by the toolbox and into the bathroom. If I had really repented Sunday, I wouldn’t commit the same sin Friday, I told myself. That would mean either I had lied to God when I claimed to repent, or God wasn’t big enough to actually rescue me from temptation. I knew neither were true, so I prayed for God’s help and returned to the living room.

But the voices began eating at the back of my mind all afternoon. My husband pulled in from work just as I could no longer stand the temptation, and I rushed to the second bedroom before he’d even had time to put his briefcase down or take off his shoes. I pried open the tool kit and grabbed the first sharp object I saw – a screwdriver – then ran to the master bedroom and deposited it in my nightstand. Now for the coup de gras. “How could you leave this laying out?” I demanded as I walked back to the living room, toolbox in hand. “You know what a stumbling block this is for me!” My husband immediately began re-lacing his shoes, apologizing profusely before rushing the tools the outside.

I kissed my dad goodbye and then returned to writing, happy I’d had the good sense to obey the voices and fool my husband. But as I stared at my laptop screen, I couldn’t stop contrasting false and true repentance. If I obeyed the voices and hurt myself again after claiming to repent, what would I have to say for myself? The verse in John flashed through my mind again: My sheep hear my voice. I clearly was not listening to God’s voice right now. At this point the evil voices were screaming at me to stay silent, but by God’s grace I took a deep breath and called my husband over when he came back inside. “Honey? There’s something I need to tell you. You’ll find a screwdriver in my nightstand.” A weight lifted off my shoulders immediately; I might have begun the afternoon making the wrong choice, but God enabled me to repent before I hurt myself. 

A week has passed since I gave the screwdriver back. Nothing changed immediately, but the next day a friend challenged me to fast and pray for God to illumine toxic beliefs in my own heart that needed to change. My gut reaction was “No thanks, I’m fine!” but I decided to do it anyway since fasting is a good spiritual discipline. In the first few days, God showed me that even though I’d claimed to trust him alone, functionally I’d been fighting the voices in my own strength. It was as if I thought he couldn’t quite help me, or I was expected to do part of it on my own. Maybe a part of me was even curious to try what the voices were telling me to do. Believing these lies of pride and curiosity only strengthened the voices’ grasp on my life. 

As I continued to pray and meditate, I asked God to unmask the evil voices and to increase my faith in his healing power. I woke up to silence the next morning. While I have heard voices a handful of times since then, they’ve sounded weak and pathetic compared to God’s marvelous voice as revealed in Scripture. What’s more, I did actually hear my Shepherd speak, just as he promised. One night when the cacophony was at its worst, a still, small voice rose above the noise: “Be not afraid, little one.” 

This Journal Fought Beside Me

I threw my journal away last Friday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid journaler. I’ve filled six volumes of various sizes (not counting the one I threw away) in the six years since my accident. And then there’s the blog…

Point being, I like to write, and I write a lot. Sometimes I tell a story, other times I work out a problem or process emotions. Still other times I meditate or pray.

The possibilities are endless, once you think about it.

So why was the moment on Friday so notable – and what makes my particular “college composition notebook” different from its millions of siblings circulating the planet?

First off, I didn’t buy that journal. It was given to me by a kind nurse during one of my mental hospital stays. Patients aren’t allowed to have many belongings, whether it’s a hairbrush or a hardcover book. But after learning I was a writer, this particular nurse found a softcover notebook and slipped it into my room. She also left a purple Crayola marker: Patients were not allowed pens or pencils.

That gift was a Godsend and an act of trust on her part. At that point in my illness, doctors had certified me a suicide/homicide threat. A guard was stationed at my door every night as I slept.

But in spite of those labels, that nurse saw the real me – the girl with the Spirit of God still inside her. She treated me and even my writing as valuable.

I knew exactly what to do with my new journal. I’d already memorized part of Psalm 139 before that particular hospitalization and I began to scrawl the verses in bright purple marker every time evil voices entered my head.

At first, the notebook pages filled by the hour, but my hand grew steadier and the entries less and less frequent – until I was well enough to be discharged.

By this time I was too attached to Psalm 139 and the notebook to end what God had begun at such a dark point in my life. I committed to memorizing the entire Psalm by the end of 2022, using my navy blue notebook as my trusty companion. I’m set to finish memorizing in September so my well-worn friend didn’t quite make it to the finish line. I suspect that’s because I scribbled so many pages with a giant Crayola marker.

Writer’s Block

Hello Blogging Family! I’m very sorry I’ve been absent for so much of the summer. I wrote an essay this afternoon to clear my head and want to share it with you all.


“Writer’s block.” There is no definition, really. It’s just what you say when someone – professor, editor, great aunt – asks “Have you written anything recently?” 

You could be honest and say “No.” 

Or you could puff out your chest, ruffle your hair in the mirror like the next Ernest Hemmingway. 

“Writer’s block,” you could say. “I’ve got writer’s block.”

This is very different from just saying no.

First of all, it establishes you are a writer. Writers use big words. Writers write important thoughts. Whoever is interrogating you – and they’re most likely a superior or you wouldn’t be having this conversation – they’d better listen to you, the writer.

Second, “block” has a lovely fatalistic ring. A block isn’t something you can control: it just is. If I, the writer, find myself standing at the bottom of Mt. Kilimanjaro the night before my magazine article goes to print, should my editor really blame me? I don’t have the kind of faith that moves mountains.

Finally, “writer’s block” is one of those phrases you can pull out and nobody gets hurt. I can (theoretically) miss a deadline without pontifications on time management. The wounded party (may) survive the incident without the sense of personal betrayal that comes from a good ol’ missed deadline.

As for writer’s block itself, it is a very real and debilitating condition that impacts hundreds of writers daily. If you or someone you love is at risk, take a mental break. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Ivan Gets a Nose Job

A few weeks ago, Ivan had a nose job. He actually had a septoplasty with turbinate reduction. I just like saying “nose job” because it sounds dramatic. Without getting too technical, Ivan’s had trouble breathing ever since he was a child due to a number of issues. We hoped that correcting his deviated septum and reshaping part of his sinus passages would address some of his breathing problems. Hence the nose job.

I’d planned to write a funny post about the whole experience. After all, we’re familiar with broken arms and legs, even a variety of intestinal ailments, but who on earth gets nose surgery? (Outside of Hollywood, that is.) What’s more, Ivan made plenty of messes for me to write about. His nose bled for three days straight and we had to change bandages every hour. And don’t even get me started on nasal rinses… 

But as funny as that all sounds now, it wasn’t the least bit funny when it was happening. Ivan is a very forbearing patient, so he deserves much credit for putting up with my clumsiness during that recovery week. As for me, I was confronted with a new picture of what it meant to trust God on my own.

Every time I’ve had one of my own health struggles, my family has swarmed to help Ivan take care of me. This time Mom took us to and from Ivan’s surgery, but it was the first instance we’ve declined further help. Dad is also sick and, unlike Ivan, he won’t be better in a couple of weeks. I wanted Mom to have energy to help where she was needed most. Anna also grabbed us groceries on Saturday morning. The timing was providential since I’d just thrown out a casserole that made Ivan sick Friday night, and Anna couldn’t have come earlier since she works long hours during the week.

But for most of the recovery week, I was lonely and overwhelmed, wishing for human comfort yet resolved to persevere without it. How could I make Ivan feel bad for being high-maintenance? Mom shouldn’t feel like she needed to be in two places at once. Anna was giving us the best chunk of time out of her precious weekend. 

Slowly it dawned on me that this was how it must have been for Ivan during many of my health struggles. He doesn’t seek help very often since he can move me by himself and make a (limited) number of dinners. How many days had he spent by my bed completely alone? 

But neither of us was completely alone. No matter how overworked I felt, or how silent the house seemed, or how few texts pinged on my phone, God had not forgotten either of us. The same God who’d sat with Ivan by my bedside for the past six years was now watching over me as I watched over Ivan, and cleaned, and cooked, and struggled with chores I haven’t done alone in years. 

The problem was not that I was alone, but that I had narrowed my gaze until I thought I was alone. If I was only counting on human help to get me through this trial, then of course I was going to be disappointed. The Psalmist tells us, “The Lord is like a Father to his children, tender and compassionate toward those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” ~Psalm 13:13-14. I needed to take a step back and widen my gaze to include the One who is my creator and – through Christ – my savior. He understands my weakness and loneliness and will support me in my need better than any human friend ever could. What’s more, he’s also the Great Physician. I can trust him with Ivan too.

P.S. At the time of this post Ivan is close to a full recovery. 🙂

Perfect Love Expels All Fear

Post-proposal selfie!

“Do you have any regrets?” the woman asks. Ivan pauses, scratches the back of his neck.

“No. Not at all.”

I think he paused too long.


Seven years ago today Ivan asked me to be his wife. Did he make the right choice? Did I? 

I’ve often thought if I could have seen the future, seen my accident and all it’s done to Ivan, I would have told him “no.” After all, the Bible tells us true love puts others above ourselves. I couldn’t knowingly sacrifice Ivan’s chance at a fulfilling, normal life just because I didn’t want to be alone.

Plus, there are the spectators. The whisperers asking if Ivan’s still happy, the experts claiming he’d be better off if he’d waited to propose. These voices foster my deepest fear: What if I shouldn’t have survived?

I’ve struggled with this toxic cycle for years, only admitting portions of it to Ivan and never revealing its full extent. But as I remember getting engaged seven years ago today, I’m beginning to understand why I’ve been imprisoned in doubt and self-loathing. 1 John 5:18-19 says: 

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows we have not fully experienced [God’s] perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.”

Instead of rejoicing that I’m a new creation in Christ Jesus, I’ve listened to people who look only at my earthly body, and therefore see me as a failure. And they’re right. My body isn’t as capable as most wives’. I might even have more sin problems than they do. But all of us have forgotten that my righteousness – and therefore my worth as an individual – is found in Christ alone.

So it’s not so much about whether I should or shouldn’t have married Ivan. God’s desire for both of us is that we continue growing in the knowledge and experience of his redemptive love until we lose all fear of his displeasure. As time passes, we’ll learn to love each other not just because it’s romantic, but because Christ loved us first.

For the record, I’m extremely grateful that in God’s sovereign will Ivan and I did get married, and enjoyed eleven months together before the accident.

Tune in this Wednesday!

Happy Sunday, everyone! First off, I want to say how extremely blessed I was by all the support for my last post. You’ve been my Blogging Family for the past five years, and it means so much that you’re willing to walk down this new mental health journey with me.

Secondly, I wanted to let you know that I’ve been invited to speak about my experiences on Moody Radio Florida this coming Wednesday. My time slot is 8:10-8:40 am EST, which is 5:10 – 5:40 am for those of us on the West Coast. The good news is that if you aren’t me, you can listen later after they post the episode. 🙂

Anyway, I just wanted to share the link to the live station and past episodes in case anyone’s interested. I’d also like to ask for prayer as I speak about the work the Holy Spirit’s done through me. Thanks as always for your love and support!


Back to the Hospital: A Story of God’s Faithfulness

We celebrated my birthday shortly after my discharge 🙂

Hello, everyone! You might have noticed I took some time off the blog after my January post about mental health. That’s because I was hospitalized in February for thirteen days after my schizoaffective disorder got worse. Although I’ve been home since February 27th, I still haven’t felt well enough to write about that experience. My psychiatrist tells me post-psychotic depression is quite common for patients like me who’ve been hospitalized for serious psychosis. Once they recover from their psychotic symptoms, their brains get overwhelmed by sadness and fatigue. But in spite of this obstacle, I feel it’s time to share the amazing things God did during my stay this February. 

My story begins with me being admitted to a nicer hospital than I had been for my first three times. (This was my fourth hospitalization in five months.) A mental health hospitalization usually begins with the patient checking into the ER for some psychotic or otherwise dangerous symptom. (In my case, I hear voices commanding me to do bad things.) After check in, the ER transfers the patient to whichever mental health facility has the first available bed. This can happen very quickly or very slowly…my records are 3 and 30 hours, respectively. As I said, I was at the same hospital the first three times. Although the doctors were competent, living conditions were Spartan, facility hygiene was debatable, and the staff’s respect for patients was minimal. 

Thankfully the new hospital was completely different. It felt like a twenty-first century hospital instead of an institution from a different era. Nurses behaved like nurses instead of prison guards. Unlike my previous stays, patients were generally calm and well-behaved. 

“How can I serve you here, Lord?” I whispered one night at the beginning of my stay. It was one thing to reach out to people who knew they’d hit rock bottom. How could I connect with patients who still felt like they had a measure of control over their lives? God’s answer appeared in the unlikeliest of places – a secular meditation class. 

Instead of leaving us to while away the hours with nonstop TV and elementary school coloring sheets like the old hospital had, this new facility filled our days with classes. Most of the classes educated us about managing our disorders, but some were recreational, like art class or Friday Jeopardy. Meditation class was the universal favorite, however. It ran after dinner from 6:15-6:50 and consisted of an all-unit meeting in the dimly-lit rec room. The meditation coach would ask patients what positive self-affirmations they’d like to hear, then recite the affirmations in a soothing voice while everyone lay prone on yoga mats, soaking up calming music and inhaling delicious scents from a diffuser in the corner. 

I was personally uncomfortable with the self-affirmations since, as a Christ follower, I’m called to follow Christ’s example. We’re told that

“Though he was God,

he did not think equality with God

 as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

He took the humble position of a slave

and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form, 

he humbled himself in obedience to God

and died a criminal’s death on the cross.” ~ Philippians 2:6-8

I’m obviously not called to sacrifice myself to save the world, but I am called to live a life of humility that glorifies God, and I’m not sure how asking someone to tell me I’m awesome, or beautiful, or powerful is compatible with that calling.

Nevertheless, meditation class proved to be the key to reaching my fellow patients. When the meditation coach announced she was taking a four-day break for President’s Day, everyone was crushed. And that’s when God prompted me: What if volunteered to lead a meditation class? Meditation is part of the Christian spiritual life, even if Christian meditation is the opposite of what we were doing each night in the rec room. All I had to do was get the patients in the same room with me, then let God do the rest. 

But there was the problem of the nursing staff: was a patient even allowed to lead a group session? By God’s grace, the nurse on call that night happened to be the most adventurous one on staff, and was happy pushing boundaries to help patients have fun. When I asked about leading a meditation class, he even offered to help me set up the room like the regular meditation sessions and lend me his phone to play relaxing music. Why not? I thought. The attendees were about to be exposed to something completely new. It couldn’t hurt to keep the environment familiar.

Patients began trickling in at 6:15. I wasn’t surprised to see some of my friends, but the group didn’t stop there. The nurse finally closed the door after we ran out of yoga mats for people to lie on. Father, please help me, I prayed as I took off my mask. 

“Thank you for coming, everyone.” I hoped my voice was loud enough. “Today I’d like to read you a Psalm that describes how closely God cares about each one of you.” I flinched at the revelation that this was not a normal meditation class. No one reacted. “Before we get started, does anyone have any needs?” There was no way I was doing self-affirmations like the meditation coach,  but I’d wondered if I could get anyone to share prayer requests since they were used to sharing self-affirmation requests at the beginning of class. Sure enough, hands raised all over the room, sharing hopes and worries and everything in between. I scribbled furiously on a piece of scratch paper, then tucked the sheet in my Bible for the end of class.

Finally it was time for Psalm 23. I read slowly and tenderly, personalizing the verses just like I sometimes read the Psalms as personal prayers for myself. When I finished, I paused for a few moments to let the words sink in, then began praying through our list of needs. And just like that, class was done. My heart was pounding and I was breathing hard as my fellow patients filed quietly out the door. What now? This was not the meditation class they’d been expecting. What would they think? What would the nurse do? Had I violated some sort of Kaiser religious policy? Somehow I knew God was pleased with what I’d done, even if I only got to do it once.

I was on my way back my room when one of my friends stopped me in the hallway. 

“Thank you so much for class,” she beamed.

“Oh, well, glad you could come.” I was surprised she was so enthusiastic – and unsure I should take credit for something that was so clearly from God.

“You’re doing it again tomorrow, right?” 

I was stunned. It had never occurred to me that people would want to come back and do another Scriptural meditation, especially since I’d skipped the self-affirmations.

“Well, I’ll do it as many times as you want,” I stammered, “but I don’t want to force it on people. Maybe we should do a headcount first.” The headcount justified the class.

In fact, it justified many more classes. My meditation class became so popular that it continued even after the secular meditation coach returned: She would run her class at its usual time and I’d start mine an hour later, at 7:45. Those evenings taught me the word of God truly does not return void. Several people told me that they weren’t religious or didn’t believe in God, but they still showed up to listen to me read Scripture every night. God was also very gracious in giving a high level of attendance. The hospital had 16 patients while I was there; my smallest class was 8 and my largest was 14. 

 I’m amazed at how powerfully God answered my original prayer that night in the hospital. I think his answer, combined with my previous experiences sharing God’s truth at the first mental health hospital, continue affirming that I’m called to do some sort of ministry to this population. There is so much red tape around accessing hospitals unless you’re admitted, and patients’ lives are so volatile that it’s hard to connect with them unless you can empathize with their experiences. But these are things God is equipping me to do. I don’t know how or when the next phase in this journey will come, and I’d dearly like it to come without more hospitalizations. But I’m praying that God would give wisdom and direction, and give me the courage to accept wherever he leads. In the meantime, I have the privilege of staying connected with several friends I made during those two grueling weeks in February, and seeing how God continues to work in their lives and mine.  

Pray for Ukraine: Those Who Chose To Stay

Hello, Blogging Family. No one could have imagined the suffering and hardship the people of Ukraine have endured over the past two weeks. Their indomitable spirit in the face of such imposing odds is truly inspiring, and we can pray that God will enable them to be victorious against their Russian adversaries.

In addition to praying for the Ukrainian military, refugees, and displaced families, I’d like to draw your attention to two specific families and their ministry in Kyiv.

Bruce and Aimee and Greg and Hue Chon are missionaries that serve a church and seminary in that city. They were given the opportunity to return to America when Russia invaded Ukraine, but they chose to stay with their church instead. While that choice seemed risky at the time, it grows more dangerous with each passing day. I’d love to give more specifics about their families and ministry, but can’t do so at this time for security reasons.

Please join me in praying for protection for these families, for their church, and for their seminary students. Please also pray that God would fill them with peace and enable them to shine as lights of hope in a city filled with darkness and fear.

We can take comfort in the knowledge that all of us serve a God who defends the innocent and the oppressed:

“But I know the Lord will help those they persecute;
    he will give justice to the poor.” ~Psalm 140:12