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Goodbye, Darkness

            I don’t know about you, but life has been all rain clouds and no sunshine these days over in our neck of the woods. Perhaps that’s because it’s January. But I have a feeling it’s more than that. I suspect that the clouds have been due to darkness fighting light in a ferocious manner. Darkness does that, by the way. It likes things to stay dark because light threatens its very existence. Don’t believe me? Even our eyes want to stay closed when our alarms go off in the morning. We enjoy our slumber and the dark tremendously! Our body aches at the thought of someone throwing the light on and interrupting our precious night.

            But the same can be said for things that aren’t of this world. The things that are beyond this singular realm are also filled with light and dark. There is a spiritual battle that takes place all around us – while we do our daily routines and our errands, while our kids attend school, while we go to our jobs and our churches and PTO meetings. Every second of every day, the war continues. Darkness tries to claim souls while Light fights back for freedom for those very souls.

            What is your darkness? And before you start to think that I’ve lost my mind, or that I’m a religious zealot, remember that you are made up of a body, a mind, a spirit, and a soul. Just because you’re only consciously aware of one or two of those things, it doesn’t mean the others cease to exist – no more than the stars cease to exist while the sun is shining.

            My darkness takes many forms. Sometimes it appears as anxiety or depression. Other times it takes the shape of a bad habit, a sin, or a stronghold. But however it chooses to appear, it’s goal is always the same – to claim me as its own and to hold me captive, away from the light. And that’s darkness’s aim when it comes to you, too.

            You’re worthless. You’re a failure. Can’t you ever do anything right? What if everyone found out that you did that? If people REALLY knew you, they’d see you’re a fraud and a hypocrite. You can’t change. Your life will never amount to anything more than this right now. Your finances, your health, your job security, your house payment, your broken car, your broken family, your broken marriage… all of it means nothing. YOU mean nothing.

            Ever felt any of these things? Since most people usually aren’t always optimistic and the rainbows only shine after a bit of rain, I’m guessing at least part of this rings true to you, too. So what’s the answer? What do we do when the clouds are all around us and the darkness closes in? Do we give up? Do we hunker down and wait for the darkness to pass us by? Because I assure you, if that’s what you do, you will fail. Trust me. I’ve already tried. You see, the dark is not satisfied unless it’s victims stay in one place, eyes held tightly shut, refusing to let the light breach their clouds.

           And I, for one, refuse to be a victim.

           To battle the dark, we must call it like we see it. Sure, you may feel silly standing in your kitchen talking to the imaginary forces at work for your soul… but if you want to win, you’ll get over the foolish feelings rather quickly. You must let the enemy know that you’re calling him out – that you see his game and you’re aware of his plans for you. And if you want to test this theory, call out the dark and then wait.

           It won’t be long before darkness tips his hand and shows his cards… because as soon as you call him out, he will retaliate. Watch as an unexpected bill comes your way, as you get sick, or as you find yourself too busy with mundane tasks that suddenly appeared, leaving you no more time to question the darkness. But friends, don’t shy away. It’s just part of the game. You call him out, he responds. However, your work is just beginning.

           The devil will call “Check!” and you’ll be forced to move in order to protect your queen in this weird game of spiritual chess. No one who plays the game in real life would walk away from the table if their opponent called “Check”… no one would throw their hands up and call it hopeless. No, they would move.

           Move. That’s what you do next. You called out the darkness, and now you move. You refuse to be defeated – to stand still. You refuse to sit and wait for it all to pass you by. Instead, you call in the light. You find what you’re doing right in your life and you keep pressing on. Obviously the darkness is fighting you for some reason, trying to hold you back from the good you’re doing. But the light is there to shine through the clouds and put the darkness in its place – to give you just enough strength, day by day, to accomplish the good works you’ve begun.

           Call out the darkness. Refuse to stand still, MOVE. And look to the Light.

           If all this makes you think I’m a whack-a-doodle, then I’m actually okay with that. In fact, I ask that if you have no idea what I’m blubbering about, that you ask. Email me. Call me. Let’s get coffee! You can tell me about your darkness and I’ll tell you about my Light. Together, we can call darkness’ bluff and tell him just where he can go.


Romans 8:35-39

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”



When 9-Year-Olds Get Depressed

     Women, have you ever tried to talk to a man about his “feelings”? Fun, isn't it? And Men, have you ever actually wanted to talk about your feelings?? Probably not! It goes against all that you are and everything that you stand for in today's culture. Men are told from an early age that they're supposed to be tough – no whining, no crying, no feeling. And if you DO happen to feel something, it better come out as anger, right? Because that's the socially acceptable way for a man to express an internal need. (Hey, I don't make the rules, here. I'm just a social observer!)

     And Parents, have you ever tried to talk to your young children about their feelings? Yeah. And how did that go? I'm guessing you probably got a lot of “happy/mad/sad” answers, or even a shrug with a mumbled “I dunno”. Am I right? That's because kids have no idea what they're talking about most of the time. They don't know how to attribute a name to an emotion because deeper feelings than happy, mad, and sad are foreign to them. It's like trying to identify the color purple when your entire life has been colorblind.

     Now, put the two together and try to talk to a young boy about his feelings. Not only does he not WANT to, but he has no idea HOW to! As a therapist, I know this. Yet as a mother of quite dramatic and emotional kids, it's hard to know when they're having a RAD day, a day filled with traumatic memories from their previous life, or simply a day where they're sick/tired/cranky (aka NORMAL!).

     This past week was quite trying for our family, particularly our oldest. He's 9-years-old and comes from a past of abuse, neglect, drugs, and a bucketful of unsavory crap that shall remain his to tell someday, if he should ever choose. When he came to us at 6-years-old, he was diagnosed with RAD ( and a few other milder disorders. And some days, I only see RAD – everywhere I look, between him and his sister, THERE IT IS! But we also have days (weeks, even) where all seems normal and I forget that there is this deep emotional need that rises up within him… something that he just can't put words to yet. Something that he may not even want to put words to because, let's face it, focusing on yucky feelings just plain sucks.

     Because of so many ups and downs that both my older ones face, I sometimes neglect to see what is right in front of my nose. And this week, it was the obvious fact that my 9-year-old son is depressed, but I completely missed it. Perhaps you have a child that, too, struggles with moods. Maybe your child takes medicine, sees a counselor, or you're suspecting that he or she needs to. Here are a few signs that I overlooked and passed off as symptoms of other things… signs that you may see in your child.

  • Sleeping more – He's usually the last one up in our house as it is, but even when we started moving his bedtime earlier in preparation for school starting, he was still sleeping just as late. I assumed he was tired from the sudden heat wave and working outside in the yard for hours at a time.
  • Some days eating a ton and other days, not much of an appetite at all – This is unusual only in the sense that he normally has a huge appetite EVERY day. For him to turn down extra food… well, that should've tipped me off!
  • Crying spontaneously but not wanting to talk about it – I feel badly that I didn't read more into this sign. But like I said, RAD days and past memories days are often filled with tears as well, so it's not always as it appears.
  • Not able to find joy in anything and constantly asking for more and more (time, things, attention) – Sadly, I thought he was just being ungrateful. He often gets a sense of entitlement and he expresses his desire for more in rather frustrating ways (aka, “If you would just make more money, you could buy me more toys so I wouldn't be bored and sad!”) Yeah… that one just ticked me off and I didn't recognize it for what it was - an inability to communicate that he was feeling depressed, not because he doesn't like his current toys, but because there is no joy to be felt in anything at the moment for him.
  • Affectionate one moment and aloof the next – Isn't this just boys, though? I don't know. He's not a real lovey-dovey kid and I usually don't push it as not to make him feel uncomfortable. But he was very up and down with it this week, even for him.

  • Argumentative and irritable – Again, I attributed this to the fact that school is starting up again in a few days and this, for many kids, is no-good very bad news.

         It wasn't until my kid started writing goodbye letters to our family that I realized. The tears… the arguing… the “boredom”. He wasn't cranky or tired or nervous about school. He's depressed. He's in despair and has no idea how to tell me what this terrible feeling is inside of him. It wasn't bad behavior or ungrateful words that he was trying to share. It was just the only way he knew to show me that something is very, very wrong inside. (So glad I paid all that money for my MSW, right??) He was literally screaming for me to WAKE UP and see his need, for me to look past the diagnoses and the medicines and the end-of-summer blues. So he took it to the only place his mind could fathom next.

     If you find yourself in a similar situation with your kids, or even children that you're with regularly through your job or your family, I hope that you are able to look at a child's behavior with wisdom and insight – to see it for what it truly is, not just for what it appears to be.

     Not everything is for attention… but even if it is, if they're willing to go that far for your attention, doesn't that say something? Some kids have a need that is sooo great that they can't find the words to tell you. But they will show you. If you're watching.

     As school gets ready to start, pay extra attention to the changes in behavior, routine, stress levels. Kids can't tell you when they've “had it up to here!” or that they “need some time away to unwind and regroup”. Nope. Kids will tantrum and cry and dump out all your shower supplies while grandma is babysitting.

     It's up to us to pay attention and help them learn the words they need to express all those crazy new feelings they're encountering. A bad day is a bad day. And may be a bad week is a bad week. But just in case, be attentive, Moms and Dads. Your child doesn't know it yet, but one day they will thank you!



The Reason I Write

     A few weeks ago, I was perusing the Twitter world and stumbled upon an adoptive mother's profile. It read this:

“Hate my adopted kids. Please Help. Need hope.”

     That was it. That was her profile. Out of all the things she could've said about herself, this was what she chose. Not that she's a coffee-drinker, that she loves yoga, that she has 3 kids and a collie. Not that she is an adoptive mom looking for other adoptive moms to connect with. Not that she is a wife, a career woman, a health nut… nothing. Her only sense of identify had come down to the rawest of the raw – the ugliest truth she will ever reveal about herself, written plainly and simply for all to read.

     My heart began to ache a familiar ache for her. Oh, this sweet woman… How long had she been feeling this way and how desperate she must've become that she had to resort to Twitter for help? I quickly scanned her most recent tweets to find that she hadn't posted anything for 6 months. Six lonely, hopeless months. What devastated me even more was that she had only 3 followers… and that no one had responded to her pleas for help. This broken-down woman had placed her most vulnerable feelings in a bottle, cast it out to sea, and nothing but her own empty words had returned to her.

     A panic settled over me as I sent her an urgent message, asking her to contact me as soon as she could. My eyes were fixed on the computer screen before me, tears streaming down my face, willing her to respond. But it's been weeks. And there has been no response.

     I know many probably read her profile with haughty derision, critically casting mental stones in her direction. But I read her profile and immediately wanted to drive to wherever she was, whichever state or country it may be, so that I could wrap my knowing arms around her and let her cry and scream and say all the horrible things that needed to be said so that she could release the pain that has been strangling her for God knows how long.

     You guys, no mother wants to feel this way. No mother asks to hate her children. Little girls grow up envisioning a happily ever after, a till death do us part kind of family…. Not one of them dreamed of anti-depressants and ulcers and years of family therapy. This woman – this Twitter Mama – she loved children enough to adopt. She loved them enough to put up with whatever Life dished out to her for however long it took to break her. And I can feel her pain. Her disappointment in herself. Her mind telling her that she's a failure – that the kids would've been better off with their birth parents, or anyone else for that matter – that she's not just a rotten mother, but a rotten human being and that no one could love what she has become. I know her profile was short with very little details, but Friends, you just don't write that unless you've been to Hell and back.

     I know this to be true, because I was that woman.

     Just like Twitter Mama, I had adopted children. First of all, many people are usually quite vulnerable once they get to the place in life where they choose to adopt. For most, there is a reason they've chosen to go in that direction; be it infertility, difficult pregnancies, loss of a child, health problems, genetic make up, single parent, etc. Whatever the reason, there is a level of grief, anxiety, and worry that gets mixed in with the excitement of getting the call for a child. You have no idea what to expect, no time to prepare, and sometimes no information of what the child has already been through (if they're older, like ours were).

     The goal is for the new family to bond and to begin to heal one another. But what about the times where this doesn't happen? What about the times when the little people you "saved" start repeatedly (and sometimes intentionally) breaking your heart- that precious heart that was already so fragile to begin with? Combine an already broken and glued back together heart with a set of unique and difficult-to-manage children, and you're looking at a recipe for disaster. 

     There I was, months and months into anger and frustration, all my things being broken, feeling trapped in my own home, dealing with very persistent and inappropriate behaviors left and right, downright suffocating while trying to look like a good wife, mother, therapist, Christian. Our pre-adoptive baby that'd we had raised from birth had just been taken from us and I was in my first trimester of my pregnancy - sick and hormonal and grieving and raging like a machine.

     Finally, I snapped.

     This is where Twitter Mama has given me courage to say the hard things… to say them out loud and for others to read...

     I told them I wished I'd never adopted them. I told them that I hated them.

     They cried. And I'll never forget the feeling that came over me because it was followed by another feeling that mixed and mingled so well, I could barely tell them apart. I remember thinking how good it felt good to see THEM crying for a change, to know THEY were now feeling half as miserable as I was. And then the next feeling followed and blended into the folds of my heart somehow. The feeling that I was evil. That I had been so changed in this process, and that I was a shell of the person I'd used to be. That I was too far gone.

     Hate me if you must. Judge me. Scowl at me. Un-friend me. But you guys, this was where I was and how I lived for the better part of a year. Maybe more. I didn't choose to feel this way. I didn't want to be that person. I hated her to the core… and I blamed them for making her, me, that way. I blamed my husband for not being perfect amidst his own grief. I blamed my family and friends for not understanding how truly desperate our situation was. And I blamed God for allowing me to fall this far.

     In the heat of the moment, I left everyone. I grabbed my keys, my bible, my journal, and my cell phone. I ran out of the door and drove to a deserted parking lot. I screamed as loudly as I could until I felt sick to my ever-growing stomach. There I sat with shaking hands, gasping for air and recklessly leafing through my Bible, desperate to find any passages on how to learn to love those you hate. But there wasn't a guide to change it. Everything seemed vague and uncomforting, telling me to do things that had no real action plan… things like letting God change your heart, or turning the other cheek. Enraged, I tossed my Bible into the back seat and went to the Internet.

     'What to do if you hate your kids' wasn't in Google… the only thing I found was 'what to do if your kids hated YOU'. Because mothers aren't supposed to hate their kids! Even Google knows that! How do you make yourself feel love? Is it like an arranged marriage where you wake up and all of a sudden feel something for the other person? Or do you regret it for the rest of your life…? Why were their no answers? Why was everyone talking about the amazing ways that adoption changed their lives and why was no one else going through what I was facing? What was I doing wrong!

     When I called therapists, they told me I should try medication, but that our county was slammed with referrals and the wait to see a counselor was so long. And frankly, as a therapist in the same community I lived in, I was nervous to share my true thoughts with someone I already had interactions with professionally. It seemed to be a dead end.

     The weight of depression and condemnation pushed me into a tailspin. Trapped and hopeless, I contemplated taking my life. Not that I ever had a plan, not that I thought I would. But I needed to weigh all of my options. It was almost the one thing that let me feel a modicum of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. I could always just leave.

     I know the level of despair that I felt, and I still couldn't bring myself to be as outwardly honest as Twitter Mama… how much more desperate was this poor woman? She, too, looked for help and found nothing. Where was she now? Had she also contemplated leaving life? Leaving her family? Without the help she asked for, did she go through with it?

     My heart used to break for my own situation. And now, three-and-a-half years into our life with these kids, things have slowly changed. We gradually moved from hate to tolerance, from tolerance to fondness, and from fondness to love. I still have days where indifference threatens to settle back in. (Days like today, in fact!) But I know they are fleeting moments, because Jesus did do a work in my heart. He started to heal me, bit by broken bit, patching up all the grief and the loss and the anger and the intolerable pain. It was so slow I almost didn't see it happening. Of course, He was sure to leave the wounds open enough so that I could still feel the remnants of the scars and taste the bitterness that once was. This allows me to remember His grace and how far He's brought me. And it allows my heart to no longer break for my own situation, but to offer a hand, a heart, and a hug to others going through their own personal turmoils.

     Friends, will you do me a favor? Can we join together and lift our fellow sister up before the Lord? Will you agree to pray for this precious woman and her children, whoever she is, wherever she is? You don't have to agree with her, you don't have to understand where she's at. But then again, she doesn't need you to. She didn't ask for anyone to understand her or agree with her. She simply asked for hope. We can be her hope! We can stand in the gap for a woman we've never met because GOD knows her. He knows every hair on her head and every flutter of her heart. We have no idea where her heart is with Jesus, but we can certainly pray that she finds the rest and the peace and the saving Hope she so courageously asked for….How amazing for this woman to get to Heaven some day and see hundreds of women, men, parents, and unknown friends greeting her with a smile to say, “So glad you made it!”

     The lady on twitter…. That was me. And she is why I write.

     Dear Twitter Mama~

     I love you. I don't know your story, but I know you are in pain. It is horrendous and intolerable on good days, devastatingly terrifying on bad ones. But know this, Friend. You are so not alone. You have an army of angels hovering over you, a Lord going before you, and a confidant standing next to you. I would love to hold your hand through this storm and whisper words of peace over you as you rage/panic/shatter/collapse/do whatever you have to do… I struggled to find someone who could understand, and the embarrassment of sharing my pain took more courage than I could muster. YOU are a hero for being brave and vulnerable. I am so sorry there was no one to answer when you pleaded for help. No one was there to pick you up when you were at your weakest. I can only tell you that you will eventually walk again.

     I will walk with you. And you will walk with your children. They will see your courage and your tenacity… they will follow in your lead, Mama. You are so much stronger than you feel. Rest on Bigger Shoulders tonight, because you ARE NOT TOO FAR GONE. xoxo



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