In the past, I’ve made summer bucket lists and packed sunscreen, water bottles, and floaties. I’ve wrung out wetsuits a thousand times hanging them out to dry. The cycle of towels ran constantly in our machine, washing out the lake water and sunscreen, the places watermelon dripped down chins and pooled in the cloth.
We’d made memories in the spots on the calendar I’d cleared. I’d said no and fought off the filling of days as we hiked the wild trails of flowers growing along the river and skimmed toes off the edge of floaties.
I’ve watched my kids jump into silver lakes, arms spinning like windmills, coming up sputtering and gasping with smiles almost as wide as their paddling arms.
This year, I misplaced the sunscreen and scribbled it on the grocery list. But I haven’t made it to the store. I haven’t made it much of anywhere lately. The floaties had tiny puncture wounds and leaked air sadly, deflating on our front lawn in a way that was all too relatable to me. We threw out the Orca and the bubble lounger with the cup holder.
I had grand plans for this summer. It’s been three months since my book made its way into the world, and I was desperate for a break. Self-care is recognizing my capacity isn’t like everyone else’s and giving myself permission to say enough when I am at my limit. I needed to be a person again — a mom, a wife, someone who isn’t online all the time trying to promote her book, someone who goes to the grocery store and takes her kids to the library for the summer reading program and barbecues with neighbors and friends. Someone who rests.
But this summer we’re dealing with more than the mundane. This summer, we’ve been struggling with too many things — things I don’t even have words for. Our kids are older. The magic of summer is not as simple as lake days and popsicles and adventures. This summer, we’re grieving and processing, healing and coping, and we don’t always know where one ends and the next begins.
I’ve sunken down further under the covers, pulling my pillow onto my face until my chest thrums tight and cruel with panic that the summer sun hovers above and I cannot bear to face it.
These past weeks, I am gulping down stolen moments of rest and coming up short. A dull ache welling up inside me, unquenchable sorrow.
I am worn thinner than the wisps of clouds misplaced in the bluest summer sky, as if they wandered into the heavens uninvited and trailed out feathery with the summer air.
These are the days of endless sunshine and the sugary scent of peaches and sticky-fingered children, barefoot and tanned. These are the days when hope rises up buoyant and I usually find solace from the weary days of winter. But lately, I am scavenging for another measure of grace, of hope.
My nerves are frayed and crackling like static interference picking up signals from too many places. Sometimes the litany of needs is so much more than the measure of me. I simply cannot be everything to everyone, and as a mom, that’s painful.
I’ve worried I am sinking down deeper, into that familiar numbness. The slow anger and frustration over my limitations that lashes out like a feral animal, and the deep sadness that makes everything feel frail and futile. Like one more burden pushed onto my back will break me forever.
My depression has been manageable at times, but I’ve also seen it consume like a crouching thing, all claws and fangs and tearing apart of me and my world.
So I pray, “God, give me eyes to see your goodness,” knowing that I’ve prayed hard and fervent and faithful and still — still — I’ve sunk, even while He holds me firmly by the hand, even while I take my meds, even while I talk to my psychiatrist.
I am always close to despair, and nothing about this makes sense to me. But I’ve seen God in the silent places, in the dark night and the long loneliness that finds me when I cannot pray anything more than “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
I’ve penned my memories of God’s faithfulness. It’s dark in the crags and hollows. Sometimes I can’t see God’s face at all, but I am Moses glimpsing the back of God’s glory as He passes me by, clefted in the rock under the tender hand of the Almighty.
Yesterday, we went out as a family. We took our old fishing boat and skimmed across the lake and when we pulled ashore, I sank to my knees in the sand. The water lapped against my skin like it was baptizing me into the strength only God can provide.
I choose to believe in and see God’s goodness — in the hidden parts of my heart where I’m gaining strength as the battle continues but bolstered by the remembrance that I need only be still and know because my God will fight for me. For my family. For all the needs I can’t meet and things I can’t fix.
God’s strength is made perfect because I am weak again and again.
I may not always see God’s face in the rocky crags, but His glory never ceases. This is the goodness of God.
Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. “Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”
Exodus 33:21-23 (ESV)
For more on seeing God’s glory in the midst of weakness, Alia Joy’s book, Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack, ventures to create a conversation that acknowledges suffering, poverty, and lack as a place for learning, growth, and ultimately, reliance on God.
I may not always see God's face in the rocky crags, but His glory never ceases. This is the goodness of God. -@aliajoyH: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
This line jumped out at me: ” Self-care is recognizing my capacity isn’t like everyone else’s and giving myself permission to say enough when I am at my limit.” I live with anxiety and depression and sometimes I think anyone and everyone else could do my life better than I do it. I know I have limitations on what I can cope with and I hate it. I want to be the Energizer Bunny like other people. I want to juggle multiple things in life with care and ease, but that’s not my reality. This summer has been very challenging for me. I’ve come up against the brick wall of trials where my coping ability stalls out. I’ve been loosely hanging on to my sanity and I don’t want to slide completely down the slippery slope. You are brave, my friend…oh so brave for continuing to hang on to the fact that God is good. When you’re in the pit, that fact escapes us and it would be easy to lose all hope. God has you, like a mother cat, by the scruff of your neck and He won’t let you go. He won’t let you fall. He wants to lavish His grace upon you because, even in the darkness, you keep reaching for His righteous right hand. You give others of us the will and hope to keep on clinging to Him.
Blessings and prayers,
You really should read Alia Joy’s book. It’s profound, raw, vulnerable and uplifting all in one package.
I continually pray for you.
Bev, I love that picture of the mother cat holding me by the scruff of the neck. Dear Jesus, please don’t ever let me go.
Thank you for your continued openness, honesty and vulnerability.
Michele Morin says
Lord, give Alia grace for these days of loving and leading tiny adults–so much harder to parent than tiny children. Fill her up each day with you, and may she see your face with clarity even when the rest of the view is hidden.
Thank you, Alia Joy. Your message was just what I needed to hear today. I’ve been facing similar challenges lately. But God doesn’t forsake His own. May He continue to give you strength and show you His goodness. Don’t we have an amazing God!
Alia Joy says
I’m so glad it met you where you’re at. His goodness never fails.
Alia, Thank you for the beautiful way you weave your words to create poignant images overflowing with emotions we all experience. I pray you continue to always choose to believe God’s goodness even when and especially when life is overwhelming.
Alia Joy says
Thanks, Susan, I pray that too.
Thank you for your honesty. The timing is perfect. May the Lord strengthen you moment by moment, day by day.
Dear Alia, I have been in a similar dark place. That time brought me a lot of revelations about friendship and who I can count on. Ultimately, sometimes it’s just our God and Father, and us. (I have one friend who swooped in and reached down to pull me out of the pit. It didn’t work, but knowing she tried made all the difference.) Praying you’ll be surrounded by those who will reach down to pull you out. But God is the One who can open your heart and mind to the sunshine. Praying you’ll have more than just a glimpse of the joy soon. Praying you will open your whole heart and soul to the brightness and the warmth. Please, Lord, bring Alia out into the light.
Kimberly Coney says
I am a veteran who suffers from PTSD, depression, anxiety and Bipolar disorder. I take medication and have been for the past 18 years. I have severe anger issues. I cannot work and cannot multitask. I rely on God to get me through the days. I just feel like people do not get “my normal”. I am a 2 time suicide attempt survivor. God pulled me from hell. He has a plan for me. I do not know what that is, but I am waiting patiently. I thank you for these devotions and little insights. God Bless. Kimberly
Becky Keife says
“He has a plan for me.” Yes, Kimberly, He does. We’re so glad you’re here to keep waiting on Him, walking with Him to see it. Much love to you in the hard places of your normal. xx
Kimberly Coney says
Thanks Becky. I always say that as soon as I make plans, God starts to laugh. Right? The Father knows best. I know His plan is out there for me. I know I am doing what is right in His eyes, cause the devil is working hard in me. I feel it. I keep praying and shouting for the devil to GO AWAY!!!!!. I know blessings are coming, I just have to be patient for them and wait for Gods timing not mine. Hugs and many blessings.
Beth Williams says
The world-even Christians-don’t truly understand psych issues. Some feel if you pray or have more faith then it will go away. No so!! Some health issues are hard to see, but the person feels the pain & anguish. God certainly has great plans for you. He has saved your life for a reason. Praying for God to guide your steps. May He reveal His wonderful plans for you.
Alia Joy says
Kimberly, I have similar diagnoses as you and get what it’s like when my normal doesn’t align with others. It’s not an easy path, certainly not one I’d choose. But God has a purpose for my life just as he does for yours. I’m so glad you’re still here fighting to see God’s goodness and waiting on the Lord to renew your strength.
This sounds so much like what I am going through. I was a caretaker for my dad, mom, and my husband, I got completely. Burned out, I didn’t think I could ever come back, I seemed lost in that darkness. After my husband passed away I went into a deep depression, it is so dark there. Three of our adult children had heart attacks, one of them actually stopped breathing but his son kept pushing on his chest and saved him.
After that my two beautiful ten year old Australia Shepherds both got cancer and both had to be put down.
A short time after that I had to move from my home that my husband had built and we raised our children there. We lived there almost 50 years.
I couldn’t understand what God was doing my whole life was upside down, I couldn’t think. I didn’t know what to do.
When I was in my new home I just wandered around not knowing what to do, I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to face another day, I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.
One of my new neighbors brought me a plant and said that they had been praying for someone just like me and another neighbor said that God sent me here just for her. Well I think that was why God sent me, here I still don’t understand, but we don’t always understand what God is doing. I do know that His thoughts are higher than ours, and He knows our future.
I am waiting on Him to show me what is next. I am going to bloom where I am planted and wait on Him. Sorry my comment was so long.Love in Christ
Alia Joy says
Jo, oh dear one, that is so much. I’m sorry for all the heartache you’ve endured and continue to journey through. Sometimes there seems to be no answer at all to the measure of suffering some bear. And yet we hope in the Lord. This is faith, trusting in a God we sometimes can’t make sense of but abide in all the same. Much hope to you as you wait on the Lord.
It is so painful to not be able to be everything for everyone as a mom. You’re so right!
Thank you for writing these words in the midst of despair. In the midst of searching and mourning.
Summer is a magical season but God’s seasons for each one of us are much richer and way more trustworthy.
Alia Joy says
Yes, the helplessness of not being able to just fix or take away the pain of one of your kids is the hardest part for me. This season of waiting on God is brutal.
Alia Joy, Jesus paid a high price for our heavenly citizenship. (Hebrews 12:3) says that he endured the cross and all its shame for “The joy of seeing you and me walking free from depression and anxiety. Its the joy of seeing us overcome our battle and the devil himself by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. We all have unexpected setbacks wither its our children, family or our jobs, here is the good news Alia that disappointment is the final chapter in your life, God never ends in a negative. He is still writing your story for the victory. Alia Joy I know what its like, so just hold on to your faith and trust God in this. I am here if you need me.
Alia Jesus paid a high price for our heavenly citizenship. Hebrews 12:3 Says that he endured the cross and all its shame for “The joy that set before him. What was that joy? It the joy of seeing you and me walking free from the depression and anxiety. The joy of seeing us overcome our battle and the devil himself by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. Alia we all have unexpected setbacks in life whither its our children, family or our jobs, here’s the good new, this is not your final chapter in your life, God never ends in a negative. He is still writing your story for victory. Alia I know what it’s like, just hold on to your faith and trust God.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Sometimes I wonder in my own life is God there in the darkness of my life. All my life I have been scared of dark. I will not go bed with curtains closed. I have to have light in. Don’t know where that comes from. I don’t like the dark. Never have. I know it says in Gods word he will never leave me nor forsake me. They are so true words. But then why am I so afraid of the Dark. When the loving arms of God are always around me and with me. Good question. It like that with people who have depression. They could ask themselves the same questions. Why am I depressed. Why is God not doing something about this. Like I could say God why are you letting me still from a child now an Adult who is 48 years old still be afraid of the dark. Why can’t we see your face in the dark. You shinning the light in. The person the depression could be saying the same. But we still have to believe and trust God is there and trust his word the Bible and the promises in it and believe what they say. Plus that God will never leave us or forsake us that he is always by oursides. We his Children are precious to him. Another excellent reading. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little
Linda Stoll says
Dear Alia … I’m a long ago reader of your blog and am reading your book right now this afternoon. Fabulous, moving, touching me somewhere deep. I went to check out your website and found my way here. No happenstance to see you writing today, to sit with your words, to lift you up in prayer.
And yes, you’re so right. We make the choice to choose to trust in God for our family’s great needs, for our own lack. I am with you in this prayer.
Alia Joy says
Glad to reconnect, Linda. Thanks for being here with me.
Beth Williams says
Bless you for writing about a tough subject no one talks about much. Thank you for allowing us to share your journey with you. This may get more people talking. Lots of people have psych issues, but they don’t want to admit it to the public. We need more awareness of these problems. The World’s system says go, do, achieve, keep on juggling lots of tasks. God made us all unique. We can’t always do as the world deems. ” This statement is so true: I may not always see God’s face in the rocky crags, but His glory never ceases. This is the goodness of God.” God’s glory is everywhere all the time. I pray God will ease your pain & suffering. Bravo for recognizing when to say enough. Keep holding on to the hope that God is there with you always.
Anna Labno says
Beautiful! I enjoyed your writing. And thank you!
Thank you for your sharing your struggles with me and so many others.
I go into despair about my foster/adoptive children who struggle with their traumatic past and make poor choices in life likely relating to their past experiences. There are times I feel God is so far away from us as a family , though like you say, He is right there with us.
Please continue to share, for I believe God has given you the gift to reach so many in need.
Love and blessings, Maggie
Alia Joy says
Maggie, I’m glad this connected with you as you navigate the struggles and trauma with your kids. It does feel like God is far away sometimes even though I know he is near to the brokenhearted.
Thank you so much for sharing this