2020. Uff da.
We’ve passed when the Haven first began “operation” in my apartment and approaching when the home was purchased and the Haven established in March. It’ll be three years since the purchase of the home.
How God has sustained us.
I don’t say that as a trite statement. Without His provision and spiritual blessing, this would have fallen apart.
Most recently, this last month has proven to be the most difficult for me I have ever experienced. I have had wickedness and evil and the thread of danger touch this home. But this last month has involved countless hours of driving, phone calls, mediating, pleading with God, illness, mental illness, and that’s not even to mention my personal heartaches.
Sometimes I forget that Emily is there. This last month has required me to be an inhuman tool. Not that I lost my humanity – my compassion, my love, my soul – but inhuman in that the Emily in me was shut off altogether to keep up with the tides. She was there, with her ideas and her creativity and her scars and passions, like a small child tugging on my sleeve and I had to say, “Not right now.”
I had other plans for this post. I wanted to share with you thoughts of Eden and the Kingdom of God in ministry. But this is where my mind is presently, and I think I need to keep going.
In an age of terms like “self care” and “treat yourself”, we have to stand guard against the appeal of elevating self above what is right.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.Philippans 2:4-7
And yet, burn out is real. It is not good. It is not something that Jesus Himself experienced in all His service to humanity. Suffering with the suffering, weeping with the weeping, anger for the injustice, yes. But not burnout.
I wrestle in reflecting on this last month with which part of this burnout is my own doing and which is simply just what had to happen with the circumstances. (It’s difficult to go into detail here without crossing the line of discretion, but the circumstances have been very demanding, full of sudden and urgent turns, and sleepless nights by necessity.)
How much of the burnout could I really have prevented? I can’t think of much. I called for help whenever I could. Sometimes help was unavailable and we suffered through.
I came down with an influenza-like virus last week and was laid flat for several days. Two nights in a row, I was up trying to calm my body’s raging immune system enough to sleep. And one of those nights, the ugliness of my heart crept into my thoughts. Satan took full advantage of my weakness and joined the voices of self-condemnation and godless unbelief.
I found it. My limit. Chaos surrounded me and I was caught at the heart of it. And now, my body prevented me from sustaining it.
Hmm. Sustaining. Is that a call to action that I can even fulfill?
But back to those moments. Thoughts entered my mind that I thought I had laid to rest years ago. Thoughts that cursed God’s means of discipline. I knew “the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6) but what had I done to warrant such discipline? This seemed… cruel. I was in excruciating pain, moving from my bed to the floor when I felt too hot, and from the floor to bed when I couldn’t find comfort. Then again. And again. Sleep continued to evade me, even after a cocktail of pills to try and bring relief.
Downstairs, I knew a baby slept, away from my illness but with his struggling mother, recovering from a PTSD episode, and I just prayed that she would be cognizant enough when he woke up at his 3am feeding time to care for him (praise God, turned out she was, but at the time I did not know this). This weighed on me. I was helpless. In fact, I was a burden. I’m not supposed to be the burden in this house.
I reflected on outstanding injustices in my own life, being hurt and discouraged, even recently by a couple people, and I had no idea how those would even begin to resolve. Why couldn’t we just grant each other grace and move on? Why couldn’t we be voices of encouragement and given the benefit of the doubt in moments that lacked clarity?
Ghosts from my past arrived. Pre-Haven Emily showed me scars that hadn’t yet healed for her. How long, O Lord? Haven’t I done all I can on my end to heal those? Why isn’t time healing wounds? Why aren’t You?
I began to sob until my throat swelled up and it hurt to take the gasping breaths in.
I turned my thoughts to the peaceful videos and articles I had read on minimalism, the moments of good isolation on top of Mount Si in Washington and on the road to Memphis. The mornings walking by the lake when I was healthy, the hikes at Parnell where I didn’t have something demanding I rush home.
All I would have to do is call a realtor. I could have it all, and by it all, I meant close to nothing and freedom. The house could be sold. All my stuff could be sold. All I needed was a studio apartment to be happy, and until then, I could stay with my friend. It was a seller’s market, wasn’t it? Or was it a buyer’s? Did I care?
It’s four days later. My nose and throat are draining at last and my energy and appetite are back. I’m no longer contagious, I can do almost everything I need to do.
I can hold the baby again. Oh how I’ve missed him.
I’m sitting on my couch where I often sit when I write. An indie music compilation is playing. Our young mama is beside me updating her planner, progressing immensely day by day in her mental health. Besides my stuffy nose and the pile of used tissues growing beside me, it almost feels like normal again.
It’s an almost jarring difference between now and four days ago. Four days ago feels… like a weird nightmare that I can’t help but wonder if it happened. Was it just a weird hallucination?
I thought my thoughts were clearest when everything was stripped. And in a way, I suppose, it was. I was granted a clarity to see sins and doubts that I may have mostly dealt with but were never really laid to rest.
So they may have been clear as to the darkness of my heart, but they weren’t clear to the light parts. Dark moments can only speak on things that relate to darkness, but I listened to it trying to speak to the light.
What I mean by that is this: my dark hours that night tried to tell me what was true about life in the day. They couldn’t do that. All they know is the night.
I advise many people that come through and online, don’t listen to your thoughts at night, when you’re tired and the light has faded, and your energy is drained and your ability to discern what is true is weakened. Wait until the day. Then assess accordingly.
Perhaps I need to take my own advice.
Today, in the light, I see that a child’s life was and is being saved, so that someday his soul might be saved, too. I see a woman who is becoming whole and learning more about her heavenly Father and loving Him more. I see the body of Christ moving and God providing for every worry I cursed and threw in His face.
God provided overnight sitters. He provided food. He provided friends. He provided quick healing. He provided financial support. He provided prayerful support. He provided experts on things like social security and birth certificates and legal matters when we were too overwhelmed to even look at the checklist. Every need was met. Exceeded, even, when my church gifted to me an old electric piano that was going unused, much to my joy.
I hung my head and realized, as I sat amongst the abundance of blessing, how little faith I had. And how God, despite my faithlessness, remained faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).
So what of Emily? What of this image of God that He granted with specific talents and passions and gifts and desires?
I realized what had been missing this month: I didn’t just neglect my individuality; I believe we can indefinitely go without self care and self indulgence. While Emily tugged on my sleeve, God tapped on my shoulder. I shook my arm and shrugged my shoulder and said to both, “Not right now.”
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:4-5
Apart from Him, I can do nothing. I cannot be who I need to be for the home. I cannot be who I need to be for day-to-day life. I cannot even be simply Emily.
Yet I fooled myself into thinking the Bible and prayer were too tedious and time-consuming to serve any productive purpose. My utilitarian mind overcame me and I convinced myself my own strength was sufficient to accomplish all I needed to and wanted to. I had enough of the Bible committed to memory to live on. I didn’t need to go out for manna today, I could make yesterday’s portion stretch through today. And tomorrow, and through next week.
Foolish, foolish Emily.
So, this month’s post is an honest plea: pray for me. Pray for a desperate heart and hungry soul. Pray that I do not forget this. Pray I seek to follow the example of Jesus and break away early in the day to spend time with my Father.
And perhaps in a couple weeks, I can tell you about Eden and the Kingdom.
Resources for Support:
I have written an official support letter with the encouragement and prodding of my friends. You can download it to read and share here, as some have wanted to approach their churches and community with our needs, for which I am forever grateful:
Please note that until we are officially taken on as an outreach ministry, your donations are not tax deductible and must be noted as a gift.
I have updated the list of needs which you can find here.
I am also intending to invest more time into my personal blog on theology and a thriving life here. As encouraged by many friends, another way you are able to support me is through Patreon. You can find that here. Hopefully, this will be another means by which I can finally be home more and pouring into the women here. Speaking of, I just released my first podcast! You can subscribe on iTunes here.
Check out this video for a complete summary of everything I do and all the ways you can support, and please consider sharing this video to help introduce others to The Haven and how they can support us: