Thursday, June 27, 2013

Testimony

I'm now in my third week in Ireland. The first week we were in Monaghan with the Clarkes, then we met up with the rest of our team to do Holiday Bible Club in Ballygawley, and now we're doing the same thing in Kilmore.
 
After club we've been spending time with the teenagers, playing games and trying to break the ice. Every night one of us ballet girls shared our testimony, and it was finally my turn tonight...
 
All week the people in the Kilmore church have been encouraging us to really wear our hearts on our sleeves and be really open with the teenagers to encourage them to do the same and put them at ease with us. So when I found out I'd have to share my testimony, I wasn't sure what all I wanted to say. Normally, I do a very edited version that vaguely alludes to the possibility of something wrong in my life, but don't actually say it. Never have I shared my complete testimony with a group of people.
 
Plus, Katie, Libby, and Brianna were all there too. I hadn't talked to any of them about my depression. Would this be a good way to let them know? Or would it be cruel?
 
I kind of fought with myself all week about it and tried to figure it out and ended up stressing myself out. Last night, I was up late Skyping The Captain, explaining it all to him and asking advice. He encouraged me to say everything.
 
But so much of my testimony is so fresh, such an open wound. Normally when people share testimonies like that, it's after years and years have passed and they're all better now. I'm not all better. Years have not passed. Weeks have passed since the last really dramatic thing happened in my life, and it certainly hasn't been even a week since I thought about doing something to myself.
 
But The Captain kept saying that this opportunity was perfect and I couldn't pass it up. That I would probably help at least one person in that room. I said I'd try. I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to do it.
 
But I did.
 
I started out with the basics, and then when I got up to age 15 the unedited version came out, because that's when I first tried to hurt myself. That was when the room got deathly silent, and half the people looked up from their crisps and didn't take their eyes off me, while the other half suddenly found the floor very interesting.
 
I got through it all without crying, though I did almost tear up when at one point. My voice did get pretty shaky and by the end my face was really warm. But I got through it. The end was a little awkward, and I was just like, "Well... my voice is tired now..." and then after Katie reminded them that they could talk to us or ask us questions whenever, I was like, "Well... I'm going to go get some water now... so talk amongst yourselves." Then ran and got water and then hid in the bathroom for a while and cried a bit.
 
When I emerged to the kitchen, Kenny and Colin were both there and I walked in before realizing it. Kenny's pretty cool; I had talked to him a lot during the evening and confided that I was really nervous about having to speak to the teens. He'd started out watching me in a kind of encouraging manner, but as soon as I hit the 15 mark his gaze shot to the floor. I don't think he'd anticipated that when I'd told him how nervous I was.
 
Colin came up to me first and told me I was a very good speaker, which surprised me but encouraged me a little bit. Then Kenny moseyed over and said I did a good job. He didn't really say anything else, but I can't tell you how much I appreciated it.
 
And then Katie showed up and I kind of avoided eye contact for as long as possible, but we finally exchanged looks and then smiles and then she asked to give me a hug and I said yes and so we shared a hug. She, Brianna, and Libby were among those staring at the floor during my testimony, because none of them had expected that bombshell.
 
After all of that I felt kind of scared to face any of the teens... I felt like they were all staring at me every time I saw them again. But then it also felt like they were all a bit friendlier with me. They were all genuinely disappointed when Elise made me leave early due to my still-present headache and previous upset stomach (although it was mostly just upset because I was nervous).
 
I really hope I did help someone, that it wasn't all for nothing, me bearing my soul like that.
 
I don't know what all has changed between me, Katie, Libby, and Brianna. Katie's the only one that acknowledged it in any way, and it's probably just my imagination that Libby and Brianna were a little weird about it. It's likely that they didn't think much of it, because we aren't super best friends and so they might not think they'd had any business knowing. Katie, on the other hand... I don't know if it will ever come up in conversation again. I'm still nervous about that.
 
But I'm glad I did it. I do feel better, now that it's out. Now that I've said it once, maybe next time will be easier.
 
Our trip is almost over! I'm sad, but also happy... because I really really miss The Captain.
 
--Dexter

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sacrifice

I've recently discovered one of the (various) roots of my depression.
 
I have days where I give my all to my surroundings. I'm either already in a good mood or I'm determined to be in a good mood or sometimes even it's just necessary due to the situation. I put everything into that good mood and I make every effort to smile and talk and to be as genuine as I can be. The result is pretty good for that day: every smile and every word has at least an ounce of genuineness and it feels wonderful.
 
But at the end of the day, I feel sick. A glimpse of myself in a mirror makes me shudder and it's hard to cope with the person I am. I'm just so emotionally tired and empty I can hardly bear it. It generally takes me at least a few days to fully recover, and the first few days are really rough.
 
So I began to think that I'd figured out how to maintain a healthy antidepressant. I'd just have to be careful how I managed my time. Always make sure I get a few minutes to myself. Stop being self-conscious about being rude and just find an hour or so where I can sit and read or write or just think. It's not such a hard thing to accomplish.
 
But aren't we called to give everything? To sacrifice our very selves for others and for God?
 
This proved quite a dilemma. For the longest time I couldn't figure out what to do about this. Should I keep on trying to find those quiet hours and avoid people... or continue pouring myself out to the people around me?
 
I'm still not totally sure about this problem, but I've got a bit of a compromise. I can't really do one or the other. I can't become a hermit to preserve my own sanity, but I can't pour myself out day after day and then go home and cry because of how awful I feel. I think I should give when given the opportunity and rely on God for the strength to do so. God knows me inside out. He knows how I operate and he knows my limits. Yes, he stretches them, but he'll never break something that can't be mended.
 
Yes, I'm exhausted. Yes, I'm worn out. Yes, I feel like total crap. Yes, I kind of hate myself. But I am God's, and God will fill me up and use me for his ultimate glory and plan.
 
As always, you can follow www.weareinireland.blogspot.com for team updates as we continue our journey through Ireland!
 
--Dexter

Monday, June 10, 2013

Lord Vizelhoffen

We're in Ireland! SUCCESS! We are big girls now. Because we officially traveled to a different country by ourselves.
 
We've already met up with the Clarkes, our old friends from last year. Andrew, Richard, Ruth, and Laura. They're all good craic ("fun"). We've played Uno and Nerts and watched the ballet and a movie and other stuff and talked and chatted and eaten and generally just chilled around for our first day here.
 
And we also made a new friend. This is Lord Vizelhoffen. Look at that fancy cape. Spots and fur and everything.
 
Katie discovered him in our room and christened him Lord Vizelhoffen. He is now our friend.
 
UPDATE: We have discovered that Lord Vizelhoffen is a germophobe.
 
UPDATE: Lord Vizelhoffen has taken flight!
 
As always, you can check the official Ireland blog over at www.weareinireland.blogspot.com!
 
--Dexter

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ireland!

Yeah, btws, I leave for Ireland SATURDAY.

Don't know why I never mentioned that. But yeah.

I've been put in charge of keeping an updated blog for the team, so check it out! http://weareinireland.blogspot.com/

The rest of the team doesn't leave until next week, but me and Katie are heading off to the land of rain and green hills early so we can visit friends in Monaghan. I should probably start packing.

But I want to have a Supernatural marathon. Decisions, decisions.

--Dexter

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Prayer

I have prayed a lot in the past week or so, because of some things going on in my life. No, not just one crazy messed up thing, but several. I can't really go into details.
 
But basically I was praying almost every waking moment, and I was still fairly stressed out so all of my sleeping moments were filled with anxiety and dreams as well. Some of the best moments of the week have been the times I could get so caught up in whatever was currently going on that I forgot about all the mess.
 
The power of prayer is crazy. When I spend a good amount of time in God's word and pour out my heart to him, confessing everything and asking for mercy I don't deserve, I am soothed by a subtle peace. It's not overwhelming, because an overwhelming peace is an oxymoron. But it's there, and what makes it so obvious is the memory of how scared I was beforehand.
 
So while I'm in prayer and right after prayer, I am calm and at peace. The problem isn't solved, but I can easily trust that God already has it figured out. My logic and reason return, and all is well. It usually only takes an hour or so for all of that to get swept away by a wave of pure terror. Irrationality and fear take over, and I find myself sitting in the corner rocking back and forth, almost paralyzed and practically unable to function.
 
So I didn't stop praying. Sometimes, especially when I was alone, I would close my eyes and pray very coherently to God. Other times, it would be silent and internal, nothing more than an unworded, "Please, God, please." It got worse and worse as the week wore on, so I prayed more and more.
 
Until finally, today, my prayers were answered. The relief was truly overwhelming. I wanted to jump and shout and hug everyone I could reach! But... didn't. The context for them wasn't really appropriate for that. So no one knows that my life changed today due to the power of prayer. My life literally had split in two different directions, to be decided by this one thing I couldn't stop praying about. "Your will be done, Lord, always. But please oh please grant us mercy. Give me a second chance."
 
Oh how merciful he is. How loving. How faithful. How perfect.
 
People always tell you stories about the power of prayer, but it's one of those things you either flatout don't believe, or you don't realize you don't believe. I am the latter. "Sure, the power of prayer." And then I experienced it firsthand and was, "WOW. PRAYER. GOD. SPEECHLESS. AWE. WOW. THANK YOU."
 
I've always wondered how people can just go on praying for minutes and hours and days. Prayer always seemed simple to me. Thank him, confess to him, ask him, praise him, amen. Now, that's a perfectly okay prayer (once you, y'know, elaborate and personalize it, obviously). But some people pray. I couldn't imagine praying for a solid two hours, much less two days. How do people do it?
 
But I'm starting to understand. My favorite dance teacher once said, "Prayer is like the plie of ballet. It's the first thing you learn, but the last thing you master."
 
I don't even know how to explain what I've learned here. All I can say is that prayer is truly powerful. And the more you understand who you're talking to, the deeper and more meaningful your prayer can become. And the more you pray and study the Bible, the more you understand who you're talking to.
 
It's funny, because right after I had this epiphany about prayer, I stumbled across Nehemiah 1:4-11 (via my Celtic Daily Prayer book!). It's one of the best examples of prayer I've ever read, but it's hidden away in one of the Books I don't really come across all that often.
 
Nehemiah 1:4-7;11 "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:
"O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees, and laws you gave your servant Moses. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man."
 
--Dexter

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Who Am I?

Today, my Celtic Daily Prayer book quoted a monk. "In every conflict with another say, 'Who am I?' and judge no one." So I had to sit down and think long and hard about who I am. This is what I realized.
 
I am God's
I am his creation
I was made to glorify him
I was made to love him
I was made to know him
I am a light
I was made to shine
I was made to help
I am a lighthouse for God
I was made to guide
I am God's creation
That is who I am
 
I don't always believe that. In fact, I've never quite believed that. But it's true. It's fact. It's inescapable. I can deny it all I want. But I am his.
 
And if I am his, that puts a whole new outlook on what I do to myself. If I am God's, then I should be more careful about what I do, what I eat, how I act, etcetera. This body is God's. To hurt it is to hurt the property of God. To feed it garbage is to feed God's property garbage. I should not mistreat this body or myself because it is God's.
 
Sometimes I believe I'm a mistake, so I don't count. It doesn't matter what I do to myself, because it's just a mistake. But I'm not. Right now I can see that. Hopefully I will always be able to see it. No matter the mistakes I make or the places I go in life. Through pain, through heartbreak.
 
I am God's.
 
--Dexter