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Selfless, Unwavering Love


Years ago, as I watched my Grandmother take her last breath, I found myself in awe reflecting on the life she lived. Forever engrained in my mind is the way she loved everyone. She was incredible at seeing the good in people, the GOD in everyone. She forgave quickly, even when it probably hurt her to do so. When she left this world, I begged God for that kind of strength-to love in the hard times, to show up for life even when it was difficult.

I almost regret it now. I had hoped the trait would be hereditary, but now I know that kind of strength is only developed from experiencing hardship and choosing love as the response. It’s the most selfless thing we can do as humans, to be hurt and choose love over retaliation, compassion over conflict, forgiveness over grudges. it’s not easy to love like Jesus.

When I feel hurt, my instinct is to hurt back, to build a wall, to say I forgive but never let it go. And only at the wise old age of 26 am I finally learning that a response like that doesn’t help anyone. And why would I dim God’s light in me to match another? That’s not what he intended for me.

I describe it to my therapist by saying “I love BIG”, meaning when I love someone, I love them with all of me, fiercely. I want to be there when you’re sick, when you’re hurt, when you’re happy, when you’re sad, and I want you to love me that way too. But it doesn’t always work that way. Life isn’t easy that way.

I read a quote that says:

“The ocean does not apologize for its depth and the mountains do not seek forgiveness for the space they take and so, neither shall I”

-Becca Lee

And it made me realize that the love I have to offer the world should not be dependent on the response to it. I’d only be cheating myself and God if I allowed pain to control me.

But love is a hard choice, especially when we feel incredible pain. It’s hard to wake up and show the world grace. It’s hard not to sink inward and reflect on our hurt, feeling sorry for ourselves. It requires an incredible strength, that we all possess if we just choose it.

Forgiveness hurts. Loving hurts. But I no longer regret being that person. I’m not going to sink because someone tied me to an anchor-it’s not God’s plan for me.

My oldest son’s name is “Luca” meaning “bringer of light” and I believe he will live up to that. It’s the same goal I hold for myself: to choose love, to give compassion, to forgive quickly, to find my healing in God instead of searching for it in other people.

In my darkest days, choosing love means leaning into God, allowing him to carry me through pain, to hold my heart together when it feels like it’s in pieces. And when I allow God to take that role in my life-when I let him in-its so much easier to give grace. Because I trust God, I trust his plan for me, I trust that the love I have to give doesn’t need to be matched to have worth, because I am carrying out my purpose on this earth.

I think choosing love can be perceived as weakness in today’s world. As many cheesy quotes as I have read about forgiveness lately-most of them are all about being strong enough to cut people out of our lives, to respond to hurt by hurting back. Why? Who is that helping?

I don’t know what I’m even getting at with this, except that your life is not defined by anyone’s response to it. You choose your response to hardship.I can’t imagine ever regretting giving grace. It comes with the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done all you can, you’ve been the best version of yourself.

I can only pray God continues to help me give love and grace, even when the world tells me it isn’t deserved. I love BIG, but that’s just me, and I’m not going to apologize for it, or let anyone kill that part of me. It’s what I remember my Grandmother for, and it’s what I want to be remembered for: selfless, unwavering love.

When God Stops Loving Me

Since I can remember, I’ve often felt distant from God anytime I’ve done something I knew was not in his “plan” for me. Then I struggle to get back to a place where I feel spiritually sound. How could God love me knowing the things I’ve done, the times I haven’t trusted Him, the times I was less than my best?

My recent stint with postpartum depression had me feeling this way. I lost my trust in God and I really believed he held that against me. I wondered if he’d still want me-was my place in heaven gone? 

I grew up in a church that told me missing a Sunday was a ticket to hell. I grew up in a church with a list of rules well beyond the 10 commandments and all were to be followed or I was a terrible person.  And I’m not blaming that church or anything-they gave me the gift of faith and the desire to pursue a church that felt like home. But those beliefs are so engrained in me, that even after 10 years of hearing about how much God loves me, even in my worst moments, I’ve struggled to believe it.

I’m sure I’m not the only one.

It’s hard to fathom a love beyond what we can offer to or receive from others-but that is God’s love for us. 

I think being a mom has made it a little easier to understand, in the sense that while my kids can drive me completely crazy sometimes, and they don’t always listen or do what I want them too, obviously I never stop loving them. 

The Bible tells us:

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 Romans 5:8

I’m not suggesting we live our lives in a carefree, world worshipping way with the knowledge that God will still love us. But my stumbles in life, my moments of doubt-God knew I’d experience these things, He knew all of us would-and he still sent His son to die for us.

There’s some quote that makes it’s away around saying something to the effect of:  if we feel distant from God, it’s not Him who has moved. Despite reading it often, I struggle to put that thought into practice and act accordingly. 

God’s love is right there, all we have to do is accept it. Peace, hope, salvation-more than we could ever fathom, is all there for the taking, we need only to open our hearts. 

Postpartum Depression: Round 2

My very first therapy session all culminated around my therapists words, “It takes 9 months to make a baby, you should expect it to take that long to feel like yourself again.” Whew, 9 whole months I was going to have to deal with Postpartum Depression? She was right. When my son turned a year old, I felt like the pieces of myself had all come back together. I stepped out of the fog and felt alive again. I actually enjoyed time with my son instead of feeling like a failure to him. I became a better wife, a better friend, a better version of myself than I had been. I remember feeling so free to step into the life God had planned for me.

So when I found out I was expecting again, I wrote off Postpartum Depression. Sure, I knew it was very likely I would experience it again. “But this time I know how to combat it” I thought, “I’ll stay in therapy regularly, I’ll tell my friends and family how to help, and my husband and I will be on constant guard for the symptoms.” Even if it happens, it will be more manageable this time.

But months later, when I slipped back into that familiar fog, I struggled to meet those expectations. I was so frustrated that it was happening again. I felt out of control. I avoided counseling, I sunk into the familiarity of hating myself and feeling nothing for anyone else. I struggled to care about anything, especially getting help. Maybe I’m here again because it’s a sign? Maybe my children ARE better off without me?

After it all came to a terrifyingly familiar climax, I sought treatment and knew that if I didn’t buckle down and work to get better, I’d risk never escaping this mental nightmare.

Counseling, medication, a regular routine, an acceptance of the problem, it all helped. But as with most things, the true healing only arrived with time. I held onto the hope that when my second son turned a year old, I’d be me again. And I’ve just now finally felt like myself, like I can wake up each day and be a better version of me, and hopefully, fulfill God’s purpose for my life by focusing my attention on being a great wife and mom.

All of this to say, I know a lot of women experience postpartum depression, and it can be so frustrating to be doing all of the right things but still feeling that constant fog-like something just is not right. But it does end, the hormones do level out, and you can show up for life again. I’ve got a list of mile long of things we need to be doing to help fellow moms avoid or treat postpartum depression, but I’ll save that for another time.

For now, I’ll end in saying “It feels good to be back.”

I’m Sorry

To the people of my past & present, to the souls I’ve hurt and confused, to the folks that know me as careless, emotional, selfish, and unforgiving: I’m Sorry.

And you’ll probably never know how sorry I am that much of my life has been spent processing unnecessary emotions that have influenced my decisions and behavior. I’ve said so many things that I never meant, made so many decisions that were not reasonable, and acted in ways even I did not understand.

I grew up obsessed with the notion of “following my heart”.

A particular conversation that I look back on was when I mentioned to my dad that I was thinking about breaking up with a boyfriend and he said “If you’re even thinking about it, you probably should.” Sound advice at age 14, when “sticking it out” in a relationship wasn’t necessary (and way to go, dad, because I found the man of my DREAMS). But guys, I woke up ready to cut people out of my life A LOT. I ended a lot of relationships out of nowhere because I would just feel…different. I didn’t know why and my efforts to understand were met with failure.

This happened frequently, in all aspects of my life. Something would feel wrong, misaligned, uncomfortable. Despite the lack of logic, I would turn my life and my situation upside down trying to find contentment again.

My senior year of high school, I finally found “my people”. Amazing friends that loved and embraced my weird personality. We spent every spare moment together, venturing out for fast food after school, joining clubs together just for fun. But somewhere along the line, life felt unbalanced and I became unhinged, ruining these relationships that held a top spot in my heart. I said a lot of hurtful things, missed weddings, and burnt bridges that will probably never be 100% repaired.

Later in life, there were days I called off of work because…well, no reason in particular. I was just so overcome with emotion that I struggled to function.

The same happened at the opposite end of the spectrum. I had days when I would wake up feeling insanely confident. Confident enough to be reckless, to insist I didn’t need anyone but me in life, confident enough to walk away from beautiful friendships and treat strangers like peasants.

I was so inconsistent, especially in my high school years, that I can understand how I pushed a lot of people away.

My heart breaks for those days and I struggle with memories of the people I’ve hurt in every capacity.

Because the truth is, I love each and every one of you. That is ME. I’m a lover, even of people that have hurt me. I care so strongly for everyone I come across and truth is, I’d probably take a bullet for an “enemy” because I see the love and light in everyone. I see your strengths and I pray for your weakness. I’ve never felt capable of offering much to this world, except love, and it hurts to know I have not always offered that side of me to people.

My diagnosis of Bipolar Depression has answered the question that’s been stuck in my head for so long: “Why did I do that?”
I feel like I finally understand that there was always more at play than just my emotions and judgement.

With that said, it’s not an excuse for my behavior in the past, and it is 100% on me for not portraying myself accurately, seeking counseling, or trying to mend broken relationships.

But its given me a small sense of peace. Because truthfully, I’ve always felt like I was a bad person. Like I was a terrible human just desperately trying to be better, still awful at my core, forever running through the list of hurtful things I’ve said and done in the past. Forever destined to ruin friendships, complicate my marriage, struggle in parenthood, all to someday put the world at peace with my death.
(Sorry this is so intense…its just where I ended up!)

Anyways, newsflash: I’m a good person.
I know, I’m just as surprised as you are. And now, I feel like I can accept that and move on, treating my mental illness(gosh I still hate saying that though) and working my butt off in therapy to be a more consistently loving human–more ME.

So look,
I’m really sorry if I have contributed to pain in your life. I’m really sorry if you’ve missed the side of me that loves wholeheartedly, does not judge, and hopes for your success. If you’re reading this, and even if you’re not, I’m rooting for you and I care about you. Whether we are acquaintances, friends, or enemies–you have a place in my heart.

And to the folks who have stuck it out and managed to love me despite the million reasons I’ve given you to leave: don’t worry, your letter is coming.

Start Fresh

I’ve been on guard with myself lately, demanding that the last few years of mental struggles were all a result of whacky hormones and insisting that a diagnosis not be made until my most recent baby was a year old.

So when a psychiatrist diagnosed me with Bipolar Depression, I closed my mind and put up my walls, refusing to accept there could be more going on than Postpartum Depression.

It couldn’t be me. I couldn’t struggle with bipolar. My sense of self is so important to me…and accepting this diagnosis would mean accepting that all those years of “following my heart” were spent navigating with a broken compass.

The psychiatrist recommended medication but supported me when I insisted that we reevaluate in a few months.

But as I sat with the questions he had asked me and the memories of my childhood, I slowly began to realize and accept that he was right. There is no denying that I struggled with emotions as a child, that I behaved differently at times, that I regretted big decisions just days after making them. There is plenty more to it, but those symptoms and memories really stuck out for me.

But accepting this diagnosis meant accepting that I’d been broken for the past 25 years, that my decisions in life were not all mine, but clouded by the influence of mental illness. Accepting the diagnosis means accepting that people may see me differently, treat me differently, and trust me differently. Accepting and sharing the diagnosis means opening myself up to the community of people that believe mental illness isn’t real. And accepting medication means accepting that I cannot do life on my own, I need a little help.

So I refused. I insisted. I’m fine. Nothing is wrong.

Eventually it set in that if I didn’t accept the diagnosis and the medication, that wouldn’t make me a person without mental illness. It would make me a person in denial and forever struggling as a result.

I’ve spent a long 25 years begging myself for some consistency in life, always reaching for something to hold me down, to make me stable, to keep me from feeling so high sometimes and so low other times. I always thought that yearning for contentment would be satisfied by a great husband, by becoming a mom, by achieving my goals.

Now I realize that what I’ve always been reaching for…is me.

Guys…my mental state has been a ROLLER COASTER for my entire life. I don’t even know who “me” is without the constant tugging at my heart to be happy or sad.

As hard as it is to accept that I have Bipolar Depression,–that I AM bipolar–that a stigma is going to engulf me and change my relationships, I am so excited to finally understand my past and to have a chance to move on from that, to start fresh with new clarity.

I decided to pursue medication for the sake of giving my husband and children some consistency. When I mentioned that to my Mommy, she pointed out that I deserve consistency for myself. And she is right! I have been battling this forever and it has been hard!I’m thrilled at the prospect of finally feeling better, finally having answers, and finally finding myself.

And I’m just here to welcome everyone on my journey. Because a lot of people spend their lives plagued by mental illness but are unwilling or afraid to admit it and seek help, so was I. It hasn’t been easy. And I’m sure navigating it is going to be tricky for the rest of my life, but if my journey can touch yours and help you along or help you understand how this feels for someone diagnosed with Bipolar Depression, I’m happy to help.

Oh, and side note: I’m not ashamed of “being crazy”. Screw that. I’ve built an amazing life despite living with Bipolar Depression. I’ve fought hard and I’m really proud of that.

To Be, or Not to Be?

Sounds like a cliche quote, but: when depression creeps in, it can be a thought that looms over every minute of every day. A couple of months ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder following years of counseling, postpartum depression, and explaining the struggles I have faced. This diagnosis followed a period of time when I fell into a deep depression and began to act on suicidal thoughts. I felt like I had lost all control over myself and I was so sure I wanted to die, convinced that it was the ideal outcome for everyone in my life.

I’ve since recovered and accepted my diagnoses, determined to spend the rest of my life fighting it as necessary.

But as I look back on that day and so many before it, I wonder:

Why is it easier to imagine ending my life than changing it?

Why does it feel so simple to end my life than do something drastic to change it?

Wouldn’t I rather give LIVING a shot? Like a real shot, like an “I could die tomorrow” sort of shot.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if those who face depression could take it as a cue to make big changes, to try that much harder, to cut out the toxic parts of life and embrace what makes them happy?

I’ve read that depression can be used as a sign that something about our actions does not align with our ideals/end goals. And I find that so interesting.

It has led to a lot of self discovery and embracing a few new things in my life that bring me joy. It has prompted me to push myself to get more involved at church and build up the positives in my life while I explore some new interests.

Being a Mom is the greatest joy of my life, but I do feel like there is so much more to my story that I have yet to fulfill. Something is tugging at my heart and begging me to live out some big dreams. The struggle is: I’m not really sure what those ‘dreams’are. I’m ready to do something big-but raising children is the big thing I’ve always yearned for. I’m not saying it’s not enough-but I just know there is another element to my story right now, and as someone who felt like I did not deserve to be here, I’m ready to hand my life over to God’s will and live out his purposes for me.

Some of my greatest blessings have followed my greatest lows-lows that helped me readjust and commit to life all over again.

Depression can kill people, in spirit and literally. But it can also propel us forward. And even though it may not feel like it, there IS a choice.


  • “When we reach our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.”

 

 

If I’m Being Honest

If I’m being honest, my life is about as put together as my toddler’s wooden puzzle: 3/4 pieces missing, probably for good. One piece in-tact, but chewed on, ink fading..I’m pretty sure it got peed on at some point. You get the picture.
BUT does this chaos in my life make me less than? DOes it render me “unusable”? Probably not.

Our Pastor shared a wonderful quote this morning:

“God does not call the equipped, he equips the called.”

And for the first time in a long time, I felt compelled to jot that down. Then a quick internet search led me to a few verses in the Bible:

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.   1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NIV

WHEW. I often feel like the circumstances I’ve faced, my response to them, my uncertainty, and my personality all add up to determine that I am NOT one to serve others. And holding that opinion of myself is what led to the end of my blog, the deleting of all depression related posts, and the focus on my artwork. Aside from feeling ill-equipped to share personal stories in the hopes of inspiring and reaching others, blogging helps put my thoughts into words–but serves no monetary purpose and arguably is not worth the time of a busy Mama.

But maybe I’m not ill-equipped. Maybe, what the depression sufferers, the miscarriage survivors, the new Mamas currenty having their world shaken upside down by kids, is someone who knows those hurts, and navigates them daily. For awhile, I lost sight of the value of my experience, and I deemed myself unworthy to share the TRUTH in spite of social(media) expectations. I decided that despite feeling called, blogging was not worth compromising my dignity by sharing incredibly personal details of my life. I decided it was not worth eventually having to talk to my children about the realities their mother faced when they were young.

A chance encounter with a woman who has been inspiring me for the last ten years has set me straight. She referenced my blog and applauded me…telling me I’m “amazing”. As she said this, I felt disbelief-because this woman has been inspiring me for years. She has risen out of circumstance to raise a beautiful, thoughtful, strong little girl. This woman is conquering demons and hardship left and right. I’ve often scrolled by her posts, reminded of the beauty and strength that is able to rise from ashes.

But I could never be inspired by her story if she didn’t share it. I wouldn’t know that people really do face the hardships she has faced, and I wouldn’t realize the beauty that could come from it.

God has been tugging at my heart to change something up for awhile, and I’m certain my place for this time is to share the personal truths of my journey in this world. 1. Because I’m willing. I really enjoy writing and putting it all into words-it’s super therapeutic. 2. I’ve been able to speak with women during Postpartum Depression because they know that I have experienced it. I’ve been able to reach out, remind them they are loved, and encourage them to seek professional help. All important lifelines in the midst of such darkness. 3. I do not believe that I am the best person for this job. I don’t know that I consider myself “stable” enough to guide anyone else…but that is not my intention. I really believe God can use what I have to say to help others who face similar demons, or even just to offer them a lifeline for when they do. I want to be a light for God, but I cannot do that if I’m hiding from it myself.

If you’re reading this, I encourage you to do the same-embrace what God is calling you to do for His kingdom. God chooses imperfect people to carry out his perfect plan. Stop thinking you’re unworthy-Remember that He sent His Son to die for YOU.

You Can Find My Latest Painting…

…on the cover of Jean Claar Bassett’s latest book!
​I am so thrilled to finally share the big news- Back in August, my sister in law put me in touch with a Pittsburgh author in need of an artist to create her latest book cover for a mystery intended for kids ages 8-12.
Of course, I wanted to be able to do this, but really doubted that I would be capable of producing her vision- especially amidst pregnancy keeping me miserable and out of the art studio.

Nevertheless, I gave it my best attempt, and was virtually introduced to Jean Claar Bassett. Jean and I were complete strangers, but spent the next month in almost constant contact via email. She described the potential scenes she would like on the cover and I opted for one that I felt I could better execute(because it didn’t involve people). I sent her sketches to try to give her an idea of what I was imagining and we tweaked them until I had a clearer vision of her plans for the cover.

Ace and I up late, working on the original plan for the cover, which involved the main character and his best friend riding bikes.

The process was nearing the end when I realized that maybe I actually could create a completely different scene from the one we had been working on to give her the human impressionist-like faces she desired for the cover. So, we started over. I read the description of the scene from the book, got Jean’s input, and sent along more sketches. When it was time to paint, we spent several emails discussing color, and I went to work.

This is one of the initial sketches done for the cover.

The initial painting changed a couple of times based on Jean’s needs for the cover but eventually, we had a finished product and the painting was professionally photographed to be sent out for the cover!

Finished product in my studio waiting to become a book cover!

 The end of the journey was an exciting one for me, knowing I had actually accomplished something I was sure would end with Jean telling me my painting was not what she intended for the cover. I gave it my best and it felt good to know it worked out and it felt great to hand my parents a copy of the book with my name printed inside!

A copy of the finished product!

 I have to admit that at the time, the process was entirely new to me and trying to discuss art with a perfect stranger was challenging as this was the first time I was painting something so specific for someone. However, Jean is one of the nicest women I have ever met and was incredibly patient throughout the entire process. I was fortunate enough to finally meet up with her at her church and hand deliver the painting that we had both spent so much time working on. Jean’s personality and talents are just incredible and even more so than having my painting published in a book, I am thankful to know her. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book without artistry in mind!
If you’d like to read Jean’s latest book, it is available for purchase through Amazon: Click here to purchase Elijah Cross Mysteries by Jean Claar Bassett!