Find What Breaks Your Heart and Then….Make a Difference

Fifteen years ago I was a 22 year old girl drowning in the dark sea of anxiety and depression.  I was a girl struggling to find hope in a world that seemed hopeless.  I was lost feeling as if I had no purpose.  Thoughts of death teased at my mind day and night and while I was too afraid to allow those thoughts to grow I knew in my heart something had to die.  After 13 years of suffering with severe anxiety a death did occur.  In the cold winter of 2015 at a church in Sayville I died to myself and rose again in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I was freed from the chains I carried around anchoring me to my sin; my sin of worry and fear, pride and also shame.  I carried those burdens with me for too long and then at the most unsuspecting time, the creator of the heavens and earth removed the scales form my eyes and revealed Himself to me, once and for all setting me free.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19

             17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Throughout my struggle I heard a whisper in my ear telling me that my struggle was going to be used for something good.  My struggle would not be in vain.  At the time I did not know the Lord, but as I look back it is so clear that it was the voice of God softly and gently comforting me, reassuring me that everything would be okay.

What I have found is that God has given each one of us gifts, all different and unique to who we are and through the burden of anxiety and deep suffering God would show me my gifts.  It is up to us if we follow His lead and use those gifts.  I once heard that we should find what breaks our heart, and then make a difference.  One night as I pushed back and forth in a rocking chair and cradled my new born daughter, tears streamed down my face. As I sat and took in the smell of my new baby, my heart swelled with an overwhelming amount of love where I thought it might actually burst. I tried to comprehend the emotion I felt towards my baby girl and then I thought of all the babies who did not have a mommy to do the same thing and right then and there I knew for sure what broke my heart.

Nine years later my husband and I would become certified foster parents and take in our very first placement, a precious 5 month old baby girl. Five months later we would hand her back to her mother. My anxiety has made me strong, Jesus has made me stronger, but this, could I possibly bare the pain of handing this child back over to where she belonged?  This, I can tell, is only the beginning of our journey.  I have learned that life may bend me, but it will never break me, yet right now I feel broken.

An entire life packed into suitcases and bags.  Will she know how much I loved her and how much I still love her and that I will love her for the rest of my life?  Will she ever know how much we prayed for her?  The late nights woken up by tears or hunger and the many prayers that went up to the Lord as I rocked with her in the same chair that I rocked with my oldest daughter in nine years earlier, where my heart broke; will she ever know all of that?  Will she remember us and know that we will always be praying for her and cheering her through life?

My heart feels broken, but what comfort to know that my God will bring healing and peace.  I thank Him for breaking my heart and for the five precious months we were given to breathe life, love and truth into this precious baby.

 

When your story changes

It has been a while since I have written.  My story has changed, it changed dramatically.  It has changed in the best way possible, but yet I have hesitated to write.  Sometimes it is easier to hide in the shadows, to keep quiet and be unseen.  It feels safe there, comfortable, and I like comfortable.

When I began this blog I was writing to share my story and how I overcame anxiety and found peace.  I found writing so therapeutic, but yet peace seemed to always elude me.  It would come, but it would never stay.  I continued writing, chasing after a peace that would stay always, a peace that would satisfy deep down in my soul and without warning my world was turned upside down.

In the beginning of 2015 I found myself sitting at a Bible study, which was completely out of character for me.  I had been trying to read the Bible, not having any luck in understanding it.  I was questioning my faith and my purpose for so many years and in the cold of the winter, my mother in law invited me to do a study at her church.  For most of my life I had believed that God was real, but I didn’t believe that one religion was right.  As I journeyed through my anxiety I felt this strong desire to know the truth and what I realized about religion was that we can all be wrong, BUT we all can’t be right.  I hungered for the truth.

Sitting at a round table, in a brightly lit room surrounded by my youngest sister and a bunch of women I barely knew, for the very first time my eyes were opend to who God was.  We were studying the story of Jesus and the purpose of His life here on earth.  In what felt like just seconds I understand that Jesus was/is God and what He had done for my life.  In a moment a flood gate of tears flowed from my eyes as I realized the magnitude of His love for me, for His creation.  My heart poured out that night and when I left I would never be the same.

When I had first started reading the Bible I did so with every intention of staying who I was, which I actually laugh as I write that for the absurdity of the thought.  The person who I was, was the person I was running from for years.  This was the person I hated, was ashamed of, the person that in the darkest moments of my life I wished dead.  This was the person who claimed to have it all together, but on the inside was screaming, suffering and deeply pained by the brokenness of life; yet this was a person I clinged too so tightly afraid to let go, afraid of what she would become.  I clung to the lies whispered in my ears daily, you’re not good enough, strong enough.  You are not worthy.

While the air was cool that night, as I walked out of the church doors I felt a warmth that that radiated throughout my body and a peace that I couldn’t explain.  I drove home overjoyed and eager to share what had happened with my husband, but as I drove I wondered if this feeling would last.  Nothing lasts as heartache is always lurking around the corner.  Our world is so broken.  I was sure the pain of reality would resurface in morning.  I would remember Nicole and her death and my guilt and with that the peace would be gone.

Four years later…………..and the peace is still there.  It is a peace I can never describe.  It is a peace that I can only pray others will find, not just for their earthly walk, but for their eternity.  It is a peace I cannot keep quiet about.  While I thought I was sharing my story about anxiety with others, what I didn’t realize was that God was giving me a story that would show others His love, His mercy and His grace!

We live in a world searching for peace, searching for something to fill this void inside us.  There is a void that lies within us, but it can only be filled by God.  For too many years I tried to do life my way and in some way I became my own god.  Since that night at the round table, at a church in Sayville, I have seen firsthand how the ways of the Lord are better than I could have ever imagined.

I spent a decade searching for peace, ten years suffering in the silence of my own anxiety.  A decade spent searching for God, wondering if I was worthy of Him.  While I was searching what I didn’t realize was that He was never lost.  During those ten agonizing years He was taking precious time to prepare my heart for what He would finally reveal.  He is patient and so merciful and I am not ashamed to call Him my God.

My anxiety was the best thing that every happened to me, because it lead me right into the arms of Christ.

See the source image

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find ME, when you search for Me with all your heart.                    Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

A World Desperate for Hope

Turn on the news, scroll through social media, what do you see?  Sometimes it seems that all we see is the bad going on in the world, and a world seeming void of hope.  The truth is, we do live in a broken world.  We live in a world filled with tragedy and heartache.  No matter how advanced our society becomes in the areas of technology and medicine, there is still one thing that no one has been able to successfully master.  No one has been able to master peace throughout the world.  There are wars, conflicts, lies being told, betrayals taking place and there is death.

See the source imageIn a world that may seem so divided at times we hold one thing in common; we will all experience death.  We will lose someone we love and we ourselves will die.  Author Ann Voskamp speaks about this in her book, “The Broken Way.”  She mentions the inevitability of tragedy.  No one is immune to it.  If you haven’t experienced tragedy yet, it’s because you haven’t lived long enough.

How is it possible for us to survive and to thrive in a world so broken?  Our world gives our anxieties plenty of things to feed off of, yet deep within our broken nature is placed a trait so special and unique from other species.  Placed so preciously, deep in our souls is a feeling of hope, and we all hope.  We hope for our days to get easier.  We hope for a better job.  We hope for a loving marriage.  We hope for our children to grow up to be happy and successful.  We hope to be healthy.  We hope to make a difference in the world.  We hope, we hope and we hope.  Hope is such a beautiful thing.  It is a four letter word, so small and common, yet packed with so much power.  Hope is what keeps us going and sometimes hope is all that we have.

———-

I sit on the cold ground, the dirt and grass feeling so familiar beneath my worn out body.  I stare at the temporary tombstone.  I’m angry that there isn’t a tombstone yet.  Nicole deserves a tombstone.  My anger turns to sorrow and my eyes are streaked with tears as I think about all that has changed in my life.  Earlier this morning I got in trouble at home.  I had fallen asleep at John’s house, which I had never done before and  awoke to my mom calling me at 8 o’clock in the morning to see where I was.  I never want to leave John.  He makes me feel so safe.  When I am with him, I know that I will be okay.  My mom was furious when she woke up to see that I never came home.  I am sure she was frightened at first, but when she found out where I was she was mad and even worse, disappointed.  I have been a series of disappointments lately.  My life seems to be crumbling in the wake of Nicole’s death.  Why can’t I pull myself together?  Why do I continue to make bad decisions?  Why can’t I be better?  

I cry until I run out of tears and I find myself lying on the ground, the ground that covers my beautiful friend, feeling broken beyond repair.  I stare at the birds in the nearby tree.  They are singing and chirping, busy finding food in the birdhouses.  They are so beautiful.  The tree is so beautiful.  My life seems to be crumbling, but this world continues.  I want to continue.  I want to be a part of the beauty in the world.  I need to get out of my head and get a grip on my anxiety before it devours me.  I can not let myself die with Nicole.  There must be a purpose in all of this.  Laying on the sun soaked earth I once again admire the birds and suddenly I am filled with a feeling of hope.  Here in the cemetery the birds are surrounded by death, but yet they sing.  I can not let death steal the song from my own heart.  I get up from the ground and place a kiss on Nicole’s makeshift tombstone.  As I get into my car I am feeling hopeful.  I am hopeful that one day the song in my own heart will be heard again.

———-

I am preparing to go to bed.  Nighttime is my least favorite time of day.  The darkness of the world reminds me of the darkness in my heart.  The quiet of the night magnifies the noises in my head.  When all is calm and quiet around me my anxiety runs rampant.  John is watching TV, unwinding from his busy day and I am in a full blown panic over the stillness of the night.  The knot in my chest tightens and seems to pulsate with each labored breath I take.  My mind is racing and I can’t catch my breath.  Images rush through my head, Nicole’s smile, the parties at college, my family and their disappointment if they knew who I really was, John leaving me because I am too much to handle.  I wish I had died that night instead…………

John comes in and I lie down hoping to fall asleep easily.  What happens instead of sleep, is crying, panic, a call to my parents at 2am because I can’t breathe, a boyfriend so loving and concerned for me and a trip to the emergency room.  I am hooked up to oxygen and a series of doctors and nurses come and go all assuring me that I am good and healthy.  I lie in the hospital bed feeling my breathing relax ever so slightly.  John looks at me with those loving eyes and I am filled with hope that everything will be okay.  There is hope, I hope……….  

———-

We are all hoping for something.  Anxiety comes in when we fear that what we hope for may not happen.  Nothing we hope for is certain.  Things that we hope for come to be and only fill our hearts temporarily, leaving us hoping again, maybe this time for something different.

What if there is a hope that we can be sure of; a kind of hope that stays alive in us always?  If there was that kind of hope, would you want it?  Would you want to know where it came from?  Would you want to know how to get it?  Would you feel like you were deserving of such a hope?  We all hope.  The good news is that there is a hope that we can be sure of, one that stays with us always………………

Image result for light in a field with a tree

 

Ann Voskamp 

The Broken Way

http://annvoskamp.com/thebrokenway/

 

 


 

My Reflection

reflection

As a girl growing up I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror.  Most of my moments were quick; a quick check of the hair and makeup or maybe even a few trips back and forth to make sure my outfit really did look okay.  Sometimes I would find myself lingering a little too long as I squeezed my sides back to see what my waist looked like without my “muffin top.”  Like most girls my reaction to my reflection was always different.  Some days I thought I looked fabulous while the very next day I would walk away from the mirror crying.  Damn mirrors.  I loved the way I looked and I hated it all at the same time, but none the less each day I went back to the mirror to look again.

I have heard more than once that the eyes are the windows to a persons soul and  I could not agree more.  If you really look into a person’s eyes you can learn so much about them.  Whenever I looked into the mirror whether I liked what I saw or not, I at least saw me.  I saw my soul and that ever so important part I loved so much.

During my anxiety I avoided mirrors like the plague, well not entirely.  I used them on a needed basis.  I of course didn’t want to leave the house looking like a crazy person with food in my teeth or a snot in my nose.  I already was feeling crazy enough, I didn’t need to leave the house looking the part.

The lingering in front of the mirror stopped completely.  I couldn’t bear to look myself in the eyes anymore because the person I saw looking back at me I no longer knew.  Every once in a while I would force myself to stop and look into my eyes and each time I had the same outcome.  Through my eyes I saw the mess that my mind had become.  I saw darkness and fear.  I saw guilt and uncertainty.  I saw the pain and sorrow that had settled in my mind with no plans of leaving.  I would struggle to find something familiar in my reflection, something comforting, but each time it was as if I was staring at a stranger in my own home.  My chest would tighten and my arms would begin to tingle.  Each breath suddenly required a massive amount of energy and effort to take.  My mind would start swirling and finally after all of maybe two minutes I would have to look away.  I would try to get a hold of my breathing as I walked away dizzy, nauseous and worst of all defeated.  All of these awful feelings just from looking in the mirror.  What a terrible way to feel.

During my struggle with anxiety I spent a lot of time thinking about myself.  How was I feeling?  How would I make it through the day?  Am I going crazy?  Will I ever get over this?  Should I get help?  Should I go on medicine?  There were many long days spent just thinking about myself, but at the very same time I was losing sight of who I was.  It’s a strange feeling when your own body feels alien to you.  I think strange is too lite of a word.  It feels terrible.  There were days when I wanted to rip my own skin off and run away from me.  How do you get away from the person you can’t stand when that person is you?

I knew that deep down inside, past the wild thoughts there was a girl whom I loved dearly.  I had known her once before and she was great.  On my journey to peace I was determined to rediscover myself and all the qualities I possessed that were beautiful.  Following my “epiphany” at the end of 2012 (see my next post for this), I began making it a point to stand in front of the mirror, relax my breathing, and really look into my eyes and see past the storm of uncontrolled thoughts.  I knew that if I did this long enough I would eventually find myself looking back.

As the days of 2013 passed I began to recognize the person in the mirror.  It did not happen quickly and it was by no means easy.  I was no longer walking away dizzy and nauseous.  I was walking away with a smile on my face.  This would be one of the hardest parts of my journey, but by far the most rewarding.

There is no better feeling than looking in the mirror and loving, not what you see, but who you see.

 

Ann Landers loses it……

My mother had always called me Ann Landers growing up.  She told me I was great at giving advice and that I could start my own advice column one day.  This is something that I would often dream about…..Renee LoDuca, the next Ann Landers.  I was the person my friends would always come to for help.  I even had my friends boyfriends calling me up for advice about their relationships.  I felt exhilarated anytime someone came to me with a problem.  I never liked the fact that people had problems, but I did love it when they came to me.  I LOVED to help people.

When I started suffering from anxiety the roles of my life reversed.  I was the one who now needed help and I didn’t know where to go.  At first I went to anyone who would listen, but as my anxiety grew worse I started to hold it inside more.  The way that I was feeling was starting to really scare me and I didn’t know how to tell the people in my life that.  I felt like I was on the verge of schizophrenia.  I couldn’t control my thoughts and it seemed as if voices were running rampant through my mind.  I felt afraid all the time.  Noises scared me, silence scared me, everything scared me.  My eyesight seemed to deteriorate, my breathing became erratic and painful.  My body ached all over and I began having random muscle spasms that would leave me on the floor unable to get up.  I developed a fear of food.  I was afraid of having an allergic reaction to something I ate so suddenly everything I put in my mouth made me feel like my throat was closing and I was going to die.  I later found out that I did have some food allergies (nothing that would kill me), and hearing this put me over the top.  Food became the enemy.  I had to eat to live so every time I ate a panic attack quickly followed.  I felt dizzy and lightheaded, like I was in a cloud all the time, a dark dark cloud.

A panic attack usually started each day and would end the day as well.  If you know what triggers your panic attacks you are better able to prevent them, but during this time EVERYTHING seemed to trigger an attack.  Some of the many things that would trigger my attacks were driving, going into a store, being still and having it quiet around me, being in a crowd, being in a tall building, flying, eating, scary movies, books, being one on one with a person, and the list goes on and on and on.  You get the point, I was a walking anxiety attack.  I remember  counting one day and I had 20 full blown panic attacks.  If you have ever had a panic attack you know how awful they are.  They leaving you feeling like a Mack Truck has just run you over multiple times and then the truck driver spits on you before he pulls away.  You feel really crappy afterwards.  I knew I was having panic attacks, but I didn’t truly understand them and I felt ashamed to talk about how bad I was suffering.

How does the person with all of the answers to everyone else’s problems not have the answers to her own problems???  I couldn’t let everyone know that I was falling apart inside.  I was afraid that if anyone really knew what was going on inside my brain that they would lock me away in a psychiatric hospital.  This was not the person that people were use to, so I put on my smile and walked around trying so hard to not lose it in front of someone; while at the same time just wanting someone to help me.  It was as if the old Renee was inside banging on my head screaming, “someone help me!  I need help and I don’t know what to do!”

straightjacket

Make sure to read my other posts.  See the top left tab to open the menu bar.  Enjoy the journey 🙂

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: