Time Does Not Heal

Let’s face the truth: There are some hurts that just don’t heal, ever. According to Psychology Today, one of those hurts is the death of a loved one. While I have not experienced death of a loved one, I have experienced loss.

I think the worst part about my loss is the fact that the person is still alive, and I have this fear of seeing them again — or maybe I just have a fear of facing past regrets, like things I wish I hadn’t said. And even though I’ve voiced these fears to people I love, they still haunt me in my sleep. My subconscious doesn’t let me forget.

But the truth I need to fully wrap my mind around is that God is sovereign. He let this happen. So, why? The answer is almost always to teach us: to grow our character, to lead us to a path that is within His plan for our lives.

Prayer helps. Worshiping Jesus helps. I think that’s why the Bible teaches us to filter our thoughts. As long as we’re on this dreary planet (which is NOT our home), we have to be on guard against Satan’s attacks and evil thoughts.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Learning how to respond to really hard memories and experiences, and how to seek God in the midst of those, is healing to our soul. We can’t heal on our own. Time does nothing. But with God, all things are possible. When was the last time you brought your burdens to Jesus?

“Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

Jesus doesn’t promise us a life without grief and heartache. He doesn’t promise a life of ease and perfection. But He does promise to give us supernatural peace when we pray to Him. He does promise to be there for us — He speaks to us through His Word. He has not left us completely alone and abandoned. He is very near to us; it’s us who forget about Him in the busyness of life.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8-10)

Pain is what grows us. Pain is what reminds us we NEED a Savior. Pain tells us we are not capable of living this life alone — we need other Christians to surround us in prayer and we need to depend on Jesus. Contrary to what the world tells us, we are NOT meant to be self-sufficient and independent. That’s the opposite of what our grieving souls need.

No, until Jesus calls me home, I will suffer emotionally and physically, but I will not suffer alone. I have my Lord with me, I have my church with me, and I have my husband with me, on my side and praying with me.

It’s also not a sin to seek out therapy when you are grieving loss. In fact, my church started their own counseling center with the firm belief that therapy is necessary in order to be able to fully love and care for other people. Because when we are grieving in isolation, we can’t be a light for Christ in the world.

“No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.” (Matthew 5:15)

We are meant to go out into the world and make a difference, so we must ensure we are taking care of ourselves so that we’re ready to go out and care for others. The question really is, do you trust Jesus to heal you? If so, what is He telling you to do to achieve that healing and thereby fulfill the great plans He has for you? I challenge you to spend some time in prayer and Scripture reading to seek Him for those answers.

“Lord, reveal to me any part of my heart that is not wholly devoted to you. Unveil all that I’ve hidden from you, heal me from it, convict me of it, and turn my eyes toward you so that I am not held back by sin. Propel me forward into all You have in store for me. Amen.”

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The “Celebrity” Syndrome: How Loneliness Affects Mental Health

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

We’ve all been affected by the “celebrity” syndrome: It’s the mental health pandemic that’s touched our entire world for many years now. I’ve been doing a lot of comparisons between the 1980s and 2010s. According to a research article by Jean Twenge, Ph.D., titled “Increases in Depression, Self-Harm, and Suicide Among U.S. Adolescents After 2012 and Links to Technology Use” , technology is playing a big role in the sharp increase of mental illness among teenagers.

1980s

My mom has told me that depression and self-harm in her Los Angeles high school in the 1980s were common issues found among celebrities, some of whom she was friends with. Perhaps the pressures of the producers played a part, but a big problem was the isolation caused by fame. Celebrities were (and still are) typically locked away in their mansion to avoid paparazzi and crazy fans swarming them every moment they walk out their front door. Post Malone even wrote a song about the dangerous condition of Hollywood, called “Hollywood’s Bleeding.”

However, apart from the celebrities, my mom couldn’t name a single person in her high school who was self-harming or attempting suicide. Fast forward about 30 years and my brother had one friend who attempted suicide and another who actually committed suicide. Fast forward another 5 years and my sister had a friend attempt suicide multiple times. Something has changed.

2020

In 2020, when COVID-19 pushed everyone into quarantine, research published in the journal JAMA Open Network found that mass shootings sharply increased. So, what’s the correlation between technology and quarantine? Isolation.

When my sister goes out with her friends, she says they’re on their phones. When we go shopping, we go online to order something that will get to our doorstep the same day. When we want to socialize, we go on social media to get a life update on our friends and maybe like one of their photos.

Instead of connecting with people when we do gather around people, we are on our phones. Instead of going to a shopping mall with friends, we shop alone. Instead of calling a friend or getting coffee with them to see how they are, we look at their photos and reels.

Do you see the problem here? We are collectively allowing technology to isolate us, and in turn we are depressed. In some people, this depression leads to suicide and/or mass shootings. So, why is isolation so bad for us?

Our Purpose In Life

The Bible says our purpose in life is to be in relationship with other people and share God’s love with them. Connecting via technology is not the way to make someone feel truly loved. Nothing can replace in-person interaction. And when we’re not connecting with people, we are not fulfilling our purpose that we were created for. So, of course we feel empty.

Now, it’s 100 times worse for someone who doesn’t follow Jesus. At my lowest points in my depression, when I had suicidal thoughts, the only thing keeping me from harming myself was Jesus and the hope I had in Him — I can’t imagine not having Jesus. So, beyond being in relationship with people and loving them, our purpose is also to love God. Jesus says in in Matthew 22:37: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

So, when we are not properly loving people and God, we isolate ourselves. What causes this? Technology has become our idol — more important than people. Fear and anxiety creep in and keep the cycle going.

When we isolate ourselves, Satan has ample opportunity to whisper lies into our head that “No one likes me,” “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not attractive enough,” “Nothing will ever change,” “I’m stuck,” etc. And we have no people to combat those lies and encourage us with truth. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing.” Why? So that those lies in our mind don’t eat us from the inside out.

Contrary to what culture in America tells you, we are NOT made to be independent and self-sufficient. We are created to NEED each other! I earnestly urge you right now that if you’re struggling with your mental health, speak with someone you trust. Beyond that, if you are still struggling, please see a counselor. I highly recommend everyone sees a counselor because we all have things that affected us when we were younger. There are free Christian counselors available online, and also licensed therapists that charge a fee for their professional services. I went to a therapist who changed my life with EMDR therapy.

If you don’t have any friends, please consider joining a Bible study with a local church. There are also many groups on a website called MeetUp where you can find people who share your interests and join a group.

Remember: You are NOT alone, you have VALUE, and you are IMPORTANT. Jesus loves you no matter what you’ve done. It’s up to you to accept that love.

Blessings and peace,

K

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Living With a Mast Cell Disease

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Today’s entry won’t be as pretty or sugarcoated as usual. I want to get raw and real about something that’s been weighing me down recently. It’s about my recently diagnosed mast cell disease, and I wanted to give you a window into how it impacts my daily life.

I want to preface and say that, although living with this has been a big inconvenience and feeling sick this often is awful, I’ve come to peace with the fact that God has allowed me to fight this battle for His good purposes. I know it’s sanctifying me and growing my character — specifically, perseverance and faith in His goodness.

So, what is it like to live with my disease? Confusing is the first word that comes to mind. I continue to be baffled by what I’m dealing with in my body, because it’s a rare disease and Google’s information is limited. I am, however, grateful that I’ve mostly nailed down what I can’t eat so as to limit flare-ups (which consist of intense nausea and stomach pains for hours on end… to the point where I have to take days off work).

I can’t eat tomatoes, shellfish, pineapple, food preservatives (which are in all non-organic food), artificial food dyes and flavorings, MSG, chocolate and alcohol. That means at every potluck, Bible study, family dinner, restaurant with friends, date night with my husband, and wedding I attend, I have to explain my complicated disease or be looked at weird for not eating. Or I have to bring my own food. Organic food is sold in grocery stores (thankfully), but most people don’t know what it is, or think it’s a hoax. So if I’m hanging out with people and there’s food, I can’t enjoy it with them.

That’s a big deal for me. So much relationship-building occurs around mealtime. Enjoying delicious new food at a restaurant or going out for a drink with friends isn’t something I can do anymore. My husband is so supportive and understanding, but even he is disappointed (as am I) that we can’t go on traditional date nights. And on our vacation recently, we had to book a hotel that had a kitchen just so we could cook while hiking out in the mountains (that was a challenge).

On top of all this, there are the judgments of other people, or pity, I have to deal with. When I go to the movie theater and bring my own popcorn, I have to explain why I can’t buy theirs (very awkward). When I’m at a family gathering, I bring my own dinner, which feels out of place and I feel like I’m missing out on the shared experience of good holiday food. When I’m at a friend’s house, I have to turn down their fresh, homemade cookies. When a student brings me a Christmas gift of cookies and chocolate and asks me how it was, I have to sadly explain that I’m allergic to basically everything — except certain organic foods.

I say all this to say, life can be really hard when you have health problems. I’m 26 years old and never thought I’d be dealing with this. I don’t feel like I can have a normal social life, which is really painful sometimes. But again, I know God has a plan through all this. I share my story not to complain, but in hopes that it will encourage others out there who are going through something difficult.

You never know what’s going on underneath someone’s smile. So treat everyone with kindness and the love of Jesus. Share some encouragement. Pray with someone. Sympathize. We all need little reminders that we’re not alone, we’re loved, we’re seen, we’re heard. If you feel alone, try joining a local Bible study. It means so much to be surrounded by like-minded people who want to share God’s love with each other. Relationships are what give life meaning. Cherish your friends and family!

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How I Find Joy Amid Trials

Before I begin, I want to say the purpose of this post: It’s not to cause you to pity me. It’s not for me to get attention. Rather, it’s to point you to Jesus — I pray my story brings hope to someone so that they, too, may learn to find joy in the trials.

I once read a book titled “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. What he wrote has stuck with me years after reading it. To summarize, he said that if you can find a purpose in your suffering, you can survive anything. He attributed his survival to his hope of escape and seeing his family again.

That caused me to wonder: What is my hope? What is my light at the end of the tunnel? How can I find joy in my suffering?

Now, to clarify, I have a rare disease called “mastocytic enterocolitis.” I was diagnosed by a gastroenterologist a month ago, after 6 months of doctor’s appointments and many tests. Unfortunately, there is no cure. There isn’t even much information about it on the internet because doctors don’t understand a lot about it. It’s a condition where your body produces too many mast cells, which is thought to cause the inflammation that accompanies it in the colon. Mast cells are supposed to protect us from illness, but when we have too many, it causes anything from chronic diarrhea to stomach cramping, nausea and vomiting.

My symptoms are intense stomach pain (sharp, stabbing pain), strong nausea, lightheadedness and loss of appetite. They flared up so badly today, I had to go home early from work. The doctor says the only treatment is to take allergy medicine and try to figure out if food allergies are causing my symptoms to flare up. However, food sensitivity tests aren’t always reliable and I know I’m allergic to preservatives, which are hard if not impossible to test for.

So when the doctors don’t know what to do, and I’m sitting on my couch in physical and emotional agony, worried my boss is going to fire me, worried my future is being flushed down the toilet–what do I do?

I’m reminded of a story in the Bible about a woman who had a female-specific disorder that caused her to bleed more than normal for 12 years. Doctors didn’t know what to do. But she saw Jesus walking through the crowd and heard about His miracles and thought, “If only I touch His cloak, I will be healed” (Matthew 9:20-22). Jesus told her “Your faith has healed you” and the woman was healed immediately.

Now, I don’t read that story expecting to be physically healed right now. Jesus does not promise that to us in this life. Rather, I read that story in awe of Jesus: He CAN heal me, but if He chooses not to, it is for my best. It is to fulfill the purpose He has for me on this Earth. Maybe it’s so that I can minister to someone else who is in pain like me. Regardless, knowing Jesus has given me purpose in my suffering. He is my hope. Being in His presence in Heaven is my light at the end of this tunnel.

No, it’s not easy to sit down and worship God with joy when I’m in pain. But I’m drawn to experience His peace and His presence by reading the Word of God and praying, even when I don’t know the words to say. It’s the strength I need to keep going, the one thing I can count on in this life to satisfy me always. How do we find joy in our trials? Run to Jesus.

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When Endurance Feels Impossible

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to “endure.” I listened to a podcast by VOUS church on endurance and how in Habakkuk 1:2, the prophet is asking God “How much longer” until He will come. God says, “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (chapter 2, verse 3) — and that turned out being around 700 YEARS until Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem to save the world.

It’s been a little over 2,000 years since He was born, and now with COVID-19 getting worse again, I’m wondering… How much longer, Lord, until You return again?

Then I thought of a beautiful Christmas song that helps me find the strength to keep enduring. The lyrics begin like this:

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appears

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, oh Israel

Does Jesus like watching us wait? Why is He taking forever to rescue us from this brutal world full of pain and sickness and sorrow? Rather than “taking forever” to rescue us, He’s actually waiting patiently for us to turn to Him. He is waiting to judge us. He is rich in mercy and slow to anger, wishing that all might come to Him.

What does that Christmas song instruct us to do during hard times of waiting? It instructs us to “rejoice.” That is how we will have the strength necessary to endure the battles of life. Take time to thank and praise God — put on some worship music and dwell on the truth about His goodness, or sing to Him yourself. Worship helps remind us of our good, good Father who promises peace and strength to all who trust in Him.

Listen to my own cover of that Christmas classic here.

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