Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Temporarily Out of Service

I generally don't like things to end. Put another way, I'm a great starter but a poor finisher. At the same time, I seek clarity, purpose, and resolution in my life, so I tend to recognize when something isn't working properly or needs refinement.

In this case, I am referring to my blog. After 164 posts, I've learned alot about myself and about blogging. I've often felt energized when sharing and often felt annoyed by self-induced pressure to keep writing. The most important lesson I've learned, however, is that I want to write and I believe I have something valuable to say.

Just not now.

Our family is in a stage of life that is insane. Or maybe I just feel insane. Either way, finding time to write creatively, or prophetically, or just for fun, is a stress that I can't handle at the moment. Also, I've taken alot of inspiration from other blogs, and I've realized that I need more focus and direction if I want mine to last. I want to feel like I'm serving my readers and developing a blog that you can count on.

So I'm (temporarily) stepping away from this blog for awhile. My hope is to take the next 6-12 months to pray, play, brainstorm, and write, in order to discover what it is that I really want to say and how I want to say it. I WELCOME YOUR SUGGESTIONS, FEEDBACK, AND HELP in this process! Would you take the time to:
  • let me know what post(s) have particularly touched you? what was meaningful about those words?
  • what you wished I wrote more about? is there something you want to know my thoughts about or an area of my life that you wished I shared more?
  • tell me what you think my strengths are (as a writer, artist, Christian, friend, general human being)? what topics might I be particularly gifted to speak on? 
  • give me any suggestions, tips, or other feedback related to me as a person or my blog? 
  • share your favorite blogs with me? Why do you love them?
 Email me your thoughts - ANYTIME - to ndever1979[at]gmail[dotcom].

In the meantime, if you want to follow our New York City journey and adventures, please check out our Tumblr site: DevereauxsInNYC. Every month, we share specific NYC updates; we post weekly on other fun news, such as before/after pics of our house and encouraging stories about life. Plus, you'll see regular pictures of our adorable girls.

Thank you for your prayers, comments, and support! Can't wait to make a big comeback in a year or less.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Faith and Art

In the beginning, God created...

The very first words in the Bible, and then the entire first chapter, loudly proclaim that God is creative. Creator God makes stuff! From nothing, God imagined, designed, and then made stars, planets, the deep seas, soaring birds, elephants, tulips, weeping willows...and, as the pinnacle of his work, God made humans in his own image, male and female, he created them in the image of God.

Part of bearing God's image must then, necessarily, mean that we too are creators. We, too, can imagine, design, and make stuff!  One Christian artist (putting a spin on Hebrews 11:1) says that Art is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen.

Let that land for a moment. If you are a person of faith, a person who knows the God-who-creates (and re-creates in Jesus), then you know what it means to hope in the unseen. Yet, art is an opportunity to make the invisible, visible. Like creation, which declares the glory of God and proclaims his handiwork, art is a tangible expression of our likeness-of-God and it points back to him as the ultimate creator. 

This, to me, is why ART MATTERS, in the midst of trials, death, depression (and good stuff, too!). And, in light of this conviction, if you are a Christian, then I specifically invite you to consider supporting the artists who have given me a home these last 6 years. I don't claim to be particularly talented, but God has blessed me with favor in the theatre community here. Sandbox Theatre creates art like no one else. Our art-making is collaborative, challenging, risky and beautiful. Our artists are messy, talented, brilliant souls who don't know the God that I do but whose work reflects his truth.

This Friday October 25, my husband and I will be enjoying Sandbox's latest original work, This Is A World To Live In. After the show, the entire audience (just 30 people) will stay for a party with the artists. This is an opportunity to comment on the art you've just viewed and speak into the lives of these artists. It's an opportunity, as my friends and fellow Spirit-bearers, to make Christ evident, to bring the church to the world rather than expect the world to come to us. As an added incentive, everyone who attends this event will receive a commemorative pint glass, Sandbox window cling, a free admission pass to the Walker, and a free NiceRide pass. Plus, it will be a damn good party, and Christians ought to be known as the greatest party people on the planet!

Tickets are $30 and should be reserved ahead of time here. There are 12 other performances ($20 tickets) between now and Nov 16 if you can't make it on Friday. If I can, I will join you on any night!

Browse through the Sandbox Magazine to get a feel for the artists and hear their stories. Come to our show, party with us, and MAKE ART.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Makeover Monday: From the Heart

"I have something kind of hard that I have to say to you. And I'm really nervous to say it."

I was surprised. My friend and I had been enjoying a meal and meaningful conversation for the last couple of hours, and, as I thought we were closing our time, she suddenly shared this news. I was surprised, not just that she had waited so late into the evening to bring it up, but also that she was so hesitant about it. This is a woman I respect, confide in, and know to be quite firm in her convictions. What could possibly be so difficult for her to say to me?

My friend needed to confront me, and, like most people, she wasn't particularly excited about it. Confrontation is frightening because we don't know how the other person will respond to our words and we risk hurting her (and our friendship) by bringing up an area of weakness in her life. Exactly how we want to spend Friday nights with our pals, right?
Let me tell you a secret about me, though. If I hurt, offend, or wrong you in any way, or if you see me hurting, offending, or wronging another person, I feel loved when you confront me about it.

As my friend was tripping over her words and gently phrasing her concern about me, my heart was actually filling with joy. I felt honored that she took the time to sit with me and speak honestly about a flaw in my character. I felt thankful that I had a friend like her, who cared about my edification and my reputation as a minister of the gospel. And I felt humbled by the truth in her words. Having a mirror held up to your mess isn't very pretty. But it's how we can start cleaning it up.

In my case, I have ALOT that needs cleaning! (Thank God for his grace) The irony of me feeling loved as she confronted me is that her confrontation was about how I hurt people. With my words. Often.

Now, I've known this about myself, and my husband of 13 years has done quite alot of work to help me grow in this area. With him and the Holy Spirit, I've come a loooooong way (by his judgment). But it's still obviously an issue because a number of other people had shared ways I had hurt them with my friend; so many, in fact, that she finally felt compelled to confront me about it. (Thank God for his grace)

She provided specific examples of situations in which I had been hurtful and unkind, but we didn't stop there. Because the benefit of having a true friend confront me is that I can sort through not just my outward behavior (my words) but also ask questions about the inner cause (my heart). Acknowledging that my friend was right about those circumstances was the easy part. The real work was processing what was happening in my heart to even bring those words to the surface.

Of course it is difficult to hear that I had (unintentionally) caused other people pain. But if all I did was apologize for my words without understanding their source in my heart, then I wouldn't have the opportunity to change. Which is why it is so loving to confront one another, why the Bible says that the wounds of a friend are faithful.  Confrontation is not just a step towards reconciliation (forgiving one another), it should have as its goal sanctification (being formed more into Christ) .

I am on a lifelong journey towards holiness and I need faithful friends who will admonish me in wisdom and exhort me every day, so that I am not deceived about my own sin. I am so thankful that my friend loved me enough to name the works of my flesh and call me towards the work of the Spirit. God has used her (more than once) to "make me over" in his image!

What about you? How has God used faithful friends to work on your heart? How have you responded when he has called you to confront someone?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Isn't God Enough?

My recent post on depression generated such a response that I felt it necessary to follow up by addressing a problematic question that has plagued the church on this issue. Many of you commented that the topic of depression is taboo in the church, and that, as a whole, the church has often approached depressed people by telling us that God should be enough.

While I understand the (hopefully) genuine ignorance behind the question, I'd like to challenge the church to consider that asking a depressed person why God isn't enough is like saying -
  • to the single woman who desires to be married - "You don't need a husband to be fulfilled. Be thankful that you are married to Jesus. Isn't he enough?"
  • to the couple struggling with infertility - "You can be happy without kids. God has a good plan for you. Isn't he enough?"
  • to the unemployed person - "God will provide all your needs. Trust him more. Isn't he enough?"
  • to the woman whose husband ignores her heart - "Jesus is your perfect bridegroom. Be satisfied in him. Isn't he enough?"
You can see where I'm going with this. We could justifiably ask this question to any person struggling in any situation.

Because the answer to all these questions is YES. 
Yes, Jesus fills up my soul in a way that my husband, children, job, or any other thing in this world cannot satisfy.
Yes, Jesus is enough to bring me from death into true life.
Yes, Jesus is the only one I can look to to give rest to my soul.

So, yes, Jesus is enough. AND...
We can't find him alone. 

Remember the Garden of Eden? The perfect place on earth? God created Adam there. ONE person, who walked with God face to face, with nothing hindering their relationship. In fact, God was all that Adam had for companionship.

Yet, God decided that it was not good for the man to be alone.

Wait - how is Adam alone? ISN'T GOD ENOUGH for the man?

You see, God didn't create Eve so that God could have another person to hang out with. He created the woman for the man (and the man for the woman) so that they could be like each other in their humanness and work together toward common goals. Even though Adam had unlimited access to God, he still had a need for a human connection.

Now, I am no psychologist and I don't know the biological factors that play into depression. But I have a theory. First of all, I am absolutely certain that if life had continued on as God had intended in the Garden, then there would be no depression (as well as no infertility, unemployment, or jerky spouses). So we must acknowledge that our circumstances are affected by brokenness and sin.

Which leads me to also suspect that:
  • if I never felt spiritually alone - never felt distant from God
  • if I never felt emotionally alone - never felt misunderstood or disconnected from the people around me
  • if I never felt physically alone - never walked through a trial or had a hard day by myself 
Then I might not also experience depression. Because in the Garden, we walked with God. In the Garden, we were "naked and unashamed". In the Garden, we had perfect companionship. And since we are no longer able to enjoy any of those blessings perfectly, all the time, we suffer. Some of us suffer from depression. And while Jesus is enough to reconcile us to God so that we no longer have to suffer that separation (although, in our sin, we still do), he also intends to reconcile the church to one another so that we do not suffer from emotional and physical aloneness.

I'm still learning what true, Christlike community looks like. And I have hope that if the church can learn to rest in our identity as the family of God and move towards one another in consistent, persistent, unashamed togetherness, then perhaps, someday, we will no longer need anti-depressants. As we press on toward the call of God in Christ, as we preach the gospel to each other, and as we confess our sins to one another, I have hope that we will experience the fact that JESUS IN US is enough.

So the next time that you learn about someone in your life with depression, instead of asking her why God isn't enough, ask God how YOU can help be God-in-flesh. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Makeover Monday: Mental Health

I've never thought of myself as a depressed person.

Oh, sure, there was that time in middle school when John Carpenter broke my heart and I made a mix tape of just one song that I played over and over again while I sobbed in despair. And there were a few moments in college where I sat in the bathtub all day or hid in my room to avoid final papers. But I would consider those isolated incidents...or, at least, momentary hormonal overreactions (sometimes I can be a bit...dramatic).

Two years ago, I finally realized that I have seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D. - what a terrible acronym) but I managed that with Vitamin D supplements. The same year, we were called to start a church in New York City and conceived Esme. Enter whirlwind of pregnancy, birth, and preparations to move our family to the craziest city on earth.

Then earlier this year, I noticed that I was irritated all the time. Little things that really shouldn't bother me started getting under my skin alot. It took all my energy to drag myself out of bed each morning and I felt like I was in total survival mode every day. I felt exhausted and overwhelmed about everything.  There was absolutely no joy.

At first, I attributed this to the insanely long Minnesota winter (summer may have come - and gone - in July). A few friends were going through some very difficult personal situations, and I found myself thinking about and praying for them in the middle of the night, not being able to sleep as I wondered what could be done for them. Then, it occurred to me that I might be experiencing postpartum depression.  

I met with a therapist friend, who gave me a simple emotional health assessment. My results came out mildly depressed, and, as we talked, I felt she summed up my state accurately by noting that I was functioning fine but not thriving. In other words, I wasn't over/undereating, avoiding responsibilities, or withdrawing from my life, but I was simply managing my sadness without restoring joy. She suggested that I meet with my family doctor to discuss trying an anti-depressant.

Here, I should note two very important points. First, I tend to be extremely anti-drug in my lifestyle. I don't take Ibuprofin when I have a headache. I gave birth at home. Twice. So, my hesitation in considering anti-depressants is NOT because I think they're wrong or wacko or anything. It's my own personal wariness about drugs in general and how they affect my body. Which is where point #2 comes in - THANK GOD for the best doctor ever. I LOVE our doctor and trust her implicitly.

I made an appointment for my annual check-up, and, as usual, we spent quite alot of time talking about life. I shared with her my concerns about depression and asked her opinion. She pointed out the extreme life stresses that have been taking shape over the last couple of years - not to mention what lies ahead - and recommended that I start a low dose of a daily anti-depressant.

Now, because she knows me well and my feelings about drugs, she instantly pulled out this massive book that explained every possible side effect, how this specific drug worked, and any potential concerns about breastfeeding. We also discussed how long I should try it and how I would know if it was "working". Needless to say, this conversation was exceedingly helpful in assuaging my concerns and I decided to give it a try.

As of May 1, I have been taking 10mg a day of Citalopram. Not a "happy pill", this drug simply slows down the breakdown of my body's natural release of serotonin. It took about 4 weeks (as my doc had explained) for me to notice that I was no longer irrationally irritated or unusually overwhelmed. I experience all my normal moods, feel annoyed when my 4 year old whines or my baby wants to be held while I'm making dinner, but I no longer feel consumed by these emotions. I feel like myself.

I also feel like I have a better understanding of depression, thanks to my friend and my doctor. The word depression can conjure some negative or dramatic images when, in reality, the range of symptoms varies from the (relatively minor) irritation I was experiencing to a deeper sense of despair or anxiety. Family history, spiritual health, and sense of community also contribute to our mental and emotional states. Depression looks different in everyone, but it is real and it can be treated. 

Depression can also point us to God. It is an illness, a product of our weak bodies trying to live in a broken world. It shows me how much I need the real God, the one who heals me where I need it most, in my soul. He is the one who sustains me, brings me joy, and gives me a purpose far greater than my mind can imagine.  And depression gives me hope for the day when Jesus will make all things new, when no mourning, crying, nor pain will have any hold over me.

Even if you don't live with depression, you probably know someone who does. What have you learned about depression that has helped you better understand its effects or has pointed you more towards Jesus? What other resources can you recommend to encourage those with depression?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Shoe Shopping Is NOT A Sin (I Hope)

The night before, I had a dream about it.

I showed up at Nordstrom's but I had forgotten to call ahead of time, so Dia (the sales associate) was not there and couldn't help me.

Then, in my dream, I 'woke up' and realized it was a dream. So I called Nordstrom's (still in my dream; confusing, I know). I spoke with Dia, gave her specific instructions about the boot I was looking to buy, and told her I'd see her in a couple hours.

At the arranged time, my friend Emily met me and Dia at the store. Dia had pulled 46 different pairs of shoes for me, none of them the type of boots I wanted (although they were all very fun, stylish footwear). I started trying all the shoes on and getting feedback from Emily. But about halfway through, Emily had to leave (she was obviously frustrated with all the time we had wasted on these shoes). As soon as she left, Dia also disappeared. So I was sitting alone in Nordstrom's, surrounded by all these shoes I didn't want.

I found a very nice-looking, smartly dressed young man and told him my dilemma. He promised to bring me to Julie, the best women's shoe sales associate in the store. Along the way to Julie, I started sobbing to him. I explained that I had never bought a nice pair of shoes in my whole life, and that it had taken me a month to feel ok about spending so much money on a pair of boots, and that I had really hoped Dia would help me. But she kept trying to get me to buy all these shoes that were beautiful but I couldn't afford them and there just wasn't any room in my NYC apartment and all I wanted was a pair of Frye boots and I hate shopping and this was the worst shopping experience of my life!!! I had a complete meltdown in Nordstrom's, and then I woke up (for real).

That's how the morning of my shopping trip started. Reality was only slightly less painful.  

I have been journeying through a wardrobe makeover since June, and one of the "must-have" items that my friends convinced me to purchase was a good, full-priced pair of boots that I could walk all over New York City in, every day, for many years. I started hyperventilating at the thought of spending more than $20 on a pair of shoes, but I faithfully began visiting shoe stores, searching online, and sharing my wish lists.

Friends, it took me a month to finally walk into a store and hand over $297 for a (beautiful, well-made, guaranteed-to-last) pair of boots. In that month, many people had to repeatedly assure me that this was not a sin. My friend Emily did actually join me and Dia at Nordstrom's. She patiently sat through over an hour of me deciding between two (just two) options, calling my husband in a last-minute crazy fit, and talking me off the ledge of walking out without a pair of boots. She is a saint. (so, by the way, is Dia. I highly recommend her to any of you who plan to purchase women's shoes at Nordstrom's at the MOA. She far surpassed the Dia of my nightmare)

I wish I had a wonderful, spiritual lesson I could share as a result of this. I wish I could say that I am totally comfortable with spending so much money on footwear. Maybe when I am actually in NYC, wearing my unbelievably wonderful Frye boots every day all over the city, I will do a little skip of joy and thank God for the generosity of my husband, who sold many of his personal belongings to give me the cash for these shoes.

But don't expect to see me at the mall anytime soon.
Anyone brave enough to share about a recent splurge of your own? What items are worth the extra money to you?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Makeover Mondays: A New Series

Remember back in May when I wished for a wardrobe makeover? Thanks to some fashionable, generous friends, my dream has come true! And I'm going to share all the heart-wrenching and gory details with all of you. Soon.

Because, as with other fun, seemingly mundane, experiences I've had, God has used this physical makeover as a metaphor for other areas that he wants to change in my life.

It has taken longer than expected to get to NYC, and I've been talking to God alot about that. He reminded me of a word he gave me in July 2012, when I was still pregnant 13 days past my due date. On that day, I wrote in my journal

The Lord planted this baby in my womb and gave us a day to look forward to - her arrival. I faithfully nurture her in this weak body of flesh and eagerly prepare for her coming. But the day and hour of her birth is outside of my care - the time belongs to God alone. And her birth will be laborious, not without pain, as will the time of recovery, healing, and adjustment to our new family...
So, too, we are now pregnant with plans for NYC. We look forward to arriving there, but this will be accompanied with trials, pain, and transition. God will be faithful to sustain us. 

I prayed that the Lord would help us prepare well and not send us before we were ready for the task ahead. And we have been seeing SO many answers to this prayer these last few months!

I am super excited to share with you the many ways that God has been making me over, tilling the ground in my heart and preparing its soil for the new seeds that he is planting and will grow in me while we are in NYC. I am incredibly thankful for this work he is accomplishing in me now, surrounded by a community that loves me and desires only good for my future. Over the next 4 (or more) Mondays, I'll open up the closet of my life and let the new wardrobe spill out. Expect to hear some makeover stories about my -
  • mental health
  • emotional and spiritual refinement
  • marriage
  • and, of course, my fresh new look!
Will you join me?