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Called Out of Darkness

Called Out of Darkness

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
–1 Peter 2:9-10

How amazing that, as Christians, we have been rescued from darkness!

Except that some of us still feel trapped there…. Life can be seriously hard. I have those days when I simply don’t know what to do, and I just want to curl up in my bed and close my eyes.

Yet He loves me! And He calls me a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own possession.

He loves me! He has called me out of darkness, and transferred me into His Kingdom of light!

Oh yes, He loves me! Once, I was not accepted, but then He came and accepted me! Once I was without hope, but then He came and gave me hope!

He loves me. And He loves you.

How encouraging that He is the One who calls us out of darkness. It’s not some evil being who is calling us out, for judgment and chastisement for all our sins. Instead, it’s an amazing, beautiful Father who calls us in, forgives us (if we have Christ in our hearts), and ushers us into His Kingdom!

How much peace does that bring?

I mean, the deep peace. There will still be anxieties and fears in this life. But we have a kind Father to whom we can bring those things. And He will help us.

Friend, He is leading us away from the darkness. It’s a journey we’re all on. For some, the journey will be fast and breakthrough will come in an instant. For others, the journey will be long and arduous, and true breakthrough might not come until we break through the veil into the Kingdom of Heaven. But either way, breakthrough is coming!

Don’t lose hope, my friend. You can make it. Because He is with you and Jesus will never leave you, not one step of the way.

If it helps, picture His hand holding yours. He will gently lead you beside still waters and, little by little, He will help you on your way!


Thanks for reading! I hope this devotional was a blessing for you!

Feel free to check out some of these other devotionals I’ve written, and as always, please share with your friends!

Peace, my friend!

–Michelle Louise

http://hopemire.com

Why I Don’t Hate My Brother

Why I Don’t Hate My Brother

One day, when I was about ten years old, I sat watching TV in the living room. It was kind of a big deal, because we had cable now for the first time!

Suddenly, my older brother came stomping down the stairs and into the living room. Without saying a word, he grabbed the remote control and changed the channel.

“Hey!” I shouted. “I was watching that!”

“Well, I don’t want to watch that,” he shouted back.

We were suddenly thrown into this deep argument. He felt he had the right to do whatever he wanted, even if it inconvenienced everyone else.


Ok, I know… first world problem, right? But this is just one example of a common day occurrence while I was growing up.

Here’s a glimpse at childhood with an older brother who has Asperger’s Syndrome, ODD, and Bipolar Disorder:

  • He threw chairs across the room when he got angry.
  • He punched holes in the wall at least three times growing up. He even got so angry once that he pulled the sliding car door right off of our mom’s minivan!
  • We’d be on our way to a museum or amusement park, when mom would have to turn us around because my brother was having a temper tantrum. I’d have done nothing wrong, but still felt like I was being punished….
  • I was constantly on edge, because I never knew what would set my brother off on a tirade.
  • I couldn’t have friends over because my brother was having a bad day.
  • My brother wouldn’t stop talking about everything I didn’t want to hear.
  • People looked at my entire family as if there were something inherently wrong with all of us.
  • My brother was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility nine times within six years.

Things I remember hearing my brother say to or about me:

  • “You’re wrong!”
  • “I hate you!”
  • “I want to kill her!”
  • “This is all her fault!”
  • “I don’t care what you want!”
  • “That’s not fair!”
  • “You were supposed to be a boy! I wanted a brother, not a sister!”
  • “Life was better before she was born!”

How do you forgive when you have been so deeply hurt?I expect that all siblings have some level of conflict while growing up. But for us… it was constant…. Every single day, since as long as I can remember. And it really tore down my sense of identity.

But today,

I want people to understand

one thing:

I love my brother! And I forgive him!

Whether it’s you or a loved one, navegating mental illness can be challenging and scary, but there is hope!

THE FORGIVENESS JOURNEY

Growing up, my mom constantly told me that I needed to forgive my brother for his hurtful behavior, because it was “just his disability.”

But…

How do you forgive someone who has hurt you so deeply?

No direction was provided…. So, my childhood answer?

Stuff the pain. Ignore it.

Pretend it never happened.

But that didn’t solve anything. It just bred bitterness.

“Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

That is so true! I was dying on the inside.

  • I decided to be perfect, and then fell into deep depression because I wasn’t perfect.
  • But then I kept trying to be perfect, which only created deep seated anxiety.
  • I isolated myself from my family, not sharing my emotions, problems, or
  • I was already self-harming by the time I reached kindergarten!
  • I used food, tv, and sleep to escape my problems, which means I never learned healthy coping methods.

It's hard to forgive.... Forgive anyway.

Getting Away For a Time

In 2006, I moved to Waco, TX and began my freshman year at Baylor University. Within a couple of months, I got involved with a local church called Antioch and joined a lifegroup. For the first time, I was held accountable in spending time with Jesus every day. That changed my life!

I quickly learned that God’s love for me is not dependent upon my ability to be perfect. This revolutionized everything! But what does that have to do with forgiving my brother?

For the longest time, I pretended nothing was wrong, I was happy, and things were great, because that was “the Christian thing to do.” When I realized that God loved me no matter what, it released me to admit that I wasn’t ok.

And admitting that I wasn’t ok meant that I no longer needed to bottle up my emotions. Suddenly I could explore my pain, fear, and low self-esteem, because I knew that Daddy in heaven would love me the whole way through it!

How to choose forgiveness when all you feel is pain.

I didn’t just wake up one day and forgive my brother. It was more of a combination of many things:

  1. The distance really did help. Things had been fairly toxic growing up. Being able to set some boundaries helped us each gain perspective and decompress. When I would go home to visit, it was normally for short periods of time, maybe just a weekend, and tension wouldn’t have time to build. That meant we were able to develop newer, happier memories. That didn’t mean the bad memories went away, but it helped us begin to create a newer, happier history to help balance out the places of pain.
  2. I realized that he wasn’t the only one who was messed up. I had my own junk and my own problems to work through. I had never been perfect and often made my own mistakes. I’m sure I have hurt him too. Many times. I lashed out. I was mean. By no means was I innocent. We were both just two messed up, struggling people in need of a Savior. Did that excuse the ways he had hurt me? No. But he no longer seemed such a villain when I discovered my own villainy apart from Jesus.
  3. So much of it wasn’t his fault. That might sound strange to some people. I do believe there’s something important about taking responsibility for our actions. And I’m sure some of my brother’s behaviors were simply the result of immaturity, just like many of mine were. Yet at the same time, he struggled with a very real mental illness that impacted his thought processes and behaviors. And suffering from a mental illness was not his fault. It was not the result of some sin that he committed or anything like that. He didn’t ask for it. It just was. Thankfully he’s on a good mix of medication now, has learned some coping methods, and has also matured a lot. Just as I needed to do.
  4. I began praying for him. While I was in college, my brother was not a believer. I prayed almost every day for him to encounter God, because I knew God was the only one who could help my brother find purpose and healing. My prayers weren’t about forgiving him, but that’s still what happened, because the more I prayed for him, the more I received God’s heart and love for him.
  5. I was able to replace the lies in my head with God’s truth. One of the challenges of verbal abuse during childhood is that you grow up internalizing all of the negative things spoken over you. Those lies and negative perceptions become a part of your world view, to such an extent that it’s hard to separate the lies from the truth. As I began exploring my childhood pain with God, the Holy Spirit helped me identify various lies I was believing and replace those lies with truth from Scripture. For example:
    1. Lie: No one loves me. Truth: For God so loved the (entire) world (including me!), that He gave His only Son to save it. – John 3:16
    2. Lie: I’m never going to be good enough. Truth: I’m forgiven and I have been made into the righteousness of Christ! – 2 Corinthians 5:21
    3. Lie: Things will never change. Truth: Things have already changed, for eternity, because Christ took a fallen and broken world, and He saved it! And now we go from glory to greater glory! – 2 Corinthians 3:18
    4. Lie: I am helpless.Truth: I have the strength of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of me! – Philippians 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 3:16
  6. God’s truth healed my places of pain. As my thought life improved and my perspectives grew healthier, I noticed that I didn’t experience as much pain when I’d think back on my childhood. Those childhood memories no longer carried the same amount of power. And that released me to forgive my brother as well, because I was no longer living in a place of fear and victimization.
  7. I was able to release myself and my brother into the hands of God. One of the hardest things about forgiveness is choosing to let go. We feel that, if we hold onto the resentment, we can play the martyr, which somehow makes us seem “more righteous or just.” And if we hold onto the resentment, the whole world will somehow know all the terrible traits of the person we hate. But that’s just not the case. If we hold onto our anger, we’ll live a life weighed down by bitterness. We’ll never grow or feel freedom, because we walk in chains, bound to the very person we hate. But if we release our anger, we can fall into the arms of Jesus. And there is no place I’d rather be!

WHY I LOVE MY BROTHER

me-and-my-brother

Let me end by sharing all the things I love about my brother! I want people to know how amazing and wonderful he is!

  • He is a teddy bear! I know that sounds counter everything I described above, but my brother really does have a tender heart, once you get past the surface. And he’s great with little kids! They love him!
  • He is so smart and loves to learn! I’ve had so many fun, interesting conversations with him, and it never gets boring!
  • We enjoy taking walks and just catching up.
  • He wants to know more about God and often asks questions.
  • He looks up to me. That might seem like a prideful thing to say, but it speaks to the change in his heart as well. God has restored our relationship and I’m so thankful! And in awe!
  • We can have awesome, nerdy conversations about things like Stargate, Doctor Who, and Final Fantasy.
  • He’s family. We’ve been through so much, and I honestly think we’re stronger because of it!
  • He loves to dream big. He doesn’t get stuck in the doubts, but pursues the passions of his heart.
  • He really does love us. It may be hard to show it sometimes, and it may come out in … interesting ways … but he loves us, and after everything is said and done, I am thankful!

HOW ABOUT YOU?

HOW DO YOU FORGIVE SOMEONE WHO HAS HURT YOU SO DEEPLY?

One word: JESUS!

Sometimes the places of pain are just too deep. We can’t handle them alone. For those who have been abused, there’s often a level of fear that’s so deep. We just don’t want to open the wound long enough to get out the infection.

You need Jesus! He’s the only One who can heal us. He’s the only One who can help us truly move past our places of fear, anxiety, and prejudice long enough to even consider that a different reality might be possible.

Jesus! We need You!

-Michelle Louise

 

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016

Big announcement:

Tomorrow is the last day of 2015! 

I can’t believe it went by so fast….

Sooo… I figured I should write a post on New Year’s Resolutions…. Maybe something like: “What Should My New Year’s Resolutions Be?” Or perhaps: “The Best New Year’s Resolutions.” However those ideas seemed too cliché.

Or I could try writing something super helpful like: “Secrets to Following Through With Your Resolutions this Year!” But honestly, apart from suggesting that you write S.M.A.R.T. goals, I have no idea! Self discipline is definitely not my strong suit….

Or… I could write something controversial, such as why you shouldn’t have resolutions. Except I’m too much of a goal setter, and that would just make my heart hurt. So… I think I’ll settle with this:

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016.

2015-12-30 11.06.03

This appeals to me, because it’s not really a to-do list and yet it’s still practical.

It’s not about all these things I want to accomplish. That often leads to more anxiety.

Rather it focuses on my identity, who God is, and what the Bible tells me about life and truth.

Somehow that just seems more sustainable and refreshing….

Ok. Here we go!

1. Keep in mind that God made you who you are on purpose.

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We’ve probably all read Jeremiah 29:11, that God has good plans for us. There’s also Ephesians 2:10, that we are His handiwork. If God made me who I am on purpose, that releases me to think well of myself and appreciate the different aspects of my personality. That doesn’t justify all of my bad habits, and if I do have mental illness, it doesn’t mean He did that to me on purpose. But it does honor those unique godly characteristics that describe me. And I can rest in who I am without trying to become someone else.

2. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t have double standards.

I am so much harder on myself than I am on other people. Sometimes that might be ok, but when it comes to making mistakes, I’ll easily forgive someone else for a HUGE mistake, but then feel boatloads of shame and guilt for one small mistake that I make. When negative thoughts are racing through my head, how would I comfort my best friend or even a child? Why do I find it so hard to offer myself those same words of comfort? Double standards….

3. Keep in mind that you won’t last forever.

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As I get older, I realize more and more that I’m not invincible. I need to take care of myself. Suddenly staying up all night wrecks my ability to function the next day. Getting sick affects me more. Eating greasy foods will upset my stomach. If I want to last the long haul, I need to keep in mind that I won’t last forever.

4. Keep in mind that you will last forever.

When our life on earth comes to a close, it’s followed by an eternal life in heaven (if you believe in Jesus as your Savior). I want to keep eternity in mind as I live my life in 2016. Let my decisions be rooted in God and His purposes on earth. Also, eternal life means that the struggles I’m experiencing right now will not always define me. I hope I will find victory soon, but I know at the very least that one day, when I see Jesus, I will become like He is!

Screenshot_2015-12-30-11-46-13-1

5. Keep in mind that God is good, no matter what.

I don’t know everything that’s going to happen in 2016. It could end up being the best year of my life, or it might be the worst. Who knows? Only God. One thing I do know for sure is that God is good. Scripture says He is light, and there is no darkness in Him. I 20140128_180721don’t understand everything that happens, but I know He’ll take what happens and somehow use it for my good. And I know He’ll love me and be with me no matter what. I can always trust Him.

6. Keep in mind that other people are hurting too.

If someone is mean or says something rude to me, chances are it’s not really about me. They’re just hurting. I hope I can keep my eyes open to recognize how I could encourage that person instead of lashing out. If they’re already in pain, I don’t want to add more pain to the mix.

 

Anyway, in case you are into setting New Year’s Resolutions, check these out:

 

And if by chance you don’t like setting resolutions, take a look at these instead:

Wine

What do you want to keep in mind for 2016?

Thank you so much for reading my post! I hope you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear from you, my avid readers! Post a comment below about the mindset you want to have in 2016. And Happy New Year’s!!!

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

Tonight is Christmas Eve. This time of year, I always feel the need to say something profound. My pride longs to end each year with a heavy dose of introspection and ageless wisdom with which to start the next year. Buuut… tonight? I don’t have much. And that’s ok too. Tonight, I’m just glad to be home with my family. I’m thankful for the old friends I saw at my hometown church during the candlelight service. And I can’t wait to snuggle with my favorite pooch when I head to bed!

As I left the church this evening, I snapped the above photo of a certain lamp on the side of the building. It has a beautiful old fashioned design with white light spilling out over the side of the brick column. Stunning!

One of the things I have always loved most about Christmas is all of the white lights. There is something captivating about how that light pierces through the darkness. During Christmas, those lights aren’t itty-bitty, struggling against being engulfed by darkness. No, they are bright, brilliant, and shining forth with confidence!

And the lights remind me of Jesus. He is the light in our darkness. He is the beacon of hope that pulls us from the mire. He is our morning star, our guidepost. The Word made flesh, the same Word that is a lamp unto our feet. Jesus is my lamp and please God help me keep Him always before my eyes!

Lord Jesus, we love You so much! We place our hope and trust in You, no matter what this season feels like for us. Whether joyful or sorrowful, whether peaceful or stressful, whether surrounded or lonely, we love You and honor You this year! You were born into the winter… even the winter of our lives… and with Your birth came the promise of spring. We love You Lord and invite You into our hearts again  this Christmas. Thank You for everything that Your birth means and for the new season of hope that You give us as our Christmas gift! We love You! Amen!

Do You Have a Friend to Help Get You Through The Holiday Season?

Do You Have a Friend to Help Get You Through The Holiday Season?

Have you ever felt lonely or anxious during the holidays? Many people do, especially those who struggle with mental illness. Stress runs high as we shop, cook, plan, and travel. Expectations go unmet and we may have to deal with personalities we haven’t seen all year. Without healthy coping methods, sometimes all of that stress and stimulation can be quite overwhelming! But we do have a friend who can help us through that season, or any season for that matter.

I remember as a little girl riding in our family car through the dark nights of New England. My older brother up in the front seat rattled on about the video games he wanted, the new Magic cards he wanted, the wooden practice sword he wanted…. He’d ask mom to give him money for this and that. In the backseat, I rested my head against the frozen window, staring out into the darkness. Here and there, we’d pass a house, lit up with pristine white Christmas lights.

drivingBut suddenly I’m startled back to reality as my brother begins shouting and arguing with mom. He’s angry about something…. I don’t know what. I just keep staring out the window, pressing my face against it, hoping and pretending that I can be somewhere else. I try and lose myself in wonder as I gaze upon the beautiful lights that adorn the houses and trees. I want to be out there, alone in the peaceful winter wonderland!

As surely as the sun rises, He will appear…

Light is such an interesting thing. There is a deep science behind it, wrapped up in frequencies, wave lengths, and electromagnetic particles. Despite its very scientific nature, there is also something dramatically beautiful about light that has caused it to dance across literature, hearts, and minds for millennia. It has come to represent truth and clarity, as well as safety and comfort. Even as a child, I was enraptured by that light and tried to escape into it. Somehow the beauty of the light distracted me from everything else that seemed so broken.

Back then, I didn’t know Jesus like I do now. He is my light and my hope! I love Hosea 6:3 that says “…as surely as the sun rises, He will appear…” That is a promise. We all know there are 24 hours in a day. Half of that time is spent in darkness, but our planet continues rotating and suddenly the sun appears. The exact hour changes gradually throughout the year, but it always comes in predictable fashion. The rising of the sun in our emotional lives, however, does not always seem so predictable….

Struggling with depression often feels like I’m stuck in that endless night, where things will always be hard and my mind will never make sense. There is often a lack of hope and clarity. Everything feels dull and pointless. But dawn is coming….

dawnIn my mind, I sometimes wonder if daylight will ever come again, but we have a promise from Scripture that it will. In the middle of a challenging season, that promise might not make things feel better, but somehow it gives me the strength to keep holding on just a little while longer.

So I try and start each day by choosing to focus on Jesus, whether that’s reading a devotional or even just saying a simple quick prayer. And at the end of the day, as I sit in bed, I redirect my attention to Him before turning the lights out. Sometimes, that’s all I can do: redirect my attention. I often lack the energy or motivation to do a full “quiet time.” Even though I believe that’s important and beneficial, nevertheless if I can’t fully engage in that discipline on a given day, then I still try and just whisper these words: “He loves me. He’s with me. He’ll never leave me.” And as I lay my head down on my pillow, still feeling that uneasiness in my gut, I just say, “He is good and He is enough.” Then I close my eyes and wait for morning to come.

How do you make it through the holidays?

I hope this blog will help start conversations, enabling us to support one another and be an online community for those struggling with mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and others. One of the most important pieces of mental health recovery is finding a source of hope as well as choosing healthy coping methods. Above, I shared that my biggest source of hope is Jesus. What is yours? And how do you cope during the holidays? Even if it seems small, please share with us by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

The Whisper of Hope

The Whisper of Hope

Mire… a stretch of swampy, boggy land.

To be mired down… to be stuck in the mud.

It’s been one year now. One full year in the mire. One year trapped in this mud. My friends tell me to just pray some more. Just keep reading the Bible. But the mire tells me: that’s not an option. And I feel consumed by it.

There is hope. The sun glimmers behind the clouds. Slowly. Surely. Steady.

I am surrounded by this mud, sinking in it, but by chance my eyes lift up and I see the sun glimmering behind the clouds. The sun is still there. Everything around me is gray and black, but there… there is light… just behind the clouds….

It’s just a glimmer. A faint promise of better days. And it’s enough to keep me going. Just a little longer. 

 


Thanks for reading my post! This was the first post I ever published on this blog, and it shares the vision behind our name, Hope Mire.

Here are some other beautiful posts that share more Hope Mire’s blog identity, as well as some of my personal story. Thanks for visiting!