Steve Austin was in the throes of serving as a pastor when he found himself in the darkest place he’d ever been. Two hours from home, isolated and depressed, traumatized by a past he hadn’t faced, he made the choice to end his life.
Last week, the world suffered yet another tragic loss when Pastor Jarrid Wilson, from Harvest Church and co-founder of Anthem of Hope, “a Christian mental health organization dedicated to amplifying hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide,” ended his own life by suicide.
The fact is, depression and suicide are not uncommon to man, even if we are followers of Christ.
What is uncommon, is our lack of willingness to talk about this very difficult subject in honest and vulnerable ways. But if we hope to be a beacon of light to a hurt and broken world, then we must acknowledge our own hurt and brokenness.
This week, I had the honor of sitting down with Steve Austin, who fortunately survived his attempt to end his suffering through suicide. Instead, he woke up in the ICU and eventually found restoration and healing that continues to this day. In a raw and honest conversation, Steve shares his journey from “the pulpit to the psych ward.”
Join us as we talk about hard things. Then share the conversation with someone you know who is also struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. Share it with someone who’s not. Just share it. We can only overcome the darkness when we’re willing to shed some light on it. That starts here. That starts with you.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call: National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255
To learn more about Steve or to access any of his free resources,
including his free book, check out his website catchingyourbreath.com
Consider walking in or sponsoring someone walking in the Out of the Darkness walks, raising money and awareness about suicide and the prevention thereof American Foundations for Suicide Awareness (I’m walking in our local walk and have a page HERE if you’d like to contribute!)
Finally, please reach out to us if you are hurting and don’t know where to turn. We will help find you resources as best we can. You can EMAIL US anytime. We’d love to pray for and with you.
According to recoverymonth.gov “National Recovery Month, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. This observance celebrates the millions of Americans who are in recovery from mental and substance use disorders, reminding us that treatment is effective and that people can and do recover. It also serves to help reduce the stigma and misconceptions that cloud public understanding of mental and substance use disorders, potentially discouraging others from seeking help.”
As a huge proponent to the belief that we’re all a little broken and we all use potentially harmful coping strategies to varying degrees, I am an avid supporter of recovery programs. There are a variety to chose from, from Alcoholics Annonymous, to Celebrate Recovery to my own favorite, The Genesis Process, there is something out there to help absolutely anyone. These don’t even take into account one-on-one counseling, group therapy or residential treatment.
The fact is, the only reason we stay stuck in our negative cycles is that we struggle to even acknowledge that we’re using faulty coping mechanisms. Like the Big Book says: The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.
So what about you?
Do you find yourself, like the apostle Paul continuously doing the very thing you hate and unable to do the thing you want? If so, you are not alone!
Join me as I sit down with my own recovery mentor and guide, Dr. Kathy Rodriguez, PsyD, to talk about what recovery looks like, who needs it and, its place in the Church.
Be sure to comment or email and share your own experience with recovery. Or, if you are realizing that you’d like to find a recovery program but don’t know where to start, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to help you find some resources that are local to you.
If you happen to be local to my area, near Sandy, Oregon, I will be starting a Genesis Change Group at our church in October 2019. Again, feel free to let me know if you’d like to be a part of it!
Truly…from the bottom of my heart…I don’t believe my family would even still be together, much less thriving, were it not for the hard work that happened through recovery groups. It’s a difficult and on-going journey, but the rewards are too numerous to count and I can’t encourage you enough to take the time to examine the unhealthy areas in your life and then do the hard work of surrendering the root problems to God, who knows you better than any doctor ever could, and has the answers for your heart’s greatest longings.
Enjoy this conversation with my friend and mentor, Kathy!
If we are born into this world we will, at some point, experience the exquisite pang of loss. We will weep for what was and mourn what will never be again. This world, it seems is the perfect training ground for grief and sadness.
But Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, as found in Matthew chapter 5, tells his followers, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
He doesn’t elaborate on this point, or frankly, any of the points he’s making in this exact moment of his discourse. He leaves it plain and simple. Essentially what he’s saying is, “The people who mourn will be happier than those that don’t because they’ll be comforted.”
Well, that seems odd, doesn’t it? Because like I said, if life teaches us anything, it’s that we’re all going to mourn at some point. So, what makes this statement so poignant?
This week, Brandy explores this brief beatitude by looking further into Jesus’ own suffering, the mission he was prophetically called to when he stepped into humankind as a man, and the mission of his second coming.
We’ll be looking at Matthew 5:5, John 11:32-38a, Isaiah 61:1-3, and 2 Corinthians 1:3.
The fact is, we are not alone in our suffering and grief. We have a God who can relate to our pain and has stepped into it with us.
Listen to this week’s episode to find out how well he can relate to us and what he promises us as our future with him unfurls.
So many girls dream of the day they will one day become a mother. They envision their little dolls come to life. Cooing, crying, snuggled in tight. Finally, when the time comes and they’re ready to make this dream into a reality, it doesn’t always end up quite the way they’d planned.
The road to motherhood can be a difficult one at best, riddled with infertility, loss, confusion, isolation, and depression.
This week we present a 2-part conversation with Lisa Page and her own harrowing journey.
Years of miscarriages and stillbirths, hope-filled expectations and shattered dreams, Lisa has felt every high and every low a woman can feel as she longed to finally bring a living baby home from the hospital.
Tune in to hear how God used this suffering to draw Lisa into a deeper, more grace-filled relationship with Him. Hear how she learned to cope with the well-intentioned and often painful words of condolence that she received.
Mostly, find hope as you listen to one woman’s journey as she learned that all the plans we make take a back seat to the sovereignty and goodness of God.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28
Not a very pretty word is it? But there it is. In black and white. You can sugar-coat it and call it something different, but it’s all the same ugly sin.
This week, we dive headlong into our own journey of adultery and the grace and redemption that God provided. Eight years have passed since the news came out that shook our world to its core.
We invite you to step into this conversation with us because we hear, on a near daily basis of so many other marriages that are struggling with their own battles of infidelity. We want to bring hope and encouragement to those of you currently walking this path and in next week’s episode, we want to provide some common pitfalls to avoid or overcome that oftentimes lead to an affair.
If you are struggling in your own marriage, please listen. Please reach out. To us. A pastor. A counselor. There is grace. There is healing. There is a new beginning available to you and your marriage. You are not alone.
We can also be found in Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes), Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Spotify and pretty much any podcast app. Please share with your friends, neighbors, people you love, and people you love to hate because everybody needs a little encouragement and grace.
“Even in laughter the heart may be in pain. And the end of joy may be grief.” – Proverbs 14:13
Life is short, isn’t it?
Some days may slog on for eternity, but really, if you look back over your life, it’s gone pretty quickly. I remember when Prince was proclaiming we’re going to party like it’s 1999. And honestly, it just doesn’t seem that long ago.
But the fact is, our time here is brief. Maybe even briefer than we know.
In the past year, I have become acquainted with three separate families who have all had a child who’s been seriously injured in horrendous car accidents. These are good, Christian families with good, Christian kids. They weren’t drinking and driving. They weren’t doing anything “bad.” They were just at the wrong place, at the wrong time and life suddenly and irrevocably changed.
These young, bright, vivacious, healthy and active young people on the cusp of becoming independent have been brought to a place where they are fighting to relearn what they used to take for granted. And their parents are right there beside them, learning just how insignificant their efforts to protect their children have been.
I have watched these stories unfold as moms and dads are sharing the victories and the pain as they watch their children fight to live and then relearn how to walk. I hear their sorrow as they recall the bittersweet memories of their child on the basketball court, running and jumping with elegance and grace.
These are parents that never expected to be sitting up all night in their child’s hospital room, nurses and doctors speaking in hushed voices as the machines that are pumping life into their child hum and whir. They’re parents who, when their baby was taking their first uncertain steps, clinging to the coffee table, were making plans and sharing dreams about what their little lives would hold. They never imagined this is where they’d be 16 years later. Wondering, will my baby even live?
I spent yesterday in town running errands. Sometimes I really appreciate the time to do these simple chores on my own. I turn on a podcast or music, I pray, I people watch. It’s nice to have the time to just think.
But yesterday, my son, Evan wanted to join me. He’s 18, getting ready to venture out into life on his own before long and I was happy to have him by my side yesterday, not because I asked him for help, but because he just wanted to tag along. I figure I might as well take advantage of those moments while I can because they’re coming to an end.
We spent several hours in town, first in a local big-box store then on to get groceries. It truly wasn’t a remarkable trip except for this: the laughter that we shared.
We laughed so hard in Costco, as we sat stuck in an oversized lounge chair, sure that an employee was going to come and tell us to kindly remove ourselves from the store and never come back. We annoyed other customers who also wanted to take a seat in this, the comfiest of chairs, but we simply refused to move. We were having too much fun.
We laughed about everything. We talked about nothing. We shared a moment. That’s all it was.
My to-do list for the week is a mile long and seems to be growing by the hour. There was a part of me yesterday that really wanted to just blast through the errands and then move on to the work that’s piling up on my desk.
But then I remembered these parents whose lives are forever changed because they almost lost their child to a tragic event. And I remembered those parents I know whose children don’t even have the opportunity to relearn what once came so easily because their kids are gone. They don’t get to hear their voice or hug them close ever again.
And I embraced the moment to spend a few hours with this man-child of mine, who’s taller and stronger than me, but whom I will always and forever see as the little toddler just learning how to step out on his own. I cherished our time together to be silly, to laugh hard, to make memories and create inside jokes.
We don’t know what tomorrow or even the rest of today holds. We don’t know when our time is up when God will say, “It’s time to come home,” so we have to make the moments count.
Every chance, every day…. Be present. Say, “I love you.” Hug them hard.
Grief and pain are guaranteed. They may even be just around the corner. So hang on to the present and give thanks to the God who loves us in and through every storm life brings our way.
The two of us sat across the dining room table from one another, working on a jigsaw puzzle of a tiger lurking in the trees. Our voices were calm. We even laughed a little bit as we shared memories of our dating years and talked about where our relationship was currently: broken and on the edge of divorce.
We were less than 3 years into our marriage.
High school sweethearts, we’d met through our drama department our Junior year when Matt’s family relocated to our little town. We’d noticed each other immediately. His shaggy, bleach blond hair and dimpled cheeks shone like a beacon home for me.
It wasn’t until a year later that we’d begun dating and then, only after our friends Jimmy and Joy forced us to have a face-to-face conversation about how we liked each other instead of simply telling everyone else. It proved to be an off-again-on-again kind of relationship for a few years, but once we decided that we meant it when we said, ‘I love you,’ it stuck and wedding preparations were soon underway.
On June 24, 1995, before friends, family, God and one homeless lady who joined the festivities, we gave our vows and celebrated the start of our lives together. We danced, we toasted, we tossed the bouquet and garter. A week later, we loaded all my earthly possessions into the bed of a truck and the trailer we towed behind and drove the 12 hours to our first home together in Ogden, Utah.
(Matt and I, exhausted from all the photos we took after the ceremony.
June 24, 1995. Welches, Oregon)
Pulling in well after dark, it was hard for me to really see what our new town looked like, but walking through the door of our little house-turned-tri-plex, I was overjoyed. It had great charm and it was OURS! Unpacking and decorating was a thrill. As a kid, I’d only ever lived in three homes and two of those were before I was 5, so I’d never known what it was like to actually move. It felt a little bit like playing house.
Our first 2 years in Ogden were full of college for Matt and work for me. We had little to no money but learned how to make the most of instant mashed potatoes, Kool-Aid, and pancakes. When time allowed, we’d pack a picnic basket and head to a local park. When time was tight or the weather didn’t cooperate, picnics happened on our living room floor. By working at the college’s theater, which also had touring companies coming through, we had the opportunity to see and be a part of some wonderful shows and performances, including Ballet West, Christopher Parkening, and Sundance Film Festival.
(Me and Matt hiking in Ogden, Utah. circa 1996.)
It all seemed pretty good. We had our friends, we had our little nest. We had each other.
But lurking underneath was a dissatisfaction growing inside me.
Growing up, what I wanted most in life was to be a wife and mom. Here I was, on the path. Step 1: Get Married. Check. Step 2: Have babies. Not happening.
I’d wanted to get pregnant from the beginning. Matt wanted to wait until he was done with school. Tension was growing, while my belly was not. Health issues from earlier had me worried that fertility might be a problem. Meanwhile, I was seeing people everywhere both getting pregnant and also having abortions. It was heart-wrenching.
Then my world came crashing down in the most unexpected way. My dad, at the age of 48, died of a massive heart attack. He’d been my rock. We shared a love of oldies music, fly fishing and ‘puttering’. And suddenly, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.
(Me and my dad painting the trailer that carried all my belongings to
my new home and life with Matt. 1995)
The week or so that followed is a blur. Matt and I went back to Oregon, we buried and memorialized my dad. My mom, brother and I sat silently together, numb and unsure. Eventually, though, the regular flow of life had to return to normal. Matt returned to Utah, where he was chin-deep in school and work. I stayed behind with my mom, unwilling to leave her side.
Life was untethered and I didn’t know how we were going to survive.
When I finally returned to Utah – I’m not even sure how long I’d been gone – I was restless and anxious. I jumped everytime the phone rang. I couldn’t concentrate. I hated to hear about anyone else’s struggles or problems because it all seemed so petty. I lost any compassion I’d had. And I was angry at Matt.
He hadn’t ‘performed’ the way I wanted him to in the wake of my dad’s death. He shed few tears and in my mind, felt distant and emotionally unavailable. What I then saw as a character flaw, I now know to be a strength. Even though I wanted Matt to mourn with me, what I needed most was for him to be strong and hold me up. He did both. But he did them quietly. I was too lost in my own chaos to even recognize what was happening around me.
Within a few months, I got pregnant and soon thereafter, miscarried.
I was at a complete loss. I didn’t want to be in Utah anymore. I wanted to be with my family and friends back home. I wanted my dad and my baby and I wanted my husband to do more than he was capable of doing for me.
So there we sat. A jigsaw puzzle between us. One thousand pieces of a perfectly destroyed image. And it was our task to put those pieces together, to recreate the picture on the front of the box, the picture that looked so seamless and perfect.
We worked for hours and as we worked, we talked. We reminisced about the day we first met. We laughed about our awkward beginning. We recalled our first kiss and so many kisses after. We talked about our fears and our hurts, our disappointments. We talked at length about the possibility of divorce.
As we talked, the pieces in our fingers began to come together. The edges were formed and soon, the inside picture grew, little by little.
We talked about how much we’d grown up with each other in the 10 years since we’d met. How we’d shared so much of ourselves with each other that we’d never shared with anyone else. We’d already invested so much of ourselves into one another, the thought of having to start over with someone else seemed daunting, at best. After all, despite the struggles we’d endured, we were best friends. We loved each other.
We always would.
Before we knew it, the final piece of the puzzle was set in place revealing not a seamless image, but a complete image. Where the pieces had been cut, there were crevasses as they joined together. It wasn’t smooth as a photograph. But it was whole. And together. What sat between us was a picture, not of a tiger stalking its prey, but a picture of how two separate people with their own brokenness can come together and form a beautiful union.