Depression doesn't always look like doom gloom, and despair. It may not hide behind dark glasses, baggy clothes, and a disheveled appearance. It may not lock itself up indoors and not come out amongst society.
It may be put together perfectly and hiding behind a gorgeous smile and flawless appearance. It may sit across from you at a table and chat life, love, and family without ever introducing itself.
It may very well be the person on the other end of the phone, the receiving end of a text, or the last "like" on a social media post.
It is no judge of persons and doesn't have a certain type. It may invade the mind of a middle class, well educated, christ following, beautifully talented, devoted wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, cousin, sister, aunt, and friend.
Depression doesn't want you talking about it. It wants to stay tucked away in the dark shadows, where it can tear lives apart and no one will notice until it is too late.
It is time that we take a stand. It is time that we TALK about it. In a world where we are oversharing on social media daily, telling people how we "feel" and what we had for breakfast, we have to choose to bring mental illness to the forefront.
For far too long, we the church, have treated mental illness like a lack of christianity. We have told those that suffer that they should pray more and draw closer to God. Any struggle with mental illness has been treated as if that person isn't walking in faith. While praying and drawing closer to God are crucial in this struggle, seeking help, reaching out, and knowing that it is okay to ask for support is critical. We christians must begin treating mental illness in the same manner that we would treat cancer: aggressively! We have to let those that suffer know that they can talk about it. They are not pariahs nor are they any less of a child of God. They have to know that they can stand in Christ's presence and ask for support, love, and mercy from their fellow believers.
We have to stand and say that we will be those Christians. We will be the hands and feet of Jesus. We will be the shoulder to cry on and the support that they need. We will love without passing judgement. And, we will look the enemy in the face and call him out of the darkness.
"The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." ~ John 1:5
The world lost a beautiful soul this week. You are missed dearly my friend. But know this, because of you, we will have the conversations. We will be aware. We will know that it is okay to ask for help, just as we will know that is our duty to offer help.
It's a hard read, but you need to hear it. I've put off posting this for over a week but feel that it's incredibly important for all of us to hear:
Your child knows about porn.
If they don't, they will. How will you handle that? We have to become a proactive society instead of a reactive one. Not talking about hard things does not make them go away. We can't be surprised by the type of men our society is producing if we're not equipping our sons with the truth to handle what our society will throw at them.
I sat in church two weeks ago next to my 11 year old 6th grader, listening to our pastor teaching on how to be Brave. While teaching, he was discussing temptations that we as humans come in contact with and how to guard yourself against them. One such temptation was porn. He didn't go into detail, just mentioned it, and as he did, my sweet kindhearted, handsome young man, let out a sigh, rolled his eyes, and murmured "Oh my gosh" under his breath. This caught me off guard and I had no clue as to why this topic would elicit such disgust from him.
After we came home from church that day, when it was just he and I, I point blank asked him if he knew what porn was. His expression went totally somber, his eyes welled up, and his cheeks turned red. He reluctantly told me yes. I then asked if he had ever seen it and he adamantly told me no. He then went on to tell me how the older boys at school talk about it and have privacy screens on their phone so that their parents won't see that they've watched it. I took the opportunity to explain that for starters: that is not real, healthy, or what love looks like, that those girls in the videos are someone's sister, daughter, cousin, mom, friend. That they are not objects for men's pleasure and that the majority of them are trapped in that industry against their will.
Up until then, we had discussed that Mom was fighting to help free those trapped in slavery. They know that the people's basic human rights are violated, but that has been as far as we've gone. However, that day, I pointed to the A21 "BECAUSE" bracelet on his wrist and explained that the people in those videos that his friends are laughing, joking, & talking about are the same slaves that Mommy is fighting for.
He started sobbing, and after a while I was able to get him to use his words to tell me why he was upset. He told me that "He didn't want his friends watching that, didn't want people treating women that way, and never wanted YouTube if he ever did get a phone because kids watch bad things on it."
We then prayed that when faced with the temptation of watching (because that day will come) that God can give him the strength to resist temptation. We prayed that he can be a witness to his friends and share with them how this is a vile epidemic in our country that is tearing people's lives apart. We also prayed for his friends, that they would turn from the temptation as well. And then, we prayed for the slaves trapped in that industry, that we can help free them and bring an end to their misery.
My son will be exposed to Porn at some point. Whether intentionally or not. Whether by mistake, or out of weakness, he will be armed with the knowledge of how to handle it. Will yours? Have you talked to your children about this? Sticking our heads in the sand is only perpetuating the crisis. Have the tough talks. Back it up with scripture. Arm your children. I for one pledge that my children will be informed about the evils in the world, and they will not be exposed without knowledge. Not talking about the scary things doesn't make them go away. Your children are talking about it. Wouldn't you rather they have those discussions with you? At what point, do we stand up & say #notmyson ? At what point, do we #takebackourchildren ?
If you don't understand the ties between the porn industry and human trafficking, here are some facts to help you become more aware: https://www.google.com/…/the-internet-can-be-a-very-un…/amp/
So often we feel we have to have everything in order before "serving". We may feel that God is "calling us to serve"...
By the way.... if you're breathing, God has called you to serve. But, we feel like we have to get ourselves tidied up before saying yes. I think what we don't realize is that God just wants us to get into action. Serving doesn't look like what most people think it does. It's literally just saying yes and being obedient.
When God first led me to the Human Trafficking cause, I had no idea what he wanted me to do with it. I didn't know why he was calling me to that particular cause. I had no experience with abuse and have lived an incredibly comfortable life. Plus, it's dark and shady, and I just wasn't sure I could handle it. However, I kept hearing "Move your feet" and "Serve where you are." I tried to ignore it, but God kept calling louder until finally I had to say yes.
Last night, my "serving" looked like: making a batch of chicken spaghetti, having dinner, and playing Phase 10 with some beautiful souls. All survivors of trafficking & all with their own story to tell. But, most importantly, all with a new love for Jesus and the newfound freedom to hope and dream. As I listened to them share their goals and plans for life with me last night, I thanked God for bringing them to me, and realized, that it wasn't all dark and shady. There was beauty in the hearts of the women sharing with me.
Many of you reading this know what you're being called to do but you're getting in yours (and God's) way. You're thinking the same thing I did: What do I have to offer? How can I help put an end to such a massive crisis? Why me? Where do I start? How do I get involved? But.... I'm Scared.
2 Tim 1:7 "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control"
Here's the clearest instructions I can give you.
1. Say Yes
2. Pray about it (not once, continuously)
3. Get involved (research, connect via social media & in person)
4. Find the people that want to get involved with you. (Scary things are less scary with friends)
5. Just keep saying yes and moving forward.
In the words of my pastor "You already have whatever it is that you need to do whatever it is that God needs you to do."
God needs laborers. He needs us to all take the prayers we've prayed and put them into action. He needs us to move our feet. Luke 10:2 "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field."
We were in Vegas this past week where we went to car museums, the drag races, a car show, saw shows, and ate amazing meals. But, I saw more than that.
While at the car show (the largest in the world) I saw two peddlers outside of the convention center shoving flip cards in men's faces as they walked by trying to get them to take the images of scantily clad women. I watched man after man turn them down and keep walking. I watched the two peddlers motion to my friends and me, and grumble, saying that none of the men were going to take the cards while we women were standing there. In the past, I would have never thought twice other than that normal "ick" feeling. I would have thought that's just Vegas and moved on. But, I know too much now. I knew that 200,000 men had come to Vegas for a car show which meant that countless girls had been brought to town specifically for that reason. And my stomach sunk.
I saw Her. She walked in and sat down at a bar with two men at least 40 years older than her. Both dressed to the nines in flashy dress shirts, pants and loafers, white hair slicked back, and ready for a night out on the town. One pulled a chair out for her and placed her in it while the other pulled a chair next to her. She fidgeted with her short tight black lace dress and crossed and uncrossed her worn flip flops. She smoothed her unnaturally red hair with her chipped manicure clad hand as she nervously looked back and forth over her shoulder. The man standing, rubbing both of her shoulders asked what she wanted to drink, but she never responded. Instead, she chewed her fingernails, smoothed her hair, and darted her eyes back and forth watching the bartender. The two men asked Her again what she wanted to drink as the one standing squeezed her shoulders, leaned in, and with a denture baring grin told her "You've got two guys tonight, you should probably go with Tequila!" While the two men laughed and gave her a shoulder rub, they didn't see what I saw. I saw her eyes that were filled with terror, misery, and emptiness. I saw her chewing her fingernails. I saw her not speaking. I saw her pick the menu up and put it down three times. I saw her scan the room constantly to see who was watching. I saw that she was much younger than her heavily made up face told. I saw someone who wanted to be anywhere other than she was.
I tried to make eye contact, just to let her know that I see Her. I wanted to reach out, share the Human Trafficking hotline number, tell her to say she needs help, something..... I wanted to kick the men in their teeth, and I wanted to vomit.
But, instead, I walked off to watch a show called "Love" with my heart breaking. I wondered what I could do for Her. So, I prayed. I prayed that she would get out. I prayed that she would find a way to escape her torture. I prayed that she would tell someone she needs help. And, I'm still praying for Her every day. I pray that God sends someone to help Her.
Most people would blow it off because prostitution is legal in Vegas & our society sees prostitutes as entrepreneurs that have chosen to sell themselves. But, more often than not, that's not the case. Less than 6% of Vegas "prostitutes" are not under the control of a pimp. While chatting with a survivor recently, I asked her to explain the difference between prostitution and being trafficked. Her response was "It's whether they have the ability to leave or not. I had a car and my own money. I physically could have left at anytime. But, I also had a Dude that had the address of every family member of mine and promised to kill each and every one of them if I ever left."
So, look around. Pull your head out of the sand and realize that Trafficking isn't something that is happening in other countries. It's happening in your country, your state, and your city.
And, do me another favor. Pray for Her and all the other Hers out there.
We're going through a rough season over here and I think some of you out there may be as well. While I'm not really looking for advice, I feel like I should just share where we are right now.
Let me start with this disclaimer: I am a freaking awesome mom! Like the absolute best there ever was! I'm on top of my game.... June Cleaver ain't got nothing on me! And..... I fall asleep most nights feeling like I'm somehow failing at this Mom game and could have done so many things differently that day: i.e. Not yelled, gotten off my phone and paid attention, listened more, held them more, not cursed... I mean..honesty..
But, right now, is an unprecedented season in parenting. I'm not sure that I've felt so unsure or out of control since the little one was a newborn that didn't sleep for the first 17 months of his life, required to be held/fed for 22 out of 24 hours, and I literally thought I was losing my ever loving mind... Thank the good Lord for creating grapes or I may not have survived...
But, we've rounded this bend, kids are getting older, and with that, developing into their own human forms that also have their own personalities and mind sets... I was a strong willed child. My husband was a strong willed child. We're both incredibly strong willed adults..... *as iron sharpens iron*. And, I have absolutely no doubt that my youngest will be a successful entrepreneur who goes on to lead legions of people and quite possibly rule the world. It's in his DNA and I thank God daily for making him strong enough to be a leader that God needs in his army. However, it's that space in between where we're struggling.
We're struggling with him not taking responsibility, not listening, arguing constantly with his brother, talking back, and basically.. doing whatever the heck he feels like.... It's not that he gets in trouble or has a track record. He actually has a great repertoire with his teachers, Sunday school workers, other parents, etc.... He just pushes our/my buttons & loves every minute of it.
Tonight while saying prayers, I very candidly prayed that God would "Help Mom to be more understanding, more patient, communicate more, and follow God's will in raising witnesses for him." There may or may not have been a line about God helping mom to not beat/choke the children... thrown in there...
Listen, I know my kid will SOAR & do amazing things in life! God planted him on this earth to be a leader and I love his little squishy cheeks that I want to kiss on a daily basis! But, I also know that we all struggle with different seasons and this is just where we are right now. So, please send up a prayer for me that he will make life a little easier right now and let me know how I can pray for you as well!
I went to sleep last night after listening to a conference call covering details for our upcoming convention. I made a checklist of things that I needed to pack, looked at the weather in Vegas, and chatted with my business partners about scheduling happy hour meet ups, team dinners, what we were wearing for the gala, etc....
What I didn't account for was waking up to see the news of the deadliest mass shooting in US history. I should be packing. But, instead, I'm glued to the television and social media with tears streaming down my face. I can't imagine the emotional and psychological trauma the survivors have endured. I can't imagine the grief and pain that the families of the victims have experienced. I can't imagine the sheer terror that everyone there had to feel.
I don't understand what could ever convince someone to do something so horrendously atrocious! But, I'm reminded of the message yesterday, Wasteland: Lessons from the book of Job. After losing everything and all of his children dying, Job still praised the Lord. Job 1:20-22. God is still good and God is still Love in a world filled with evil. Without the presence of evil you wouldn't recognize Love. You can have no light without there being dark, no hot without cold.
And so, today, as I go about my day, I will praise God because he is good. I will pray for those victims of evil. I will hug my loved ones a little tighter and try not to take one single second with them for granted. I will also pray that God uses me to touch someone that may be struggling. I pray that his love shines through me to someone that needs to see it. I pray that any individual tormented inside of their own mind to the point where they feel it necessary to pour out pure evil on others may see the light and the love of God through someone willing to reach out and share it with them. We can walk around questioning and asking why and blaming, or we can look to him, Creator of All Things & pray that he use us to share his love with others so that we may live to see more Love in the world than Evil.
To the mom whose baby went off to school today, I see you. I remember the gut wrenching sadness of knowing that someone else would have my baby for 8 hours a day. I remember knowing that my children's safety was turned over to someone else for the majority of the week. I remember thinking that they would now spend more time in the care of others than with me for the next 13 years. I remember thinking that I wish I would have held them more when they were home every day with me. I remember thinking that the last five years had been the fastest of my life. I remember hoping and praying that I had done everything right. I remember praying that I had taught them to be kind to others, to wait their turn, to use their manners, to wash their hands after using the restroom and before they eat, to not drink from the water fountain. I remember hoping and praying that they would be a light to others that they come in contact with. I remember praying that they would remember their personal boundaries and use their voice if that was ever violated. I remember praying that they would not learn about things that would violate their innocence. I remember hoping and praying that they would not bully or be bullied. I remember hoping that their teachers would love them and they would feel cared for. And, thanks to some incredibly wonderful loving women they had just that.
But, most of all, I remember feeling lost. I had invested 8 years of my life with kids at home I had spent every day having someone that needed me. I wasn't ready to not be needed daily. I remember begging my husband for another baby and him telling me that I just couldn't keep having kids every time one started school... I remember thinking how fast it had gone with my step-son and that I would blink one day and these boys would be leaving for college. I remember going to the grocery store that morning & the cashier asking where my buddy was & breaking down in tears unable to speak.
Just know that you're not alone. I see you and feel you. Know that this is a new chapter. You've done your job and they won't forget that. They will come home excited to tell you about all they've learned & the friends they've met. Know that there will be time now to work on you, to get back to who you were before becoming Mommy. Know that there will be time for lunch with your husband, uninterrupted. Know that you will be able to find time for pedicures, yoga, lunch with friends, self-development. Know that now is a time to find yourself & reignite your dreams. Know that there is life after the baby goes to school. And, know that if you need a friend to have lunch with and... *gasp* a glass of wine in the middle of the day, I'm your girl!
Hi! I'm, Brandi, founder of The Power Project and I'm so glad you're here! I've been speaking and writing all my life and find my greatest joy in helping others see themselves as God does while realizing their own POWER! I hope you find some inspiration, encouragement, and empowerment here.