My Hiding Place

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
till they find their rest in you …

St. Augustine

 

I was twelve, a seventh grader which is an awkward time for any girl. It was February and the church that my Dad worked at could no longer afford a music pastor. Looking back I realize that my parents did what they had to do. They had to provide for their four children, and my Dad was offered a job, but it meant moving from San Diego to Denver. Of all the times I moved growing up, this one was the most difficult. In California, I belonged. I had friends that went to my school and my church, and I was really discovering who I was … and then we moved.

When our lives were turned upside down, I always wanted to be helpful (I am a great packer) and to help get settled no matter where we were unpacking (though often the boxes were the recipients of my silent tears), and if there is one thing that I learned at a young age, it is how important family is. So even though we moved hundreds of miles away, we had a home, my parents had jobs, we were in the best school district, but ultimately what mattered is that we were together.

The counselor at my middle school arranged my schedule so that it coordinated exactly with one girl, who became my “buddy.” In theory this is genius. It afforded me a group of friends immediately on my first day of seventh grade at Campus Middle School, but what began so perfectly, went horribly wrong about three weeks after we moved to Denver.

I’ll never know what the cause was, but I do remember showing up for school one day and trying to talk to one of my new friends, and being completely shocked when she just walked away. That wasn’t the end of it though. Class after class, mean girl after mean girl, lunch after lunch, I found myself completely alone. I spent my breaks and lunch in the bathroom or the library from February until the end of the year in the middle of June.

When I thought I could get away with it, I would head to the bus stop early and hide in the snow behind  the big pine trees waiting for the bus to pass, and then go home to announce that I’d missed the bus. On good days, my mom would just let me stay home. On bad days, she’d have time to drop me off at school before heading to work.

Seventh grade was such a painful period in my life.

***

It seemed we were always on the move when I was growing up. Whether by choice or the leading of God or the decisions of others, our family moved between every eighteen months and three years. When I was very young, I didn’t realize the impact this would have on me as I grew and began to make decisions of my own, nor did I understand the unsettledness it created in my little heart.

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I’ve mentioned before that I ended up on anti-depressants by the age of six. My depression worked its way out through anxiety and an overactive imagination, feeling like there was danger lurking around every corner. These days I still fight that anxiety, though through prayer and deep breaths and calming down before responding, I am living more than I’m fearing.

But there are times when Matt is working late and the kids are in bed, my mind wanders and I remember …

Crying myself to sleep in a new room, holding a teddy bear I received when I was just five and had left the only home I’d ever known.

Praying that someone would request to room with me at camp and later on at retreats …

Being left out of parties in high school …

Never being asked to homecoming …

The call I received the summer after my junior year of high school from a group of girls who had always left me out of almost everything, and they called to see if I wanted to hang out, but it turned out to be a joke — and I hid in my room, hurt and angry because they had done this only weeks after I had found out we were moving on, but we didn’t know where we were going and the only certainty was that I would graduate from a school where I’d only go for part of my senior year.

And then struggling and failing to find a place of belonging three months into my senior year of high school, and hiding by only taking the classes I had to take in order to graduate.

When I started over in Texas between my first two years of college, I was determined to reclaim the me that I had been before all the hurt and shame I experienced in seventh grade. What a place of healing that was for me. For the first time in years, I felt complete freedom to be 100% me. And in that time I met and married my husband and I finally found my place.

There are times when I still feel like I don’t have a landing spot or a place of belonging — being on the outside whether real or imagined became part of my inner life somewhere in the middle of attending fifteen schools before graduating high school. My memories are speckled with different images in living color of times when I just didn’t belong. Now I’ve lived in the same area for thirteen years and I’ve gone to the same church for twelve years, and while that is such a gift of grace for this well seasoned mover, staying put doesn’t guarantee immunity from loneliness.

Almost seven years ago, I went through the most isolating time of my life. On March 21, 2009 I began to miscarry our third baby. I was almost nine weeks pregnant and there was absolutely nothing they could do, and I hadn’t done anything wrong. There were no answers to why, only speculation and even when I was surrounded by people, I was always completely alone.

All my fears came rushing to the surface and I plummeted into depression that couldn’t be reversed by another baby, because it wouldn’t be that baby. I felt broken and battered and like the one thing I knew I could do well had been taken away from me. On top of that, it was as though Matt wasn’t grieving. It seemed my loss was just my loss and it began to define me.

Suddenly it was difficult to be with my friends who had just had babies. Two of my friends found out they were pregnant in the days after my miscarriage and didn’t want to tell me. Another friend became pregnant shortly afterward, and my sister delivered her third baby a few months later. The months of my greatest loneliness were filled with parties of the baby shower variety, hospital visits where I’d hold babies drinking in their newness while trying to hold myself together, and making meals for families that were growing, while mine had just gotten smaller.

I would sit on the front row of church and just cry during worship or the message, and I wanted to be present but I was drowning on my own. Though I became pregnant six months after my miscarriage, it did not end my sadness or my loneliness; it increased my fears. I found myself reciting this Psalm over and over again to quiet my spirit and reassure my mind of what my heart was still trying to believe.

The one who lives under the protection of the Most High
dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalm 91:1,2, HCSB

And in the months and the years that followed losing our third baby, I’ve whispered these words countless times. On flights when fear has overtaken me, during a labor induced panic attack with Nicholas, while receiving the ever feared spinal in an unexpected c-section delivery with Mary Elena, when I count four heads and still feel like one is missing, in the middle of the night when I couldn’t calm my heart, while trying to settle a crying baby, as prayers laced with anxiety as I’ve held fevered kids, croupy babies, or a kid in the middle of a seizure.

What I now realize is that whether I am surrounded by friends or family or in a silent living room alone — when I feel completely known and loved by a friend or when my texts, calls or emails go unanswered — when my kids are loving spending quality time with me or they are disappointed with me — when my husband is fully engaged and present or when he is busy with work or distracted by the news, my belonging is not contingent on my circumstances. I belong because I have been chosen.

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:4-5, The Message

What I know now, I wish I could go back and tell a fearful five year old girl trying to adjust to a new home and a baby sister  —

Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you …

Isaiah 41:10, HCSB

What I know now, I wish I could whisper to the twelve year old hiding in the pine trees trying to miss her bus —

For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory. 

Psalm 32:7

And what I first cried, willing myself to believe, I can now say with confidence; no matter what the storm around or within me may be, I know this to be true:

The one who lives under the protection of the Most High
dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
He Himself will deliver you from the hunter’s net,
from the destructive plague.
 He will cover you with His feathers;
you will take refuge under His wings.
His faithfulness will be a protective shield.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
the arrow that flies by day,
 the plague that stalks in darkness,
or the pestilence that ravages at noon …
Because you have made the Lord—my refuge,
the Most High—your dwelling place,
 no harm will come to you;
no plague will come near your tent.
For He will give His angels orders concerning you,
to protect you in all your ways.

Psalm 91:1-11, HCSB

How thankful I am that in Him, moments of isolation no longer define who we are. I am excited to be writing this year with an amazing and diverse group of women. Please read what my dear friend Allison has to say about belonging and then click through the rest of the blogs.

 

 Hiding Place, The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers, 1992


 

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16 thoughts on “My Hiding Place

  1. Nice to meet you in this blogroll that we are in. I feel honored to meet you in such a open way. From this first reading your open heart has shared such hurt and also such healing. I love the scriptures you have shared here that give such hope. When I think of your first year in middle school, I think of my own daughter who is about that age, it makes it more real to relate. I have to admit I got angry as I read your middle school years and the cruel joke those girls made and all the feelings of isolation you experienced but as I got towards the end I smiled because you made it and you are stronger for it and now you give hope for others and can be so understanding. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Such a hard topic this month friend, but thank you so much for encouraging us think about belonging and what it really means to each of us personally. xo

  2. I suppose it was our age gap that made me not see how difficult a time you had in these places. I thought I was the only one treated cruelt by mean girls in Denver… And Victorville…. I always wanted to be more like you so I could have friends and “belong” all the places we moved.

    I was thinking about you last night. I was also thinking about our final destination. I’m so thankful for you and your friendship and love. I’m thankful for those times you were there for me growing up. I really needed you and you were there. One day, joined with our saviour we’ll be together and the world won’t be quite so big… All the sadness and hurts and anxiety will be washed away. I’m so glad he came to make all the broken things new again.

    I love you my sweet, sister friend.

    1. Yes! I was so grateful when writing this very hard post, that I finally cannot remember the 7th grade girl’s name. What a gift of healing. I’m thankful that even in the hard times, we weren’t alone, sister-friend. I am also grateful for a Redeemer and Restorer and that He is making all things new. What hope!

  3. Oh dear Lindsey, what beauty and angst and power are in these words. I cannot even begin to describe how deep the joy is in my heart when I imagine you meeting your baby someday. You will always be the mother of 5 and I promise to hold that sadness with you even though our paths cross only rarely. Thank you for sharing these truths with us. I am so grateful for a hiding place, and I am also grateful that you can come forth from that hiding place and place your heart in all of our hands. That is so brave, and it changes us. Thank you just isn’t big enough.

    1. Thanks so much, Susan. My hope is that being brave enough to share the once raw parts of our stories will be the gateway to someone else’s belonging.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful post, Lindsey. I’m so blessed to know you and call you friend. You are an amazing and courageous woman. That is one of my favorite Psalms as well. It is one of the things I go to in times of anxiety or fear. I also love:
    Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you: do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
    Isaiah 43:1-3 But now, this is what the Lord says- He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you Israel: “Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have chosen you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
    I know, I am not Jacob, but we serve that same God and He loves us just like He loved Jacob, with an everlasting love.

    1. Thanks so much, Tammy. I am so blessed to have you as a friend. I’ve always loved Isaiah 43:1-3 — my absolute favorite as a child. Thanks so much for reading, friend, and for always, always encouraging me. You a such a gift!

  5. Lindsey I’m so grateful for your openness here. I feel like I know and understand you better because you were willing to be so brave. It also helps me understand your commitment to your family better. I’m so glad you wrote 🙂

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