Wednesday, March 07, 2018

PTSD, Panic & Prayer

The lights feel brighter and the sounds feel louder and the minor annoyances loom large in my mind.

And my heart clenches and I can't breathe and my grasp on the present moment slips. I feel
alternately numb and then intense pain. It's a crippling helplessness. Right now it's a literal numbness and tingling down the left side of my body. It's feeling like I'm not truly in my body. Not grounded. Like I'm watching myself outside of my self.

I am thankful that this is not my constant present reality but in the last week or so my PTSD and grief have caught up with me. My brain, heart, mind, body and spirit have been on overload.

Over the years I have learned how to mange. I cry out to the Lord in prayer. I use essential oils to help ground me, lift my mood, and help me breathe when I'm anxious. I take concentrated fruits and vegetables and berries to boost my nutrition. I go to counseling and receive therapy. I ask for others to pray for and with me. I know the importance of exercise for stress relief and I take medicine to help with my chemical imbalance.

But some days even with my best efforts I feel so alone and isolated. I read everyone's signal of busyness as a rejection notice. I feel disapproved, unaccepted and unwanted. The guilt and shame of my inability to cope mounts.

It's been 14 years tomorrow since my sister's death and I have grown in many, many ways but the loss can still take my breath away. The ache is still there and some ways increases as the space of time lengthens between the last time I saw her face, heard her laugh, see her with her hands on her hips, and be bossed by her. Baby sister or not- she was the bossy one!

I miss hearing her strumming her guitar. Miss seeing her nose scrunch up.

Do you know I have yet to see my wedding videos?

You know why? She's all over them I'm sure... and I was married only 6 months before she died. This September is Mike and my 15th anniversary and I still haven't seen my wedding on video.

I desperately want to put my house and belongings in order and I feel crippled. Unable to put things away. Unable to get rid of stuff that is stressing me out.

So what do you do in these situations?

Look for a way to numb the pain? To drink or eat or shop or gamble or watch til you're sick or passed out or gotten some kind of high. Until you don't feel anymore.

That's what I would like to do. But instead I'm crying out to Jesus. Asking Him to continue to heal me. To meet me in my weakness. To help me in my inability.

I wish this restless mania and panic would disappear but I'm quieting my heart and asking Jesus to calm the storm in me. I'm breathing as deep as I can.

I stop and recount the good things. The beautiful tulips I received today. The great laugh I had when my shake fell outside, the cup busted and I ended up spilling everywhere, including all over my dog. The most beautiful encouragement note from my daughter. A precious group of 12 year olds to tutor today. Ian made student of the month at his school. Michael received a letter and Cinema Cafe tickets from his principle for picking up the most trash on the playground!

Mike has only been away for work for a few days but is driving home from PA tonight to be with me tomorrow.

So prayer. Gratitude. Some lavender oil. A hot shower. Several liters of water. A handful of cashews. Have gone a long way to soothe some of the ache.

I'm not perfect. Not by a long stretch. But I'm grateful for a God who is perfect and knows all things and working even the most horrible, heartbreaking circumstances for my good.

Come to Jesus and breathe.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Victory & Putting Efficiency in It's Place

Some Thoughts from a month Ago...

I've been getting into this new routine of waking up early (4:30 a.m.) and getting ready for my day and exercising at the Y. It's been great. I get my workout in, do all my daily care needs bright and early and have the rest of the day ahead of me. In fact most of my difficult or stressful tasks have been done usually no later than 9 a.m.

This morning I had my alarm set for much later in the day... but I still woke up at 5. My dog needed to go to the bathroom and I was just wide awake. I think my body is getting used to my routine.

First couple of days I felt high by all I accomplished. I felt unstoppable. By the end of this week thought I've been restless, frustrated discontent and depressed. Whaaat?! I've accomplished all  these good things. I'm taking charge of my time, my health and my mind.

As I was doing dishes in the quiet of the morning I felt God spoke to me. And He asked me 3 questions....

#1.) What if  you pursued me more than you pursued your efficiency?

#2.) What if you hungered for me more than you hungered for the control of your health?

#3.) What if your restlessness derives from your pursuit of good things, but not pursuing the best?

It felt like a weird, strange slap in the face... but also a tremendous moment for grattitude. I'm so thankful He didn't let me deviate too long.

Don't get me wrong- it's good to exercise. It's good to knock out your list of priorities and needs. It's good to manage your time well. But I was more passionate about those things than I was about spending time with God. I was more eager to apply the 5 Second Rule (great book by Mel Robbins) than I was to enter into His presence.

I wanted good things... but I was choosing them over the BEST thing.

As I struggle to realign myself and my priorities I'm trying to ask God, "Lord, what do you want for me to do today? What is on your agenda? What do you say are my priorities?"

So I come back to the word He's given me for this year- VICTORY!

What a great word, right?! But it's not about me... It's about HIS VICTORY IN ME!

These are the verses the Lord gave me at the beginning of this year to seal victory in my mind.

He fights our enemies to give us victory.

Deuteronomy 20:3- "today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is He who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory."

We have victory through Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:55-58 "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

We can be strong and courageous for the Lord is with us.

Joshua 1:5-6 "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their Fathers to give them."

He will hold up our hands to give us victory.

Exodus 17:11-12 "Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary so they took a stone and put in under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."

It's not our battles but God's. We don't need to be afraid!

2 Chronicles 20:15 "This is what the Lord says to you: Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


It's a scary thing to put yourself out there. To share a part of you that has brought tremendous amounts of shame. I've seen a couple friends be vocal. I'm so proud of them. They are so brave.

My fear of saying, I too have been sexually abused comes from a place of not wanting to draw attention to myself, not wanting to be seen as dramatic, and knowing I've not had it as bad as others.

But something compels me to write ME TOO. Because I recognize that there are likely other woman, like me, who have downplayed the wrong(s) that have been done to them. They minimize their experience. They don't know it's not their fault.

My first encounter of sexual abuse was being molested at age 5.

My second group of encounters were during sleepovers when I was 12 and on my 13th birthday by a friend.

And the last time was when I was 20 on a missions trip for a well known Christian missions organization.

Those encounters left me feeling confused, ashamed, humiliated and lonely. I was terrified. I blamed myself. I thought I was the one who was wrong. I felt so dirty. So broken.

When I spoke up immediately to my missions leader about what happened the issue was downplayed and swept under the rug. In fact I was forbidden to tell my parents as well as the rest of the members of my team about what happened.

So I did what the stupid "good Christian girl" does and I shut my mouth. My leader didn't seem to believe me, so why would anyone else? I was in a foreign country. I didn't know my rights and I was very afraid.

After finally getting help and going through years of counseling I have begun to see a clearer picture of what happened to me. It was wrong. The abuse was wrong. And the leader silencing me was wrong. The five year old me was a victim and so was the 12/13 year old me. But I'm not a victim anymore.

I will not be silent just so that others can feel comfortable.

There's a short song in Steffany Gretzinger's Album "The Undoing" that resonated strongly with me. I don't think it is specifically about sexual abuse but as a person who has struggled with people pleasing and learning to be brave, and come forward I find strength and comfort from this song.

The song is called I Spoke Up

Everyone knows that
I was the good girl
I did my best to
Make everyone happy with me
Then I found out that
It was impossible to please
The whole crowd

So I spoke up and I spoke out
I learned that love don't hold its tongue
And passion doesn't bow to what they think
It's You and me
Sometimes it's painful to be brave
To look fear in the face and know your name
To find your strength

I hope if sexual abuse- molestation, rape, being forced or manipulated into a sexual act has happened to you that you are able to find your voice. Get help. Reach out. If the first person you tell doesn't listen or believe you find someone else.

It's taken time to heal. It's taken breaking down the lies. It's taken instilling and affirming the truth. It's taken crying with friends. It's taken prayers.

I've been silent for a long time, only telling people privately when the situation arises, but no more. No longer. Because there are women out there that need to know that they are worth being spoken up for.

Our God is healer. He redeems and mends broken things. He saves those who are crushed in spirit. He is close to the broken hearted.

Have you been sexually assaulted but are afraid to say something? There's a national sexual assault hotline that can provide help here.

Maybe you haven't been sexually abused but someone you know has. What do you do/say?

And finally if you have a child-daughter OR/AND son please talk to them... ask them if ANYONE has ever made them uncomfortable or asked them to do something they felt was wrong. It's not just an issue of the opposite sex of of a family member.  It can be opposite or same sex, someone their age or older.

Educate your children about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate touching. I also thought it was helpful to learn to not have secrets... you can keep surprises, like what you're getting for someone for a birthday or Christmas, but not secrets. Better explanation can be found in this book

Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept by Jayneen Sanders

There are many books you can use for educating your children about appropriate touching:

It's MY Body: A Book to Teach Young Children How to Resist Uncomfortable Touch (Children's Safety Series and Abuse Prevention)  by Lori Britain

This post is inspired by Kate Thomas. Thank you for making me want to be brave.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel

My fingers smell like Frankincense. I doused the kids with oils before they headed out the door for school. The older two are home with me. Still schooling at home. We're all still part of this crazy journey called life. With mixed schooling. And mixed feelings.

Samuel's MRI showed three cysts in his brain. One seems to be something he got when he was born or in the NICU. One is on the pituitary and the other an arachnoid cyst. Side effects include headaches and nausea; cue the aha moment.

This kid is going to be going through it. He's supposed to start growth hormone injections this week. Which is why we're working with neurology and endocrinology to keep close tabs on those brain cysts. In addition to getting his hearing aid which had to be postponed because the Dr wasn't available the day of our original appointment, we will also be reviewing the MRI's... and getting braces (orthodontist). Fun, fun.

And it stirs up all these past traumas. The life inside the Children's Hospital. And it requires this allowing myself to feel these feelings and to give them to God. To be able to speak plainly the times where it just wasn't fair... and yet to see God's faithfulness.

My heart is suffering grief and brokenness but not as one without hope. My Savior was born and he lived and suffered and died on my behalf so that grief, death, disease, sorrow, and brokenness are not a permanent thing but a passing through thing. A reminder that they can not hold me down forever. Just a little while. And then I will be free of it. Sometimes in the waiting it feels like forever.

I bought myself one of those little electric sign message boards. And the first thing that came to mind was Come, Emmanuel! At Christmas we celebrate His coming. His journeying from the throne, from perfection and praise, to this muddy, dirty, disheveled world. Being laid in a feeding trough where the animals ate out of. Humble. A King born as a pauper. Born of an "unwed" Mom.

And I await again, with groaning, Come, Oh Come Emmanuel. Jesus, please return. Rescue us.

And as we wait He redeems. He renews. He restores. It feels like forever but it's not.

So I'm breathing. Trusting. Crying. Surrendering. And holding onto the hope of our Emmanuel, our God with us.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Broken Hallelujahs.

35 years ago today I became a big sister. My instant built in best friend, Libby Anne "Joy", was born. Her pale skin and rosy cheeks and blue eyes. She called me her "Gi-Gi" when she couldn't say the word "Jennifer".

A couple years later, Mom even gave us our own baby doll Christopher to play with. We could take turns rocking him in our little wooden rockers. So we had a third partner in crime. All boy. Blonde hair buddy with blue eyes.

As kids we had lemonade stands, played hopscotch and scraped up our knees getting our first "summer stamps" as our Mom called them.

In my teen years she stole my clothes and shoes. She would be indignant that I borrowed her sweater when she would be wearing a whole outfit from my closet.

Her dramatic eye roll and loud gasps of surprise.

Her strumming the guitar.

Her voice lifted up in sweet praise.

Her 21st birthday. She was married and pregnant. I gave her a jewelry box.

I didn't know it would be her last birthday.

I didn't know 3 short months later she and her unborn son Sam, would be in the arms of Jesus.

Missing her today.
Celebrating her life.
Thanking God that I was allowed to be her big sister.

Some times we all have our broken Hallelujahs. This is one of those days.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

On the Days You Can't.

I just can't.

You ever have one of those days?

You feel like you can barely breathe and the thought of doing one more thing leaves you beyond undone. You're paralyzed. And you've hit a wall.

That's today.

Life has caught up with me. All the busyness. The appointments and therapies and specialists. The memorial service. The broken relationships. Bathing the dog. Buying the cats food. The inability to keep up with the needs of my home. The car collision center for estimate. Renewing the library books. The wedding present purchase. The wrestling tournament. The husband out of town for a week and I still have another week to get through. The diagnosis for Mike's grandmother (acute leukemia). Facing the daily realities of dementia for my precious mother-in-law. The weight of all the things that accumulate and build.

So I'm stopping. Resting. Breathing. My legs feel like lead. I hope to get to the Y so I can release some of the pent up struggle but for now I stay under the covers. The kids are fed and fine and safe. And I'm in bed. Trying to hold back the tears but I think the dam may have sprung a leak.

Tears are healing and cleansing. But at this moment I can't even cry. The exhaustion is too oppressive. the lack of sleep. My adrenal fatigue has caught up with me. And so I breathe. Put on some essential oils and take long deep breaths. And cry out to God. For help. For healing. For deliverance. For hope in this broken, shattered world. For peace that surpasses my understanding. For renewal. For grace to be kind to myself and not beat myself up for my lack and inabilities.

I light a candle and still my soul. The smell of pine permeates. I tense my muscles and hold for 20 seconds and let them relax. I put on the sounds of the ocean. I let my mind rest. And let my spirit rest.

Jesus, come. We are weak and needy. But you are strong and able. You are the fulfiller and redeemer. You are the blessing. The hope. The light. We rest and trust in you even when we can't. Even when there is nothing left to give. Even when the hopelessness promises to capsize our small boats. You are enough. More than enough. And we rest in you our Harbor. Our Rock. Our sure Foundation.

And in the moment we are reminded we are not holding onto you... but you are holding onto us.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Out of Hiding. Phoenix Rising.

The frazzle. The beauty. The sweet ecstasy. The terror. When I write. It comes to me. The real me. The real feelings. The depth. The reality. So I seek to avoid it. When I write I know myself… and that can be a very frightening thing.

my days are so full. Medical appointments. Tests and more tests. Therapy. Homeschooling. Follow through. Laundry. Dishes. Washing machine not working right. Garage door busted. The steps that need repair. The lawn that needs mowing. The math problems to assist. The reading a loud. The bathing of 5 kids to oversee and manage. And my best friend and beloved gone over 80% of the time with work.

So to sit and quiet my heart… Please let me do anything else. Let me scrub the floor. Wipe the poopy butt. Distract myself with FB or Instagram. Berate myself for not keeping up. For making a mistake.

To still myself brings confrontation. Damn it. I hate it. The silence that seeps in. Quietening my heart and catching my breath.

Do I really believe I’m enough? In my own of course not… but the deeper question… am I enough in Him? Do I believe that? Do I believe God is enough? 

Why do I strive so hard? To please others. To seek their acceptance. Their understanding. 

My heart bleeding all over these words. Please stop. Stop being so honest. So real. So uncomfortably vulnerable.

There is no going back. It’s coming out. It must. And with it the toxic poison can leave me and maybe true healing can be enough. Maybe I can heal. 

I’m not hiding anymore. Not hiding behind my children or their medical diagnoses. Not hiding behind the pain and struggle of my past.

Being open exposes you to criticism. It leaves me open to failure- the thing I fear most. 

I don’t have it all together. And though all the world knows this I’m so ashamed for it to be seen. To be exposed. The good, the bad, the ugly.

My story is my own. Losing my sister and nephew. My son having cancer. My other son cerebral palsy, a feeding tube for 5 years and now a new genetic diagnosis. The struggle of being a child of an alcoholic. My mental health issues of depression and anxiety. The PTSD. The hard financial struggles. Watching my son in his hearing loss. Endocrinologist. Geneticist. Pulmonologist. Cardiologist. Neurologist. Physical Medicine and Rehab. They are all apart of my story…. but they don’t define me. 

I am me. Jennifer Leigh Napier. Somedays I resemble the ashes more than the rising phoenix but I know my story isn’t finished. It’s not done. I’m being redeemed…. slowly changed more and more into His likeness. Until that sweet day when He calls me home and I see Him face to face. 

I groan. Longing for the world to change. The brokenness and pain to cease. The tears to stop being spilled. The mind numbing suffering and loss to end. We are not there yet. 

But we’re not alone. We don’t walk this path alone. 

God. Breathe Him in. Breathe in His beauty. His majesty. I see it in the mountains. The oceans. The forest. The plains. The wildflowers. The sunset. The sunrise. His reflections of His beauty are left for us to see in His creation. How much more spectacular the Creator.

I see it in the beauty of my children. The giving up of their favorite thing to share with a sibling. The desire to share Jesus with their friend at school who doesn’t know God. I see it in the thoughtfulness of my daughter. I see it in the self-sacrifice of my husband. This God at work. Who is powerful. Who is mighty to save. Who is bigger than I can imagine. 

Let us be consumed by Him. 

I’m not perfect. Not even close. But I’m consumed by His perfection.

I’m drawn to Him as He has drawn me to Himself. My hope is not in my kids health. It’s not in Mike’s job changing. It’s not in my current circumstances. it’s not in a perfectly organized home or a clean car. It’s in God and in Him alone. 

He is the satisfier of our hearts. The only true fulfillment of our deep needs and longings. The only One who can  quench our endless thirst and satisfy our eternal hunger.

Holding onto Him. And In faith, taking this step to embrace my writing. I’m not a perfect writer. But I am one. And it’s going to be okay, even when it doesn’t feel okay.

What do you need to embrace today? How do you need to let Him enter into the deep aches of your heart? He loves you. He’s crazy about you. He was singing over you just this morning and will watch over you as you sleep tonight. Let Him in. Let Him change you. He has good for you in the midst of your pain and struggles. He will restore you… slowly but surely- Our God is faithful!