Treasures in the Dark

Photo credit: Unsplash

Photo credit: Unsplash

“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness-secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”

— Isaiah 45:3

  

For many years, I lived in darkness. It was the darkness of uncertainty : Uncertain where my husband was, uncertain where my next dollar was coming from or when it was coming, not knowing how to navigate this perilous journey through a loved one’s serious mental illness…There are not too many words to describe how it feels to live under that kind of chronic stress. I had no one in my life who had “been there done that” to help me. I was in uncharted territory. I spent so many days, just groping my way through, barely holding on, with no bearings at all, not knowing where the next step would lead. 

Twice over the course of our marriage, because of complications from his bipolar disorder, Scott disappeared. The first time, he was gone for almost exactly one year.  The second time, he was gone for 4.5 years! 

During both seasons, life was quite challenging. The future was uncertain, the present was hard, and the past was confusing. I was solo parenting, juggling various jobs, graduate school, childcare and finances, not knowing if Scott was dead or alive, or safe, or ever coming back. We had virtually no communication. It wasn’t like he was dead, or deployed, or away on a trip, or in prison. It was like he didn’t even exist. There was no closure.

And yet somehow, I managed to make it through those seasons, with my own mental health and sanity intact. Somehow, I got my daughter through that time…and even managed to accomplish quite a bit along the way, like getting a Master’s Degree!

How??

Well, the simple answer to that is…one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. And tons of God’s grace!!

Something about being responsible for another human being motivated me. Taking care of her, making sure she had what she needed, making sure she was happy and thriving…that was therapeutic for me, and a happy distraction.

Being a musician saved me as well. Listening to music is a proven tool of healing, but playing music is on another level altogether. There is the amazing brain work of playing the instrument, the beauty of the music itself, the wonderful people that music brings into one’s life through collaboration, and the beauty brought to others through music…all of those things helped me immensely. I feel so blessed that making music is my profession! I think that if I were not a mother or a musician, I would not have been able to handle Scott’s absence and illness as well as I did.

But there is a deeper answer to the question of “how did you do it?” Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

When you are stumbling in the dark, sometimes the only thing you have is faith. That’s what gives us light for the next step. God has proven His faithfulness to me over and over again, and it is in Him I have placed my trust!! HE is the light, illuminating the darkness!

I spent many nights, many hours, pouring my heart out to the Lord. The best way for me to connect with God is through journaling. When I bare my soul onto the page, I know God hears the cries of my heart. I am much better able to articulate my thoughts through writing…one of the many special traits of an INFP…and writing my prayers is the way I pray. I may not pick up my violin for days, but I can rarely go a day without journaling. It’s a habit I formed back when I was 13 years old, inspired by Anne Frank. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s better than drink, drugs, or other destructive behaviors, that’s for sure!

Through those intimate times with my Heavenly Father, I learned how to keep my eyes on HIM. Like David and his Psalms, many times I might start out complaining or venting…but by the end, God has calmed my heart and brought my focus back to praising Him in the midst. I also found direction. Through God’s leading, and good counsel, I was able to hear His voice and discern my next steps, whether it be moving out of state (which I did), or whether or not to reach out to Scott.

“I will give you treasures in darkness…”

In those intimate times, I also found what I call “treasures in the darkness”. This is sort of like developing an “attitude of gratitude”, but that’s only part of it.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

In the midst of the darkness, the Lord taught me how to “look for the treasures”. Think about it…some things are best enjoyed in the dark. Stargazing, for example. You can’t see the beauty of constellations and planets and stars, unless it’s dark out. When we go to the movie theater, or to a show, they always dim the houselights so that the light can best shine on the screen, or the stage. Fireworks are no fun in broad daylight.

Even though it was dark in a pretty major area of my life, my marriage, God had a way of illuminating other areas, and drawing my attention there.

Here are a few treasures God gave me in the midst of very trying circumstances:

1.      A healthy, active, vibrant daughter who exuded joy and zest for life…enjoying the world through her eyes lifted my spirits immensely

Graduation Day! Newly minted Master of Music!

Graduation Day! Newly minted Master of Music!

2.      Opportunities to grow…for example, academically and getting a higher degree. Musically, by preparing for that degree. A trip to Italy, to enhance my studies for that degree.

3.      An amazing support system…a mother who has bent over backwards to make sure we as a family have what we need, as much as she is able. Friends who spoke life over the 3 of us, and always supported all of us, even Scott, while he was gone.

4.      Not just any friends, either…but fellow believers who would pray for me and give me encouragement in the Lord, just when I needed it. Or were available to listen, whether it be via email, phone, or in person chats.

5.      Plenty of happy distractions so that I was not constantly consumed with my husband’s absence, or obsessing over if he would ever come back. God gave me a supernatural ability to release Scott into His hands…even if I had to do that several times in one day, I can say that I did not wallow in in the self-pity his absence could have brought about. I was too busy!

Jesus promised us in His Word, that in this world, we absolutely would have tribulation. It’s inevitable. In a sense, this entire existence on this planet is like stumbling around in the dark. You never know what life will bring. Blessing, sorrow, joy, pain. We don’t know everything. We can’t predict the future, we can’t figure out the past, we can’t control another person’s actions…life is uncertain. But Jesus also exhorted us to be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world. He gives us beauty for ashes, and Light for our darkness! 

If you are in a dark season of life today, look for the treasures!!

By Way of Introduction

Hello and welcome to the inaugural post of Mining for Diamonds! I’ve already shared a little bit about myself  on the About and Home pages, but I wanted to take this opportunity to formally introduce myself, and share a little bit more about my hopes for this blog...

I feel in many ways like my life did not begin until I started playing violin. I started when I was 10 years old, in the 5th grade. I went on to major in music in college, and earned a Bachelor of Music in Violin performance. I recently completed a Master of Music in Violin Performance (MM).You can read more about my musical journey, as well as my adventures as a 40-something graduate student, here. I often say that I didn't choose the violin, but rather it chose me. It has most certainly been a driving force in my destiny on this planet.

                                           After a concert at a girl's school in Kenya.

                                           After a concert at a girl's school in Kenya.

In the ‘90s, during and after college, I got serious about my faith in Jesus. Through a series of events, I served several years as a “musical missionary” with an organization that used music as a tool for sharing the Gospel around the world. I could combine the violin with my faith and my global heart! These were some of the richest years of my life, as I got to go to places like: India, China, Rwanda, Vietnam, Colombia, Armenia, Egypt…to name a few. It was such a blessing to see how powerful music could be!  Lives were changed, without a lot of preaching. This group was multi-cultural, interdenominational, and extremely versatile. Being a music group allowed us to go to places where traditional preachers could not. I’ve played violin in places like a leper colony in India, a Chinese orphanage, and a Thai prison; I’ve met the Archbishop of Canterbury, and shared my testimony in a Communist country. I’ve been to the Gaza Strip, and played for survivors of the Rwandan genocide. My years with this group were life changing. Not only for the many souls we encountered along the way as they heard the Gospel message through music, but for me personally. It was in this group that I made lifelong friends...and I met my husband. More on him in a moment...

Working in the pit orchestra for a production of "Miss Saigon"

Working in the pit orchestra for a production of "Miss Saigon"

Music is a huge part of my life…it’s my livelihood. Although it has not made me rich, it has made me happy. I love all kinds of music, not just classical, not just “Christian”, and not just "Western". I find music to be deeply spiritual and a way to connect the souls of humanity to the heart of God. The violin is one way for me to communicate my faith, as well as earn a living. Click here for periodic postings of my playing and other things musical.

I love the nations and anything multicultural, global, international, etc. I am at home just about anywhere, with just about anyone. In total, I’ve been to 34 countries in my lifetime, and hope to visit many more in the future. I believe we all have something to learn from one another, regardless of where we’re from. One thing about music that I find to be so awesome is that it is truly a universal language, and I feel honored to be able to “speak” a language that is understood around the world.

                            Little Drummer Girl...

                            Little Drummer Girl...

I am the mother of one. She is a ‘tween, and the sunshine in my life. My daughter is outgoing, full of personality and spunk, and is a budding performer. She loves to dance and sing, plays the djembe, and dabbles a little in violin. Her hair is her trademark, as she is the product of two parents with a LOT of hair. She surely got a double portion…and with that, an extremely tender scalp. So we have had quite a few hair adventures in our house. You may hear about that sometime.

I am married…and here comes a huge “but”. Unfortunately, my husband is not with us, and has not been for a few years now. Our story does not follow the narrative of so many marriages that have “issues”. He didn’t leave me for another woman, he is not an addict, or an alcoholic; he’s never been abusive in any way. He did not “do” anything wrong per se, and the fact that ours is an interracial marriage is not a factor in his absence.

My husband was diagnosed with Bipolar I at the age of 16. Bipolar disorder is a serious, complicated mental illness. I knew that when I married him, but neither of us could foresee the trajectory that his mental health would take in his life, and the effect that it would have on our marriage. It is because of the complications of this illness that I find myself in the situation I’m in today.

I will share more of our story during the course of this blog, because I believe that mental illness is something that should be spoken about more candidly. People are hurting, and mental illness in one form or another affects millions of people in this country, as well as those of us who love them. It is highly misunderstood and those affected are often marginalized and stigmatized. Usually we only hear about mental illness in the context of a Hollywood star doing something outrageous or committing suicide…or when a horrific act of violence is committed by a deranged gunman or a mom with severe postpartum depression hurts her children. Those are scary images and do not tell true whole story of the vasts majority of those who suffer from mental illness in its many forms.

One thing I promise to do is maintain and honor my husband’s dignity, and his privacy. Even though there is something of a question mark that remains over him and our marriage, the main point I want to get across in this blog is this: in the midst of it all, God is faithful. He has walked me through some deep valleys in my marriage, and I am confident that He will walk my little family all the way through to His glorious Light. My husband’s story is not over, and neither, I believe, is our marriage.

The heart of “mining for diamonds” comes from that hope the I hold on to, that there are indeed treasures in the darkness.

More will be forth coming, but hopefully this will give you a little foretaste of what to expect. Balanced among the more "serious" aspects of my life are the little joys: my daughter's vibrant personality, coffee,  documentaries and foreign films (mostly on Netflix), Scrapbooking (though not in a long time), getting to know my natural hair texture, hanging out on the Internet, and dreaming of fulfilling God's purpose for my life.

I don’t want this to be a “mental illness” blog, or a “mommy” blog, or a “marriage” blog. What I DO desire is this: to offer hope to others who are in difficult situations. I know I am not alone in the challenges I face in loving a person with a serious mental illness, or raising a child alone, or navigating this thing called “faith” in the midst of it all. It’s tough, but “with God, nothing shall be impossible.”

Stay tuned for more!