Banana Bread Therapy

At the end of an exhausting week, I feel like I only know three things:
1) I want to follow Jesus
2) I’ve over extended myself this week to a point of being too tired to do a whole lot of anything, including following Jesus…or anyone, anywhere.
3) Banana bread & worship music refreshes my heart and soul.

bananabreadtherapy~

Cooking and cleaning have always been my weird coping mechanisms. That’s right, I said cooking. Go ahead, laugh, I’ll wait.

Okay, now that those of you who know me well have gotten a good laugh in, and those of you who don’t know me are confused, allow me to explain:

Historically, I’m not a great cook.

While I come from a family full of wonderful Mexican-American women who are master chefs and bakers, I technically was raised three hours away from them by a woman whose idea of cooking involved taking something out of a store bought freezer bag and putting it into the oven. So naturally when I got out on my own, I didn’t have the first idea of what to do in a kitchen.

I’m talking the “I’ve burnt Malt-o-meal” level of not knowing how to cook…

Thankfully over the last few years I’ve figured out how to prepare not only edible food, but really delicious fancy meals that I never would’ve thought possible.

(Unfortunately I didn’t acquire this talent until the year after I taught a cooking class at DSS. Consider this my formal and utmost apology if you were one of the students who suffered through that hellish year with me… Y’all seriously deserve an award for not killing me; especially on the days when I gave you knives & that became a very real possibility.)

Anywho, even before I actually knew how to cook well, banana bread was a simple enough recipe that I could whip up a batch without giving anyone food poisoning or burning down my house (both solid benefits in my opinion).

The simplicity of the recipe also allowed for me to accomplish something while not using a whole lot of mental power– banana bread provided me time to process and pray.

I’ve made banana bread at weird times in my life:

There’s been grief banana bread when I processed the deaths of my grandfather and best friend, and again when I lost custody of my god-kids.

There’s been worried banana bread when I’ve sobbed and begged God not to take my mother away from me because of her failing health.

I’ve gone on banana bread baking binges during times of stress (Usually during undergrad and grad school finals when I probably should have been studying. C’est la vie.) and extreme anger (Some girls destroy their ex’s belongings, some bake bread. Sue me…)

In the weirdest way possible, banana bread is the way that I connect with God when I can’t really figure out what else to do.

And at the beginning of this week, in true “God knows” fashion, a ridiculous amount of bananas were donated to the school. On Monday, when the bananas were still ripe and delicious, I didn’t think much of it. But then again, at that point in my week, I was still rearing to go…

But slowly, as God has shown up dramatically in more areas of my life and the school this week, the enemy has slowly begun to beat the living daylights out of me.

The last three days of my week have been annoyingly marked by spiritual attack. Thoughts akin to You’re an idiot. Why on earth do you even work at the Street School? You’re not doing anything here. You should just leave. You’re worthless. You couldn’t even be a good mother-figure, that’s why God took away your kids. Why are you taking care of Hailey? You’re terrible at this. mixed with incessant and unexplainable car problems left me exhausted and crumpled into a heap by this morning.

“Coincidentally”, shortly after confiding in a friend this morning that I felt beat down, I glanced over and noticed those same bananas sitting on the snack shelf in my classroom. In just a few days time, they had gone from the perfect snack to slouchy, brown banana-bread-only material (an amusing metaphor for how I felt this morning). In that moment, I knew exactly how I would be spending my night.

And so, this afternoon I bagged up the squishy banana mess, grabbed the few cans of the disgusting unsweetened apple sauce that someone brought me from a food bank a few weeks ago, and I headed home.

With my hair thrown up into a bun and worship music blasting, I went to work– mashing, mixing, and stirring– praying and arguing with God out loud like an absolute nut, alone in my kitchen. Within the hour, my house was filled with the familiar smell of banana bread and my heart felt a million times lighter.

However, the struggle still isn’t over.

The grief of losing my god-kids still hasn’t subsided even after four years, and given what week it is, I don’t expect it to any time soon. The fear of my car imploding and not having money to replace it still lingers in the back of my mind. But the beautiful pictures of God drawing my students to Himself, bringing ex-students back to the school to heal old wounds, and breaking down walls within my own heart that I didn’t even realize existed has silenced the nagging voice of the enemy and reminded me that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might, He increases strength through banana bread.”

(Isaiah 40:28-29…mostly)

 

If you need banana bread therapy too, I highly recommend this recipe. It’s healthy, sugar free, and FREAKING AWESOME.

Also, if you intend to use the above recipe, I agree with Kathryn Bronn’s assertion that you can never have too much cinnamon. You can read about what God’s teaching her in the kitchen, by clicking here. She’s marvelous; you won’t regret it.

Perfect Weakness

I’m a hypocrite when it comes to counseling.

If working with students who have been victims of abuse has taught me one thing, that would be it.

You can ask any one of my students and they’ll tell you that I am all about sitting on floors in empty hallways and letting them verbally process their lives and trauma when they can’t focus in class or simply are having an “off” day.

I do this so frequently with some of my kids that last week one of them sweetly asked me, “Miss, don’t you ever get tired of listening to stories about other peoples’ lives?”

And the truth is that I don’t. I love that part of my job the most. I love sitting on floors, listening, hugging, and reassuring them that they can bring anything to me in confidence.

But when it comes down to it, I’ve realized that I’m terrible at doing this myself.

Oh sure, I can hold a deep conversation with my girl friends about God, love, and what life is like today and what it might be like ten years from now… But there are some things that I simply am too afraid to verbalize, even though I know that I would be speaking in confidence with my closest friends on their bedroom or kitchen floors.

I suffer from crippling anxiety. About ninety-five percent of the time, you wouldn’t know this simply by looking at me; God has truly done miraculous work to bring me out of this through the last few years… But over the course of the last week, it has returned.

I know exactly what triggered it and I know that my inability to talk openly about the source with the people closest to me is only feeding into my anxiety and the accompanying restlessness and insomnia.

Every night for the last week I have had nightmares. I’ve woken up in tears; restless and fearful for my safety and obviously less than rejuvenated to face the day ahead.

Deep down I know that I need to speak up, for my own sanity, for the sanity of the thousands of people like me, but when I open my mouth to explain what I’m currently feeling or what I felt five, seven, or even nine years ago… Nothing comes out.

It’s like fear has me by the neck and I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe because I’m afraid of being judged. I’m afraid of people not believing me. I’m afraid that the nightmares and panic attacks won’t go away if I say something– if it becomes ‘real’ again. I’m afraid of the repercussions of the truth.

I’m simply afraid.

And to be honest, as a Christian woman, I’m a bit ashamed that I have let fear root so deeply in my heart.

In my heart I know that “Perfect Love casts out all fear.”

I’ve memorized the lyrics to the Chris Tomlin song and know that I have no one to fear because my God is “for” me.

I have read and re-read all of the verses in the New Testament that talk about God overcoming fear with His loving & powerful Spirit, and yet, I still laid on my bed tonight with my blanket over my face trying to remember how to breathe.

But tonight, as I laid there, I realized something.

This can’t be the way that I handle this any longer. I can’t just “wait” for these feelings to fade away, as I have in the past when they’ve risen up and taken over my life.

I can’t continue to allow myself to pretend like I’m perfectly healthy at work while I am waking myself up at night from screaming in my sleep.

This has to stop.

So students, if you’re reading this, know that you have inspired me to seek help. Your strength and openness has taught me that I can’t continue living like this, even if it is only for a few weeks at a time every few months, or years.

Anyone else reading this, I would genuinely appreciate your prayers over the next several days, weeks, and months. I know that whatever “this” is, that the healing process is going to be messy.

Speaking up is going to make me weaker than I already am, yet becoming weaker is a pre-requisite for becoming stronger in this case. Through this I will not become stronger on my own, or stronger because I will be “healthier” in the long run. No. I will be stronger because I will have laid my greatest fear down in front of God and said, “This is Yours because I can’t carry this burden on my own anymore.” And He will become my strength.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

(2 Corinthians 12:9)