An Open Letter to Mandisa

Standard

I feel God leading me to write another open letter to a celebrity that has impacted my life.  I wrote one a few years ago to Michael W. Smith about the way he eased a difficult time in my life.  Now, I need to write another…

 

Dear Mandisa,

First, let me say that I have been a fan since seeing you on one of the few seasons of American Idol that I actually watched.  I have cheered on Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and you.

The main reason I am writing is to say thank you.  Your music pulled me through a very dark time in my life.  I have written on my blog about my depression, but I have never thanked you personally.

I had known I would be a teacher in some form my entire life.  My sister found something I wrote in the first grade saying I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.  Generations of my mother’s family before me had been teachers.  Unfortunately, my mother passed away exactly one year before I began my first teaching job.  She did not get to see me graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with honors from her alma mater.  She did not get to help me set up my first classroom.  She did not get to help me pick out my first day of school outfit.  However, I still felt her with me each year.  One small way I knew she was there was that each year I have had some form of the name Catherine in my class – Mom’s first name.

Fourteen years into my career, things got turned upside down.  I was told I was a terrible teacher by an administrator.  I was the only full-time income in my house since my husband was staying home with our then two-year-old twin daughters.  Our 10-year-old son was a student at the school where I taught.  In hindsight, I was probably still dealing with post-partum depression that had turned into general depression and daily panic attacks.  However, I was devastated and terrified of not being able to provide for my family.

Then the real blow happened.  An administrator told me that my students “deserved better.”  She meant that they deserved better than my depressed state and was trying to encourage me to seek help.  However, in my mental state at the time, I took it to mean that they deserved better than me.  The next morning, in the midst of a severe panic attack, Satan took that phrase and convinced me that my husband and children also deserved better.  In fact, my brain told me, they would all be better off if you were not here, so just end your life.

The blessing was that Jesus gave me the clarity to call my best friend.  She talked to me while I got ready for work and the entire drive in.  When I told her I was in my classroom and she knew I would be fine, she hung up with me and called my husband to let him know what had happened.  By the time I got home that afternoon he had scheduled an appointment with a Christian counselor.

The rest of that school year was an hour by hour fight with my depression and, it felt to me, for my sanity.  During this very dark time I would listen to your music all the way in to school and until my first class arrived.  I would listen again during my lunch time.  Your music gave me hope and the strength to make it through a few more hours.  Mostly, I listened to your Overcomer CD.  I would literally turn on the CD, put my head on my desk, cry and pray “Help me, Jesus.”

Three years later, I am seven weeks from finishing my seventeenth year teaching.  My daughters are now in school with me and my son is finishing middle school.  New administration values my teaching experience and expertise.  My depression and anxiety are pretty well controlled with counseling and medication.  However, your music still holds a very special place in my heart.  Satan sometimes creeps back into my head with thoughts of how things would be easier if I would just end my life, but I quote Scripture, and some Mandisa lyrics!

A few weeks ago my daughters and I were driving to school when you came on the J93.3 The Joy FM in Atlanta.  My girls recognized your name and started singing Overcomer!  I was shocked to hear that you had also been battling depression, and even during the time I had been battling the same thing!  Knowing that, I felt it was time to tell you how much your music had helped me through.

Mandisa, God used your music to pull me away from the edge of suicide.  Looking at my children, both personal and in my classroom, it saddens me to realize how close I was to that terrible mistake.  Thank you for the part you played in my endurance and healing.  Thank you for letting God use you and your amazing talent.  Thank you for being so open about your struggles and your humanity.  I am here today partially due to your willingness to be used.

Sincerely,

A. Leavitt

Living with anxiety

An open letter to Michael W. Smith

 

Advertisements

Fear Not

Standard

“Don’t worry about it.”

If I had a nickel every time I have heard that phrase.

I have always worried.  I used to just assume it was part of my personality.  I was told that all the women in my family worried.  It was just the way the women in the Sennett family worked.

After my mother died, however, the worry took a complicated turn.  It turned into devastating anxiety and panic.  I have had moments of anxiety that have driven me to my knees in the carpet and it took prayer to stand me up.  I have prayed my way into work many days – not because I was worried about something that was supposed to happen that day – but because I was anxious about something that MIGHT happen.

I can come up with “What if…” questions better than most Olympic athletes can compete at their sport.  The answers I come up with are always worst case scenarios.  That causes more anxiety.  It is a vicious cycle that I have allowed to steal many days from my life.

Today I am worried.  I have to leave in about an hour to take my six year old daughter to our local children’s hospital for a test.  The doctor told me what the test will entail, but since it is not one I have endured before, I can’t prepare her.  I don’t know if she will be in pain.  I don’t know if it will cause her fear.  I don’t know if I will be able to be with her.  I don’t know if it will be a good thing for me to be with her.  Will she sense my fear?  Will that make everything worse?

So I have to make a conscious choice to trust.  I have to trust that this children’s hospital knows what they are doing and will be a calming effect.  Trust that they understand my fears and hers.

Most of all, I have to trust that God loves my daughter more than I could ever imagine.  Whatever happens today is in His will.  A quick Bible Gateway search of the phrase “fear not” brings up over 150 verses that teach us not to fear.  They stretch from Genesis to Revelation.  They are direct commands from Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah and other prophets speaking on God’s behalf.  They are commands from Jesus Christ Himself.  They are teachings from the epistles of Paul.  This might be an important topic, huh?

Trusting in God is easy when you have a back up plan.  Trusting in God is easy when it is a choice between good options.

When it is something completely out of your control……..not so easy.  When it is the well-being of your child that is out of your control…excruciating.

Today I am having to make a conscious effort to trust.   Today I am having to renew that effort every few minutes.

Today I am having to quote some of those 150+ verses over and over to myself.

Today I am choosing to learn from my daughter, who is contentedly reading a book – completely trusting.  She knows that Mommy and Daddy prayed over her last night and that we will be continuing to pray.  She is confident in that power.

Matthew 10:29-31   “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”