Where is the renewal of my soul?

How do you tell them you’re tired? That your smiles aren’t as real as they use to be? That, most days, you have to make yourself show up.

This isn’t suppose to happen. Not to us, not to people who are the ones who hug you when you’ve come back after your last relapse. Not to people who are grace-givers and hope-peddlers.

This isn’t suppose to happen.

But it does. It has and I don’t know what to do with my tired heart and pretend smile.

In the early days I held a little distance between us, between me and the residents of our facility, aka: addicts. I watched and listened and let God soften my heart. I walked carefully into this new ministry, this foreign world on home soil.

I walked through the first few years a bit dazed by it all and unsure of where to make my place. Some of the men called me mom, adding to my unsettled feelings. I wasn’t out to be their mom, but I smiled politely because I was learning.

Time passed and I let the tears fall when one didn’t return home because now I was happy to be called ‘mom’. I wanted to make this place a home where they can know love and grace and mercy and that love and mercy don’t exclude rules for communal living.

God was using this community of residents and staff to show me the real ‘amazing grace’. This was compassion and mercy and love and they will steal your heart and leave you empty and tired with no more tears to cry for the next one.

We pull away, we take vacation, we have creative endeavors, we do all of the things that should keep us healthy and our souls fit for caring one more day. But now, my tears are from feeling numb to it all.

Caring too much can hurt. When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviors can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now labeled: Compassion Fatigue

Where is the renewal of my soul?

around the lake

birdhouse on the lake

around the lake on Lake Junaluska

One of the perks about our ministry is the competent counselors on staff. What could be better than a licensed mental health counselor, just down the hall from my office? I told her I’d lost it. I’d lost the passion and energy and that I had to make myself show up.

She looks me in the eye, listening to my words as well as my heart. Her voice softens and she asks me, again, ‘What about you? You’re a nurturer but are you taking care of you? What are you doing that’s for you?’ You know I am, Marian. You know I’m taking a photography class and that I write. You know I do those things for me.

She pressed on, ‘ But who are your friends? Your girlfriends? The ones you do things with, not your husband, your friends?

Ah, yes. The ones who live in other states. Those friends? The story gets complicated and our talk grows quiet as she knows I’ll walk out her door and nothing will change.

win or lose


beach chair

We are wired to tend to the needs of others while ignoring the weakening pulse in our heart. The bible is full of verses about putting others first and serving the least and how the last will be first in the Kingdom. These verses of works walk hand in hand with the faith on which they are built. One without the other is dead so we carry on until we slowly die on the inside.

There is that one verse. The one I like reading in the Message, the one that makes me think of music and the ocean and the graceful rhythms of both.

It’s as if Eugene Peterson was reading my mind when he wrote this paraphrase:
“Are you tired? Worn out ? Burned out on religion?”

Well, yes… yes, I am.

“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Sometimes keeping company with Jesus looks like a phone call with a friend, a heart to heart with my sister or laughing at an 8-year old’s jokes. These are life breaths to suck in deeply, slowly, and hold, ……..then the release, exhaling slower still . The renewal comes in the release. Always in the release.

More about Debby Hudson

Where do you find grace? Inside the church walls? Around the dinner table with your family? For years, grace was not much more than the prayer we said before meals or a biblical concept. Then I met a group of men who had, as we say, reached bottom. They welcomed me to Graceland. They showing me grace can be found in the darkest of places. I'm still searching and learning. I hope you'll want to come along.

10 thoughts on “Where is the renewal of my soul?

  1. gabriele

    The numbness is the worst feeling of burnout. It may be what is for a while. I don’t mean to give you advice, you don’t need it. But, I have sat with numbness. It takes a while for release.


    1. Debby Hudson

      Thank you Gabriele. You’re not giving advice, you’re saying “me too” and those words of knowing it’s not me or that I’m not alone bring comfort. I know it, but it sure feels good to hear it.


  2. Melodear

    This poem, attributed to Rumi, is my “recovery mantra”. It reminds me it’s about the journey …returning to the path. Compassion fatigue (though no need to pathologize) is real. A helpful antidote is allowing others to hold compassion for you. Feeling is hard, tiring work. Rest. And come, yet again …to community.

    “Come, Come, Whoever you are Our is not a caravan of despair Come, Come, Whoever you are This caravan has no despair. Even though you have broken your vow perhaps ten thousand times Yet come again, come again, whoever you are whoever you are, come Wander, worshiper, lover of leaving, come Wander, worshiper, lover of leaving”


    1. Debby Hudson

      I don’t think I could put it any better Melody – “feeling is hard, tired work”. I wrote this a couple of months ago when it felt heaviest but am glad I posted it because you and Gabriele have shared some important words of wisdom. Thank you, friend.


  3. Judi Kruis

    Those photos definitely tell a story too!! When you care in settings of recovery, not too many have an understanding shoulder and we are often carrying more alone. The MSG version is definitely a blessing to show His grace. And often the refreshing does come in seemingly simple ways. Hope your trip brought some blessing and refreshing too!


    1. Debby Hudson

      Thanks Judi. Sometimes we gulp for air until we can take it in more slowly. The last couple of days gave me a nice big gulp spending time with my brother and his family.


  4. Linda Stoll

    Oh I’ve been there, done that. Just wish I had caught myself sooner like you have done. Compassion fatigue is alive and thriving amongst all us people helpers. We need to be savvy and call it what it is.

    Often, it’s a professional that will be the only one to ask us the hard questions that we need to grapple with.

    Praying for you, friend …


    1. Debby Hudson

      I hear you, Linda. I work with some of the “professionals” but I’m their boss. They are honest but a little too close. And the questions are as hard as the answers. Thanks for your friendship and prayers.


  5. Annie

    This is so powerful, Debby. Don’t we all need that reminder that Jesus offers us REST? Not a to-do list or more, but rest. He’s got this world, doesn’t he? 😉


    1. Debby Hudson

      I’m trying to listen to that Annie. Surrounded by a culture of doers can be hard to not feel like a slacker. One of our speakers last week spoke about balance. I know people were nodding in agreement but I wonder how many are like me? I appreciate your friendship and our dialogue about seasons.


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