When You Need to Put the Handwriting Back on the Wall

September 27, 2011 | 29 comments

So much about those days is fuzzy, but I still remember the groping around in my mind’s dark. All the color had been sucked out of life, which was a lie, but that’s the way it all looked. Just gray. 

I didn’t get why. Healthy toddler, new baby, happy marriage, nice home. Who, but a spoiled brat, would be crying when she’s living the dream? What kind of mother and wife was I anyway?

They call this rock-bottom, I guess. Some people find it at the bottom of a bottle or when they slip their last dollar in a slot machine or when they wake up one morning and realize they messed up real bad. But this was where I scraped against my rock-bottom — while cutting a red apple for my daughter.

It was 10 p.m., and the baby was finally asleep. My two-year-old was still awake because I guess I’d forgotten that she had a set bedtime. I realized it too late, but I let her stay up longer for apples. I remember thinking at the time that I hadn’t done anything for her all day long, except cut up an apple for her. Which was a lie, but I couldn’t always tell the difference. I peeled away the skin because she didn’t like apples with skin, and I picked off the seeds.

I handed her apple slices on a plastic Dora plate, and I sat with her at her tea-party table. Folded into a child’s chair, I sobbed.  

Because what kind of mother waits until 10 o’clock at night to do something nice for her child?  

I had read about people like me in the pamphlets that the nurse gave me before my first baby was born. But none of it came true, and I was happy with the first baby — only and always happy. But it was different with the second, and I saw the words in the soft glow of the Internet: Post-partum depression.

They said on the computer that this was “normal.” Whatever normal was. But this didn’t feel normal — waiting until 10 at night to serve apples.  

And, no, I wouldn’t ask for help. What kind of mother of two would ask for help, when mothers of four and five manage?

But my husband put a hand on my arm, pulled me close, and said I should. It was ok to ask for help, and I sobbed into his shoulder. Why, he asked, do I always want to do everything by myself?

So I called her the next day, a sister in Kansas City. Would she come? Would she drop everything — her life, her own kids — and drive six hours north to help me so I could do more than slice up a Red Delicious for my girl?

The first night she got here, she held my baby, who wouldn’t sleep. My sister didn’t sleep, so I could sleep. 

Next day, I went to the doctor, who gave me some pills. I came home, and my sister had penned a note on white paper. I think  now that it was a God prescription. She handed it to me and said I needed to say these words every single day, or more as needed: “Lord, give me enough grace for today.”

She underlined today. And I began to pray those words every day.  

I also went to my bedroom closet that day, and for the first time ever, dropped to me knees before the Lord. I remember leaning my head on the carpet in the dark, right beside the laundry hamper. And right there, I aired my dirty laundry to Jesus. I did most of the talking, and He didn’t seem to mind.

My sister says that on that day, I came out of the room a different woman. She said she didn’t know what happened in the room, behind that closed door, but she said I was a new person when I walked out.

I was.

I am.


Yesterday, I was cleaning the drawers in the kitchen. I found my sister’s note, under old catalogs, in the drawer by the oven.

I don’t take those pills anymore. I would if I needed to, but I stopped years ago. And for some reason, the day I stopped taking the pills, I tucked the note in the drawer.

But who would throw away the handwriting on the wall?

I took that note from under the pile, and today, I taped it to the pantry door.

(I didn’t realize this — until I found that note in the drawer — but I have never shared this story here. Until now. His amazing grace still amazes me.)

by | September 27, 2011 | 29 comments


  1. Megan Willome

    Oh, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing. You’re going to help a lot of people. And how wonderful that you hsd a sister to call!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Megan, for “being here” already. I don’t know why, but I sort of held my breath when I hit “PUBLISH” on this one.

      I hope that God can use this to let someone else know that they are NOT alone. And that there is light at the end of the gray.

      Again, thank you for your encouragement.

  2. Lisa

    Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing this story.

    It’s a lesson I have learned many times, and need to be reminded of often! There is always enough grace for today… and His grace is enough.

  3. HisFireFly

    Not just for those struggling with PPD, but for any of us trying to carry things Jesus never asked us to.. thank you for sharing the transforming power of surrender.

    Love this, love you!

    • dukeslee

      So true, friend. We can fall face-down into grace a multitude of ways.

  4. Lyla Lindquist

    “Which was a lie, but…” Would that we could know that sooner.

    You, wide open here. Thanks for this, for living the truth that a moment’s grace is all we need, all we ever really get at a time.

    Glad you held your breath and still hit that button.

  5. Shirley

    Wow! By opening yourself this way and being so transparent, I know you are going to bless so many others!

  6. deb

    took my breath away .

  7. Nancy

    Yes, I’m sure He will use this to help someone. He probably already has. Today. Just for today.

  8. Julie

    Oh Jennifer…thank you for being brave enough to share this. I had suffered with anxiety for years and then after a miscarriage – depression. Your right…it seems that there is only gray…no color. While I wouldn’t wish these things on anyone….in hindsight….I consider it a blessing. I can sympathize with those who struggle with their own battles with this. And that note your sweet sister wrote for you…..wow!

    “Lord, give me enough grace for today.”

    This should be the first prayer we utter each morning before even stepping out of bed…whether we are struggling with something or not!

    For the record….I am glad you pushed “publish” 😉

    • dukeslee


      You’re right. These are words for the everyday … every single day. I must remember that. Thank you, friend.

  9. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    This post stirs up so many emotions–after I had the twins, if it weren’t for my mother living with us for a month and keeping two feet in a group Bible study, I don’t know how I would have made it. When my mother stopped staying the night, I cried. It was full year after their birth before I felt like I had an appetite for food again. These are the things that just don’t happen to “good” mothers–but they do.

    • dukeslee

      I feel the same way, Jennifer. I don’t know how I would have made it through without a sister, mom, mother-in-law, husband, etc.

      I remember feeling so guilty that I was so deeply pained. It didn’t make sense to have a good life all around me, and not be able to just … be … HAPPY! But it was what it was, and I can look back and see it as an important milestone on the faith journey.

  10. Jeanne Damoff

    So good, Jennifer. Thanks for sharing this honest glimpse into a low place that God redeemed and continues to redeem. I agree that your words will help many.

    Thank God for daily grace and “sisters” who come alongside to dispense it.


  11. floyd

    Awesome post. What a blessing God provided for you through your sister and now you’re getting to pass it on. God is AMAZING!

    The worst time in my life, alone in an apartment, going through a divorce and a business IRS audit that promised to destroy me and all the dreams of a lifetime, found me like you, face down with my head in someone else’s dirty carpet, crying out to God.
    It was the best day of my life…

    • dukeslee

      Yea, Floyd. That’s it right there. “It was the best day of my life.” Amen, brother.

  12. Linda

    I love the way you share your heart – with such honesty and compassion. I experienced the same thing when my second son was born. I still remember it as one of the most helpless, frightening times of my life.
    Your sister’s rx was and is just perfect.

    • dukeslee

      I was so very, very thankful for my sister that day.

      So you felt this, too? Specifically after the second child? Isn’t that something? I still can’t figure out for sure what the difference was…

      (See you soon, friend!)

  13. Diana Trautwein

    Brave, wise, obedient girl. Thank you, Jennifer. This is lovely and so needed. Just for today, Lord, just for today. Glad you have a wise husband and an available and loving sister. And that you knew when to cry, ‘uncle.’ Been there, kiddo – different reasons, but similar experience. So glad you hit that button.

  14. Carolyn

    I’m so glad you hit “publish” too. We all need a mother to slice an apple for us. Until my Mom got sick in February, she would slice an apple sometimes for me when she could tell I was struggling.

    I have fought depression, anxiety, and even PTSD for years. Gone through all of the arguments – is it Christian to take the meds? Does it matter? Will it help? Can we afford it? Are the meds a lack of faith? On and on. I don’t know the answers to those questions for others. I know the answers for me. I try to be as honest about it as I can – in person, on my blog, etc. I don’t want anyone to struggle through these things alone when I am sitting right here, willing. I’m sure somebody will read your post and feel less alone. Thank you for that.

  15. Wendy

    I love how you speak right to the heart of women. You bring so much into the light so we no longer need to be afraid to be real.

    Thanks for that!
    ~ Wendy

  16. Lisa Yunker

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Your beautiful transparency allows Jesus to shine right through. I have found God’s grace in the midst of my own brokenness too, and it’s what all of us need to know. Weakness is not the problem. It is just an opportunity to realize God’s strength.

  17. Audra Krell

    Jennifer, I’m so busy and almost missed reading this. Boy am I glad God didn’t let this one go. Thank you for writing that is more than worth my time. Thank you for your authenticity, grace, and boundless mercy in sharing your heart. I’m so glad that I found you through Floyd. God knows just what we need.

  18. Brennan

    Jennifer, you may not know but i read your posts all the time and they are so uplifting and just all-around helpful for me. You, your family, and your community of christians have been such a strong influence on my life and changing it for the better. Thank you for putting your thoughts and stories into these blogs.

    Your Tiny Guy

  19. Deidra

    Thanks for sharing this – it will help so many. I struggled with post-partum depression and didn’t know what it was. I didn’t get help and it spiraled viciously out of control and I developed an eating disorder that almost took my life.

    I am healthy and whole now by the grace of God, but people need to know it’s okay to get help and to talk to others. Had I done that, I may not have ended up in such a bad place.

  20. Beth Herring

    oh, so beautiful – grace for today. i often think of how God dispenses grace as we need it. and oh how I love Him….

  21. Lori

    Thank you Jennifer for this very real post. I know that the Lord will use it to reach and give comfort to many people out there. People feel so very alone when they are depressed for whatever reason. It makes a world of difference just to hear just one word of wisdom. Your sister is a very wise woman. Good advice for all of us……Lori

  22. Michelle DeRusha

    So grateful for your courage here, Jennifer. I suffered from post-partum, too — it’s a lonely affliction. I think this may be one of your best posts ever (although I think I’ve said that before!).

  23. Patricia

    Hi hon…
    So glad to come to visiting, albeit late 🙂 and see the graciousness of our good God through these words. I love that he showed you where that note was again and gave you the gift memory of where you were and are now… so thatif you or any of us, find ourselves there again, we will remember and know. You bless me. Thank you.


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