Guest Post: Lilly’s Rae of Hope

I’m privileged to have Amy Theisen Walz as a guest poster on my blog. We connected through Northwestern Christian Writers Conference this past summer in Minneapolis, MN. Amy has a passion in her heart for sharing hope through telling her story of how God met and restored her and her family in a very dark place.

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Throughout my young life, I covered up sadness with people-pleasing and peacemaking tendencies. At the age of 19, I had my first undiagnosed episode of depression and was too ashamed to share the depth of my sadness to ask for help.  By age 26, I was married with three kids under the age of 4. The busyness of my life as a work-from home and stay-at home Mom caused my anxiety & perfectionism to overcome me, and I suffered from major postpartum depression. Thus began my first attempts at medications and therapy.  

For many years I continued to try my best, masking my pain to the outside world in a façade of constant busyness, people-pleasing, peacemaker and ultimate role of an overly-committed “everything for everyone.”  Struggling with severe perfectionism and feeling out of control, I struggled with anorexia throughout my 30s. It was then that the façade started to crumble, as It was visibly hard to cover up my bony figure, chronic pain, weakness, and overall sadness.  It was in the midst of weekly therapy to recover and rebuild that my then 11-year-old son was admitted inpatient with a suicide attempt and eventual diagnosis of major depressive disorder. 

It was during this time I felt Jesus strip away my control of all that surrounded me in order to create the life He knew I desired in my heart. When everything crumbled, he placed hope in my heart to simply trust and follow him.  He placed a beautiful little black lab pup in my family and slowly started to repair all the years of sadness in our lives. For the past 12 years, we have worked hard to rid ourselves of dysfunction, build each other back up and eventually, to thrive!  

Knowing In my heart that Jesus would one day use our story and struggle to help others, I simply waited for His timing.  The sign came on a day in March 2019, when my son lost his childhood friend. She was such a sweet and beautiful soul; she died from the complications from a suicide attempt.  Jesus simply said, “Amy, it’s time to share the hope you clung to in your darkness…bring it as a light to others suffering with mental Illness”. Thus, I share with you a journal entry from June 2019.

Monday June 10, 2019

Today reality has really set in with Lilly’s remaining time with me.  It actually started yesterday as I noted further signs of her decline.  We had a wonderful day on Saturday, her 12th bday, but Sunday I sensed she was not herself.  Unfortunately, she attempted the back porch stairs. I was surprised to hear her climbing the stairs and I saw her head at about the third top step, then she fell all the way back down.  My heart has felt so heavy since then. Maybe I pushed her a week longer than I should have. Maybe I should have arranged her date for heaven to be on her birthday like I had originally wanted.  I really wanted Dr. Erlandson to be with us during this time, as she is simply the sweetest, but was it more for my convenience? So many questions and doubts swirling around my mind…again, did I wait too long?? The questions of her going too soon were on my mind during the decision process as well.  She has really started showing me, many times in the past two weeks, she is truly tired and ready to go. Darn fall yesterday has truly got my heart in my throat of late.  

Today I’m simply a mess with only having 5 days left with her.  The reality hit me last week that her actual body will not be present in our house anymore. I don’t remember the house filled with much silliness or playful love before Lilly. What I do remember was sadness and dysfunction. Lilly unconditionally loved our family regardless of our issues and problems. My heart aches so badly today; it almost feels like an anxiety attack is coming on. The waiting is starting to take its toll on me as I watch our sweet girl struggle.  

But, the mission God has placed on my heart is so exciting and heart-warming…knowing that I will carry it out in her honor. I will share pictures and talk of her when I share our mental illness journey.

Today, she said goodbye to Maddie, the oldest daughter of the family where we got our Lilly-girl from. We shared a sweet conversation about Lilly’s mission. We shed lots of tears and chatted about the role a pet truly plays in a family.  I thanked her for blessing our family with Lilly…I simply wonder where we’d be without their litter of puppies from Mama Daisy. What would have happened to our family? The unconditional love Lilly has given and taught us can never be replaced!  I truly believe our family would not have stayed intact if it hadn’t been for Lilly. We also never would have had Oliver, our other silly and sweet pup.

Gosh, my darn heart is in my throat again and so many tears…grrr…I know this is all part of the journey and I can marvel at all that has happened over Lilly’s life with us, but my heart is simply breaking.

She has been so many things to me. She is my constant companion, emotional guardian, motivation,  protector, and simply my best friend who has carried me through the worst (and eventually the best) years of my life.  Her love and devotion have meant the world to me. She loved me simply for me. She taught me to love myself as I am, the real me, and to let go of the façade I lived for so many  years. I learned to accept that my heart feels everything very deeply and that is perfectly okay to fully share that with others. She helped me embrace the light and hope at the other side of depression and to share that hope with others.  Especially those that feel distressed, hurt or stuck in the sadness of depression themselves or with their loved ones.  

With a severely lost perspective which resulted in depression, anxiety and anorexia, Lilly was an answer to a prayer.  She drew me away from the battle of severe people-pleasing, peacemaker tendencies and the need for perfection. 

As I felt God whisper her into my heart at our first encounter, I was certain God sent her to save us.  As Lilly walked alongside us sharing her unconditional love, we became a family that prospered and endured.  We learned through many challenges and found true joy and love. As a family, we learned to love ourselves, love each other through all the ups and downs of life, and to share our feelings honestly. 

My life without Lilly will definitely not be the same, but I feel so thankful to carry her in my heart with the mission God has placed before me.  Thank you, Lilly, for teaching and loving me these past 12 years. I do think I will eventually miss her whining to eat all morning long and every evening for me to take her to bed. I will miss our walks, playing fetch, swimming, wet kisses, whining when I sounded sad, and snuggles in bed. Simply, I will miss her presence in my life. I look forward to her pain-free days, playing fetch and swimming to her heart’s content.

Until Saturday, I will savor every moment and try not to worry her with my sadness. I know in my heart and I truly appreciate the signs she’s showing me that she’s ready to move on. Oh my sweet girl, Lilly Rae of Hope.  

Amy Theisen Walz Is a daughter, wife, mama, “mimi” (grandma), sister, aunt, friend, neighbor, volunteer, vocalist, pup-lover, advocate for the “underdog”, future hope mentor through speaking engagements, Cancer Registrar and and small business owner/Event Coordinator. She lives in Monticello, MN with her husband Nick and silly pup Oliver. (She loves when her three adult children, their significant others, and her grandson Declan come home for a visit though too!)