Kirsten Panachyda

Writer, Speaker, Singer-Songwriter

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Author: Kirsten Panachyda (page 2 of 2)

Resting Part 2

Jesus sure could make religious people mad. He was adept at turning their ideas about sabbath upside down. Apparently He didn’t hold to the notion that rest meant being hungry and suffering (check out Matthew 12:1-21). If anything, it meant more love, more abundance, more enjoyment.

One time he went even farther, healing a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years, and then telling him to pick up his pallet and walk! The nerve! Not just healing, but then instructing someone to carry something! The religious people were so incensed, they wanted to kill Jesus. (Read the whole story in John 5)

If Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath as He claimed, then what does this story tell us about rest? Is it really just not doing things? Not working, not buying, not having too many possessions, not spending too much time on chores, just- not doing?

I think this story tells us so much more. For Jesus, sabbath was doing the healing work of the Father. For the healed man, it was doing for himself something he had never been able to do- carry his own pallet, walk. Sabbath has to do with restoration, healing, connection with the purposes of God for us.

When we long for rest, let’s look in the right place. The writer of Hebrews reminds us “…there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews ‭4:9-11‬) The Israelites left us an example of how not to have rest- distrust God, try to figure it all out on our own, depend on our own good ideas. Instead of making our own rest, we are called to enter into the rest God provides.

What are God’s purposes for you, for me? What does He want to heal? What in our lives is waiting for restoration? What joyful bundle will we finally have the wholeness to carry? How can we be diligent to enter His rest?

My prayer for all of us is that we would seek true rest. De-stressing mechanisms may be part of the picture, but let’s not be satisfied with surface calm. Let’s enter all the way in to the rest Christ provides.

Resting Part 1

“I’m exhausted,” the young mom across the table repeated. I sipped my coffee and listened to her story of medical questions, appointments, conflicts. With each anecdote, she found herself saying it: “I’m exhausted,” acknowledging the repetition with a chuckle or a rueful smile.

Another mom told me about trying to keep her child on a healthy path while co-parenting with a partner who didn’t think the child had a problem. “It’s exhausting.”

Oh, I remember, mamas. That bone-deep, brain-deep fatigue.
Just a taste these days is enough to evoke the memory of the whole bitter meal.

I ache for these moms. These are not burdens they can put down. What kind of rest can they have? The parenting has to be done, the appointments have to be attended, the difficult discussions need to happen. For them, resting cannot possibly mean not doing the work.

Too often, the solutions offered look a whole lot like extra items on the to-do list. “Take some time and get a pedicure!” Okay, what time and with what extra money? “Get up an hour earlier and spend it in quiet meditation!” An hour earlier than the child who woke you up at 2 am because of extreme anxiety? “Have a date night with your spouse!” Sure, but how do I procure a babysitter for my fifteen-year-old who has suicidal ideation and can’t be left home alone?

The idea of rest provokes paradox in our culture. Everywhere we look, we find advice on how to rest, how to destress. Fueling sales of magazines, books, delivered groceries, and TV shows, the benefits of simple living, minimalism, and work/life balance appeal to us. At the same time, we can’t turn around without running into another study about how Americans are chronically short on sleep, our children over-scheduled, and our vacation days left on the table. The concept of a sabbath rest seems extreme, a little weird.

Is it even possible? Is the constant exhaustion escapable? And what would it look like? The Sabbath laws of bible times created a specific picture that included not carrying bundles, not lighting a fire, not transacting business. But Jesus frequently offended religious people by doing things they considered taboo on the Sabbath, especially healing people.

Maybe it’s time to rethink rest. Stay tuned for part two next week, and meanwhile, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!


We are so proud of him.

After the years of crisis and battle and hard work, Nicholas stabilized and learned to manage Major Depressive Disorder, graduated high school, and went to college. He has been home from his first year for a little less than a month now.

He handled being away from home, not knowing anyone, and unfamiliar courses and procedures. He handled a relapse in January. He secured rides home for Thanksgiving and Easter, and got himself to and from the airport so he could join me in Florida for spring break. His grades were decent, if not stellar.

We are so proud.

But his success was a little uneven. He had some academic difficulties, time management struggles, and communication mishaps. He did poorly when memorization or tests came into play. He had trouble keeping track of grades. Tasks related to processing speed or executive function suffered.

So this summer, we are pursuing evaluation for learning disorders and challenges. We know that these are often associated with mood disorders like Bipolar and Major Depressive. We know his medications can affect learning. We know that his childhood seizure disorder might have put him at risk.

While we are reading up and making phone calls, we are also dodging and weaving. Why didn’t we get him evaluated sooner? A blow aiming at the head. We should have set him up better. A fist whistling toward the gut. He will always struggle because of our failure. A sword thrusting for the heart.

The defense against the onslaught of regret is memory. We remember what those crisis years were like. We did the best we could. The task then was not to “set him up for success;” it was to keep him alive. We were ragged with the work it took to help Nicholas make tiny steps toward wellness and stability. Hard, painful, necessary, all-consuming work.

It is a blessing to now have other concerns, like bringing Cs up to Bs. Sneaky, malicious regret needs to be tossed out on its backside. I know from where we have come. I know Who brought us this far. I know Who will bring us home.

“Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His lovingkindness from me.” Psalm 66:20

Dreaming Sorrow

Dan’s warm palm cupped my shoulder and shook me awake. “You’re having a nightmare. You were crying.” I turned to him for a quick cuddle, then slid out of bed to let him sleep. My heart still raced and the sadness still felt more real than the softness of the robe I pulled on as I went downstairs. I put the kettle on and opened my tea drawer, rustling around for my favorite herbal. While I waited for the boil, I recalled the nightmare.

It was not one of my perennials, nor a stress dream. I had been walking around the little village where I live when I passed an acquaintance. She smiled at me and said hello, but tears streamed down her face and her shoulders heaved with sobs. I stopped and gave her a hug. “Come and have a coffee with me. Let me listen and pray with you.”

We settled at a little outdoor table. She cradled her coffee cup while I waited for her to calm down enough to tell me her troubles. But I got distracted. A man at a table nearby mentioned that his glass was empty and he was thirsty. He started looking around for a waiter. I took my focus off my companion and started looking too. Soon I was up, running around, looking for someone to bring the man a glass of water.

When I returned, there was money on the table, but my companion was gone. I caught a glimpse of her walking down the street, and chased after, calling her name. I never caught up with her, never had a chance to listen to her and pray with her, never let her know someone cared. Dan woke me while I was still calling, chasing, and crying.

I sipped at my tea, thinking about the dream. How easy it is to take my gaze off the person right in front of me, the one God has given me to love in that moment. How tempting it is to run around, self-important, to do a task with measurable success. How much I can miss by not being faithful to wait.

The sorrow left by my dream cautions me. I don’t want to exclude myself from the tender privilege of sitting with someone else’s pain. I want to overflow the abundance of grace and mercy and lovingkindness God has given me. I want to be present with the one right in front of me, even if I can’t do anything tangible to help.

God, help us give genuine attention to the ones You place in our paths. Assure us that the task You have given is the most important one we can do at that moment. Help us see how very precious every soul is to You.

Holy Detachment

In my house, it’s labeled “Mommy Radar.” I’ve also heard it called intuition, body language fluency, or BS detector. It comes from years of being tuned in to the emotions and subtleties of my kids. It was heightened and honed during the crisis years. That time may have also skewed it toward hyper-sensitivity/suspicion. It is that exquisitely uncomfortable sense that something is not right, more is happening than meets the eye, or deception is taking place.

I really hate it.

Of course, Mommy Radar helps protect my kids when they need a parent to step in. But now they are 21 and 18; their choices are more their own. So are the consequences- terrifying thought. The clanging alarms of Mommy Radar can’t often alert me to danger I can circumvent anyore. Instead, they prompt me to have yet another conversation advising caution, common sense, wisdom.

I really hate that.

I never thought I’d wish for the days when a child collecting sticks in the yard made me pause and check the fire pit area. I didn’t think I’d miss a too quiet house and looking for the kid who was sneaking extra cartoons, TV on mute. These days Mommy Radar is messing with me. It keeps turning the dial I try to tune to Jesus and zeroing in on the dramas and upheavals of the young men living in my house this summer.

I really… Well, you know.

So I have introduced a new spiritual discipline to my life: the practice of holy detachment. Taught by Al-Anon and other support groups, detachment allows a person to have a healthy emotional life apart from the unhealthy or harmful behaviors of a loved one.

My idea of holy detachment extends that health into the realm of my spirit. It is detachment which seeks to practice the unconditional love of God. Based on an eternal perspective, holy detachment protects a core where my life is in God alone. It is a trusting surrender of the ones I love to the wisdom and power of God.

Are you wound up tight in the crises, dramas, and alarms of people you love? How have you learned to practice holy detachment? Share your experience in the comments and let’s support each other.

Dear Peter

I long to be in the presence of God. So many times I have imagined myself there in first century Judea, sitting on the hill listening to Jesus teach, walking with Him to the next town, sharing a meal with Him and His disciples. I wonder what it would have been like to experience those events, like in Luke 5:1-11.

Dear Peter,
Was the sun hot and the sky cloudless? I know there are storms there but I can never picture that – only hot bronzy blue sky and sun that makes white spots in the eye and light that reflects up from the water and makes all of our brows furrowed from squinting.

Was it your second best boat that you lent Him? You were still doing your work while He spoke to the ones lingering on the shore. Did you wish you could throw down those maddeningly empty nets and drift close and lie back under a tarp for shade and just listen? Maybe He kept looking at you and you kept doing the work poorly out of distraction. Maybe your longing was reaching Him in palpable waves and He pitched His voice louder in your direction.

You and He both knew the family needed to eat that day. So He told you, “Try the deeper water, friend.” When you pulled up all those fish, what did you think? How much of it could be dried and salted? How much could be sold and the money spent on grain? How many days off would this catch give you to listen, really listen?

I wish I had been there to rub my palms bloody raw with hauling up that load of abundance from the sea. I wish the salt of my dripping sweat could have mingled with the salt of the water. But I can still hear Him, “Come, follow Me.”

When my nets are empty and my life seems unproductive, I long to ditch it all and just be with Jesus.
But His “Come follow” doesn’t always look like leaving. Sometimes it is staying. Enduring. Persevering.
If I want to be there, where Jesus is, then sometimes I must stay here.
Since He is I AM, then He is here.
“Come follow Me. Follow My heart into the service of the one who cries in your lap right here. Follow My compassion in the words you speak to the person sitting across from you. Follow my wisdom in the decisions you make for those I have placed in your care. Follow My will in the prayers you pray from this life where I have placed you.”
Friends, I pray that all of us will respond to the unique call of “Come follow Me” Jesus offers us.
Has God called you to leave or stay in this season of life? How can we pray for you?

Three Little Dots

The text made my heart pound.

“I just need to tell you before you find it and freak out.”

My college freshman had been home for three days over Easter weekend. The text came on Tuesday, twenty-four hours after I had hugged him goodbye in the parking lot of Dunkin Donuts and watched him leave with three carpooling students.

What? What was I going to find? A piece of glass and empty bandaid wrappers? Bloody sheets? Suicidal song lyrics? An upsetting youtube video? Drugs?

I watched the three little dots blinking on the screen.

“It’s just stuff for a prank we’re going to play on a friend. But I forgot to grab the bag and bring it back to school. So there’s this bag full of wacky stuff. Can you mail it?”

I went and looked in the bag. Wacky, indeed. Immature. But perfectly fitting for a joke being played by a bunch of 18 year olds. Fine. I’ll mail it. Whatever.

Those three little dots though. They had drilled into my peace. One ambiguous text and I was right back there: stomach churning, hands shaking, breath gasping. My body has not forgotten the feel of crisis.


It is not the same. I’ve had years of work done in my soul since the first crisis with Nicholas. My body may still react with a rush of adrenaline, but my mind retains the healing transformation.

“Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident.
One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:3-5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The lesson that stitched up the wounds in my heart, the wisdom that applied healing balm to the tender scars was this:
My life is in God Alone.
He is my One Thing.

In the end, the texts, the heart-pound, the three little dots can only drill down so far. The bedrock is too much for that puny tool.

I know it might not be over. Crisis may come again. But it won’t be the same, because I am not the same. I am forever changed by how I have already experienced the love and healing of the Unchanging One.

Friend, I hope in those moments when you find yourself “back there,” you will ride out the reaction with a secure knowledge of God’s love for you.

The Weird Little Club

“Such a weird little club.”

Three of us stood in a little huddle in the far aisle of the church. Earlier, I had asked for prayer from a few people for Nicholas, who was in the hospital again for depression and suicidal thoughts. My son always gave me the gift of transparency: I could share his situation with anyone. Unknowingly, he also gave the gift of community to others.

“My daughter has been cutting.”

“He’s not eating.”

“My kid is so angry all the time. He hardly ever comes out of his room.”

“I don’t even know where she is.”

These parents have pain so raw, but so hidden. Sometimes they do not have permission from their kids to tell anyone, but it somehow ends up spilling out anyway. They hear a whisper, an echo of their agony: “Kirsten asked for prayer for Nicholas. He’s not doing well.” They are drawn; they come to me and pull their hurt from the shadows. They hold it out to me, bleeding and tender.

My heart breaks each time. But then we can help each other mend, just a little, just enough for the moment. We become blood sisters, as our words, heart-blood, and tears mingle. We pray those brief whispered prayers together, composed as much of hand squeeze and sniffles as language.

“This is such a weird little club,” one of my blood sisters says with a misty humor. “I don’t want to be in it. I wish none of us were. But… I’m so glad I found out you guys are struggling too. Thank God for all of you.”

Yes. Thank you, God. And thank You for bleeding with us, for us. Help us be Your heart toward the hurting.

My New Friend

My son Alex was a little guy, sitting in his booster seat at the restaurant table. He spotted another family entering the room, with a little guy of their own. “Mama, look! It’s my new friend!” He had never laid eyes on him before.

I don’t know what brought you here. Maybe you know me in person. Maybe you are a struggling parent with a child in mental illness crisis. Maybe it was a happy accident. To all of you, welcome to the room. “Look, God! It’s my new friend!”

Since 2013, I’ve been seeking and being found. When my son Nicholas descended into a long battle with Major Depressive Disorder, I was desperate to find stories of help and hope. I wanted to know if other parents had learned to cope, survive, enjoy life again. The seeking was hard; the stories were rare. But when my story became known, people started to find me. Some gave me hope stories, and I held them to my heart with grateful hands. But some people found me because they were seeking too.

We need to know that God has carried others through. And when God carries us, we get to tell about it.

So let’s share a meal of friendship. Let’s be honest about our struggles. Let’s listen with compassion. Let’s seek hope and be found as hope-givers.

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