Ed Young: It’s easy to swim laps in the pool of regret, but you can’t be defined—no one can be defined by a bad decision.
Lisa Young: That’s the grace and mercy of Christ.
Ed: Yes, it is.
Losing Someone You Love, And Losing Yourself: Ed and Lisa Young & Dr. Morgan Cutlip – Episode #381
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Experiencing a significant loss or trauma often leads to an identity crisis, a sensation comparable to losing footing on solid ground. You may suddenly feel untethered, as if the person you once knew as “you” has evaporated, replaced by an unfamiliar stranger. Your faith may seem hollow, your relationships distant. It’s like you’re lost in your own life, and you don’t know how to get back.
Our guests this week share how they coped with grief and hardship, and how they found their way back from feeling disoriented and disconnected from themselves. Senior pastor of Fellowship Church Ed Young and his wife Lisa share the heart wrenching story of their daughter, Lee Beth, and her struggle with addiction, and how it forever altered the course of their lives. Dr. Morgan Cutlip looked forward to motherhood, but was quickly faced with the real struggles that come alongside it, and made it her life’s work to help mothers cope with that loss of self, and show them how to remember who they are again.
Let’s start with Ed and Lisa’s story.
Lisa: My name is Lisa Young, and I’ve had the privilege of just standing beside Ed and all of the great ministry opportunities we’ve had over the past forty-two years of our marriage, and it’s always exciting. Being a part of Fellowship Church has definitely been one of the greatest gifts we’ve ever been allowed to be a part of.
Love in the Face of Addiction
Lisa: Our daughter, LeeBeth was a fun kid. She was in children’s church and she came running out one Sunday—it happened to be Valentine’s weekend—and the lesson in kids’ church was on giving your heart to the Lord. And she came flying out with that construction paper heart, and she said, “I gave my heart to Jesus today.”
Ed: She loved the church.
Lisa: Beth was very organized, highly creative, highly creative. And in her adult years, she was a part of our fellowship church staff and she worked in the media department video, specifically with editing, and just an amazing eye for video, for anything creative. And we really stretch ourselves here at Fellowship Church with the creative bent. We try very hard to present the message of the gospel in a creative way, and she was a huge part of that.
And now I will tell you that we definitely had the typical mother/daughter situations at home where she definitely felt like she knew a lot more than I did and would express that, quite frankly. She was maybe in her late twenties, just some relational choices, and she struggled, I believe, with self-esteem.
Ed: I would say one in particular, a relationship where she thought a marriage would take place. I think it was a difficult thing, I think [she was] feeling betrayed.
Ed: Rejection on the deepest level. And that was the trigger, I would say, that kicked her into drinking to mask the pain. And we didn’t really know about it. She was the classic binge drinker, so it never really affected or influenced her work.
Lisa: She actually reached out and called me. She said, “Mom, I think I’m an alcoholic.” She was definitely under the influence at that moment when she called me, and Ed was out of town for work, I was out of town. I immediately got on a plane and flew home, but in the meantime, a friend went to her house and gathered her up, headed toward our home, and on the way, she had a seizure.
Ed: And we discovered she was abusing alcohol, and the doctor basically came in and he said, “If you continue this, you’re not going to live.”
Lisa: We had her go to rehab, and that was a hard thing for her, for us, but necessary. And she got out of rehab, was doing the steps for AA [Alcoholics Anonymous]—which I believe is a tremendous program. That was probably eight years ago. And then there was a long period of time where we really felt like everything was okay, but eventually she had another episode, and Ed found her in her home and took her to her therapist.
Ed: She was heavily intoxicated. She was in a difficult situation, so I called some experts, sobered her up, took her to our house, which is not that far away from where she lived. And we made a bed for her and everything. And I said, “I’ll be right here.”
And I was studying. And interestingly enough, I was doing a message on Abraham and Isaac. So I was just writing different notes, different thoughts down for the sermon, and I remember writing this line from Scripture that said, “And Abraham laid Isaac on the altar.” And right after I wrote that, I heard a sound that sounded just a little bit unusual.
Lisa: I was trying to get home from my mom’s, and Ed called in the middle of the night, probably around eleven. And I was on the East Coast, and he said, “LeeBeth has had a seizure.”
So I’m on the phone with Ed, the ambulance came, it was post-COVID, so lots of different rules. Ed couldn’t ride in the ambulance, but at that point, she had no heartbeat. She had a faint pulse, but it was pretty much a sign that this was the end.
Ed: We got to the hospital and about an hour later the doctor walked up to me and he said, “There’s nothing we can do. She’s gone.”
I walked out of the hospital and I was just stunned. I mean, here I am a pastor…”God, I’ve dedicated my life to you and this happens?” You know? Just the anger, the remorse, the regret, but through that pain, God just surrounded us with His indescribable love. I still can’t believe it to this day, but He did, and He has, and I know He will.
Lisa: We had just experienced something together that nobody wants to experience, but it was something that God was walking with us together. Our faith was the center point, so that drew us together, not apart. But in the days ahead after this horrific event, [we’re] shocked, we’re stunned. We’re just leaning into our faith.
“Through that pain [of losing our daughter], God just surrounded us with His indescribable love. I still can’t believe it to this day, but He did, and He has, and I know He will. We had just experienced something together that nobody wants to experience, but it was something that God was walking with us together.” – Lisa Young
There’s No Guidebook for Grief
There’s not a manual for grief to say, “Do A, B, C, and D, and this is what you’ll feel.” Everybody’s emotions are different. Everybody feels different. And Ed said right after LeeBeth passed away, he said, “We will never, ever, ever be the same. We won’t do church the same, I won’t minister the same, I won’t pastor the same.” And that’s in a good way, and so it’s continually God showing us new ways to live past this point of grief.
“Ed said right after LeeBeth passed away, ‘We will never, ever, ever be the same. We won’t do church the same, I won’t minister the same, I won’t pastor the same.’ And that’s in a good way, and so it’s continually God showing us new ways to live past this point of grief.” – Lisa Young
Ed: Over the last two years, it’s almost like you have parallel tracks, you’ve got the track of grief. You don’t ever get over something like we’ve experienced. So you have that grief thing that that really never leaves, but what we found is this joy, this indescribable, unfathomable joy that runs on the other track. Just read the Psalms, for example, to pour your heart out to God, your anger out to God, your questions out to God, but also realize, Man, God’s got this, He’s got me.
“Pour your heart out to God, your anger out to God, your questions out to God, but also realize, Man, God’s got this, He’s got me.” – Ed Young
Foundations of Faith That Keep You Going
Lisa: You fast forward into life and you start facing these extreme challenges, these painful situations. And what do you do? You have this bank account of sorts, if you will, of deposits of faith. And I look back on my life and I think of things that I thought maybe were insignificant: times where I prayed, times where I wrote in my journal, times that I was reading the Bible, and it seemed like no big deal, but it was putting faith deposits in my spiritual bank account. And when things started happening, things that were painful, I was able to draw upon what God had given me, what God had instilled in me, and that’s how joy and pain can coincide.
“When things started happening, things that were painful, I was able to draw upon what God had given me, what God had instilled in me, and that’s how joy and pain can coincide.” – Lisa Young
Jesus Calling definitely is one of those tools that you can hand anyone, and it will be a great and advantageous tool for them to read, to understand just daily plans that Jesus has for you and how to live successfully.
Ed: Jesus Calling gives us information, but then application on how to live it out each and every day.
Lisa: And if you’re going through pain, you’re definitely not happy, but joy is that presence of the Holy Spirit of Christ in your life. I have a long way to go and I won’t be perfect until eternity, but whatever we face, joy can be ever-present. It seems distant at times, but it’s ever-present because of His Presence in my life.
“Whatever we face, joy can be ever-present. It seems distant at times, but it’s ever-present because of His Presence in my life.” – Lisa Young
Ed: Jesus Listens, March 23rd:
Victorious Lord Jesus,
The more I become like You, the more hope I experience. These changes in my character convince me that I really do belong to You! My closeness to You also helps me cope with problems—trusting that You and I together can handle them. The radiant hope of heaven shines upon me, strengthening and encouraging me.
In Your glorious Name,
Narrator: Be sure to check out Ed and Lisa’s new book, A Path Through Pain: How Faith Deepens and Joy Grows Through What You Would Never Choose, at your favorite retailer.
Stay tuned to Dr. Morgan Cutlip’s story after a brief message.
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Our next guest is Dr. Morgan Cutlip. After experiencing extreme burnout, Morgan embarked on a journey of self-discovery in motherhood that led her to a passion of helping other mothers navigate the challenges and joys of parenting.
Dr. Morgan Cutlip: My name is Dr. Morgan Cutlip, and I have my Ph.D. in psychology, and I have been in the field of relationship education for over fifteen years now. I’m from Ohio, I live in California now, so we are a long way from home. I’m married to my high school sweetheart and have two kids.
I went into motherhood thinking I would be a professional mom, like, I got this. I’m going to be amazing at this. I know exactly what I want to do, and I really did not account for the type of baby we were going to have, the temperament she would have, and all of the changes and amazing parts of motherhood, but all of the heavy parts that accompanied it really just came rushing in almost immediately, talking about the amount of responsibilities that just exponentially grew overnight.
For me personally, it was a series of the accumulation of a lot of different feelings. And so I think that we’re in a society right now that is like, “Feelings are facts,” and they’re just not. We put a lot of emphasis on feelings, but feelings are signals. Feelings are a warning bell that are calling you to tune in to you and say, “What’s going on with me?” And so I had the accumulation and piling on of a lot of signals.
“I think that we’re in a society right now that is like, ‘Feelings are facts,’ and they’re just not. We put a lot of emphasis on feelings, but feelings are signals. Feelings are a warning bell that are calling you to tune in to you and say, ‘What’s going on with me?’” – Dr. Morgan Cutlip
I was very quick to backburner myself in the service of everyone else, which I think is a tendency of women and of moms particularly. I felt just absolutely buried in motherhood.
I just want to normalize off the bat that time and time again, you’re probably going to lose yourself a little bit in motherhood, and that’s a normal experience.
Moms are the master managers of all of the things and all of the people, but we don’t manage ourselves well. We do not apply those same skill sets toward ourselves. And what we really need to do is to learn how to mother ourselves like we mother our kids, in a way that fits in the framework of our life because we’re really busy.
My change to find myself again, to come back into a connection with myself—part of it was getting really clear on what I needed, working through my hang-ups around why I have a hard time expressing what I need, and then actually expressing it, so implementing the behavior. Sometimes we’ve got to start doing stuff before we feel like it, and part of my practice was, Okay, I’m going to start speaking up a little bit more. It’s deeply uncomfortable, but I’m going to do it.
3 Core Conflicts of Motherhood
I think that as humans, we like to have things really neatly organized. We like to have truths and a plan and an understanding. And so I organize why motherhood feels hard into three core conflicts that I think all of us moms are sort of contending with to different degrees most of the time, and so they all begin with “I“.
I try to make things memorable—and they surround identity, ideals, and intensity.
1. IDENTITY: MY NEEDS AND OTHERS’ NEEDS
So the first core conflict is identity, which is my needs versus the needs of everyone else. We have this tendency to self-sacrifice in service of our relationships. And when we become a mom, it’s natural to do this for a prolonged period of time in the beginning of motherhood because you have a baby who needs you to survive, but what happens a lot of times, I think, is that we get stuck there, we get stuck back-burnering ourselves. And so then we’re like ten years into motherhood and we’ve never shifted out of it and we start to feel kind of burnt out. You got to stay in the know with yourself and you’re losing touch.
2. IDEALS VS. REALITY
The second is ideals, which is basically how your ideals differ from your reality. We really all come into motherhood with this internal definition or template of what we believe a good mom is. And so we might not even be aware of it, but it’s operating in there, I promise you that, sso we come into motherhood and then we’re faced with the reality of it. So I say that in that space between our ideals and our reality is where feelings of falling short, of guilt, resentment, and frustration and feelings of difficulty in motherhood really, really start to creep in.
And then the last one is intensity. And so this is, you know, My parenting must be perfect versus my parenting is good enough.
When we really buy into that belief, it has a dramatic impact on our behavior, and so we might not ask our partner to step in as much, or we might actually actively push them out, which is something called maternal gatekeeping. And what does this ultimately do? This ultimately puts more back on the mom.
It really has a dramatic impact on our experience in motherhood and how difficult it feels, because we are mothering with this hyper vigilance that I believe is really new and is really making motherhood feel really, really hard.
Focus on the Ways You Show Up as a Mom
A lot of us have a slew of impossible standards that we hold ourselves to, and when we fall short—and inevitably we’re going to fall short of these because they’re impossible—the guilt rushes in. And so part of how we get over our mom guilt and only kind of tune in to the helpful guilt is to break down these impossible standards, to identify them, to edit them and revise them to be more in line with what’s actually realistic in the constraints of our life and what’s realistic to your energy level and personality and your own temperament.
I start my day by reading Jesus Calling and then reflecting on some of the verses that are in the book and reading my Bible and reading the verses and kind of just starting my day with prayer. And sort of centering myself, getting my heart and mind in line. I just stay in conversation with God all day. I feel like it’s just like a running dialog, and this really is what helps me, I think, in so many ways of feeling like I’m never really alone. I am in a relationship with someone who knows me deeply, who loves me, who doesn’t give me more than I can handle, who I can turn things over to.
“I just stay in conversation with God all day. I feel like it’s just like a running dialog, and this really is what helps me, I think, in so many ways of feeling like I’m never really alone. I am in a relationship with someone who knows me deeply, who loves me, who doesn’t give me more than I can handle, who I can turn things over to.” – Dr. Morgan Cutlip
There are so many individual differences from person to person, it’s a beautiful thing. And we have to recognize that we have different capacities for things and different energy for things and different temperaments and all of these things, and finances and life circumstances. And so part of revising our impossible standards is taking all of this into consideration and making them more realistic. Defining what you need will let out some of the steam. It will offer some immediate relief because definition is really, really empowering. And so I think that’s the big picture takeaway, is to get good at doing a self check-in.
Philippians 4:8 talks about this, it says, “Whatever is noble, whatever is right, pure, lovely, whatever is admirable or praiseworthy, think about such things.” And we need to hold this verse near and dear because we need to practice this regularly in our lives. Focus on the ways that you bless your kids’ lives, focus on the ways that you are showing up, pouring into them, on all of the ways that you are really a worthy mother who is doing a wonderful job for your kids.
If you’d like to hear more stories about finding your way again, check out our interview with Dr. Lee Warren.
Next week: Herman Mendoza
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from pastor Herman Mendoza, a former drug trafficker who stood to lose his family and his freedom and how he found restoration through a relationship with God.
Herman Mendoza: There’s hope in Jesus Christ. God is amazing. And when you seek Him, you will find Him, and He will change your life forever.