Have you ever looked into the eyes of another woman and known in your deepest soul that she understands pain and suffering unlike most? That’s Lindsey Wheeler — and I love her beyond words. Amid some of the hardest and darkest days of Lindsey’s life, there is an unyielding glimmer of hope. That’s why I asked her to share her story today—because I know many of you are walking a similar road. Her suffering is her own, but her message is for us all. Have a seat on the porch with Lindsey and I today. You’ll leave with a renewed hope…
Life is hard.
There. I’ve said it.
I know this because I’ve lived much of the last decade in pain—debilitating physical pain caused by chronic illness, and the soul-crushing pain of having a precious child who is locked in a place of emotional trauma.
Perhaps the deepest hurt of all is knowing that I cannot free her.
I also know this because every day I receive emails and notes from people desperate for comfort, for some acknowledgment of their pain. They, like me, are longing for hope in the middle of the hard.
Hi, I’m Lindsey. Lovely to meet you. In 2014, I started Bottle of Tears, an online business that sends love gifts to those in dark places.
Each gift comes with a card that reads, “A small token of hope to remind you that you are not alone. There is purpose in your pain. God sees you, God loves you, and your story is not over.”
I am pretty sure we all need to hear that, so let’s talk. Let’s be real and honest. I’ll start with my story, and let me just say: it’s messy.
My story (spoiler alert) does not have a Hallmark-movie ending.
There is no neat red bow I can wrap around the pieces of my life that will make it all look okay.
I am not writing from the perspective of having been through suffering. I am writing from the middle of it.
And I suspect I’ll be in the middle of it until heaven.
Let me lay some groundwork for you. My husband and I adopted a baby girl ten years ago. While mine is not an infertility story, every woman who aches for the family she has birthed in her heart is near and dear to my soul.
Your pain is unique and valid and as devastating as my own.
But for Chris and me, adoption was our first choice and Guatemala stole our hearts.
So we brought home our precious baby knowing full well she had experienced serious trauma in her first sixteen months of life. We did not understand the extent of the trauma or the life-altering repercussions, but even if we had known, we would do it all over again. We would still choose our daughter.
Fast forward several years. We now understand that our girl has severe PTSD. We have utilized every spiritual, financial, medical, and educational resource we can get our hands on to help her thrive.
But I’ll be honest, many days we barely survive the complicated, permanent effects that early childhood trauma has left on our funny, intelligent, free-spirited daughter. We have made great strides, but she remains trapped by the consequences of choices other people made on her behalf when there was no one to advocate for her.
Did I mention I have Lyme disease? Because if functioning on two hours of sleep each night and managing the ups and downs of a child with PTSD isn’t enough, my body gave up on me in the middle of it all.
I frequently experience inexplicable pain, fatigue, and loneliness. I think the loneliness is the worst.
Suffering has a way of giving birth to an isolation that feeds our every fear and anxiety, and tricks us into thinking we have to keep it all to ourselves.
So here I was, lonely, hurting, and scared—asking God what fruit could possibly be produced from my suffering. And He gave me you, dear friends.
He clearly and without question gave me a vision for a business that would minister to people in their darkest places.
The ones people know about and the ones who suffer and grieve in secret.
This little journey we began, this love journey with other brokenhearted people, this calling to Bottle of Tears is about equipping people with meaningful gifts they can send to those who are hurting, but it is so much more. Bottle of Tears has opened a door for a whole community to share stories — a safe place to share our brokenness and know we are not alone.
I read every letter, every email, every comment. And I pray for you as tears run my mascara and leave lines on my cheeks. I pray for healing, protection, miracles, and for purpose.
Yes friend, the Lord has purpose for you. There may not be healing on this earth but there will be fruit.
There is a deep longing in each to understand who we are and why we exist, and, for some of us, our suffering is the very vehicle to this understanding.
Your purpose will look different than mine, but it will absolutely impact other people because God created us first for Himself and then for each other.
So can we sit in the middle of the hard together?
Can we talk about when we’ve prayed, but not been healed?
Let’s face the pain of never getting to bring the baby home to the waiting crib.
Let’s not pretend it’s okay when the job offer doesn’t come, or the spouse walks out, or the depression is so heavy we can’t get out of bed.
Those things that leak out of our eyes when we’re happy, sad, angry, confused or overwhelmed are precious.
They are so precious to God that He saves them—all of them.
In the most breathtaking bottles.
This unspeakable gift of knowing we are seen and known and held and not one tear is wasted and every tear is gathered in bottles to grow far more meaningfulness than we could ever know.
Lindsey Wheeler, Founder and Chief Bottle Collector for Bottle of Tears, lives in Franklin, TN with her husband and their daughter. She loves vintage bottles and great stories. Those close to Lindsey will tell you that her laugh is loud and contagious and her joy for Jesus is infectious. She offers her customers curated gifts of hope for those who are hurting and she carries their stories of pain, suffering, fear, and hope with the utmost care and open hands.
Lindsey is in the terrifying process of writing her first book in which she offers an honest examination of suffering, its purpose, and where to grasp for joy and hope during the unthinkable and unexpected. Really, you must follow along with her here.