Let’s Talk About It (Part 2)

In my previous post I delved into the looming topic of depression and promised to promptly provide a part two. However, the sequel was delayed because shortly after writing my post I plummeted into a difficult time and it has been a slow climb out of it. I hesitated to write a post with answers to depression when I myself was struggling with their implementation. A couple of close friends urged me to write anyway, as my thoughts could still help someone else; not long after, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit that the time had come to write the second part.

In my experience and comparing notes with others regarding theirs, I have discovered that living through a cycle of depression requires an eclectic collection of strategies. For some that collection might include counseling or medication; mine consists of the pursuit of:

  • Acceptance. Depression in and of itself is not bad. It is our mind’s way of telling us that something in our life or body is not well. Change is required and we must make time to find out what that is. The longer we deny the depression, thinking it’s wrong, the deeper it settles in because we then add guilt to our already burdened minds. It’s much better to acknowledge our situation and then work towards finding a solution.
  • Beauty. The other night I made time for a candlelit bubble bath. In the flickering candlelight I couldn’t see the dust on my shutters or the clutter of bath toys around me. An aura of serenity surrounded me and I was peaceful. I realized how important it is to focus on the beautiful- and it can always be found. Perhaps it’s in a laughter-filled conversation with a friend or a multi-colored nourishing meal arrayed on your plate or a dance party with your children or a walk at a sunset. Beauty prompts our minds to see the other side of life that depression’s darkness tries to cover up from our view.
  • The good. As a Christ-follower I know that all things work together for my good and God’s glory- even depression. In the midst of the turmoil I strive to acknowledge the good I can see coming from it: the solidarity between me and fellow sufferers is one; the lifestyle changes I make to lessen my stress is another. I find myself clinging to simple blessings and I am more aware of the sorrow that others are experiencing. I have been convicted of how quick I am to judge others when I know so little of the struggles they might be having in their own minds. As a Christian, I know that depression is not wasted.
  • Jesus. Sometimes during depression we feel like our spiritual health is also plummeting. We wonder why God seems so distant or assume that if He was close we wouldn’t be so afflicted. But I am coming to the conclusion that He is never more ready to hold us closer than when we are depressed. It simply takes us asking. Half the battle of depression lies in turning on the worship song or reading that first verse in the Bible or in breathing out the words, “save me, Jesus!” From there the process of healing begins.

I am always adding to my collection, but these have been helpful to me of late. They aren’t curing me once and for all; I don’t know if I’ll ever be depression-free. The point isn’t so much in reaching that happy place of no difficulty in life as it is in being willing to learn and grow and rejoice in the midst of the hardship.

If you are in a time of darkness right now please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone, especially to Jesus.

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Let’s Talk About It (Part 1)

I experience depression. There. I’ve said it. It’s not an easy topic to discuss but I believe it is an important one. In my journey towards contentment depression is a significant obstacle and has consumed much of my mental and emotional energy. I have read about it; listened to podcasts discussing it; shared with my inner circle and heard their testimonies related to it; sought counsel from my midwife regarding it. Most of all, I have pored over Scripture and prayed for healing and freedom from this burden. I’ve learned that there are many causes of depression and a range of emotions connected with it, including:  shame, sorrow, weariness. However, there is always hope. 
I think there are as many types and experiences of depression as there are strains of the flu and it is nearly impossible for anyone to say to someone else, “I know exactly what you are going through.” Depression can be prompted by spiritual trials, physical conditions, chemical imbalances, trauma, loss…and everything in between. It can be as simple as deep gloom for a day or as intense as years of struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Personally, I went through years of depression from my middle school years to early college. After having my first child I experienced a minor case of postpartum depression and ever since I have waves of intense darkness that are rarely predictable.  I’ve discovered that it is difficult to talk openly about my experience because I feel:
  • Shame. I am a Christian! I love Jesus! I should know better than to believe the lies that bombard my mind and bring me down. I have good health, a loving husband, fantastic children, a beautiful home, friends in abundance. How ungrateful of me to be wallowing in this darkness and despair. There are people genuinely suffering all around me and I have the audacity to be depressed! Shame on me! What will people think of me if they knew? Now they’ll know that I really don’t have it all together all the time.
  • Sorrow. Oh! All the missed opportunites for joy when I am stuck in the mire of despair. I am so alone in the cloud and it prevents me from truly absorbing the life that is mine. Depression isolates and it is gut-wrenching to feel so close yet so far away from the ones you adore.
  • Weariness. Depression is exhausting. At times I can sense the cloud coming and I do all I can to resist it, but I’m not always successful and the effort to fight wears me down. Other times it consumes without warning and the blanket of despair is so heavy I don’t even want to attempt to push it off of me.  In these times, the last thing I want is an onslaught of “you should’s” or “you shouldn’t’s” or “if you only’s.” I hesitate to open up because I don’t want to sound rude or ungrateful or embittered by the lack of understanding. And so I withdraw and battle silently.
That is a glimpse into one side of my depression experience. It’s rough and not pretty. It is the human side of human me. It’s what I don’t want to be the first thing people think about when they see me. I don’t want people to pity me or think that I’m not happy with the life God has entrusted to me. It’s not that at all. The fact remains that I am but dust and in the midst of a beautiful life there is the burden of living for eternity in a temporal world. The struggle of fallen and heavenbound remains. Heavenbound! That is where hope lies and next time I will share how I know I am not truly alone when I experience depression. Every time I come through. Every. Single. Time. 
If you have a depression story and feel comfortable sharing, please do!
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Disconnected to be Reconnected

2020 was one of the first years that I felt nervous about beginning (as if I had a choice). I found it difficult to settle on resolutions because 2019 repeatedly taught me that “man makes his plans but the Lord directs his steps,” although in my case it often felt like my children were the ones changing my plans. I didn’t want to set myself up for more frustration.

I also didn’t feel prepared. We were blessed with an abundance of beloved company from October through January, but all good intentions about maintaining routines are usually set aside for the sake of memory-making with visitors. Over Christmas, Jared and I didn’t get the time to sit and plan and discuss our personal and shared visions for the new year. In some ways, I felt like I was entering this brand new decade blind except for knowing of certain challenges ahead – which didn’t serve to help me feel peaceful.

Thanks to a dear friend wanting to do Cultivate’s Powersheets with me this year, I am doing them for a third year in a row. Through the prepatory work, I settled on CONTENTMENT as my word for the year. As I pondered how to strive to live out this word, I realized that the steps towards being content could become my resolutions. I would like to reduce the amount of cravings in my life: sugar cravings, material cravings, and approval cravings. I desire to increase my appreciation for what I have: relationships with family and friends, the beautiful outdoors, a home filled with lovely items, a personal library stocked with books beckoning to be read, a tea hutch with a rich selection of inviting tea. Finally, I hope to cultivate simplicity which will offer me the time to savor what I have rather than fighting the frenzy that can easily overtake me when my expectations are all too high.

My “plan” for the new year involves two main steps: disconnect from social media and reconnect with Jesus. When my thumb is scrolling, I can feel my mind buzzing with unnecessary noise and my heart growing restless. I start viewing my person, my home, my children, and my life with a critical eye as I compare it to the perfect squares on my screen. That quickly spirals into extra spending, bitterness, and frustration as I frantically try to make my life meet social media standards.  What I really need to do is fill my spare moments with intentional prayer, refreshing reading, and focused time reveling in the bounty within my home.

This doesn’t mean I will never hop on Facebook or check on Instagram – I enjoy sneaking a peek here and there. But it does mean that it will no longer be my priority. I want to be connected with the things that mean the most to me when I am eighty-years old and by that time I highly doubt that I’ll be counting ‘Likes’ on my posts.

How do you feel about this brand new decade?

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The Family Nobody Wanted

Helen Doss does a superb job of highlighting the adventures and growth of their family in her enthralling narrative. She had always longed for a little family of her own but as time showed that biological children were not a possibility, she and her minister husband adopted a baby boy…and then ELEVEN more children through a series of hilarious and unexpected events. What makes this story even more intriguing is that the book was published in 1954, which means that they picked their children up from orphanages, racism was rampant, babies were fed pablum, wash machines were not a given and they fit all 12 children in their station wagon. Talk about a perspective shift! And yet somehow what is most important in a family remains timeless.

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The Third Three

Everyone who knows this child agrees that she is not easily intimidated: by adults, peers, boundaries, rules, new flavors, new experiences or unlearned lessons. If there is any challenge to be had, she heads straight for it; given 2 options, she picks a third; expected to say yes, she will say no, but when you want her to say no, yes is the first word out of her mouth. She is probably the most challenging 2-year old we have parented so far.

When describing Arden, we say that she is very much like a cat: she manages to squeeze into the most obscure spot on the couch, pull her blankets and pillows all around her, pop her thumb in her mouth, twirl her hair with her free hand, and become completely relaxed. Usually she is the child wedged closest to us, but if we lather her with too much affection she leaves. She wants attention, but on her terms.  I often ponder how to best handle her obstinance and tantrums. Are they simply her will rising or are they indicators of unmet needs? Each day seems to be a new experiment as we try new ways to reach her little heart.

I absolutely adore this little girl. All of her put together is quite mesmerizing, from the way her mouth puckers when she talks, to her little voice and adorable pronunication of certain words, to her half-head nod when she affirms what she wants to her infamous hair twirl and thumbsuck, to her iconic mismatched outfits and flipflopped shoes to her surprise stashes of household goods in her bright orange backpack. It is not unusual for me to blink an extra time as I look at her and realize she is my little girl. I become all too consumed in the mothering of this child that I lose touch with getting to know her as an individual person. She was once my infant in arms; she was once learning to walk; she was once babbing her first words. In just three short years, she moved across the country, became a big sister TWICE, was potty-trained, learned the A-B-C song, and recognizes the letter, A, just to highlight a few of the important happenings in her young life. And it all happened in such a short time.

As Arden begins a brand new year, I want her to keep dancing when she hears music. I want her to keep hopping instead of walking from point A to point B. I want her to keep giving the tightest hugs. I want her to keep wanting to snuggle with me at nap time. I want her to keep sucking her thumb and twirling her hair and stuffing her bright orange backpack with unexpected items. I want her to have to her own style and to think her own thoughts. And somehow I want to show her heart that obedience is a good thing, that there is joy and freedom found in boundaries, and that there is a proper time to say no.  I think that this third child of ours has shown me more than anybody that there is no such thing as a parenting formula. Every day truly is a new parenting experience and the only way to parent well is to be in constant communication with Jesus and Jared. I rest in the knowledge that Jesus chose to gift us with the firecracker of a little girl and I KNOW He knows what He is doing.
The happiest of third birthdays to our one and only, Fervent Melody of Joy. May Jesus be the keeper of your heart and soul from today into eternity.

 

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A Sweetness to the Soul

By Jane Kirkpatrick

The first in her Dreamcatcher trilogy, Kirkpatrick authors yet another masterpiece in historical fiction. She brings to life these little known but very strong characters from the past and the reader quickly connects with their journeys of loss and hardship, surrender and victory. Be inspired by the Pacific Northwest, its pioneers and Native American tribes.

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Regret or Rejoice?

The day I dreaded since the day she arrived is today. After a rich, 6-week long visit with us that encompassed Quinley’s 4th birthday, a garage sale, Thanksgiving, Christmas decorating and the first day of Advent, my mom had to leave. My initial reaction was sorrow over all the things we still didn’t find time to do or all the moments when we weren’t chatting or at least in the same room together. I’m just wired to focus on what I haven’t accomplished or could have done better and that means regret is usually my first emotion felt after a positive experience.

But then I prompted myself to review my favorite memories through all of my senses. I realized that even if we weren’t always talking or spending time together, I was still absorbing the fact that she was in our home. I came up with quite a list in just a few short minutes:

    I cherished seeing her all snuggly on my couch or tidying up the kitchen.
    I liked seeing her special things spread throughout the guest room, proving she felt at home.
    I feel comfort in wearing the clothes she folded.
    I hugged her tightly, feeling how fragile and strong she is at the same time.
    I savored feeling her hand touching my arm and watching her embrace the children.
    I enjoyed hearing her singing or chatting with the children, her door opening and closing, the radio on in her room, and her visiting with the pets.
    I savored the taste of her omelette and sandwiches and the tea she would brew for me.
    And there is nothing like the sweet Mom smell- many comforting scents all mingled together.

I’m human and had my share of bad days while she here, but I did my best to not take the gift of her presence for granted. Gregory-Hans recently declared that God is bigger than everything, even bad guys. Sometimes those bad guys are feelings of fear, regret, anxiety or despair. It’s necessary to look for a reason to rejoice in all things because in doing so we remember how great and good our God is. I want to practice choosing to rejoice.

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