“breath” prayers


Focused on the flower


A “breath” prayer is a prayer that can be said in one breath.  The ancient monks often prayed, “Lord, have mercy” as their “breath” prayers.  Christians often repeat the name, “Jesus”. I have a number of them.  A few of my favorites are, “Be still and know”, “He makes me lie down”, “Be anxious for nothing”.

Today I’m including, “Focus”.

It’s one of those days.  Someone I love is going through a difficult time.  She lost something.  That’s it.  She just lost something.  Nothing irreplaceable, mostly annoying.  Sandwiched in between some other situations, however, that were troublesome.  But she let it mushroom.  While it was mushrooming, she ruminated. (Rumination is going over the same thing again and again. Unless once is determinedly seeking constructive answers, it always leads one down the path to destructive thinking.) Finally, after ten days of berating herself, she let a couple of people in on it.

I was one of those people.

At first, I wanted to laugh because it really wasn’t that big of a deal.  I listened instead.  I knew what she was doing.  It doesn’t matter what our age, we react to stress by doing something constructive about it or we let it sour other parts of our life. Because of the mighty outpouring of adrenaline, our emotions run out of control. We make mistakes, sometimes really big ones.  (One friend of mine ignored a stop sign due to her stress levels.  She now has a different car and a few points on her driver’s license. ) Our thoughts get all messed up. Stress unchecked has a destructive effect on all parts of our body.  Our constant rehashing keeps the adrenaline levels elevated-not a good thing.  I reassured her that her losing something wasn’t nearly as much of a problem as her thinking she had to keep it secret.  She was “humiliated she had done such a thing and embarrassed to let anyone else know about it.” She kept her own stress level up by keeping it hidden. When she realized it wasn’t such a big deal, she seemed to do better.

The issue for me today?

 Focus. Focus on not letting myself get dragged down to place where I juxtapose this incident onto everything else. And I could.  Her perception of her failing health has great implications for me as well. 

Focus. Focus on the fact that when I need further wisdom, I will receive it.

Focus. Focus on what I can and cannot do. And what I can’t do is make anyone think positively if they’re determined to think negatively, especially if it has been their lifelong pattern.

Focus. Focus on not feeling guilty although all the events but one happened the week before I left. (I will be gone one week.)

Focus. Focus on not buying into unnecessary drama.

Focus. Focus on not letting the stress of how she’s feeling cause me stress! 🙂

Maybe that’s a “breath” prayer you can pray today if you’re trying to stay above the fray.


teeny-tiny red cabin



Finally you get to hear about the teeny, tiny, red cabin in the woods. Nine years ago the company my husband worked for was sold and we were facing possible unemployment. We’d been praying ever since we knew.

I had just come home from teaching an evening Bible study when the phone rang. When have you ever heard of a company calling an employee after nine in the evening to offer them a job? But that’s what happened. The corporate office had had a board meeting and decided to offer him a position as  a forensic accountant. (That’s an accountant who looks for the bad guy.) The position would involve extensive traveling within the contiguous United States.  However, the job “morphed” after a year to encompass mostly international travel. 

Cool, huh?  Well, yes and no.

At first we were thrilled as we both love to travel and we were hoping I could go with him sometimes.  But when the schedule became two weeks home and two weeks traveling, it got really old, really quick. (An aside here-many marriages fail when one spouse travels that much. We survived.) I was able to travel with my husband at times because his hotel room was already paid for. We used frequent flyer miles for my airfare (he racked up hundreds of thousands in quick order).  I only had to pay for lunch which was either leftover breakfast or something from a grocery store. As far as shopping, I did very little. 

The same year we learned about the international travel is when “teeny, tiny red cabin in the woods” became a reality. The teeny cabin became our retreat from a very hectic lifestyle.  It was calming, therapeutic and revitalizing all at the same time. It was and is our “honeymoon” place.

The extensive international travel is now over. Nine years was enough.

Some fun facts about “teeny, tiny, red cabin in the woods.”  It sits at the bottom of a hill. Our main home sits at the top of a hill.  Both houses are over one hundred years old. I like old. The cabin is decorated inside in red, black and white. The bedroom, kitchen and living room are one room with the bed situated in a kind of alcove but no door.  I spent one whole summer scouring garage sales, thrift shops, and estate sales. I found:

  • Black and white fleece pillows with a bear appliqué
  • Colorful rag rugs
  • Two end tables with legs that look like branches.
  • A small drop leaf table and two farm chairs
  • Cool lime green plastic dishes which add a bit of drama
  • A small drop leaf table

We purchased a new futon (who wants to sleep on a used mattress?) and the log style bed that was already in the cabin.  A dear friend made me two birch-branch lamps, one floor-sized and one table-sized that found their way to the  cabin.

Everything was inexpensive. I’m a natural-born thrift shopper. I love repurposing things.  Modestly said, most people like how I decorate. Plus shopping at garage sales and thrift stores keeps me humble.  

(My life is good.  I have everything I need and even more. It wasn’t always this way. I would’ve managed my depression better had I asked myself what I now ask you.)

“How are you rich?” Most of us have at least one area where we are truly rich. I’ll just bet that some of the least wealthy of you (in the material sense) will be able list the most riches.  I know that with the present US economy, there are people who are really struggling. I’m suggesting though that in the midst of our struggles (depression being one of them), it helps to concentrate on the bright spots in our lives.   



as the season changes


as the season changes (part two)

I’ve learned that depression makes one feel very helpless so I try to keep that door of helplessness shut. I remind myself that I’m the one who’s in the driver’s seat, not depression. (This has nothing to do with God interrupting my plans when ever He chooses.) I want to make sure I don’t let things happen to me willy-nilly. I’m not saying I have to plan every moment. It’s more of an inner awareness about why I’m doing what I’m doing. Am I doing what I’ve decided to do or has my depression decided for me? It about knowing what works for me. Being aware of why I’m doing what I’m doing works for me.

I know there are many who are reading this post whose every moment is filled. You would love the luxury of having some free time to worry about. This concept is still valuable though because awareness that you are indeed always making choices is valid for all parts of your life. (By the way, keeping frantically busy is just as bad as sitting in front of the TV.)

Depression seems to have a life of its own. At times it seems as though another person takes up residence inside us telling us what to do. And let’s be clear, the voice of depression will never direct you to do anything other than feed its veracious appetite.

So how do we become self aware? For me, anxious feelings make me sit up and take notice. If I bite my fingernails. (I hate admitting that.) If I find I’m munching on something constantly. Usually something sweet. If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing. If I can’t focus on what I’m doing. Probably most important, if I start to think too much. You’ll have to figure out for yourself what your red flags are. (I’m all for thinking and I’ll discuss the importance of choosing the right time to think about some deep issues on a later post. For now, just be aware that when you’re in a particularly low mood is not the time to think about too much about what bothers you. You will probably just end up in a worse mood.)

For today ask yourself-Am I mindlessly going through my day? Am I fully living in the present moment and not anticipating the next? Is my mind wandering? Am I feeling anxious? Am I on carb overload?

I hope you’re having a good day.

(p.s. It’s five days since the emergency visit and I’m doing GREAT! Took a depression test and I scored a ten. )

after the crisis


after the crisis

I hear the sirens getting closer.  My heart isn’t just pounding; it’s trying to jump out of its fragile shell. Not again, I say to myself. How many times have I been through this?  Has he been through this? Four emergency vehicles, lights flashing speed up my circular driveway. People swarm everywhere. Six, I think. I become invisible.” This man is my life”, I want to scream. But I don’t. They need to do their job.   I hover nearby, ever his protector.

I ride with him in the ambulance.  Amidst what sounds like a normal conversation, I’m shooting up “arrow prayers” hoping they find their target. “Lord, keep him safe.  Help this to be nothing.” Then my prayers are for me, “Lord, keep me sharp and focused. Help me to be strong. Help me to hear what’s being said. Give me boldness to question, to confront, even to demand. Help me trust my instincts knowing they come from you.”  A peace envelopes me like it does every night when my husband wraps his arms around me and I smile myself to sleep. I know there are stronger arms than his holding me now.

Six hours later, three in the morning, we are home. It’s not his heart but a muscle that is inflamed due to all the projects he’s been doing. It is often confused with a heart attack. We collapse exhausted but relieved.

It’s now the next day.  Red flag, red flag, my mind tells me.  This is a danger zone. The adrenaline continues to flood over me now even though the emergency is over. I need to exercise more to lower the amount of Cortisol http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/cortisol.htm floating freely through my system. I find myself wanting to eat constantly. To stay busy every moment. I’m not ready to think, to evaluate.  I remember his heart attack.

After days at the hospital I was convinced to go home for a night. I remember waking up the next morning in a kind of suspended state of reality.  Coming downstairs I saw his truck in the driveway and wondered where he was. The brain fog shattered and I remembered it all too clearly. His heart stopping-literally. The electric paddles violently abusing his body. The sudden beeping of the heart monitor again. The absolute terror of it all.

I’m a smart woman.  I know the aftermath of this crisis is where “IT” (my favorite word for depression) is lying in wait to gobble me up.  I’m already planning the days ahead.  Projects to accomplish. Menus to plan. People to connect with.  Making sure I look extra good when I see my reflection in the mirror.  Knowing my time with God will be scattered and unpredictable for a few days.  Knowing that God is OK with that.

These are just quick snippets of what I’m going through right now.  Very little editing.  After all, we can’t edit history.  I want you to hear exactly what I’m feeling and thinking as I prepare for a few days battle.  Maybe my honesty will help you.

I’ll be back in a few days with part two of “as the season changes.”

hurt feelings


hurt feelings

I have part two of  “as the season changes” ready but I wanted to share this as I promised to keep this post “real”.  That means that when the worm (depression) shows up in my otherwise bright, shiny, red apple, I need to let you in on it in real-time.

The last couple of days I encountered  a couple of upsetting situations.   Both involves people permanently in my life that I love very much.  The  first example was a vacancy  I saw in someone’s eyes.  It was like no one was home.  I’ve never seen it before and it scared me.  I’ve shed some tears.  I’m trying to convince myself that she just didn’t hear me which would explain it. I’m still clinging to that.

The next was rude behavior I received from people I have given to freely and without reservation. People I love, pray for and cry over. My husband and I have often encountered this behavior from them. What is surprising is that I continue to allow it to happen.  I tell myself I will  lovingly bring it to their attention right when it happens so I don’t continue to feed on it.  But it always catches me unaware. I saw their interactions with others.  There were “Hello’s”.  “Hey, how are you doing?”  There were friendly conversations with acquaintances. There was barely a word spoken to us. I could go on.

It’s these kind of circumstances that can really jump-start a downward spiral if we don’t stop it immediately. I convince myself these situations are catastrophic.  (They probably aren’t.) But that’s what we do when the sun isn’t shining and the days are getting shorter.  Everything seems worse than it is. So what did I do?

(I’m going to talk about my faith now so if you find that objectionable hit the exit button.)

I mentally whispered to God. “Lord, would you just put this in my “trouble” box and hang hang on to it till we can talk?” I do this often when something is bothering me as I know that I need to be in a safe place when I open that box.  For me, that safe place is time with God.

We opened the box this morning and I poured out my concerns.  Nothing held back. No pretending that I’m not scared. No pretending I’m not hurt. Just me and God. I talked.  He listened.  Then He talked through the scriptures and I tried hard to listen.

Beating depression means being honest with oneself.. That means not making mountains out of mole hills but also not making mole hills out of mountains.  If it hurts, it hurts. I don’t have to chastise myself for being human. Being mentally healthy doesn’t mean everything in our lives is as it we would like it to be.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be days like these. What is does mean is that we learn how to deal with hurt, fear, and disappointment in a healthy way. The method can look quite different for each of us.

Do you have a pre-determined method to deal with difficult circumstances?  If not, maybe today you can begin your own repertoire of healthy coping mechanisms.