New Year’s Ramblings


google images/yesterdays

google images/yesterdays

January is a great month. At least I think it is.

I know we can start anew anytime we want, but January seems such a perfect time. In Michigan the days are long and cold and dreary for the next two months. Unless you ski, which I can’t, it is a great time to reflect.

For me that means examining  my habits, my relationships, my desires, etc. It also means looking back and figuring out what brought me joy and what didn’t. What were the situations that rocked my boat or caused me angst. What can I do in the future to avoid that? Are there attitudes I need to change? Are there people I need to distance myself from? Are there people I need to draw closer to? In what ways do I need to expand my life? In what ways do I need to draw my life in?

Even as I write, the questions and thoughts flow from my mind right to my fingertips and right on this keyboard with little conscious thought on my part. I love that. I love how blogging seems to be almost magical for me. I write things I didn’t even know I was thinking. Blogging is perhaps the most efficient and self-revealing activity I do. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes it isn’t. It always worthwhile however.

So today I encourage all of you to take time this month to think through this past year. I’m a firm believer that life worth living is the life that is examined now and then. Why stand still when we can grow? And let’s be sure of one thing.  We are generally either moving forward, moving backward or remaining stagnant. Stagnant anything is usually “stinky”.

Remaining stagnant is not being at peace. Some people confuse the two. When we are at peace, we are not stagnant. Peace requires decision and decision is an action.

One resolution I made last year which was to let a couple of friendships settle into a natural rhythm rather than me trying to make them something they’re not,  I have done a pretty good job of keeping. It wasn’t easy and even today I’ve been reminded that this resolution will be carried into the year 2015. But this year, I hope to accomplish it with even more grace and acceptance.

Anyway, that’s my New Year’s Ramblings for today. As I progress through this month you will be updated as to  my final Resolutions for 2015. I may not keep them all. They will probably be redefined as life changes, but they are always a good place to start.

Let me know what resolutions you are considering. I would love to hear from you.

Happy New Year.

. .

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Baby God


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According to my four-year old grandson, “Baby God” was born today. Not Jesus, Baby God.

Funny, huh?

On second thought, I love it. The Israelites weren’t allowed to speak the name of God so God’s son could not possibly be called “Baby God”.  Jesus was His earthly name but “Baby God” says it all.

Too often we separate Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit and we forget they are one in the same. This is definitely not going to be an essay on the Trinity. Are you kidding me?

On this Christmas day, think what it might mean if you rethought the name “Jesus” and substituted “Baby God”. Would it possibly change how you feel about God? Would you see HIm in a more approachable way? Would you realize that He isn’t the angry God you might have been led to believe? Would you see the love that He gives evidenced in His voluntary time on earth?

Sometimes a four-year old has a better understanding of God than the rest of us.

Merry Christmas

an alphabet of thanks “Y”


google images/yesterdays

google images/yesterdays

Today I’m grateful for Yesterdays. There’s something about the fact that I can’t change a yesterday. I can change my interpretation of yesterday but that’s about it. Not all my yesterdays have been wonderful. Not all my yesterdays have been awful. As the saying goes, “We all have something.”

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is opportunity.They both have a place in our lives. Yesterdays give us opportunity to reflect. They give us opporutinity to plan differently for our tomorrows. Yesterdays, whether painful or wonderful, are a great jumping off place.

The thing about yesterdays is not to let them determine our future except in the sense that we learn from them. Even when our yesteredays are full of regrets, we have our tomorrows to change things.

the kindness of strangers


google images

google images

Sometimes a wonderful story comes along that bears repeating. This is such a story. As the grandmother of a special needs grandson, I can well imagine that my daughter may someday need such kindness directed to her. Although he is so darn adorable, I can’t imagine anyone would ever be critical of him.

Anyway, God bless the person what wrote this note. I hope your kindness is returned to you.

God bless whoever wrote this note.

Nominations please


images (2) (675x443)   I’ve been nominated for the Liebster award for bloggers. Here is the set of criteria you should follow if you choose to continue with this.

They are as follows:

Step One: Thank the Liebster-winning blogger who nominated you. Thank you again, Crayononthewall.wordpress.com!

Step Two: Post 11 facts about yourself. Here’s  my 11 facts.

1. I’m a Pinterest addict.

2. I’m married to the same wonderful man for many years. I have wonderful children. I feel truly fortunate.

3. My favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

4. I’m an avid reader. Too many books, too little time.

5. I love blogging.

6. I’m very insecure about a lot of things but very confident in other areas.

7. I overthink way too much.

8. I love my first cup of coffee in the morning. I would be lost without the automatic timer on my coffee pot.

9. My favorite place on earth is what my husband and I call  our “Teeny Tiny Red Cabin”.

10. I’ve traveled extensively. Don’t mean to offend, but prefer the good ole’ US of A.

  • What is a trait you admire most in people? Transparency and Integrity. They go hand in hand. Don’t like people I have to constantly figure out.
  • In which Olympic event have you imagined yourself winning a gold medal? Ice skating

Step Four: Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer. Here’s my questions:

1.  What’s your favorite dessert?

2. Whose life would you like to live for a day?

3. Would you like to be stranded on a desert island for a day?

4. Movies or books?

5. Chocolate or vanilla ice cream?

6. Would you want to win millions and millions of dollars?

7. What word best describes you?

8. Do you use towels more than once?

9. Downton Abbey or The Kardashians

10. Realist or dreamer?

11. Coffee or tea?

Step Five: Recognize 11 blogs (doesn’t have to be eleven) that you feel deserve recognition. These blogs should have less than 200 followers to the best of your knowledge.

http://echoesofmercy00.wordpress.com

girlonfireunwritten.wordpress.com

MINsMASH.wordpress.com

shoe1000.wordpress.com

http://amaresinetimore.wordpress.com

http://teapoljak.blogspot.com/

Once you’ve made your choices,  create a post like this one on your own blog that explains the award process. Then notify each of your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog with a link back to the post you created.

Step Six: Display the award badge on your blog.

liebster-bloq-award-rocks liebster-bloq-award-badge liebster-bloq-award-badge2

a blank canvas


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a blank canvas

Today I “googled” best times of day to blog and frequency of days. Just when I was beginning to think it wasn’t a good idea to post often, I learn that it really is. Plus, I was getting discouraged. It’s really hard to get noticed when your main topic is depression and you’ve decided that Facebook is not a place you want to have your posts show up because (1.) you’re afraid of what people (family, in particular) will think and (2) you also figure knowing that there are people you know who are following you might impede your freedom. Whew! That was one long sentence.

But here I am, back again, trusting that if I’ve felt that inner prompting to blog, it must be right and I must be patient.

Today is a blank canvas. I’ve had a cold the last couple of days and have laid on the couch like a potato. Today, it’s “get moving” day. The day stretches before me like a white blanket of snow with no tracks yet. What kind of tracks am I going to make? Are they going to be deep, the plodding, lumbering kind? Or are they going to barely dent the snow as I skip on? I’m determined that this blank canvas of mine is going to be filled by tonight with people I’ve connected with, things I’ve accomplished, and a heartfelt connection with God.

What kind of footprints are you going to leave today on your canvas? Are you wondering if you can even get up off the couch? I’m here to tell you:

You can.

I didn’t conquer my depression by lying around thinking about it. I was determined there was excellent mental health waiting for me if I faced my culpability and changed some things. That’s why two or three days of indulging a head cold can’t continue for me or it will lead to repeating the “couch” behavior over and over again-this time for no good reason.

It’s early (at least in time zone). Don’t let this day go forward without leaving something positive behind. Don’t get to evening and realize your canvas is still blank.

Despite what you might think, you, and you alone, can determine what this day will look like. No matter how you feel. No matter your circumstances. Your canvas doesn’t have to remain blank.

grief and faith


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grief and faith

Today is Sunday morning and I’m not in church because I have a cold. I’m not sick enough to be in bed but I don’t want to share my germs with anyone. I hate it when people are coughing and sneezing and then want to shake my hand after the service. I’m sorry but that’s not what sharing our Christian love is all about.

My husband called me before he entered the sanctuary with some bad news. We learned that  a friend of our’s whose husband died last week after an eight week battle with cancer (Yes, you read that right, an eight week battle. The doctors only discovered the cancer eight short weeks ago and now he’s gone.) has also just lost her mother two days ago. How does a person deal with that? How does a Christian demonstrate their faith at a time like this? How does a Christian wear their faith and what does it look like when their world has been shattered?

Here’s my thoughts based on years of studying the Bible, reading books by the great authors of past and present, prayer, and my own trials with depression and other circumstances. Faith isn’t necessarily a:

Smiling face.

Lack of tears.

Lack of heartbreak.

Lack of questions.

Faith comes to fruition through all the above. It is through tears, heartbreak and questions that we become more aware, not less, of God’s all-encompassing love. How can we know a God of comfort if we’re never been in a situation to be comforted? How can we know a God of strength if we’ve never been held up by Divine Arms? How can we have a will to survive when it seems as if God has abandoned us if not by experiencing that “quiet, still voice” that assures us we will?

My husband said in that same earlier conversation, “Don’t be surprised if Susan (not her real name) is a basket case.” To which I responded, “I would expect  her to be.” I was a hospital chaplain for about ten years and I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen grief expressed in hard-to-imagine ways.  From screams, from fainting, from stroking the deceased from the top of their head to their feet, to family fist fights, to stoicism, to anger, to not caring at all. So,  I’m not expecting anything when we go to the funeral home tomorrow.

If she’s smiling, I’ll know she’s simply trying to hold herself together so she can get through this first funeral and then prepare for the second. If she’s inconsolable, I’ll understand that as well knowing her still to be a woman of deep faith. It doesn’t matter what I think anyway. The time we should least judge anyone’s faith is when their experiencing grief.  “There but for the grace of God go I“, is never more true than at a time like this.

Our time will come.

I think sometimes that’s why we do judge. We don’t know how to separate what has happened to them and what may, no, will, eventually happen to us. So we project on them all the ways we hope we will behave but aren’t the least bit sure we will. We foolishly imagine we would handle it better or worse.

We don’t have a clue.

If we don’t want others to judge us during our darkest hour, we’d better not judge them. I did once. My best friend’s husband died. She wouldn’t allow visitors outside of family to visit till three weeks afterwards. There was no visitation and no funeral. I never even had a phone conversation with her during those three weeks. I have never been so hurt. I almost ended our friendship because of it. (Not right then, of course, but over the year following.) But I had made a promise to her family that I would see her through the grieving process. That was almost three years ago. We’re still best friends. (Obviously, I’ve worked through it.)

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of what I read not too long ago:

We get through the tough times by learning to walk in the continual awareness that we’re walking in the presence of God.

That has been true for me as well.  During my darkest times, I’m sure I haven’t acted as others might expect or want but I’ve walked in the awareness of the presence of God and, frankly, that has kept me from caring what anyone else thought. Dealing with depression, however,  has proved harder because depression invades and distorts our thinking as nothing else can. But even then I’m still aware of whose arms are holding me up.

Anyway, whatever you’re dealing with today, whether it’s grief, depression or any number of other assaults, I hope that you are aware of God’s presence in whatever way He has chosen to make Himself known to you.

indulgences


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indulgences

Sometimes it’s good to treat ourselves.  It’s even better to plan for it.  There’s nothing wrong with having a little of what you fancy, as my friend’s mother always told her.

The thing is,  most of us feel a little guilty about indulging ourselves. And certainly we can’t imagine scheduling it. But what’s wrong with that?

Why not for the rest of the month and for every month after that,  you pencil in a symbol (maybe a book, if reading is your indulgence of choice) that has meaning for you on a few days of each month. These are the days you will “treat” yourself.  It doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be anything.

An hour to curl up and read a book.

Browsing through a stack of magazines.

An ice-cream cone.

A facial of oatmeal and honey. (Lots of other recipes on internet.)

A diy pedicure or manicure.

Bake something great.

A call to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time.

A hand-written thank you not long over due.

A visit to the library.

“Pinning” on Pinterest.

Planning a special meal.

A nap.

Browsing  bookstore.

Visitingt an art gallery (even on line.)

Doodling. (Now frame it!) You’d be surprised at what talent may be lurking inside. (I was never even interested in art and one day I signed up for a drawing class, which led to painting classes and now most of the art work in our home is original and the artist is ME!)

These are just a few things you could try. It depends on how much disposable time  and money you have. And when you start indulging yourself a little, you will probably find yourself thinking about other things you can try. Fresh eyes are always good. here   But if we don’t actually schedule some time, we’ll never do it. Most of us have a hard time giving ourselves some “me” time but something abut putting in on our calendar makes it “official”.

I’m not very good at personal indulgence either. But I do try to do something I enjoy every week. It might be making paper jewelry, playing around with my craft supplies, spray painting something-anything. (I love to spray paint.)  Lots of interests keeps depression at bay.

I like to have a lot of projects going on at the same time. That way, I have lots to choose from depending on my mood.  This may not be for you but it works for me.  I usually have three or four books I’m reading, something I’m knitting, jewelry in the making, various diy projects and a stack of magazines.And if none of those meet my fancy, there’s always something that needs spray painting. I hate to be bored or inactive and I’ve found being idle not good for my moods at all.

So indulge yourself. And whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t.

insomnia


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insomnia

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning yesterday and couldn’t get back to sleep. What I did next is important. Here’s why.

Insomnia is often a trigger and a symptom of depression. When I couldn’t get back sleep within about thirty minutes, I decided to get up and go downstairs to the sofa. I had very quick moment when I almost panicked——but I didn’t.

Here’s what I did instead.  I admitted that there was something that was bothering me which I can do nothing about. It  is not my dilemma but it can certainly affect me but,

I will survive.

Besides, pain is as much a part of life as is joy. If it ends up hurting me, I will let it hurt. I refuse to let it make me bitter or mad. If I do it will last much longer and hurt much more. Pain is like the weather-sometimes it’s sunny, sometimes it’s cloudy.  I appreciate the sunshine because of the rain.

Beside, rain doesn’t destroy anyone.

I eventually fell asleep feeling a sense of peace. I have too much good in my life to be hurled into the pit again. I guess I’m feeling a little protective of my own heart. (By the way, God says we should guard our heart.  I understand that to mean that I don’t have to put myself in harm’s way. I can let other’s actions and their consequences remain with them. I need to be concerned with my own actions.

I woke up this morning still feeling peaceful. That sense that I will be fine has stayed with me.

depression revisited


10625749092483570_wuVFHSgo_bSometimes I think it’s hard for anyone reading my blog, to believe my depression was as bad as it was.  It seems that way to me at times, too. which is why I’m so glad I journaled during some of my worst periods. Sometimes I go back and read my entries myself just to remind myself how far I’ve come and not to repeat any of the mistakes. I decided it might be good to include one of the less-intense entries.  I figure it might offer hope.

My depression was very real and I experienced many bouts. I think you will see from this post that I was already deciding, even if I didn’t know I was, that pills weren’t the answer. Of even if they were part of the answer, there was much I could do myself.

You might find it very interesting to know that it was almost one year exactly from this date, that I did start to cut my medication while actively attacking my depression. There is hope for everyone out there if you’re willing to do the  hard work.

Even today, I have a friend I will be spending some time with and I hope an opporutnity arises that I can gently point out to her how she is contributing to her depression herself.  I will tread carefully as I personally know how advice of this sort has to be given ever so carefully.

When you read this excerpt, please remember that these were written when I was feeling a great deal of emotional pain. The references to wigs, scars and limps  were certainly not meant to diminish these illnesses or others like them.  I would never do that. But it was meant that I felt invisible where my depression was concerned because I didn’t display any visible marks of my illness. Most depressives don’t, by the way.

When I feel “safe” enough, and when I’m sure no one in my family will be harmed, I may include some of the more intense entries. ( Also, please feel free to “like” this. I’ll know what you mean.)  

anguished journal entry

July 7-2002

I’ve been pretty much depression-free for a long time now.  I was down to 10 mg of Paxil and I felt so liberated. But now, once again, I’m struggling to stay afloat till the increase of meds kicks in.

 Oh, God, why? It’s been such a good year-hasn’t it?  The Bible studies, my quiet times—all at a level I’ve not known before. This last year you’ve spoken to me, no shouted, so many truths and insights that at times my mind has wanted to say “Stop!”  And through it all, your quiet command, “Write.”

 This is so hard to go through this again.  Nobody sees the pain. I have no visible scars. I’m not wearing a wig. I don’t limp. There’s no visible impairment to garner some sympathy. No one asks me how I’m feeling. Why would they? They don’t know anything is wrong. The increased dosage makes me feel terrible. I feel a heaviness in my chest that is almost unbearable. I feel anxious and antsy.

 Depression is truly one of the loneliest illnesses. It’s seldom a topic of conversation.  It’s seldom a prayer concern. No one wants to admit it. I’ve only seen it on the prayer chain once in over twenty years.

 And even if I were to talk about with anyone, I’m sure they’d have an opinion about how to get over it. Somehow those who’ve never suffered depression seem to give the most inane advice. But these very same people would offer few opinions if it were cancer, diabetes, etc, because they’d realize they were woefully ignorant. Why do people think they are experts when it comes to depression when they display their own poor mental health habits anyway in the form of overworking, overdrinking, overeating, not exercising, too much TV, gambling, drug use, etc.

The hardest part is the not knowing when it might raise its ugly head again. After years of dealing with this illness, you’d think I would be an expert. But I’m not and it still catches me off guard. When it hits, it’s like I’m locked in a windowless room and everything of my former life is on the other side of the door but I can’t get the door open.  No matter what I do, the door and my future remains shut away from me.  I push and pull and wiggle the knob. Finally, I just give up and sit down in the corner with my face towards the wall, convinced I’ll be there the rest of my life.  I feel totally powerless. I feel like a gaping, oozing wound in a deceased body.

And then God steps in. How, I don’t know. He takes my little mustard seed of faith, concocts it into a salve and gently rubs it on my wound. He gently turns my head towards the door and I notice (Was it there right along?) a string’s width of light filtering through the bottom. The little sliver gives me hope. As I wait, the sliver of light appears more often. 

 This morning I was sitting in my garden, steeling myself for what I knew would be a struggle to keep my eyes on God. I sensed depression would be coming at me hard today.  My garden is beautiful and the work of my own hands.  I’ve planted everything that is here.  I’ve made the brick patio and the concrete retaining wall.  I’ve spread the mulch. Me. I’ve done it all. I usually feel pride about my garden.  Today it was just “there.” A painful reminder of better days, days when I felt energetic and creative.  Days when I enjoyed life.

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(Not the part of the garden I was sitting in when I wrote this. This is another garden area where I concentrate on roses. )

I was journaling my thoughts when I heard a fluttering of tiny wings.  On the fence next to me, where the insanely tall Joe Pye Weed jutted to the sky, was a tiny bird chirping loudly.  Seeing birds in my garden is not unusual and I didn’t over spiritualize their meaning, at least not then.  Another bird flew over and I watched as they cavorted and played with each other. Eventually they moved on to another part of the fence.

I thought of my husband and how he’s always sitting on the fence waiting for me to play. I’m not much fun right now, you see, and I know it’s hard on him to see me like this.  But he sits waiting anyway.  All the rest of the day I thought about those tiny winged messengers from heaven and felt some hope. This episode would eventually fade away.  I would survive. I always did. Hubby and I would play again.

During depression, everything seems more significant to me.  I pick up God’s reassurances in the smallest, serendipitous events I would ordinarily see as ordinary. (Hmm, maybe that’s what I should be doing when I’m not depressed.) My sensitivities to everything are heightened. That’s why it hurts so much.

 I’m aware that while God is working overtime to keep me from slipping off the Rock, depression is working overtime to see that I do. The churning waters below beckon me and I struggle to keep my footing.

 My highly sensitive antenna means I feel rejection and criticism in the most casual of remarks. If my children don’t call, it’s because they don’t care. If my husband is preoccupied, it’s because he doesn’t care. If there’s a weed in my garden it’s because I’m a lousy gardener.  My self-esteem in all areas takes a nosedive.  I want to withdraw from everyone and nurse my wounds. How pathetic am I?

 But God has not left me to flounder.  He’s given me a bag of coping tools and I pull them out as needed. Some always work if only for a short while. Some work better than others depending on my symptoms. Some get thrown back in the bag because they’re not working at all this time. Some get unwrapped for the very first time.

I’m beginning to understand the part my pride plays in my depression. I hate taking anti-depressants.  I hate it. For a long time, I felt ashamed. Every time I swallowed a pill, I felt like I was betraying God. And the worst part is, the pills don’t really work. I experience weird feelings. It’s all I can do to keep taking them. But for right now, medication is the help God has provided me along with His comfort and strength. I still want to quit taking them but I guess for now, God has other plans.