Depression

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Montgomery Gentry sings a song entitled Tattoos & Scars. The key line says “tattoos and scars are different things. And yes, they are. Kind of. But one of the things that makes them similar is the story that they carry.

Have you ever seen someone with tattoos and asked them to tell you about them? It is usually an amazing experience to hear what prompted the tattoo or the story behind it. The same is true of scars, but often, we don’t see people’s scars because they are hidden or may not even be physical scars.

In November 2016, I got my first tattoo at the age of 42 after thinking and crafting and trying to decide if this was something that I was willing to live with for the rest of my life. It has a story, and deep meaning for me. It is a heart because everything that I do in my life I want to do in and with love. There is a cross at the center because I choose to put Christ at the center of all that I say and do. My children’s initials are there because they are a gift of love from God. There are 3 smaller hearts that signify Father, Son, Spirit; health of mind, body, and soul, and Mike, Anne, and Ty.

I also have scars. Physical ones that remind me of running down the rocky alley in flip-flops, and our childhood cat, Fluffy, that was NOT meant to be an inside snuggle cat (but don’t tell my sister Stephanie, she still won’t believe you). I have incision scars from fertility testing, gall bladder removal, and appendix removal, that remind me of not only those procedures but all of the circumstances that surrounded those times.

But then there are the scars that you can’t see, the ones that I carry with me from words harshly spoken, friendships broken or lost, and many other hurts that have come from different situations over the years. These are the ones that tend to be hidden away in the deepest recesses of ourselves and every now and then something happens to bring our attention to them. Maybe the memory is just that, a memory, because we have been able to heal from the experience. But sometimes the scars are nasty because they keep getting ripped open and never heal properly or completely.

When we look at others, there may be some who carry some of their stories on their body as tattoos, but most people carry their stories within themselves, in places that we can’t see. What we can see is someone who is sad, angry, aloof, removed, attempting to cover their hurt with a smile and a joke, pushing their kid to do more and be more, or a host of other actions and emotions.

What if, instead of judging them we offered them grace?

What if, instead of assuming we know what’s going on, we asked them to share their story?

What if we are the balm that helps them to heal from whatever gave them their scar?

It’s easy to see and feel our own scars. It’s harder for us to acknowledge that others have them as well. It is harder still to recognize that some of those scars we have inflicted upon others or we have reopened by ignoring the story and the person behind them.

When we love our neighbor as ourself, we give them the same kind of care we would give to ourself. I think that means that we listen to their stories and help to heal their wounds in such a way that the scar brings a reminder not of the hurt the caused it, but of the love that helped it to heal.

What do you think?

I would love to see/hear some of your tattoo and scar stories in the comments!

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I’ve been pretty quiet lately. Other than a random blog post here and there, I haven’t been writing. Not even in my journal. The last entry was the middle of January 2016. And until yesterday, I hadn’t really realized it.

But as I sat in her office for the first time in a couple of years, my counselor asked me, “How is your writing?”

Nonexistent was my answer.

But the thing is, it’s not just my writing that has been quiet. I have been quiet. I have been silently suffering for months. I have been making it through the days as well as I could, doing what had to be done, but not much more. And other than a random text here and there to a few key people on the really bad days, I have just kept silent.

Why? I’m not sure. I knew the depression was there. I knew it kept cycling lower. I knew it was starting to cripple me in certain ways. But I just suffered in silence. Maybe because I know that people depend on me to be the one who has everything under control. Maybe because I know that even if I am struggling, life goes on and I have to push through. Maybe because I know other people who are in a much worse place than I am. Maybe because I’m too proud and embarrassed that I am human. The list could go on and on.

But the thing is, silence only feeds the darkness. The longer I kept silent and held onto what was happening, the darker things got for me.

Last week I went to dinner with a friend, and for some reason I spoke out the truth of where I have been lately. And the next morning as I started the day, I felt brighter than I had in months. And then I let someone else in, and voila! More brightness. And then I went back to my counselor and let her in, and things got a little brighter.

The darkness comes on slowly, and the light creeps back in slowly as well. But the thing about light is – it always conquers the dark. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” You can’t bring darkness into light, because dark cannot dispel light. But bring a lamp into a dark room and the darkness disappears.

The same is true when we give light to our darkness. When we speak out what is happening inside of us, that reality becomes exposed to light. The more we speak, the more the light shines. The more light shines, the less power the darkness has over us.

So I am going to commit to start writing again: here and in my journal. I am choosing to expose what was in the dark to the light through the words that I write. Stay tuned as I come out of the darkness.

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We wore these bracelets for 21 Days to remind us of what we were doing and why we were doing it.

On February 8, 2017, I started a journey.

The winter of 2016-17 has been rough. Some circumstances in the fall led to a depressive dip for me. It was bad enough that some old habits I thought I had broken crept back into my life.

I knew what was happening, but it felt like I was powerless to stop it. I was so down on myself about allowing it to happen, that it kept getting worse.

So I decided that I needed to face what felt like the ultimate depression and ultimate bad habits with an ultimate challenge: Beachbody’s Ultimate Reset.

The Ultimate Reset is 21 days of food and supplements to help detox the body and reset it to the ways in which it was meant to operate.

I was scared. But I was determined. And I found six other women who were just as determined so we decided to walk alongside one another throughout the 21 days in a FB Messenger group.

What I found immediately was how my body needed this time: it had missed the real foods I usually nourished it with. I also remembered just how much I need to spend time preparing my food as it is a natural stress reliever to be in the kitchen chopping and cooking.

Was it difficult? Of course! I got sick less than a week into the program and fought the cold turned sinus infection for the remainder of the program. Some days I was so tired and worn out that it took everything in me to get up and prepare the food. Some days I had to force myself to put the food in my mouth out of sheer exhaustion. But every time I wanted to quit, or cheat, I reminded myself why I was doing this and checked in with my support posse who encouraged me every time.

By part-way into week two, I was feeling tons of extra energy (despite the sickness) and just “lighter” overall. It was actually fun to try some new foods and recipes that I wouldn’t have considered before (and I am an adventurous cook).

At the end of 21 days, I am down 12.8 pounds and 5-1/2 inches, but most importantly, I am relieved of those pesky cravings for junk food and have a renewed focus on eating real food. Oh, and that pesky depression? It is improving as well.

I have decided that at this point in my (busy) life, filled with family, work, school, ministry, volunteer work, and more, I NEED the structure of a PLAN because I can’t be trusted to my own devices. For this reason, I will be working hard to MEALS each week, as well as WORKOUTS each week so that I can continue the momentum I have started.

I have said it before and I will say it again: caring for our bodies isn’t a one and done proposition, rather it is an ongoing process. If we don’t take care of ourselves, no one is going to do it for us and sometimes we just need to be reminded of that truth.

The Ultimate Reset was a great reminder, challenge, and reset for me.

If you are interested in doing something like the Ultimate Reset, I can help you get started. 

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Seminary. Church work. Family. PiYo/Beachbody work. Volunteer work. BoCo RunCo work.

My life is crazy these days without much margin. I won’t say my life is not my own, because it is my own. I am here because I have chosen to follow this path. It definitely isn’t easy, and I have to be honest and say that I am struggling with the demands on my time, but it is exactly where I am supposed to be.

I was reminded of that very fact just this morning. During my prayer time I was working through some of the discipleship tools being offered to me through one of my seminary courses. I listened to Rachel Platten’s Fight Song (below), both this version and the version done by the Piano Guys, read Rachel’s back story about this song, and then spent some time with Psalm 84.

Through this and some insight from our professor, I was reminded of what it took for me to get to this place. I have fought with God over whether or not He really meant to call me to be a pastor. I have struggled with verbalizing this call to my family and friends. I have ben knocked down by things like lack of support and imperfect systems. I even went through a very tough time of simply waiting for three years and seeing no forward progress at all.

Through that time I had a post-it note that stuck on my computer monitor reminding me, “Your calling is sure,” words that the Lord had given to me through a variety of sources.

When the time of waiting was over and movement began again, it didn’t always feel like forward momentum. In fact, there was a period of time that felt like I was punched in the gut and left for dead. But God was still at work marking out a new journey on new pathways.

The new journey hasn’t moved quickly and easily either. My husband says, “It seems like anything worthwhile isn’t easy,” and I agree. There are still many fears to conquer, mountains to climb, and opposition to face, but I cannot let the fight go out of me. I have to push forward (in God’s timing), follow-through, do my part, and watch as God fulfills His promises.

Part of Psalm 84 (VOICE) says “Blessed are those who make you their strength, for they treasure every step of the journey…They journey from place to place, gaining strength along the way; until they meet God in Zion. (Bold mine.)

These words were especially important today as I feel weak and worn down, trying not to fall into the “just get through” mentality that can sometimes plague me into not treasuring every step of the journey. So the reminder that I will gain strength along the way is a beautiful one for me today. I won’t continue to wear down as I go, but I will gain strength as I go.

This fight that I have to finish the journey isn’t one I fight alone, but rather one that God fights right along side me. He gives me the strength to fight. He gives me the path to follow. He gives me the truth to believe.

I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

Bring it on.

Fight Song
Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe
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No Words

Lately I have been thinking about times when there are no words.

I have opened this page up to write a blog almost daily for the last couple of weeks, but there have been no words.

I mean, sure there are words running around in my head, but nothing coherent or formed that I could put down.

Life is busy. Life is crazy. Life is wonderful and hard all at once.

I have been re-watching Dawson’s Creek. Yes, I know how pathetic that sounds. Mike and I watched the entire series when it aired on television (don’t take away his man-card, we were newlyweds and I wanted to watch it) and while scrolling through Hulu a few weeks back I saw that it was among the offerings of shows available to me with the touch of a button. In a moment of weakness, I pushed play.

One of the things that I have (again) noticed about this show is the massive amount of words that pour out of these (supposedly) teenage kids. Always talking, analyzing and waxing eloquent about this, that, and the other circumstances in their lives. Rarely do you see any of them in a place where they have no words.

And while part of me thinks that is no where close to reality, another part of me realizes that we often talk too much. But the difference is we talk about nothing, because we have no words to really talk about the hard stuff. We can find lots of words to talk about the stuff that doesn’t much matter. We can talk about the weather, how busy we are in general terms, how we don’t like this or that about home/work/school/church/community, and what our plans our for the weekend. But when it really comes down to it, the words that we need to speak stay unspoken.

When struggling with yet another bout of depression, we don’t speak the words, “help,” to anyone.

When experiencing deep pain and sorrow, we put on a happy face and answer, “fine” when asked how we are doing.

When watching friends go through the pain of divorce, we don’t know what to say, so we say nothing.

When seeing others grieving loss of one kind or another, we allow them to suffer in silence for one reason or another.

When witnessing the downward spiral and loss of faith of a community member, we stay silent.

When observing someone making poor choices, we choose not to talk with them about it.

The thing is, in those times that there are no words, sometimes words are exactly what is needed. Not surface conversation. Not platitudes that make empty promises. But words that acknowledge the truth. Because, you see, something happens when you acknowledge the truth and speak it out.

Healing can begin.

Help can arise.

Hope can be proclaimed.

Comfort can be given.

Faith can be renewed.

Love can be shown.

Let’s work on learning how to speak the words that need to be spoken, the hard words, the words that don’t want to come, and the ones that bring truth, healing, help, hope, comfort, faith and love into our lives and the lives of those around us.

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The first of this year has been a rough one already. I have friends that have experienced unforeseeable tragedy, and I hurt for them. Just today, I heard of another tragic happening affecting a family I love, and I have been reminding myself all day that we don’t have the answers or understand why, and in this fallen world, filled with evil, God is still present.

This is my sermon from this past Sunday, and I just feel like I should share it today.

Take a listen and let God’s word bring you hope today.

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So, this blog post idea has been in the Notes app on my phone since November 17. Today is December 7 for those of you who might not realize it. This is how crazy my life has been: a blog post that pretty much writes itself hasn’t been written. But today is Monday. A new day, a new week, and I have been marking stuff off of my to-do list like a mad woman. Not sure how long into the week being on top of things will last, so I am going to take this opportunity to ACTUALLY WRITE! It is a beautiful thing!

So one of the things that I have struggled with for years is depression. And the winter only makes it more pronounced. I strongly dislike (note that I am choosing NOT to use the word hate) cold, dreary, wet, dark days. I have already said numerous times that summer can come any day now. I like my sun and warm. I like being outside. I like laying in the pool on a raft, taking a ride on the lake in a boat, sitting on my porch sipping ice-cold drinks with friends. And while the occasional “snuggle up on the couch in a warm cozy blanket” day is a welcome respite, the “I am freezing all the time and can’t get warm for anything” monotony of winter leads me down a dark path.

Because I know this about myself, I have had to learn ways to fight off the “I want to stay in my bed for weeks and eat nothing but bad-for-me comfort food and take turns sleeping and watching television” blahs. Here are a few of my go-to weapons.

  1. Work out. Do it. Whatever kind of workout you can do. Take a brisk walk. Go for a run. Head out to a group exercise class (Here is one I teach!). Find an in-home DVD that you enjoy (I can help you find one.). Do something EVERY DAY. The more you move, the more endorphins are released. The more endorphins that are released, the better you feel. The better you feel, the easier it is to fight off the blahs when they come in like a flood.
  2. Eat right. Do it. If you don’t know how, talk to me about it and I will help. Comfort food may seem like it comforts you in the moment, but those sugary, high fat, high carb foods will cause you to crash harder once the initial “high” wears off. Studies have shown that VEGETABLES have an inherent anti-depressant quality, but to get the benefits, you have to eat them. 🙂 If you struggle with this, here is a way to help: don’t buy the junk and/or keep it out of sight. Keep healthy choices in front of you and make them what you reach for in those moments of weakness. Also, when you are having a blah day, be sure that you aren’t eating for comfort. When you feel overly “snacky” find an alternative – go for a walk, call a friend, pick up a hobby you enjoy. Making these healthier choices will help you combat those “down” days.
  3. Get sleep. Do it. Lack of sleep wreaks all kinds of havoc on your body, not to mention your emotional state. Figure out how much sleep you need and make it happen. Sometimes it is hard when you have commitments, but as often as possible get to bed at a time that allows you adequate rest. I know that I need between 6-1/2 and 8 hours of sleep a night to function well. That means if I am getting up at 4:30 a.m. (yep – that is what time I get up almost every weekday so I can make sure #1 happens), I need to have the lights out by 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. at the absolute latest. That means that I get kids headed to bed between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m., and I am in my bed by 9:00 p.m. to have some time to do my devotions and read for a little while. If you want to feel better, make sleep a priority.
  4. Even if you are doing all three of these things fairly well, there will still be rough days sometimes. Don’t let the blahs win. Get up. Get dressed in real clothes (don’t default to the sweats/yoga pants that are calling your name). Put on some makeup (if you are one that wears makeup). Do your hair. There is something about the process of making yourself look good that in turn makes you feel good.
  5. Last but certainly not least, if you are still struggling, ASK FOR HELP! It might be you need your spouse to do something to help you. You might need to have lunch with a friend. It is possible that you need medical or pharmaceutical assistance. When you have tried everything and it isn’t getting you anywhere, it is time to call in reinforcements in the form of PEOPLE who care about you and love you.

You can make it through the winter blahs. Even if it means you occasionally need to turn up the music and have an impromptu dance party in the middle of your living room or drive around town with the music blaring and you singing at the top of your lungs. (Yes, sometimes these are necessary coping mechanisms for me.) So in that vein, since it is Monday and I like to share music with you on Mondays, enjoy one of my family’s favorite Christmas songs and SMILE!

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I have been turning this idea over and over in my head lately, mostly because I can’t seem to create any.

Balance.

Work. Kids. Kids’ activities. Kids’ activities for which I need to be present. Husband. Home. Bills. Business. Fitness. Health. Cooking. Friends. Facebook. (We have to be honest, Facebook is a thing on the balance list.) Sleeping. Laundry. Netflix. (Yes, Netflix is a thing, too.) Running. Social life. (Wait – do I have a social life?) Hebrew. Did I mention Hebrew?

There’s probably more. I am sure I am forgetting something. I can’t keep all those plates spinning all the time. Some of them come crashing to the floor. Hard. And often. And when that happens, I tend to beat myself up. Hard. And often.

I like what Jen Hatmaker says about balance in her most recent book, For the Love:

If I had to recite the top questions I’m asked in interviews, conversations, and e-mails, certainly included would be this one: How do you balance work and family and community? And every time, I think: Do you even know me? Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing. Here is part of the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories. No one constructed fairy-tale childhoods for their spawn, developed an innate set of personal talents, fostered a stimulating and world-changing career, created stunning homes and yardscapes, provided homemade food for every meal (locally sourced, of course), kept all marriage fires burning, sustained meaningful relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for “self care,” served neighbors/ church/ world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior. You can’t balance that job description.

unicorn

She’s right, you know. Balance is like that mythical unicorn. It doesn’t exist. There will be times in our lives when we are more attentive to one or two areas of our lives and less attentive to others. And those areas will naturally change as our lives progress.

The problem comes when we start the ugly comparison game. This game was a losing one before social media, but has become downright destructive in the current online culture. We see everyone’s best posted on Facebook. We see all the great ways to be a wonderful parent, sexy wife, efficient worker, gourmet chef and bikini model all over Pinterest. We see everyone else’s selfies of girls nights out on Instagram. And when we do, we start comparing our lives to everyone else’s and assuming we fall short. But what we don’t realize is that we are only seeing a small sliver of everyone else’s life through a filtered lens. Sure, they may be doing a great job homeschooling their children, but behind closed doors could be suffering a severe bout of depression. Maybe they have a fantastic relationship with their husband, but they are struggling with an enormous debt load.

The point is that we all struggle with balance and none of us achieve it, or if we think we have, it lasts a millisecond and is gone. The real problem isn’t balance, but rather giving ourselves permission to focus on what is the most important and, to quote a song I am sure we are all tired of hearing, say “Let it go” to what isn’t on the top of the priority list right now.

For me right now that might mean that I have to study Hebrew instead of watching an episode (or 10) of House on Netflix. It might mean that I don’t get to go to the 50,000 in-home parties that my friends have because I have a volleyball game to watch or a PiYo class to teach. The important thing to remember is that we can’t do it all, and we shouldn’t put that kind of pressure on ourselves. Living a busy life with many commitments is hard. Living that same life under the shadow of constant guilt for not doing or being enough is impossible and eventually will take its toll.

So, take heart and remember that while the picture of the unicorn is beautiful, it is in fact fictional, just like the idea of balance in the life of a busy human being. Give yourself grace, stop with the guilt, and do your best at what is most important today. Tomorrow you can re-evaluate what needs to be most important then.

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One of my favorite bloggers, Jenny Lawson of thebloggess.com, released her second book yesterday. It is called Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things. In it, Jenny talks about her lifelong battle with mental illness. Humorously. Sounds like an interesting combination, doesn’t it?

Jenny says that, “We all get our share of tragedy or insanity or drama, but what we do with that horror is what makes all the difference.”

We are all broken. For some of us it takes the form of mental illness. For others it is physical. Sometimes it is in our relationships with others. Sometimes it is in our relationships with ourselves.

But the thing that Jenny encourages us all to do is to choose to be Furiously Happy. To be irrationally joyful and vehemently happy. This is sometimes easier said than done, but when we can’t pull that off on our own, we can always read a chapter of Jenny’s book. Because it will make you laugh.* I promise.

Jenny’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir made me laugh out loud. Often. Her blog and book have been a source of (edited) readings to my family and friends. So if you like humor, she is a good source for it.

But what has really drawn me to Jenny’s work is the fact that she taught me this: depression lies. Over and over again when I am in the midst of a rough patch, I remind myself that depression lies. It says things to me like:

  • You aren’t good enough.
  • You are a terrible wife/mother/health & fitness coach/pastor/housekeeper/[insert lots of other things here].
  • The best thing for you to do is just give up and lay on the couch binge-watching Netflix.
  • You loser, you just spent the entire evening on the couch binge-watching Netflix!
  • You will never get better.
  • You are going to fight me the rest of your life.

But when I remind myself that depression lies, eventually I can get to a place where I replace the lies of depression with the TRUTH of who I am.

  • I am good enough.
  • I am a good wife/mother/health & fitness coach/pastor/housekeeper/[insert lots of other things here].
  • Sometimes it is okay to rest on the couch and binge-watch Netflix. But today, I can binge-watch while I clean up the living room.
  • I am not a loser for letting the couch call me in to its warmth. I am not a loser for binge-watching Netflix. Sometimes a busy woman needs some down time.
  • I will get better.
  • Even when it puts up a fight, I will win over the depression.

Sometimes it is hard to get to this place of speaking TRUTH over the lies of depression, but the more I remind myself of the lies, the more the truth is able to be heard.

I have been walking through this journey for a long time now, and recently have walked through it with a friend who doesn’t yet recognize the lies of depression. I am trying to help her learn this very important lesson. One that I was able to learn because Jenny shared her story.

I am not saying that simply by reading a book you can conquer your own mental illness battle, but I am saying that you get to choose how you will overcome. I choose to be Furiously Happy.

I am broken because depression lies.

I am Furiously Happy because I am a Daughter of the King.

Will you share your broken and happy stories with me today?

*Disclaimer: If you are easily offended by bad language, find a different book or blog to read that makes you laugh. Because Jenny isn’t afraid to throw out strong language.

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Coming off of a weekend of craziness tends to lead to a Monday that is rough. So, in order to combat the “Monday Blues” here are some of my thoughts today.

  • Theme parties are fun. Plan one. Invite friends – old and new. Plan a fun menu. Throw in some silly dress-up items. Have fun. Last month we did an 80’s party. This weekend was Hawaiian. Don’t stress over it. Just let it happen. You will be glad you did.
  • Pineapple Cheese Ball Hawaiian Party Friends
  • When was the last time you tried something new? I went down to Forest Park and watched a movie on Art Hill Friday. It was the first time I had done that. Was the traffic terrible? Absolutely. Was the parking situation less than ideal. Most certainly. But watching “Clueless” with friends on the hill outside in the beautiful weather was so much fun and worth the trip.
  • Sometimes you just have to kick off your shoes and dance. Even in the summer heat. Even if you get soaked with sweat. Even if you and your friend are the only two on the dance floor. It does wonders for your soul.
  • And my public service announcement for the day via Jen Hatmaker is this:

Happy Monday everyone!

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