Thursday, November 19, 2015

...who colors?

I write often about the pits and gullies that litter this pathway I’ve been called to travel.
What I have not yet included is a post about the methods I often use to get out of them.

Yes, pits happen.
But I can’t stay.

They are muddy and dark and messy and damp with tears.
They are full of fear and confusion.
They pull me away from my God-given role in my family.
They pull me away from ministry of any sort.
They try to pull me away from God.

I can’t stay.

So I must move forward.
Forward, through, and eventually out.

So, while I’m still learning, and I’m not educated in such things,
here are some things that I find helpful in getting out of those “pits”
of despondency and despair…

I mow the lawn.

Wait. Mow my lawn?
Doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface, does it?
Well, besides the obvious fact that the task comes around about once a week, there are some other reasons why I choose this activity on the BLAH days.

It forces me to move.
When in a slump, I don’t WANNA!!!
But I have found, just like the experts say (yeah, yeah, don’t pat yourself on the back too hard…you might break your arm), that getting some exercise can be helpful when fighting depression. And since the efficacy of the solution does not seem to hinge upon the cause of the problem, I’ve found it to work quite nicely for grief-induced depression.

I love doing things that result in bringing order from chaos, tidy from messy.
It brings back a teensy bit of control to my topsy-turvy world. 
Besides, mowing provides a great time to pray.
And being outside just...well, it fixes things somehow.
As I spend time there, I find I can believe again that God is so much bigger
          than my tiny problems.

But sometimes the lawn doesn’t need mowing. So…

I color.

Or do my grown-up dot-to-dot pages.
Nope. I’m not forty-something going on four.
Again, it’s an act of bringing beauty and order back into my world.
Plus, being creative in some way totally ranks as top of the chart in therapeutic value.

The point is finding SOMETHING creative to do.
One week, it was a photo shoot for a friend.
Another week it might be trying to improve my painting skills.
The next it might be a floral arrangement to be given as a gift.

I prefer things that don’t require lots of stressful decision making
       or slurp up all the energy I have left.

Creating something beautiful oozes peace to my heart and soul.

But there are times when my well of creativity is bone dry. So…

I play the piano.

The songs I play demand my interaction with the words and music. I can sometimes dismiss when just listening…thus sometimes actually playing them on the piano helps me focus on this source of encouragement and uplift. The tried and true songs of our faith bring comfort, healing, direction, and peace to a bruised and weary soul.

Once again, I refer to that whole “chart of therapeutic value” (I’m SURE there’s one out there somewhere…) – you’ll find music at the top, too!

And  youre good at it

(I left my computer for a few moments while working on this post, and I returned to find the above statement had been added by some sneaky little person in my house. I thought it was sweet, so I left it! As is!)

Sometimes listening to music as performed by others does the trick. There are some go-to songs to which I have returned again and again for comfort and encouragement. Many of those songs are played on the internet radio station which my husband began ten years ago. There is a sense of peace that accompanies this music as it winds its way through my household…

Here is one such song for your encouragement today!

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.
~~ Fanny Crosby

But there are times I need more than just the music. So…

I look for the light.

Literally. And now that it’s pitch dark even before our supper is on the table, that light is harder and harder to find.

Today happened to be one of “those days” – again. So this afternoon as I answered kid homework questions, I sat right by my full-glass storm door on the floor…in the light and warmth of the sun.

Sunsets work here, too. Yes, even though sunsets are a time of waning rather than waxing, the beauty of a sunset is in its light and color.  Plus, they bring God and His wondrous power back into sharp focus.

Crazy as it may seem in light of the current discussion on light, stars are pretty amazing perspective adjusters, too.

It happens to be a well-known fact (well, at least in some circles) that light is a mood lifter and a help in defeating the monster of depression. So as much as I like the cozy feeling that rainy days bring with them, I dread the gloom I fight when the sun hides behind the gray…

Sometimes the only light to be found is artificial. So…

I text or message a friend.

And not for the reason you are thinking right now.
No, really, it’s not.
Okay, well, maybe KINDA for that reason.

You see, though I pretty much hate the phone on “those days” and would frankly much rather become a hermit (or “hermitess” – is that even a word??), I find that I usually need to reach out and touch (and yes, the pun was intended! ;-) ) at least one person in order to conquer the dark.

But I am usually not brave enough to use the phone. So I find that texting and messaging works well because I can be sobbing my way through a text and no one is the wiser. It allows me to communicate when and how I’m ready to do so.

But back to the reason for the texts/messages in the first place. I have found that one surefire way to find my way back to the top is to help someone else. There are sooooo many people going through tough times that it’s usually pretty simple to find someone needing encouragement.

This step sometimes morphs into the form of a chat with a hurting neighbor or a card in the mail. It could also look a little bit like a text or Facebook message to ask a friend how she is coping with her day’s stresses or fighting the demon of depression.

Sometimes it’s well-nigh unto impossible for me to put forth that first effort.
But once I do, I find my focus turning outward once again and the inner pressure beginning to release just a bit.

So, yeah, I guess it’s a little bit because it helps me.

But it’s NOT just for the purpose of unloading although I do have some wonderfully patient friends who are always brave enough to listen when I need them. That happens sometimes, too. And those times are okay. I just don’t want to get stuck too long with the focus on myself.

(Note: If you’ve ever gotten a message of encouragement or promise of prayer from me please, please, PLEASE know that I ALWAYS mean every word I say and it comes from a heart of honestly caring about you! My heart is often overwhelmed with the pain of so many good folks I know… My notes are sent with that pain in mind. In fact, sometimes it’s the most difficult thing I do that day because the devil works overtime to keep me stuck in my own teensy world of pain.)

But sometimes it’s late and few are still awake.  So…

I take the blame.

Yeah, I know. If you were sitting here beside me, you’d probably say “No way! You didn’t ask for this!”

And you’d be exactly right. But that’s not what I mean.

I mean I understand that this darkness isn’t my children's fault.

It’s easy slip into lashing out at my sweet kiddos and for a moment pretend that their immaturity or thoughtlessness is the reason I’m upset or frustrated. But I know that’s not true.
And I frequently let my kids know their actions are not causing mom’s "issues."

Nor is it caused by my circumstances.
More time and energy isn't the solution.
A new outfit won't fix anything. 
Neither would getting Michael back. 

I know this is beyond all of that. 
I am caught in the crosshairs of a spiritual battle for the control of my mind and emotions.

Satan spins them toward darkness. Jesus urges me toward trust and rest.
Satan tempts with excuses for self-focus. Jesus asks for sacrifice of time and energy.
Satan offers a slippery slope of apathy. Jesus presents me with an uphill climb.
Satan rewards with more darkness and bondage.
              Jesus rewards with peace and renewed mercies.

We all know where Satan will find his forever home.
And we know where Jesus currently resides, not to mention my sweet Michael.

The decision is mine. 
The way seems clear, though not easy.
The battle is well worth fighting.

But sometimes I just have no fight left. So…

I accept my limitations.

I cannot – I repeat CANNOT do this on my own. As much as I might long to “have it all together” and be perceived as the “perfect Christian,” I know exactly how weak and feeble I am. 

And I know how seriously dependent I am upon the care and prayers of others, but most of all, on the
           ample supply of God’s grace!

It’s what gets my feet on the floor in the morning!
It’s what helps me find that last tiny shred of patience to offer a trying situation!
It’s what keeps me putting one foot in front of the other!
It’s what allows me to laugh heartily on a regular basis!
It’s what pulls me out of the pit of despair when all else fails!
It’s what lights my way and puts a song back into my heart!
It’s what puts color in my world and brings order from chaos!

And best of all, it’s not just there for me. It’s for you, too. It’s free for the asking and oh, so effective!

When I truly grasp this, accept that some days will just stink, rest in Jesus, and remember that the sun WILL shine again tomorrow, I find I can make it…even through the toughest and darkest of times.

For during those times,
God. Is. There.
With me.
Beside me.
In and through the pain.

And so are many of you. Thank you.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
You’ll not know this side of heaven how much of a difference you have made in my life.

Connecting the dots on paper and in life,

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
~~ Isaiah 41:10