You Are Not Alone

“Life is slippery. Here, take my hand.”  

-H. Jackson Brown Jr.

*I feel like I’ve written this before. Have I? I have, haven’t I. Welp, even if I have, it feels timely to hit this up again.*

Hitting rock bottom hurts. Have you ever been there? How many times? Am I the only one who seems to carry a frequent flier card to this destination?

I wish we could pull our feet up under us and sit staring at each other across a couch and have this conversation. Face to face. There are so many of us. There have to be.

I refuse to believe that I’m the only one who sits in a pit so often.

Time can drag on, too, until I remember the only way out is up. Then again, I can wallow at the bottom like I was born to.

Tell me I’m not alone. Because I can confidently state that you are not. Alone.

And when the pit is deep, it can feel bleak. And when it feels dark and disheartening, I can get numb.

I don’t know about you, but once numbness creeps in on me, even music hits different. If I can even hear the music at all. The worst is when the music stops altogether. Sadness slides in. Depression deepens. And sometimes, the music just stops making its way to my ears.

Or worse, to my heart.

If I sit with the pain and the hopelessness of it all and allow myself to just feel all those feelings, one of two things happen. Positively, I will eventually, once again, realize rock bottom is not where I’m meant to stay. Negatively, I burrow down into the angst and allow it to snuff out joy.

When you feel like you are hovering with one step hanging right over the edge of that rock-bottom pit, what do you do? Especially this hot minute as routines have gone haywire and security seems out of reach.

I’m no therapist.

But, I have been fortunate enough to interact with a few amazing ones over the last two decades. Here’s a little something to work with when you feel like you haven’t got squat to work with. It’s a little of what has helped me in the past and is helping me right now:

  • Find something, anything,to be grateful for. Anything. Say out loud to anyone, or no one, what that thing is and how grateful you are for it. (The other day, for me, it was the ability cry. Seriously. I just needed to know I could still feel. And the crying felt cathartic. And I was grateful.)
  •  Look, really look, for something to laugh at or about. Anywhere. Then do it. Laugh. Whether it’s for 5 seconds or five minutes. (I was able to search through my phone for memes that made me laugh. Once I got started, I was able to feel like climbing a step or two up from the bottom of my latest.)
  • Tell yourself that you are not alone in this. Anytime. Say it. “I am not alone in this.” (I had to repeat this to myself a couple dozen times in the shower this past week.)
  • Call, or text, someone. Anyone. It doesn’t have to be someone you are related to or even close to. Just connect with a human to let them know you aren’t doing okay. And if you have no one to call, please call a hotline. Here’s one: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
    Here is another one: SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline, 1-9-800-662-4357.

Most importantly, know that there are so many of us struggling. Isolation is the worst thing for a pit dweller. We struggle to keep hope near.

Please! Please remember…

You are not alone.

You are valuable. To me. To others you may not even know. To The One Who Created You.

You are worthy. Of love. And time. And attention.

You are able. To keep struggling. To climb up. To find joy.

You have help. From professionals and volunteers. From family, or friends, or even acquaintances.

You are not alone.

 

 

Rooting for the Underdog

I’m assuming that my heart for the underdog is why God gave me a quirky kid.

I’m also assuming my fervent desire for any underdog to succeed is rooted in my own underdog underpinnings.

That’s a lot of under.

I like to be out from under, though.

And Frodo Baggins, one of my favorite underdogs in all of book history (next to Zaccheus in the Bible), struggled mightily to come out from under his circumstances.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is quite possibly one of the best stories of all time. Any age can read it (or at least have it read to them). I can’t imagine a life circumstance that isn’t dealt with in the book. And there are any number of “giants” to be overcome.

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And more than all of that, it is the smallest among us, the ones we think will be least effective, both for change and against evil, who end up being most useful and helpful.

It was the character Galadriel who said,

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Indeed.

Who instilled hope in all of humanity?

A baby.

Who was most instrumental in winning the battle for The Ring?

Hobbits.

The smallest of All.

Oooh, I love me a good underdog story!

Adding to my love for this series? J.R.R. Tolkien was besties with C.S. Lewis. Oh yes they were!

It just doesn’t get better than that.

The movies were fantastic, but these books were rich in detail and painted a picture of good versus evil that I no reader can soon forget.  And it left me rooting for the underdog, once again.

Yes indeedy.

Click the little button to see other books I’m writing about in this Write 31 Days series.

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Oh the Humanity!

Brene` Brown knows a thing or twelve about self-esteem. You can check out her bio here. But, she has also grown a movement of more kind humanity. Kind both to ourselves and one another. And how has she accomplished this? Through research.

Tons and tons of research.

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Daring Greatly is essentially a manifesto for how to be kind. Kindness begins within. And we so need that in our world, don’t we? Both because of our keen interest in penchant for value.

This book will always be among my favorites because it helped me see where I belong as a human, woman, wife, mother, friend, and family member. And, while I began with her book The Gifts of Imperfection, and overcame the shame hurdle, this book pushed me toward vulnerability. In every area of life.

And, it was necessary.  Because, while I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist, it became obvious that I allow what I know to provide a large boost to my confidence levels. This quote below rode high on my heart for a good long while:

“What we know matters, but who we are matters more.”

Who we are matters.

What a powerful message of truth and hope.

If you are drifting through life on autopilot right now…

If you don’t feel all that hopeful lately…

If you let the weight of shame or the fear of vulnerability order your hours and days, this book is for you.

This author is for you.

Have you read any of Brene` Brown’s books? What’s your favorite? What idea changed your mindset?

If you missed any of the previous posts in my Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below to go to the list. If you want to explore other topics written about during this challenge, click here.

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If Grace Had an Instagram Feed

What would it look like, do you imagine?

If Grace, the actual I-died-so-you-could-be-loved-perfectly-forever, had an Insta feed, what pictures do you figure we could scroll through?

I have a few ideas. You must, too.

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I’m guessing Grace will get a kick out of posting pictures of my favorite snack foods with snappy captions like, “Devil Dogs in 2 easy steps!” or “Swiss Cake Rolls for Days!”. And Grace will use a beautiful filter on the pic and He’ll layer over the verse from Proverbs about all things in moderation and He’ll know… He’ll just know that I’m straining against the constraints of my diet and needing a pass for the cheat treat I just had.

I think one would probably have to be a picture of horses nuzzling on a beach with the caption, “Listen Missy, horses need love, too.” And Grace would know, He’d just know that I’d be reeled in by the beach scene. He’d know I couldn’t look away and that He could use my nemesis, as I’ve mentioned here and here and here and here, to remind me that I don’t get to decide who gets love and who doesn’t.

But I think one of my favorites would be a puppy pie pie (and it really wouldn’t matter what kind, as long as it wasn’t a hairless Chihuahua because, He would know that I just can’t even). And anyway, this puppy would be on a boat with it’s hair all wild in the wind, with the caption, “Dog Hair, Don’t Care” to remind me that even when the wind is whipping, He’s got this.

And I am absolutely certain that I’d see a picture of pigs flying. Can’t you just see it? Heavenly pigs winging through the air! And, of course, He’d know that I wouldn’t be able to resist seeing those animals flying and I would, of course, need to thoroughly examine the picture and investigate whether it was modified. And he’d use this one to remind me that Hope is alive and well and flying high, despite what it seems like in the world.

The one I won’t be able to stop liking, though, is the one Grace will put up of my Sweetman in a beach chair with a big ol’ pile of books stacked up in the sand next to him. Man. Candy. Mine. And Grace will just know that I’m needing a reminder (in that post-argumentative moment) of all that I love about That Man. And it’ll totes work, too.

Oh, but you just know that Grace will snap a pic of my sweetkids, at their very cutest of course, on a lake. Or, in a lake. And He’ll be sure that I’ll admire those stinkin’ cute kids while at the same time turning my nose up at the lake (because, Ocean). And I can imagine the caption would be something along the lines of, “Lake people are people too,” because He hears my every inner thought. Especially about lake lovers.

Because, I’m human. And, indeed, sometimes very human.

But Grace doesn’t worry about that.

He knows.

And loves me anyway.

I think I’d like that Insta feed. And I’d be scrolling through it all the live-long day.

And Grace would get all my likes.

Yes indeedy.

**My Instagram feed isn’t nearly as exciting, but in case you missed it, I do indeed have one. Click here to go there.**

For When You Want to Go Down the Dark Road

I find myself in that halfway point between wanting what God wants for me and wanting what I want for me. Right now, anyway, it sure feels like those are diametrically opposed wants.

In spiritual reality, my want is His want.

But, the flesh wants what the flesh wants, doesn’t it?

It feels easy to share the parts of my heart that are dark, in the hopes that those of you reading with darkness in your own heart will know you are not alone. You all help me remember that I’m not alone. The rebellion stirring around in my heart is no less palatable to my spirit when I share it, though.

As if to prove to the rebellion that it doesn’t belong there, so many times when I go to write out of the emptiness, God swoops in and inspires writing that is more joy-filled. Light floods the recesses and all of a sudden, I don’t remember what darkness I was writing to banish, in the first place.

I want to live so that Your will be done, Lord.

Human hearts being the wretched things that they can sometimes be, I find myself returning once again to the words that I originally intended to get out. The ones my flesh want to write.  I string together the thoughts that most seem like they need to get out. I try to stay on the dark road.

He lovingly redirects me by way of joy. He makes hope overshadow all.

I’m able to stay there – in that hope-filled place, for a time. Inevitably, my rebellious heart starts thumping to its own beat again, completely out of tune with God’s heart. And before I know it, I’m headed back toward pondering the angst within me instead of remembering the joy of my salvation.

How long, Lord?

When I do try to head back to that wallowing place, grace always comes. We know this. Don’t we.

There is a verse that never fails to woo me back toward The Light of All Hope. It truly sings the song of my people.

And, I have a feeling it will for many of you, too.

You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.” 

Ephesians 5:8 (The Message)

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No more groping along.

It’s the Brightest Light, for me.

Only The Brightest Light.

Yes indeedy.

What I Learned in 2014

2014 was a year full of new challenges, grand adventures, goals met, lessons learned, and a whole host of moments where dark chocolate was desperately needed! I’m including my favorite posts from each month. But, I have to tell you – it was not easy to choose which posts to include. In fact, reading through each month sent me running for the tissue box more than a time or four (not to mention the stash of dark chocolate chips I realized I was going to need to keep on hand just to get through the month of June!)

So, grab your favorite cup of something warm (or cold) and join me as I reflect back on 2014.

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In January, I learned that I was one in a million. I also realized how very deeply I love my Dermatologist.

February reminded me that Sweetman is wicked smaht, and that I need to pay better attention during our conversations.

March was the month where I finally pursued a long-held goal of mine to enter the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. And, although the outcome wasn’t what I’d hoped, it felt good to give it a go.

And, of course, in April, Dentists became dead to me, as we learned of sweetgirl’s boo-boos on her teeth.

May was where I reflected on the BOOM created by the very different Myers-Briggs personalities in my marriage.

June brought a painful lesson in turning the other cheek, from Sweetboy, and reminded us how Autism can have painful ripple effects for a parent – but that it doesn’t win!

July reminded me that Sweetgirl is always watching, and that Autism can sweeten the interaction between siblings – especially when a yoga ball (or two) is involved.

August is when I finally realized where my mission field is. And, OH, how I yearn to work it well!

September was the month where I learned that I can both set a goal and reach it and set a goal and fail! The women’s triathlon was successful. The goal I set afterwards was not. (There is always 2015!)

In October, I proved that I can indeed get along with Commitment, after all. I accepted the Write 31 Days challenge. Because, Grace, I know Him well.

November was full of masks, casts, and WINS! (P.S. If you need me on January 1st or, LORD WILLING, January 12th, I’ll be parked in front of the television, yelling encouraging my beloved BAMA’s football players to RUN THAT BALL!)

And, December, of 2014, taught me to shop a little earlier for the “classics”, as I reflected on the beauty of the lesson in the The Little Drummer Boy.

Such grace laces my days. I was reminded of that on more than a hundred occasions over this past year. I’m encouraged to keep moving toward new goals, maybe even toward an old one, or two, that got dropped along the way.

Hope sparkles on the horizon for 2015.

I’m praying that it does for you, too.

Yes indeedy!

What were some of your favorite lessons learned in 2014? Please, share them! I’m linking up with the lovely Emily Freeman, over at Chatting At the Sky, for her “What We Learned” link up.

 

Community Wide Joy

There are things that spread just as quickly as runny honey on a piece of toast.

One of those things is joy.

Joy can spread like wildflowers if given the right environment to do so.

And what is the right environment, you might ask?

The best place to grow joy, and then spread that joy, is a place filled with hope. Lots and lots of hope!  And you will find that right here, at Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Online Bible Study Blog page.

We are a community of women who are seeking real hope for real life. We want to know more about the God who allows the deeper things to change us.  The God who brings us beautiful things like babies, and yet can allow hard things like infertility.

We don’t shy away from hard things in this community.  And, encouragement runs rampant.

Doesn’t that sound like a place you can take a deep breath and feel safe in?

Each week, we gather together to discuss a book, yes.  But, we also do life together.  We rejoice with one another when God provides victory, or relief, or healing.  We mourn with each other in the midst of tragedy or upheaval of families.  And, maybe most importantly, we pray for each other in times of crisis and questioning.

Sharing life’s happier moments right alongside life’s more tragic episodes might seem odd. But, isn’t that the way life is?  All The Easy mixed in with The Hard and shaken all up and poured out, every which way?

Shouldering burdens alongside one another makes hard times more bearable. And, certainly, experiencing others’ joy alongside them makes it seem as if it’s multiplied!

That joy quickly becomes community wide.

Especially in this one!

I hope you’ll consider joining in with this amazing group of people just seeking to find The Hope.

You will seek Him and you will find Him.

I promise.

HE promises!

Yes indeedy.

 Want to see what others think about the word “community”? click the button below.  I hope we see YOU there!

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Just A…

Aside from the Strep Throat running rampant in this house, I’ve acquired another, much nicer gift this week.

I’ve been digging into chapter 8 of “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope over on the P31 Online Bible Study blog. And this chapter?  This is The One I’ve been dreading since I first scanned through the chapter titles a few months ago: ‘When Doubt Whispers “I Don’t Have Anything Special To Offer”‘.

Did you wince just a little?

I did.

How long, Lord?  How long until I finally accept, once and for all time, that I am not only forgiven, redeemed, and loved, but also gifted to be used by You?

There is one phrase I hear thrown around like so much confetti. I hear it coming from my mouth, as well as others. Only, there is no party going on when I hear it.  It often starts with a conversation that goes a little something like this:

“What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m just a _________.” (insert whatever word or words you usually end that statement with.)

That gift I spoke of receiving this week? It was the gift of confirmation.

Confirmation that I’m not “just a” anything.

And, neither are you.

I’m not just a stay-at-home mom, just a blogger, or just a graphic design wannabe. I don’t just manage my son’s many needs, or just chauffeur my family around, or just lead a women’s small group . I’m not just a wife, just a student, or just a writer.

No, I’m not.

This week, when that tape started playing, I started to hear the message for what it was.  A lie.  It’s meant to be an arrow of hurt sent straight into my heart. That lie is meant to wound me and keep me from moving forward in all that I am.

You know it’s a lie, too, don’t you?

Renee speaks to the importance of thinking on those things that bring you great pleasure to do and resting in the fact that, “The desires of your heart indicate your God-given passion to make a difference somewhere.” (pg. 142)

Because, we all long to, don’t we?

Make a difference?

Somewhere?

Somehow?

And when Doubt starts whispering and hissing that you have nothing special to offer because you are just a…

Please! Turn around and face Doubt squarely and say out loud, “Yes I Do!”.  Do it for yourself.  Do it to honor the things that God has called you to in this season of life, whether seemingly insignificant or not.

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We’ll hold hands and shout it out together. Yes indeedy!

I’m joining up with the lovely community of hearts over at the Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study Blog Hop today.  We are all reading through “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope.  Please click the button below to read from a treasure trove of encouragement.

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Fanning the Flames of Thankfulness

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““Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now.””  –
A.W. Tozer

I was first diagnosed with Depression toward the end of 2005.  It was a devastating diagnosis to me.  Not because I was ashamed to be touched by the word “depression”, but because I was shocked to find out that these were words that could possibly ever describe me! Natural born sunny disposition aside, I usually choose to look at things through rose-colored glasses, find the silver lining in every possible situation, and see the best in people.

However, I also consider myself practical, and more of a realist than a dreamer.

So, back in the fall of 2005, when Sweetman and I first received Sweetboy’s Autism diagnosis, I wasn’t completely taken by surprise.

But, you can bet your bippy that I was surprised to hear The Counselor utter the word “Depression”. To describe me! And this, just months after receiving Sweetboy’s diagnosis.

God and I? We were tight at the time.  I wasn’t asking Him “Why?”.  I was begging him to show me how to parent this child He’d decided Sweetman and I could handle.  Because, clearly, I didn’t feel like I could handle this kind of parenting.

As evidenced by my, you know, sitting in the chair facing The Counselor.

Thanks to the encouragement and Godly wisdom that this Christian Counselor poured into me that year, I learned some important things.  Things that carried me through then, and continue to carry me through, even now.

1) “I can do all things through Christ Jesus, who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Oh, indeed I can.  Maybe not immediately; but, if I am faithful to pray and commit my way, my plans, my hopes to Him, I most certainly can. I am blessed to be called Mama, and some days, I just needed to start the day by crying out in thankfulness for that one thing.  Anything else that I am to take on for the day, I needed (and still need) to remember will be accomplished through Christ. Amen?

2) Take note of the kindling.  Oh, how I must take note of any kindling that’s going on. Kindling is a metaphorical term used to describe those little tiny embers of suffering that can can be fanned into a full-on Five Alarm Fire, if not tended to. In Psychology, it is often used to describe one who is going through nothing big and everything small.  That seemingly endless pile of Everything Small grows until, finally, your body decides it’s had enough and begins to show symptoms of deep stress.

I feel some kindling going on, lately, my friends.  And it could become an arsonists dream, if I don’t get on my knees about it. I need to focus on God. Here. Right here, in the midst of all of this potential kindling.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

(Deuteronomy 31:8)

I can fan the flames of thankfulness by remembering that God is not a Firestarter, but The Fire Quencher. 

“For I will pour out water to quench your thirst
and to irrigate your parched fields.”

(Isaiah 44:3)

I’m resting in the Hope that I have.  Hope that springs to life at the thought of unrealized blessings.  I choose not to fan the flames of death by a thousand cuts, but to fan the flames of a thankful heart, catching fire at the thought of all that there can be or even could be, to be thankful for.

“What am I doing in the meantime, Lord?
Hoping, that’s what I’m doing—hoping”

(Psalm 39:7)