Forward Motion

With the exception of a few years after I got married, for as long as I can remember, Saturday night was always the night before church. As a kid, I remember hating Saturday nights for they meant that the next day would be filled with activities I didn’t really want to be a part of. Sunday mornings in our home meant early wake up times to go to church. To make matters worse, our church had a Sunday evening service. Sunday evening found me back at the same church, singing hymns and enduring what seemed like a long, boring sermon. By the time my mom finished yakking with every other church lady, it was often 9:00 PM before we would arrive home.

Suffice it to say that I hated Sundays. I was forced to go to a place where I didn’t feel loved nor did I feel accepted. Those feelings were reinforced as I entered the teen years. Youth group was an excruciating experience where everyone else had friends they chatted with while I sat alone at a table wishing I was anywhere but in that room.

For the last ten months or so, every Saturday night brought a certain level of angst. It was about that time, as most regular readers of this blog know, I found myself being swept away into the raging, dark, waters of depression. As I received rebuke from many about the darkness of my Facebook posts, I retreated more and more into a protective isolation. Hence was ushered in the aforementioned angst of Saturday nights. Nearly every Saturday night during this time, my husband would ask me the same question: “Are we going to church tomorrow?”. The first month or so was a battle. There was a time in the last few years that I treasured Sunday mornings at our church. I felt like I had finally found a place that I could be loved and accepted. Like everything else in its wake, though, depression chipped away at that sense of belonging. Instead of believing I was loved, depression told me that I was not welcome there. Depression told me that I had no place in a church where joy was the norm. If there is one thing you must know and understand about depression, it is this–depression may lie, but it does so craftily. I believed–and still do–the lies depression fed me in those lonely, dark, long hours spent alone. Each week that passed it became easier and easier to tell my husband no to his question about church. I was certain that no one missed me anyway. Oh, I knew there were a few who at least noticed I wasn’t there. In the midst of some hurtful Facebook messages, I did receive a couple encouraging ones. Two that quickly come to mind are one from our worship pastor and one from the keyboard player. Still, the longer I stayed away the more convinced I became that I was one of those people who would never fit into church.

Then I got a job at a Christian bookstore. Over the course of the last three months, I have found my coworkers to be like family. On more than one occasion as I stood at the table back in the receiving dock, opening boxes and ticketing merchandise including study Bibles and Christian living books, I thought about the lack of God in my life. Many days I left work with the conclusion that I needed God in my life. But still, when Saturday night would roll around, and that dreaded question was posed to me once again, fear of rejection kept me from saying anything other than a quick no to church. I was certain that if I walked through the doors of church, most would wonder why I would think I was welcomed there after months of shutting people out. It bothered me enough that, on a couple Sundays, my husband and I did make the drive to church but purposely arrived late. We would walk up the stairs, quietly go in the back door, and sit as close to the back as we could. Then, when the worship team would come down to lead the congregation in the last song, we would leave the same way we had come in. I figured by doing that, I was protecting my heart from further assault. This past week, I felt God was telling me to just swallow my pride and face my fear of rejection–I knew God wanted me to go to church not because I might be accepted there, but rather because it was a step of obedience to Him.

I will admit that I was not thrilled about this idea. I felt lousy this morning. I could have come up with a plethora of excuses as to why I just couldn’t do what I felt God wanted me to do. It was a battle of intense fear and emotion. To walk through the doors of church was a terrifying prospect; to walk through the doors while everyone was standing in the foyer chatting with friends was beyond terrifying. But that is what I did.

I wish I could say I left there feeling like I was proven wrong–that I left feeling like I was loved and welcomed. I can’t say that, though. It was exactly as I thought it would be. Of course no one said I wasn’t welcomed or that I wasn’t loved. Maybe no one even thought that. And while feelings are just feelings, I have learned they are real and need to be acknowledged. Still, there is a part of me that knows that God won a victory over Satan this morning. Maybe this is a first step forward that will lead to more.

Time will tell.

Posted in CHURCH, depression, Facebook, fear, loneliness | Leave a comment

Fire and Smoke

Image result for house with fireplace smoke

Living creatures have five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. As humans, we are especially aware of our senses when we are not able to access one of them. I’ve been awakened in the dark of night and felt the terror of not being able to see the source of the noise that woke me in the first place. When out and about on a summer evening, it is obvious when a skunk–either alive or dead– has been in the vicinity! I assume that animals experience all five senses as well, although they are unable to express their pleasure or displeasure of how something may taste or if the television is playing too loudly.

Speaking of senses, have you ever experienced something through one of your senses that instantly stirs a memory? Perhaps it even transports you back to the time and place of said memory–at least in your mind. I recently had that experience.

Where I live, it is winter for half of the year. The bitter, below zero temperatures may not last the entire six months, but for the most part, windows are closed for half the year. I did not spend my growing up years in the state where I currently live, but the place I did grow up had similar weather patterns. Temperatures didn’t drop to the levels they do currently, but I did get to enjoy much more snow as a child than I get to enjoy now. The other day, I was driving somewhere when my sense of smell was stirred by the aroma of burning wood. I don’t know if someone had a home fireplace or wood stove; perhaps someone was burning something in a backyard fire. Regardless of the source of the smell, as my nostrils breathed in the scent of burning wood, I was instantly taken back to a time in my childhood when I was treated to that smell on a regular basis. In my mind, I was ten years old again, sitting in an old rocking chair in the family room of my house on Carter Drive. Against the wall in that family room was a wood burning stove that was the primary source of heat for the lower level of our home. My grandmother, who lived with us for a time, kept a silver kettle of hot water on the stove. We were free to use the hot water in that kettle for hot chocolate, although her main reason for the kettle was to humidify the air.

As I breathed in deeply, cherishing the pictures that paraded through my mind, I found myself wishing out loud that I could be ten years old again. I longed for the safety of that house on Carter Drive, not to mention the carefree life that came along with being ten. I had my ideas of how my adult life would play out. Of course I was naive in that thinking. I wouldn’t have predicted the loss of a baby, the near loss of my marriage, years spent battling depression, the pain of an empty nest, nor the diagnosis of a chronic illness. I couldn’t have known that friends would be hard to find, let alone keep. I had no way of knowing how difficult being an adult could be.

As I drove out of the range of that memory-triggering smell, I wondered if maybe the house from whence it came also had a child or two that sat by the warmth emanating from the fire. I also wondered if someday they too would look back with fond memories of these years spent in their childhood home.

I am still amazed that this many years later (more years than I care to name here) that smokey smell can instantly take me back to a simpler time in my life. The scent didn’t linger very long, but for those few minutes, I was able to forget the oppressive weight of a life that for the last several months has been tumultuous and wearisome. Sometimes I think memories are more of a curse than a blessing. This day, though, I am so thankful for little memories like this one that gives even a slight reprieve from the loneliness, sadness, and pain that now characterizes my days.

Posted in Change, depression, empty nest, loneliness, marriage, MS, winter | Leave a comment

Do What You Want To

I had a CD on this morning before leaving for work. Many of the songs on this CD are ones our church sings during worship. Although I don’t regularly attend church right now, the songs were as fresh in my memory as if I had been part of singing them just a few days ago.

Only this time, there was much more cynicism in my heart as I thought about the words flowing from the speakers of my CD player…

“It’s your heart we’re searching for,
We want you and nothing more…
We surrender all to you,
Do what you want to…”

I used to sing those words and really believed I meant them. Now I know I didn’t really mean them. And I wonder how many other people are like that?

You see, it was easy to sing those words…”have your way in me…” as long as my life pretty much stayed the same. The bills were paid, I was warm on a cold day and cool on a warm day, there was food in my refrigerator and gas in the fairly new vehicle that sat safely in our garage…I could go on. But then, slowly at first, my world started to show signs of crumbling. A health issue that was unwelcomed, that limited some of the abilities I once took for granted. Then a life transition that I was in no way prepared for as my identity as full time mom disappeared, it seemed, in one full swoop. A daughter who took the last name of her new husband–meaning she no longer shared mine, and a son who suddenly, it seemed, had a new woman in his life. These events, of course, are wonderful and natural, yet they took so much more of an emotional toll than I could have ever predicted. Then a new title came. Grandma. Or Grammy as I referred to myself. A tiny, new, little life that captivated this heart and gave me purpose once again. I poured so much of myself into that tiny life. I cuddled and played and read and bounced and rocked and walked. I was available at the drop of a hat to offer all those services to this little boy and his mommy–the same daughter who once shared my last name.

Five months ago, though, it seemed as God took a sledgehammer and smashed my heart into thousands of tiny pieces as I said goodbye to that little boy who had grown enough to walk and to know which were his favorite books and to “cry” when just one more episode of “Little Einsteins” wasn’t playing on Netflix. My heart is still laying in thousands of pieces inside this shell that I try so hard to put on to hide the pain.

As I listened to those words this morning, I wonder how many others who sing them really mean them. What if God took your husband or wife or child or home or bank account or…the list could go on. What if God really did have His way in you and His way was reducing you to living on the street with nothing? What if God’s way for you was to move your only child across the country? Or your only grandchild, the one you get to see as often as you wish, to another state? Maybe you are all better than me and you would still sing and mean the words you sing. But maybe, there are others like me; others who think they really mean it when they say that God can do anything He wants in your life and it will be all peachy with you–until it actually happens. And when it actually happens, when God takes away something or someone that you love so much you would give your life for that thing or person, it takes you for a ride into despair so deep you are certain the darkness will never lift.

This has been a long, dry, lonely desert. For all the tears that have fallen, it should be a desert that is filled with pools of relief along the way. But it isn’t. It is a dry, dark, hell that sees no end in sight.

A coworker the other day was talking about something in her life, and she commented that she was glad that someday there would be no more tears. I very honestly told her that, at this time in my life, I can’t even imagine what a day without tears would be like.

I won’t sing words to songs ever again without thinking hard about whether I really mean them. Right now, I’m not sure that I want God to have His way in me. I want my way–I want my daughter and grandson living twenty minutes away again. I want to take him to the park and push him on the swing. I want him to bring me the “Thank God for Kittens” book and climb up on my lap so I can read it to him. I want to sing “You are my Sunshine” to him as he smiles at the words. I want to rock him to sleep and hold him close for a little longer than necessary before gently placing him in the pack and play.

My broken heart is nowhere close to healing, and I am doubting it ever will.

Posted in Change, Children, depression, empty nest, famiy, Grandson, loneliness, MS, Parenting, trust | Leave a comment

Tears in a Bottle

Every morning after my husband leaves for work, I cry. Every. Single. Morning. Even on mornings when I am heading out the door for work at the same time as him, I cry. There are tears that fall on the drive to work. Lately, when I have felt the hot sting of tears on my face, cold from January’s winter wind, I have pictured a large bottle in heaven. Somewhere in the Psalms it says that God sees all my tears and collects them in a bottle. I envision what this bottle must look like. My earthly human mind pictures a very large bottle with a capacity well over one thousand gallons. I am certain it has to be at least that large to hold all the tears I have already cried in my time on earth. Since September of 2016, I have exponentially added liquid to the volume in my bottle. And since that day, every morning the tears have come.

This morning I was thinking about people in the Bible who suffered with depression. Elijah did after the amazing showing up of Baal on Mount Carmel. David dealt with depression after his sin with Bathsheba resulted in a son that did not survive. I’m sure there are others as well. God provided for these folks in tangible ways. For Elijah, God sent ravens to feed him and an angel to advise him to rest and eat and drink–to care for his basic physical needs. For David, God provided an entourage of servants who talked with him, brought food to him, and stayed by him through a very dark time. One thing I have learned about depression in the past nine months or so is that it is a very lonely affliction. As a person with very few real friends to begin with, an episode of depression that drags on and on results in days and weeks and months of loneliness. There really aren’t physical characteristics of depression. There is no hair loss from a powerful drug that is intended to kill the depression cells. (I realize there is no such thing as depression cells–it is mentioned to help make comparison) There is no wheelchair or cast or amputated limb that says, “I am suffering something that is affecting me physically.” In fact, most people believe depression to only be a mental and emotional issue. The truth, though, is that depression is a very physical ailment. It is difficult to explain, but my guess is anyone reading this who has suffered at the hands of depression knows exactly what I am talking about. Those who haven’t usually grow weary of the one who wilts under the pressing weight of a lengthy bout with this monster. They expect one to just move on with life…put behind you whatever is bugging you and look for the happy things in life.

It just is not that easy.

If you are shaking your head in disagreement with that statement, then you have never suffered real, dark, deep depression. Lucky you.

At the end of last year, Carrie Fisher passed away of a heart attack. A few days later, her mom, understandably crushed by the sadness of losing her daughter, also died. News anchors and talk show hosts speculated on whether it is possible to die of a broken heart. I believe that is absolutely a possibility. There have been countless times, as my tears fall and my arms ache to hug a grandson that is six hundred miles away, that I have felt certain that this broken heart would surely lead to death. In fact, I have wished for that very thing. Living with pain–both emotional and physical–every single day for months and years, drains one of the will to continue. It eats away at that will little by little. On more than one occasion in the past few months, I have awakened and said to my husband, “Today I want to just give into this disease. I am tired of fighting and losing. I just want to throw in the towel and let it win.” I haven’t done that, and the honest reason I haven’t isn’t because God sent an angel to minister to me or friends who aren’t afraid to deal with the hard stuff. Most of the friends I had are no longer in my life. I can’t actually give one reason why I have not quit. A part of it is my husband who has been called to a marriage that is very, very difficult. Again, if you’ve never been married to someone who suffers from disease, you cannot understand. Another part of why I struggle to hang on is my job. I love it and find it to be more therapeutic than I could have ever thought it to be. Another part of why I hang on are the kids I have who love me, and a grandson who, even though I don’t get to see him now, will someday get to spend time with me. My heart breaks when I think of him and look at his picture. Jealousy burns within me as I think of those who get to have their grandkids close. I am often ashamed at those emotions, yet they are real and they torment me every day.

I’ve said it before–depression is a monster. It is a beast that threatens to take all I have from me, including the very breath that keeps me alive.

The other day, someone at work returned a book. As I thumbed through its pages making sure it was in a condition to restock, I came across this quote:

“We must be willing to give up the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

I didn’t write down its author, but I wrote the words on a piece of scrap paper and slipped it into my pocket. As I re-read them this morning, the burning question is, how? How do I give up what I envisioned my life to be? How do I make peace with the fact that I am a grandma who doesn’t feel like a grandma because I don’t get to see the little boy who I love so very much? How do I accept what has to be and move on when everything in me screams not to? How do I keep friends when I suck at pretty much everything that has to do with life? How do I deal with the jealousy that rages so badly in me that I want to die. How do I reconcile the thought that everything God puts in my life is for a purpose when I hate so much of what he has put in my life–like my daughter moving six hundred miles away? How?

The six million dollar question, I guess, is how do I learn to believe that God really does love me despite the fact that he has allowed so much pain in my life? How?

Posted in Change, death, depression, empty nest, famiy, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness, MS, trust | Leave a comment

Recovery Mission

The last ten months have been the most difficult months I have faced in a while. More specifically, the last four months have been, well, a living hell. The other day, I poured my heart out to someone in an e-mail. I didn’t actually intend to do that; it just sort of happened that as I typed what was supposed to be a simple correspondence, the pain and sadness came spilling out onto my computer keyboard. It was almost surreal as I maneuvered my mouse over the “Send” icon. As I watched the little arrow move on my phone, indicating that my very emotional and heartfelt e-mail was at that very moment flying through the mysterious world of cyberspace, I regretted for a moment sending an e-mail that brought fresh tears as I typed. You see, just an hour or so before sending my emotional plea through cyberspace, I had sat in my chair at home, trying to prepare myself for a day of work. I looked up at the wall in front of me and the all too familiar pain stabbed at my heart again as I looked for a long moment at the picture of my beautiful grandson that hangs next to his mommy’s from her senior year of high school. I felt the breaking of my heart all over again. My arms ached to hold him even if just for a little while. Their longing to hold him could not be satisfied, though. He is much too far away for this grammy to snatch him up in a big snuggle.

Four months. It has been four months since they packed up their belongings in a big moving truck and headed 600 miles or so west to begin a life there. And all I could think of was Mother’s Day, almost twenty years ago, when our family of six packed up a big moving truck and headed 1,000 miles west to begin a new life in a new state. I didn’t understand then how much my own mom’s heart broke that day. I do now–I understand all too well how difficult it was for my mom to say goodbye to her daughter and four precious grandchildren. There are a few differences. My mom had other grandchildren who lived close by. Still, it broke her heart to say goodbye.

I know that now. I know that too well. And I think that maybe this isn’t just coincidence. I think that somehow, the fact that I am feeling the intense pain of losing my one and only grandson to a different state, is somehow deserved punishment for putting my own mom through the same pain. Regardless of whether that is true or not, there is one fact I am coming to believe will always be–that is the fact that this broken heart will probably never completely heal. The pain may lessen at times as the wound scabs over, but a song or a book or a picture will rip that scab off and the bleeding will start all over again.  Sometimes I feel as though I am in recovery, and it is going to be a long and painful process. Recovery is going to take conscious effort and lots of time. I’m not convinced it will ever be complete to be honest. Broken hearts don’t always heal correctly. And most people don’t have the stamina to stick with someone who is on a long journey of recovery. Although that adds to the pain, the reality is that I face this, for the most part, alone.

It’s been a long, pain-filled ten months. I have stared death in the face on some very difficult days. The fight is not over yet. Recovery missions seldom take place quickly. I’m doing my part the best I can. I’m protecting my emotional health by not being on Facebook. It has been one of the most positive decisions I have made in these very dark months. It has also revealed to me who my real friends are. People who have taken time to text or call and have made time to try to get together with me–these very few are who I consider my true friends–their number can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I guess that’s okay though. It’s best to be in battle with those you know have your back.

Posted in death, depression, Facebook, famiy, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness | Leave a comment

Sayonara, 2016

Image result for sayonara meaning

Today is the last day of 2016.

Frankly, I am quite glad that it is nearly over. It has been a very long time since I can remember having a year as bad as this past one.

It seems each year I start a new journal with the words, “A brand new year. I sure hope it is better than __________.” Tomorrow’s entry will probably begin the same way. I am not getting my hopes up, though. Perhaps that sounds negative, but by not hoping for good things, I cannot be disappointed when they do not happen.

To be fair, the year 2016 did not start out horribly. In fact, I had great hopes of improving in so many areas when the new year dawned 366 days ago. Looking back at my early journal entries, I actually made some headway on some of those improvements. While I struggled most of the year with knowing what my purpose would be, I also read of many days where my main role was grammy to a very special little boy. March saw us celebrating his first birthday. It was such a special day that all of our kids and their spouses joined us in celebrating. A picture snapped by someone there that day melted this grammy’s heart. It was my little man standing with his head buried into my shoulder, almost in hiding from all the commotion of guests around him. That picture was my Facebook profile picture for most of the year. I also had it printed on a 5×7 photo to frame for our bedroom.

I’m not sure what happened, but two months after that special day, I felt the early grips of depression’s fingers begin to tighten around me. I had no reason to be depressed, at least no new reason. Yes, my illness reared its head, making my life somewhat difficult, but that wasn’t anything too extraordinary. I remember the day in May, one day before my husband and I were scheduled to leave for a long weekend to my favorite beach in Florida, that the desire to die was so great that it took all that was in me to not give in to that desire. I have to say, even though I have more experience with depression than I care to remember, this bout caught me off guard. It wasn’t like major changes had taken place in my life. I had come to terms with my illness. I had accepted the empty nest and subsequent move that it brought–I didn’t necessarily like the move, but I knew it wasn’t going to change. It just seemed to come out of nowhere.

That depression continued through spring, summer, and fall. It was compounded in September when I learned that the most precious little person in my life would be moving to another state. People tried to tell me that I was still his grammy and that he still needed me. These were words that not only didn’t help but often just hurt more. The reason for that was either because they came from someone who had no first hand experience of what being a grandma was or they were grandmas whose grandchildren lived close enough to see on a regular basis. I sunk deeper and deeper into despair. I stopped going to church–a place I have yet to return and am not sure I will be able to.  Maybe people meant well with some of the words they said or wrote or texted to me, but those words continued to cut deep, deep wounds in a very fragile heart. I found myself an outcast from some of the activities I once enjoyed–Bible studies, youth group–whether intentionally or unintentionally didn’t matter. Fifteen years of sobriety went down the drain as I tried to drown the intense pain and emptiness that haunted me day and night. The diet that had helped me feel better was thrown to the wayside. My visits to the gym ceased.  The day I said goodbye to my daughter, her husband, and my precious grandson was one of the most heart wrenching days I have ever experienced, second only to the day I got the call saying my dad had passed away.

Since that day, I have found it difficult to move forward. In November I applied and was hired for a part time job at our local Christian bookstore. That job, while taking a huge physical toll on my body, has been a good outlet for distraction. I also have found that the people I work with are very much like a family to me. I am so thankful for them. There have been days at work where I find myself on the verge of tears thinking about how much I am missing as a grandma who no longer lives close to her precious grandson, but I cannot wallow in those thoughts while at work. Of course, I often fall apart when I get home and am alone–depression has not released its grip completely.

So as I look back on 2016, I can honestly say that I am glad it is ending. I don’t expect wonderful things from 2017. I’m pretty sure Grammy’s precious boy will not be moving back to be close to me. I don’t know if depression’s grip will finally be broken. I don’t know what news will come at next week’s doctor’s appointment–an appointment that will give me the results of a recent painful test I endured. I am not naive enough to say that the coming year couldn’t be worse than the year that will soon be behind me. I know all too well that could play out to be the case. Still, I find myself saying “Sayonara” to 2016.

I won’t miss you or look back on you with many fond memories.

Posted in Change, CHURCH, death, depression, empty nest, Facebook, famiy, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness, MS | Leave a comment

Going Old Style

If you are a reader of this blog, you know that the past several months have been excruciatingly difficult. Most people who would normally read this will not be able to now due to the fact that I have deactivated my Facebook account. Most of the readers of this blog were referred here via Facebook.

So why the deactivation of that account?

I have written in the past about how Facebook negatively contributes to my emotional health. I have deactivated the account in the past, but I always returned to the site, even though I knew what would happen when I did. This time, though, I plan to keep that account deactivated for an extended period of time–possibly forever. It’s quite difficult for me to see and read statuses that are joyfully proclaiming the very thing I miss the most in my life. Maybe that makes me a horrible person. If so, I will have to live with that.

Facebook isn’t the only thing I need to take a break from though. This blog has been an outlet for me to express my feelings honestly. I have, over the past several months, gotten mixed comments about my honesty. Some have affirmed it–said that it was refreshing to read something that someone wasn’t making up to try to make oneself look good. Others have blasted me for being honest. A few have unfriended me on Facebook because of my honesty. That stings the heart of someone already struggling with depression. When I started writing here, I was very transparent that my writing would always be honest. I know so many fake people–some are fake in their attitude while others try to hide how old they are by spending lots of money on hair and makeup. I have no desire to be fake. I could. I can spin words well enough to make almost anything I write believable. That wasn’t what I wanted though. I know I am not the only person, not the only Christian, to live with debilitating depression. I only wish others would be as honest. That said, for a time, I will not be writing public posts here. I plan to do all my writing in a private offline journal the old fashioned way–with pen on paper. I may occasionally write here, but most likely those posts will be for my eyes only as a reference for a future time should I ever leave the darkness of this disease.

Most likely, at some point in time, I will return to publically blogging here. For now, though, I need to know I can be honest without repercussion that will further affect me negatively. My Facebook account has been deactivated for several days. I already notice less angst in my mind and heart. If staying off of Facebook and privately journaling makes that angst disappear completely, it will be well worth the friendships I may lose. Besides, I wonder how many of the people on my friends list really cared anyway…

 

 

Posted in depression, Facebook, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Silent Night, Holy Night

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As long as I can remember, the days from Thanksgiving to Christmas have always been my most favorite days of the year. During childhood, my parents held, almost religiously, to a set of traditions. I knew that every Thanksgiving Day, we would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on the television set. My mom would have chips, French onion dip, Hickory Farms beef stick, cheeses, and crackers that we could snack on during the parade. Once Santa made his appearance on that black and white screen, I knew we could go upstairs into my parents’ bedroom closet to fetch the purple polka-dotted case that held the Christmas records. My dad would mute the television to drown out the football commentators, and we would put five records on the player. There was no Christmas music allowed before this point. The next day my mom would set up and decorate the Christmas tree. As the days progressed, other traditions would be held to–Whitman’s chocolates, cutout Christmas cookies, Christmas specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Christmas Eve always brought a candlelight service at church with a family gathering following that. If my now grown kids read this, I’m sure they will nod their heads because so many of the above listed traditions are ones they grew up with as well.

I definitely love Christmas. My love language is gifts. I love giving gifts to the people I love. For as long as I can remember, I have loved buying and wrapping presents. As a young mom, I reveled in watching my children’s excited faces as they unwrapped the exact item they had asked for often between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I remember one year, our then four year old son wanted a particular toy. You see, it was the year that the first Toy Story movie came out. Our son loved Buzz Lightyear. He repeatedly asked for the talking Buzz Lightyear–push the buttons on his wrist and he would say, “To infinity–and BEYOND!” The only problem was that every other kid in America had also fallen in love with Mr. Lightyear. We searched every store in the area. We had out of state friends searching their stores. There wasn’t a Buzz to be found. I was devastated to think that Christmas morning would come and our little guy would be disappointed. As the days to Christmas grew fewer and fewer, I found myself in a local store to pick up our layaway. Sitting on the layaway counter was…YES! A Buzz Lightyear! It was not green and white like the traditional Buzz but rather silver, but it talked the same and had the same space helmet. I asked the lady why it was sitting there. She told me someone had changed their mind after taking it off layaway. I left that day with the much coveted Buzz Lightyear…and come Christmas morning, our son was thrilled to open the toy he had asked for the most.

I could go on and on with story after story about happy Christmas memories. Now, though, there are no children in our home to radiate the excitement and wonder of Christmas, no cookies and milk left out for Santa, no one to wake us early on Christmas morning, excited to get to the living room to see the piles of presents under the tree and the filled stockings hanging on the wall.

This year I find myself extremely stressed over Christmas. Money for gifts is tight–a chronic illness has a way of sucking dollars from a budget. I still love to give gifts, but admittedly, it is more difficult to buy gifts for adult children than little children. I find myself feeling angst at the thought of all that needs to be done in the next week. Not because I hate Christmas–I don’t–but because this year, for the first time since our kids were born, I am working a retail job during the Christmas season. Working leaves little time for me to get all the expectations completed. Work, combined with a chronic illness, also depletes any energy reserves I once had. Presents need to be bought and wrapped, cookies need to be baked, the regular chores of the household still need to be done…I find myself frustrated and overwhelmed at the thought of Christmas this year.

I think of the words to some of my favorite Christmas songs:
“Joy to the world the Lord has come…”
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth…”
Silent night, holy night all is calm, all is bright…”

These lines all imply peace, yet peace is something I have not been able to find this Christmas season. I also seem to be missing joy. Christmas has become a never ending list of to-do’s with a body that is screaming “Don’t!”. Every television commercial tells me I need to give the perfect gifts and decorate the perfect tree with the perfect trimmings and cook the perfect meal and bake the perfect cookies…you get the idea.

I desperately want the peace of Jesus this Christmas season, yet the more I long for it, the farther away it seems to be. I don’t want to be the person who wishes the Christmas season away.

I need a silent night…

Posted in depression, famiy, gifts, Holidays, MS, Parenting, peace | Leave a comment

More Like a Swift Kick

I’ve been told that God won’t stop pursuing me.

I’ve been told that God loves me unconditionally.

I’ve been told that God speaks in a still small voice.

For the last six months, I have vehemently disagreed with those statements.

I have been convinced that God had stopped pursuing me–that He has abandoned me.

I have been convinced that God hates me.

I haven’t heard any still, small voices lately. But then again, I haven’t really been listening for any either.

It has been a long stretch of oppression.

It started as a typical episode of depression and darkness. I didn’t panic. I am all too familiar with depression. But it grew. It took on a life of its own and turned into not only impenetrable darkness but also wielded a force of evil.

Almost an unbearable presence of evil.

I think that even if there was a still, small voice that tried to talk to me, and my ears would have been attuned to such a phenomenon, it wouldn’t have gotten through anyhow. I’ve never felt a darkness this thick weighing on me.

Ever.

Within the last couple weeks, though, there has been a slight, ever so slight, piercing of light through the thick darkness that has threatened my life multiple times in the last few months. I still have not heard a still, small voice, but I am wondering if maybe God is trying to get my attention with a good, swift kick. I wonder that because there has been a longing in my heart to return to the path I wandered off of while stumbling in the darkness. I have found myself missing Sunday morning church services. Maybe that can be attributed to the time of year. After all, Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It only seems natural to be in church this time of year. I have also found a sense of disdain, for the most part at least, for some of the choices I made in the darkness of depression. There’s one more thing, too.

I’m tired of fighting.

Not too long ago, I was tired of fighting to live. I felt like my whole world was crumbling down around me as God seemed to take one thing after another away from me while, it seemed to me, to bless others I know with some of those things. Jealousy RAGED in me–and still does to a degree. But that’s for another post (maybe). Now, though, I am tired of fighting God. I’m pretty sure I am not going to win anyway.

Last week I had an appointment with a specialist regarding my MS. I did not get good news. My first thought was to curse God again, similar to what I did when I found out my grandson would be moving away from me. More than once I looked up toward heaven and screamed “I hate you!” at God. I blamed Him for my losses, my health, my depression, even my bad choices. The temptation to replay that exact scenario crossed my mind for sure. But, I didn’t do that. I didn’t thank Him for it either, but I’m okay with that for now, even though I know we are supposed to be thankful in all circumstances. I can’t bring myself to thank God for the potential to lose even more of my health.

But I did not feel the desire to turn my back on Him; if I did feel that, I quickly dismissed it and resigned myself to the fact that all my anger, all my cursing, all my screaming, would not change what God has in store for me. Fighting against God, I am learning, is fighting a losing battle.

I don’t know what will happen if I decide to return to church. I just know that there is a longing in my heart to return to God. I suppose I could accomplish that without returning to church, but I don’t know if that is the right answer or not. Regardless, I can’t completely ignore what seems to be a good, swift kick by God to get my attention. I have heard a quote from C. S. Lewis that says, in essence, that God shouts to us in our pain.

I think I can hear that…and feel it too.

Image result for kick in the butt

 

 

Posted in Change, CHURCH, death, depression, Grandma, Grandson, MS, trust | Leave a comment

Moving…Backwards

There are moments, sometimes I can pinpoint the reason and sometimes I cannot, that I hate myself. This self hatred is a deep seated belief I have held for most of my life, and tonight is one of those nights that said hatred is raging through my thoughts and emotions. Tonight I can pinpoint the reason for this hatred. It is multi faceted, but definitely comes down to the fact that, as the title indicates, I have taken large steps backwards in a few areas of my life.

Oh, and comparison. That one gets me every time.

Six months ago I ran a 5K. I literally ran the entire course. It came after four months of discipline, getting up early and hitting the gym to attempt to regain some of my health. At the end of May, I was thrilled to feel like I was on a healthy path for the first time in a very long time.

Then, for reasons that I don’t know–and may never know–a tidal wave of depression came flooding into my life. It beat me down and threatened my very existence. I lost motivation to continue my health journey. The overbearing heat of a Minnesota summer didn’t help much either. I kept telling myself that it would pass…depression, after all, is not a new friend to me, and if history really does repeat itself, this crushing weight of depression would disappear after a time.

Except, here I am, over six months later, and that depression is still hanging on.

Now, it is being fueled by my self hatred because all the hard work I put into my health has been lost and, at the same time, it is fueling the self hatred.

It is a vicious cycle.

Throw in just a short time on Facebook tonight that showed me just how many steps backwards I have taken, and life kind of sucks.

The frustrating thing is I know what it is going to take to get back to where I was. I also know it is possible to achieve that success again–what it’s going to take to look in the mirror and not hate at least the weight of the person looking back at me–yet I’m not sure I will be able to get there again. Depression is one factor; physical pain is another. And throw in a part time job that taxes this unhealthy body and I find myself one, big, unhealthy mess.

Again.

Few have chosen to stick with me on this difficult journey. I don’t blame them, but the fact that I don’t blame them doesn’t take away the sting of their choice to abandon.

In all honesty, so often I don’t want to live this life anymore. Self hatred, I’m sure, factors into that statement as well.

Posted in depression, loneliness, MS, Uncategorized | Leave a comment