This Meaningless Life

Four days ago a knife was held in the hands of a man I really do not know. I was not aware of when he made the first cut. I was off in the place one goes when in a deep sleep caused by a quick push of a needle syringe into an IV line that had been placed in my hand. I was assured by the nurse who placed the IV line that this man was very good at what he does…that I was in good hands. That man purposely cut a hole on the inside of my cheek, working around a breathing tube that ensured my lungs kept working, removed what could be a cancerous tumor, and then used thick white thread to sew the hole closed. Five hours later, I was home, resting in my own bed, high doses of pain medication keeping what would surely be intense, throbbing pain at bay.


I have had much time to think the last few days. After surgery this past Wednesday, I thought I’d be in a much better place by now than I am. Not much I can do about it. Wounds take time to heal, and no matter what I do, the process can’t really be rushed. The results of the “excisional biopsy” (the official medical term of what was done) should be known this coming week. As I’ve thought about what this doctor might say, I’ve also thought about how little control I have over the whole situation. Control is such an illusion. My life is pretty boring for the most part. There isn’t really anything that stands out about my day to day activities. Like most everyone else, I make plans from day to day. On days off, I plan what chores I might have the energy to get done at home. My evenings usually hold some type of cooking show to fill the hours before heading off the bed so I can wake up the next morning and do it all over again. Sometimes I wonder what the point of it all is.

Something I often think of is the second verse of the first chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 NIV) Solomon wrote this. King Solomon who had been given everything a man could possibly want in life. His conclusion at the end of his life? It is all meaningless.

I am feeling that way right now. I have watched as dreams I carried for so long got shattered before my eyes. I remember the day a county sheriff came to our home. We knew it was coming, yet the foreclosure notice he held in his hand did more than break my heart; it shattered the dream I had of owning a home. It eliminated the possibility of ever having a hobby farm with a loft in a barn where I could sit and read, hearing only the sounds of the country around me. I remember the day our last all-grown-up-child moved out. Suddenly, a five bedroom rented house that was once filled with voices and Guitar Hero, was eerily quiet. The snoring of the dog and the television show being watched by my husband was all there was to break the noise. The downstairs refrigerator, once filled with Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper sat empty save for an extra gallon or two of milk. I remember the day my beautiful grandson was placed in his car seat, heading for a new life in North Dakota. As my daughter and son-in-law drove away, my heart shattered into so many pieces. All the love I poured into him, all the time spent with him, all the dreams I had for our future time together fell to pieces off the blue Avenger driving farther and farther away from me.

This week, I will walk into a doctor’s office–an office I’ve been in several times over the past 3 months. In his hand, the doctor will carry a folder that holds the results of this very painful surgery he performed. What will be my response if God calls me to walk down a road I didn’t plan nor ask for? I hate the phrase “God is good”. I’ve heard it said often when an accident turns out to not be as bad as it could have been or a parent is relieved to hear positive words from a specialist testing their child. But what about when the news is bad? What if the accident claims the life of someone you love? What if the doctor looks at you with sad eyes and tells you the test results show cancer? Is God still good? Yes, He is. I know that and I believe that. But, will I be able to live that? Will my kids be able to live that if they are told their mom has cancer? Today, there are tears constantly begging to be released. I am feeling very much that life is, as King Solomon wrote so many years ago, meaningless. I assume this feeling will pass, even if the news is not what we hope to hear. Like all the other times my heart has been broken, I will somehow learn to live with a new normal. I may not like the normal that forces its way into my path no more than I like the normal of not having my grandson living close by anymore, but regardless of whether I like it or not, I will have to get used to it. It is, after all, the way life seems to go. We just get used to one thing, and it is taken away.

King Solomon concluded his book exactly how he started it: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 12:8 NIV) He did add one more thing, though:

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NIV)

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Summertime Blues

When our kids were little, we often used to go to a local buffet for dinner. I had four very picky eaters. Cooking at home usually meant two or three different meals. At times I felt like a short order cook. One child didn’t like red meat very much because it was hard to chew. A couple of them wouldn’t eat red sauce on pasta but would eat alfredo sauce. My husband didn’t like the only red sauce the kids would eat, so he would need something thicker. A simple meal of pasta used almost every sauce pan in my kitchen. At a buffet, though, someone else prepared a variety of foods from which to choose. The buffet always had chicken of some sort. That was one thing all the kids would eat. One could have the mashed potatoes and gravy she loved so much while the others could get french fries. Hubby could fill his plate with several kinds of meat that actually had flavor–something I couldn’t do because if meat had any type of seasoning or rub on it at home the kids would not touch it. Even dessert was easy at the buffet. One wouldn’t eat anything chocolate while another hated anything vanilla. Much of that pickiness has carried into their adulthoods. In hindsight, I realize that I did not do them any favors by catering to their pickiness. It denied them the chance to experience foods they assumed they wouldn’t like.

Hindsight. How easy it is to make better decisions when looking back at things.

The last month or so has found me in the hindsight mode quite often. I think part of that is just from getting older and realizing that life is, in all probability, more than half over for me. I also think part of that comes from the fact that I could be facing another serious medical diagnosis. One recurring theme of my hindsight is how often I have let others’ opinions of me shape how I think about myself. This is a way of thinking that is so easy to fall into, and if left unchecked, can wreak havoc on our lives. Often, the voices I hear contradict each other. One voice will insist that happiness can only be achieved by behaving/achieving/completing x, y, or z. Another voice will contradict the first. My most recent struggle in this arena has definitely been voices that tell me how I should feel about myself. Let me explain.

Having a chronic illness requires being on various medications. If you have ever watched those advertisements on television for various drugs, you know the side effects that can come with prescription medications. The announcer, after applauding the wonderful bonuses one will experience from said drug, moves into a faster, lower tone of voice rattling off of all the problems that same drug could cause. These problems range from simple things like headaches to very serious effects–“even death” usually ends the lengthy list. Personally, the side effects from my cocktail of medications range from minorly annoying to negatively life changing. One of the latter, unfortunately, has been unwanted weight gain. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that society screams that being overweight makes one less attractive, possibly even less worthy of love, than those who are not overweight. I think this applies even more to women than it does to men (although men are not immune from this idea by any means). Television commercials for Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, and other weight loss programs show pictures of clients who once were very overweight holding up a large pair of pants they assumedly once wore and then dropping those to show a new and improved body–slimmer, toner, fitter. While I know the truth behind these companies–that being it works as long as you keep paying for the goods and service, and on the same token, will stop working once you stop paying for the goods and service–it is still heartbreaking for me to look at those new, slimmer bodies and hate myself even more. Maybe you have experienced the following scenario: You decide to start ________________ (insert the name of any weight loss product or company here). You also add exercise to your life because the paperwork says that the program should be combined with exercise. After a few weeks, people start acknowledging that you look different. “Wow! You look great! Have you lost weight?” or “You look amazing! What are you doing to lose weight?” Has anyone EVER said to you, “Wow! You look great after putting on 25 pounds! How did you do it?” It sounds absurd because we know no one would ever compliment someone for being overweight.

What is the point of all this?

One year ago, I ran a 5K. It was the first 5K I had ever done, and I ran it with a friend who runs regularly. While I know she could have easily smoked me in time, she ran with me, encouraging me. I finished with a time that I was very happy with. People commented on how much better I looked, on how thin I was, etc. Fast forward one year. One very difficult and trying year. Worsening symptoms necessitated the addition of another medication, without which I would struggle to walk or use my hands. The most difficult side effects of that medication turned out to be fatigue and weight gain. Every morning I open the orange prescription bottle, shake out two tiny, round, white pills, and down them with a glass of water, knowing that they will continue to undo all the hard work I did last year to get ready to run a 5K. Every morning I choose between being overweight and extremely fatigued but in bearable pain or being slim and still fatigued but in unbearable pain. It is, quite honestly, a lose-lose situation for me. I’ve heard people refer to those who are overweight as lazy, gluttonous, and/or not self disciplined. While I’m sure there are many to whom those adjectives apply, I have become much more sensitive to the fact that sometimes it really is out of one’s control.

Still, society probably isn’t going to change the emphasis it places on being skinny. In fact, summer only intensifies that as it becomes acceptable for some reason to dress in clothes that barely cover. I’m sure over the next few weeks, my self hatred will intensify as I try to find a balance between being as pain free as possible all while trying to get back to where I was weight-wise.

Winter can come back anytime now.

Posted in Change, Culture, MS, peace | Leave a comment


Image result for diet cokeThis morning I sat at our dining room table enjoying a time of quietness that is so rare lately in my mornings. I am usually busy completing morning tasks before heading out the door for work. This morning I didn’t have to go to work. As I sat by myself, letting my mind wander, my eyes settled on the basket that I keep a few books in so they are an easy reach should I desire to sit at the table and color or read or write. Sitting inside the basket was my Bible that I use for personal reading. This is not the Bible I take with me when I go to church; this is a Bible that I’ve had for many years. I thought about the days I enjoyed opening the pages of that Bible, reading and taking it all in. I felt so close to God in those moments.

That was not the case this morning. In fact, as I reflected on the last several months, I felt very far from God. Actually, I felt God was very far from me.  I don’t think those statements say the same thing.

I opened my Bible to my favorite book–Psalms. Specifically, this morning it was Psalm 63. The little subtitle told me that this Psalm was written while David was in the desert of Judah. I didn’t take the time to research why he was there, but I assumed he was fleeing from someone who wanted him dead. He is most likely alone. He is also most likely without basic essentials–possibly items such as water and shade. David opens this Psalm of prayer to God, though, with words that do not ask for any material item for himself. He actually doesn’t ask God for anything. Instead, he tells God how he loves God and how much he needs God. He uses the word thirst to describe how he longs for God. It is a viable thought that David was indeed physically thirsty. He was in a desert after all. But, he doesn’t ask God for water. He asks God for God. David wanted God to fill him spiritually; he placed his spiritual desire for communion with God over his physical desire for water.

Reading this Psalm caused me to reflect on what I thirst for. The thirsts I have determine how I act. If I am physically thirsty, I reach for a cold Diet Coke. Sometimes my thirst is not for something palpable.  I often thirst for purpose–what difference do I make in anyone’s life? More often than not I am lonely, which makes me thirst for companionship. I also thirst for healing. Some days I wake up but wish I hadn’t. The thorn of depression is beyond oppressive. The uncertainty of a chronic illness along with potential serious diagnoses makes me long for God to intervene. So far He hasn’t. I often thirst for wisdom to know how to navigate the stormy waters of life. Courage is another thirst that begs to be quenched in me–courage to step out of my comfort zone in varying areas. I also often thirst for acceptance. I am an outside-of-the-box kind of person. Most people don’t understand the way I think which causes them to view me as just strange. They go on their merry way with others like them. I recently started reading a book titled Different: The story of an Outside-of-the-Box kid and the Mom who Loved Him. I see myself all over the pages of this book. (This most likely is a contributing factor in the above mentioned loneliness) I also thirst for spiritual direction. The Israelites could follow God confidently because God was in a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. I often wish God would do that for me. Instead I struggle to know how to “follow” a God I am unable to see.

I could list other thirsts, but most likely my point is made. I have looked to many different places to quench these thirsts. I have looked to people to ease the pain of loneliness and acceptance. When people let me down, I turned to alcohol to ease the pain. That let me down as well. Intellectually I know that only God can quench these thirsts, but experientially I have no idea how that actually happens. I do know it can because I have seen it so often in others around me and, on few occasions, in my own life. This morning, for some reason, the road is just a bit rockier than it has been. There is much weighing on my mind. The same held true last night as I tossed and turned, trying in some strange way, to maybe toss the nagging thoughts away so sleep could settle in. It didn’t. Sleep came in short spurts throughout the long, dark night. This morning, sunshine is beaming through windows of the sliding glass door–windows that beg to be cleaned. The new green leaves on the trees are moving in the cool breeze, causing shadows to dance across the room. The shadows are dancing across my heart today as well. The 11 x 14 photo of my beautiful grandson smiles at me as I sit here typing. Oh, how I miss him. How I would love to hold him, smell his hair, hear his giggle, see him dance to a Silly Song with Larry. These things are not possible, though. Instead, I blow a kiss to him and hope the breezes carry it to him 600 miles away. The loneliness is greater today for some reason. The feeling of being unloved and unloveable are as well. They are, I know, just feelings, but they are very real and painful nonetheless.

Posted in Community, depression, faith, Grandson, loneliness, MS, trust | Leave a comment


Image result for popping balloon

This morning, after a night where sleep was interrupted by potentially serious pain, I was awakened earlier than I wanted to be by a text message. Any parent, whether your kids are teens and still live at home or they are grown adults living their own lives, knows that feeling of dread when the phone rings or the text message notification sounds at an hour you know for sure none of said kids should be contacting you. I groggily reached for my phone and attempted to focus eyes that, in the early morning hours, struggle to work together. It took several seconds and enlarging the phone font to see the message was not from any of my kids–thankfully. Fighting the desire to go back to sleep (thus messing up my entire sleep cycle for the week) I laid in bed and let my mind wander. It didn’t take long for it to rest in that place of thought that has been foremost on my mind lately, and, in resting there, I began to have this little party–a minor meltdown of self pity.

This is a big year for me. Two major milestones will be met when my birthday and wedding anniversary arrive. As I let my mind wander aimlessly on these events, I thought back to my childhood. Like many kids, I had plans for what my adult life would hold. I wanted to get married and be a mom. I envisioned myself as a wonderful mom who would always be the fun one. I planned fun vacations in my head for my future family. My kids would see all the things I didn’t get to see–Disney World, the ocean, the Rocky Mountains, the Montana Sky, Yellowstone, the Statue of Liberty, Hawaii…the list could go on. I planned for the weddings of my future kids. They would all get married and have children of their own–then I would be the fun grandma, doing all sorts of fun things with her many grandchildren. I wanted to be a young grandma so I would have the energy to do so many fun things with them. I would teach them to bake chocolate chip cookies and brownies and cakes. I would read them stories and take them on outdoor adventures–even take them to the ocean where we could build castles in the sand and play in the waves and collect shells. My husband and I would take trips to all sorts of places in this country. We would have money to explore the United States once our kids were grown.

As I thought about all the exciting things I had planned for my future self, I could feel the pity party arising in my current self. I wasn’t the mom who took her kids on fun vacations to the ocean and Disney. Two of them saw the Rocky Mountains, but that was only because of a marching band trip to Colorado during high school. Three of them did see the Statue of Liberty and other fun things in New York City, but that was due to a band/choir trip to New York. I still haven’t seen the famous Statue. My pity party reminded me that, while I did get to become a grandma at a decently young age, it’s not turning out the way I had planned so many years ago. I don’t live close enough to my grandson to pick him up and bring him to grammy’s to bake cookies. I assumed all our kids would get married and have kids–that their lives would mirror my own. That didn’t happen. I’m not sure why I thought it would–naivety perhaps. My husband and I don’t get to travel much. I did finally get to Disney–a year or so ago. My kids still have not been there.

As I thought about the upcoming “big” days for me, I felt even sadder. What fun thing do I get to do for my big birthday milestone next week?

Work. I “get” to work. Not only do I have to work, I have to close that night. I don’t think I’ve worked a Friday night since I started this job last fall. Oh, and this job? This was not in my plans that I crafted so carefully as a child. I didn’t think I’d be working retail at this stage of my life. Don’t misunderstand–I like my job. I really do. But I am not a fan of working nights. I seldom have to, but as my luck would have it, that’s what I get to do on my birthday. No special birthday dinner, no cake from the store that I love so much, no celebration for a big year…(not that I would probably have that anyway since my list of friends could fill one of those tiny post it notes)

Looking down the road a few months to our big anniversary only brought more sadness. As a young newlywed, the thought that many years down the road wouldn’t be anything but prosperous bliss never crossed my mind. What fun excursion would we take to mark such a milestone? A cruise maybe. Or a trip to Hawaii for relaxation and fun? I don’t know for sure what that day will bring, but I do know it won’t be bringing anything like the above mentioned trips.

What I never planned on, and I would safely say no one ever does, were health issues. I didn’t expect to be diagnosed with a chronic illness that would drain me of energy and physical abilities. I didn’t expect clinical depression to be a part of my life for years and years. I didn’t expect to be told I could potentially have a problem with my heart. I didn’t expect to be dealing with a lump that could potentially be cancer. I didn’t expect my husband to be hospitalized twice for heart issues. And I never could have known how much all these things, among others, would drain us of finances. Yes, we’ve come a long way since saying “I do” all those years ago. Still, where we are is not where I had envisioned we’d be.

And that made tears flow once again this morning.

As I sit here typing this, I realize that I do have much to be thankful for, so please don’t send me e-mails and messages scolding me for my pity party this morning. Working in a Christian book store, I hear stories from many people about problems they or someone they love have. I am thankful for the fact that my husband and I are still together to celebrate this big year. That almost wasn’t the case. I am thankful for my kids and their spouses and love them all more than words can say. I am thankful for my beautiful grandson even though I don’t get to see him now as often as I would like. I am thankful for my job even though there are days I have to put on a fake smile and blink the tears away. I know all this and more and am thankful that God loves me even when I am not loveable or love Him in return. Still, some days I just can’t escape the pity party that seeks me out and reminds me of all I didn’t and probably won’t get to do in my lifetime.

I know that in reality, these days are just another day on the calendar. If I didn’t write about them here, most people would never even know that I had hoped these days would be more than that. No one would know why I am sad next week. No one would know how badly I wanted needed a vacation this year–a vacation I am not going to get as medical bills pile up and will continue to do so. That’s okay. I write about them to help myself remember that things could be worse.

Still, there will be sadness and tears as these special days arrive and depart with not a hint of celebration.

Posted in Children, death, depression, empty nest, famiy, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness, marriage, MS, Parenting | Leave a comment

Sheep in the Desert

Image result for sheep grazing

This morning my mind is mulling over two things.

Sheep and deserts.

A little while ago, on the recommendation of a coworker, I bought the devotional book Earth Psalms by Francine Rivers. Yes, the same Francine Rivers who has written many Christian fiction books. My coworker, who has a masters degree in Biology, said she loved the book not only for its written content but also for the beautiful pictures of nature included within its pages. After reading the first couple pages, I have to say I concur with her opinion of the book. It is perfect for an early morning time spent thinking about God, and the pictures really are beautiful. I also love the random facts the author sometimes includes about something she had written. These little tidbits always point back to a Creator God who made nature magnificently beautiful and intricately complicated in order to show mankind His hand.

Enough for the sales pitch for the book…

This morning the devotional was about sheep. I’m sure most church going folk have heard, more than once, the comparison of humans to sheep. I won’t belabor that part of the writing. What caught my attention most was the fact that sheep need a flock and a human to guard that flock . A sheep left alone will almost surely die, for it will succumb to fear and be an easy lunch for predators. The author’s point, of course, was that Christians need a flock and a shepherd as well. If a Christian sets out on his or her own, leaving behind the other Christians they used to gather with as well as leaving behind the shepherd who is supposed to care for them, that Christian is an easy target for Satan. In fact, according to my reading this morning, Satan waits for churches to split and/or for Christians to leave their church and decide to do life alone. He knows that it will only be a matter of time then that the Christian, with no encouragement from others, will stop reading the Bible and praying. Sheep are by nature wanderers. Since Jesus Himself compares us to sheep, wandering is a characteristic of not only sheep but also of Christ followers.

The other thing my mind has been pondering a lot as of late is the concept of a desert. The two were not connected in my devotional reading this morning, but they are very much connected in my life right now.

If you are familiar with the Old Testament, you know that the Israelites had to wander forty years in the desert before finally reaching the promised land, part of what is now Israel on a map. The wandering came because of disobedience on the part of the Israelites. In fact, an entire generation was not allowed to enter the promised land–they were made to wander until all of that generation has died. Deserts are not a fun place. How many families sit down to plan a family vacation and say, with enthusiasm, “We should vacation in the desert this year! All that hot sand and no water or anything to do! We could just wander around aimlessly for our vacation week, boiling in the hot sun, and burning our feet in the sand!”

Yeah. I don’t think anyone thinks of the desert as a top vacation spot.

How are these two things related?

Looking back at my journal this morning, I read an entry from a year ago. It was pretty clear that I was entering a desert at that time. As the days, weeks, and months passed, my desert wanderings made me grow weary. I couldn’t find a way out of the desert. I was a sheep, alone in a very dangerous place. The “flock” I had once thought I belonged to gradually begin to disappear..most of them forgot I even existed. I certainly don’t blame them. Who wants to follow a sheep into a hot, miserable desert? The more I wandered, the more weary and lost I became. I would see what I thought was an exit–a spring of water that would allow me to recover my lost strength and find my way out of the desert. But, just like in Hollywood movies, the water was a mirage. That would only send me further into the darkness and barrenness of my desert. I was lost and quickly dying in the misery of my desert wandering.

I’d love to end this with a victorious account of how I was rescued from the desert–how I was joyfully reunited with the flock I had wandered from. But I cannot end this that way. I am still in the desert. And although I have found my way back to the flock, I am still not sure I am welcomed back. It is kind of like when I take our diabetic cat to the vet for a blood sugar check. Our other cat has grown up with the diabetic cat; they are friends. Yet, when I bring him home, he has the smell of the vet’s office on him. This causes his sister to hiss at him if he tries to go near her. Even though just a few hours prior they were playing together, once he is “taken” from that scenario, it is hard for him to be welcomed back by her. Eventually, though, the hissing stops and they act like nothing ever happened. Maybe that will be my experience should I ever find my way out of the desert that has imprisoned me for so long. A note about this paragraph: not all the sheep abandoned me to die in the desert. A very small number walked into that desert with me. The last year has shown who my true friends really are. A couple of them are not even part of my “flock”, yet they were not afraid of the darkness that enveloped me. They resisted my pushing them away in order to stay by my side during these tough times.

I don’t know if sheep think like humans do. I doubt they have that reasoning ability. For me, it is hard to feel wanted or loved in the flock I am part of. Maybe sheep don’t care if they feel wanted or loved. Maybe they just care about being part of a guarded flock so they are safe to graze endlessly. Humans, though, need to feel loved, wanted, and even needed. A year ago I felt all those things, but the length of time wandering in this miserable desert and the fact that the flock around me doesn’t need me in the roles I once played, leaves me feeling vulnerable to the predator who wants to see my demise. Thankfully, I have wandered enough to know that there is a great Shepherd who, despite my resistance and bad decisions, loves me regardless. My desert wandering isn’t over yet. I wonder if it ever will be on this earth. There are potentially serious issues I may face in the next few weeks. I am  scared. Sheep get scared too. When that happens, they bleat to alert the shepherd that something is wrong. Countless times I have cried out to the Great Shepherd. I feel like He has abandoned me. It is often difficult to remember what is true as opposed to going by how I feel.

I feel alone. I feel unloved and unloveable. I feel scared of what I may face in the coming weeks…BUT, I am trying hard, with the help of a select few other sheep, to keep my eye on the Shepherd. He loves His sheep, even when they wander away.

Posted in CHURCH, Community, depression, faith, loneliness, trust | Leave a comment

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