Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lent for Depressed People

Last year I wrote this as a Facebook Post.... I'm posting it here again this year for posterity. ;) Posterity. haha.

It’s Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. For the average American it means hurling beads and partying into the night. For those of us who observe the liturgical calendar of the church, it’s the day before the season of Lent begins. We party into the night eating up all our soon-to-be-forbidden foods… goodbye sugar in my coffee! I’ll miss you so. 

Lent: it’s a gloomy season when we reflect on the brokenness of the world and the corrosive, degrading, cancerous rust of sin within ourselves. Last year Lent arrived, for me, on the heels of an epic nervous breakdown. Postpartum depression had wrecked me. My mental health was shattered. I had descended into a nearly catatonic state of dark joyless exhaustion with life… and then Lent came. I was supposed to give up something and reflect on the aching imperfection of the world. Just when I thought I couldn’t go lower, Lent came to crush me a little further down. It was too much.

This year Lent finds me in a new place. After a year of healing, I’m feeling whole. I have a spirit of expectation and hope for this season… but I remember the desperation I felt last year. So I wanted to write a word to those who might be entering this season with depression in the mix.

1 - Lent reminds us we’re not perfect. Take advantage of that. Don’t worry about fixing you. God adores you where you are. Isn’t that the whole point? Weak and small and quavering, you are richly adored and accepted. You don’t have to stand up. You don’t have to struggle. All mercy is available to you just the way you are. Give yourself grace.

2 - Lent reminds us of our need. You’re already in a place with a lot of need. You don’t need to manufacture it through fasting like “the happy people.” Rather than giving something up, practice asking for help and accepting love. Acknowledge your need by reaching out for the loving hands that are ready to support you.

2 - Lent is a time of reflection… so reflect on hope. Take it as an opportunity to meditate on the coming of Christ’s light. Hope is on the way. Easter is coming. You’re not alone. You are not forgotten. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3). Meditate on the hope that Jesus promises will come to us even when we are in a place of darkness.

I think I could keep going… but let’s keep it simple. Three points are enough for today.

Take this as a season of peace, not sorrow; a season of hope, not despair; a season for loving yourself even while you may feel broken, because that’s how the God of the universe loves you. The Light will come no matter how dark the darkness.


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Monday, January 25, 2016

How To Make A Holy Moment

Just the tiniest of words to you tonight... it jumped off the page at me and stuck in my mind all day:

"God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because he rested in it from all his work of creation which he had done." Genesis 2:3

The seventh day was holy. Why? Because "he rested in it."

It was special... because he took a moment to stop.

It was sacred above all others... because he ceased creating and surveyed and smiled.

If God was an American, all the other six days would be the holy ones and the seventh day would be called "vacation" and we'd kind of pretend like it was less important than the others.

But he called the resting Holy. He exalted it.

We have been given an example, and in this example we have been given an amazing (dare I say supernatural?) power... to make Holy Moments. To create Holy Space. To set aside a Sabbath. To step into a Tabernacle. To meet the Lord. And it's so simple, we often miss it... rest.

We only need to lay down our frantic hands, lift up our heads, and rest.

That's a magical moment right there. That moment is made holy. We are met. We receive. He is good.

That's all.

///

Ok, ok... just kidding... one more thing.

A zillion years ago I saw a Jackie Chan movie... in which he gets stranded in this backwater peasant Chinese town. He has to help plant rice. Every day he rushes to be the fastest planter. Every evening he is so sore and tired he can barely move, and his work is so bad it has to be redone. He can't figure out how everyone around him can finish their work well and still be full of life... then he begins to notice... every time a breeze comes by, everyone stops. They stand up. They raise their arms. They close their eyes. They feel the breeze. And then they continue. They are refreshed. He tries it. It radically changes his life.

That movie clip has spoken truth to me many times since then. But I don't remember the name of the film. I've searched for it on YouTube a million times. Take my word for it.

This is what God builds into our life rhythm from the very beginning of creation: Rest. And it isn't a waste of time and it isn't a sign of weakness and it isn't a cop out. It is essential. So essential, he calls it Holy so we'll pay attention. And when I want a visual picture of what that looks like and why that's true.... I think of Jackie Chan... standing in the rice patty... feeling the breeze.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Being Human In Front of Our Kids

Things got real tonight. Lots of things hit lots of fans. I hit a wall I've been barreling towards for a long time.

Tonight I hit the wall in front of my 3 year old. (PS - You can't plan where you hit walls... which, for people with anxiety, can be a point of concern. O_o) Anyway! One thing lead to another, and some unique opportunities presented themselves, and that's why I'm writing this. Not because I thought you should know I had a temper-tantrum. (Which I did. I had a major temper-tantrum. It was not cute.) But because of what happened between me and my son in the middle of it...

Ok... So... After I simmer down and wipe away my snot, tears, and mascara streaks, I always think it's funny to look back and see what teeny weeny thing broke the camel's back this time. (The tipping point is always teeny weeny, isn't it? The problems can be huge, but it's gonna be something dumb that makes you cry.)

This time it was the lamp... the kids unplugged it. I tried to turn it on and it didn't work. I had to climb over a zillion things (Things not in their proper place! Things I should not have to put away for the gazillioneth time! THiiiiiiiNGS!) to get it back in working order.

The lamp. Completely tipped me over the edge. There was thrashing. There was tantruming. There was weeping and wailing. There was flailing of arms and stamping of feet. There was curling up into the fetal position. There were convulsive sobs. I am not proud.

And once I finally got it together... (and by "got it together" I mean there were rivers of tears still running down my face, but I was functioning well enough to get the 3 year old into bed)... He asked me, "Why you are crying?"

Oh sisters. We can't hide our crazy from our kids. They see it all. We try to be strong for them, but we're messy babies on the inside more than we would like to admit.

"Why are you crying?"

Of course that pushed me into another fit of sobs. With my face in my hands, I resolved right then and there to tell him the truth. He deserves the truth. Children are much wiser than we give them credit. And I remember asking my mom why she was upset and her always trying to hide it or not let us in... and somehow that was more confusing than ever... so I told the truth.

"I'm crying because I am so tired. I'm a big mom, but I'm also just a person... so I get upset when things are hard for me. It is very hard to be a mommy. No one can help me be your mommy... I'm the only one in the world. And sometimes that makes me so tired. 

But, Eames, This is the most important thing... I love you. It is not your fault. You are a good boy. And you do not have to fix mommy. That's not your job. You never have to fix mommy or make it better.

Daddy and God will take care of mommy when she gets upset. If you want to be a helper, you can pat mommy's back and say, "It's ok Mommy. I love you." But don't worry. It's ok to cry when we get upset."

So that's what he did. He put his little arms around my neck and said, "You're ok Mommy." Then he climbed in bed with his current favorite book (The Fox In The Dark) and peacefully blew me a kiss goodnight.

He just witnessed a major melt down of his primary source of security and strength... it could have ripped open a wound of anxiety in him. Especially him! My very anxious and control-oriented little one.
But I was honest. "Mommy has used up all her energy."
And I was clear. "Mommy's emotional state is not your responsibility, dear one."
And I was intentional. "You are loved no matter what."
And he feels safe.
And it's ok.

It's ok to cry in front of our kids, if we can tell them the truth: We are older and wiser, but we are still weak and vulnerable. Even though we're not perfect, you are safe, secure, and loved.

It's ok to be human in front of our kids. It's good! We don't want them growing up with this notion that they will one day leave their struggle behind and become emotionless balls of strength that never fail. No! That's crazy talk. We know it's not true... so we want them entering adulthood OK with the fact that they're not perfect. What better way to prepare them for the struggle than by struggling in front of them with love.

It also prepares them to have compassion for the weak. What are we teaching them about those who struggle when we treat struggle itself like an anathema to hide away? No, sisters, our struggle is for us all. It is the glue that binds us. It is the song that calls us to community. It is the tonic that teaches us how to love others. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

What a gift to know, "A person who struggles out loud, but does not withhold love, is strong."

What a gift to feel that even when the foundation of your life is trembling, it will not collapse.

Tell the truth. To yourself. To your children. The truth will set us free.
It is the most beautiful, messy story. Everything else pales in comparison.


Friday, January 15, 2016

When all else fails, do not fail Hope.

Depression always seems to have me in its clutches before I've recognized that it's nipping at my heels.

Depression... It's like a ninja. If you see it, it's too late.

Lately I've been exhausted. Irrationally physically tired. Just foggy and blurry in the head.
No place feels better than my bed.
I've been disinterested... no TV shows are entertaining, no books seem appealing (even though I have a stack of my favorites next to my bed), no study calls my name, no quest or project seem engaging (except my book, which I pursue with a rote doggedness that borders the relentless rather than the joyful).
At the end of every day, at the end of every week, I feel a sense of dread that I have to repeat the same moves again in just one sleep. Just one interrupted sleep, shattered every morning by an angry cry from a tiny person who has no mercy with my moods.

Oh I shake it off. Diligently. I shake it all off and square my shoulders and lean down and wipe that food off the floor one more time. But there's an extra layer of difficulty to the act... An extra layer of will power that must be applied to push aside the haze of weariness.

It strikes me that these are the mumblings of a language I've heard before... the language of depression. But I'm ok. I'm ok. I'm fine. Fiiiiine. Really. I feel fine. Except for all that. And when is it time to look at all of that and say, "I'm less fine than I could be."

If you're smelling smoke, there's likely fire coming down the valley, right?
But even if there is... what can I do about it?

The tired. The sad. The bored. The lack of joy. The lack of care. They lack of umph. They aren't things I choose or practice. I'd say I'm actively choosing and practicing exactly the opposite. But it's like running through a pond in rubber overalls... the straining forward for goodness is being sucked at by a weightiness that's almost beyond you... and the more you strain for the goodness, the more you feel the pull of the weight... but if you give into the weight... you sink. And straining for goodness is so normal that you forget to even stop and ask, "Why is it hard? Shouldn't this be easier in the first place?"

If you can't work it away and you can't rest it away... what do you do?

I don't know.

When Work and Rest fail me, I often go for Change.
I rearrange the furniture. I try a new hair cut. I reorganize the cabinets.
But to do those things, you need to overcome apathy.
And right now, right at this moment in time, apathy is winning.
I'm tired.

When Work and Rest and Change fail me... am I depressed?

Tomorrow is Saturday. My husband is working the night shift. Again. I'll be alone for dinner and bath and bedtime stories and the witching hour with the baby. And I'll be tired. I can't even think about it. I can't...

And right now that's all I have. Not work. Not rest. Not change. Right now those tools are failing me. Right now all I have is the raw determination not to flounder. Not to think about the things that pull me down. Not to give up. Not to blink and loose sight of whatever flickering hope each new day holds. And the knowledge that if I keep my eyes keenly turned away from the darkness, I can find it. The light.

That's what I have right now. That's what I do. Hope.


Monday, January 11, 2016

World Peace for Women: Nailed It!

It's that feeling... when you've just left church (or maybe you're even still there)... and everyone's smiling and saying "Hey! Good to see you!" Your heart is happy to be surrounded by Dear Ones... and your heart is sad. Your heart is thankful for all the things it should be thankful for, but you feel like sulking in the corner and pulling some middle school move to make people say, "What's wrong?!" You feel lonely in a crowded room. You feel invisible as everyone looks at you, but doesn't really Look At You.

Our lives can be filled with community, and somehow lack connection.
Our lives can be filled with love, and somehow lack relationship.
Our lives can be blessed beyond reason, and we can still feel like pouting in the corner.

Or maybe it's just me.

Here's what's weird, ladies... like, really, weird...

We are all sitting in our homes longing for a friend. For relationship. For a gal pal. For someone to pick up the phone. We're all thinking, "Gosh I really want to go beyond the surface. I want to be wanted, known, desired, seen, pursued." We're all saying "Heeeey" at church and wishing we could move past the small talk and move in to that beautiful heart place where we grieve and celebrate our genuine lives together. We all want each other.

So what's the hang up?

Every woman I've ever talked to feels like she wants more!
More care. More closeness. More unity. More visibility. More connection.

So why don't we have it? If we're all feeling this way, why does a day ever go by when we don't hear the words, "Hey, how are you?" from a voice that really means it, in a space that's suitable to really answering? Why do weeks pass without sitting down face to face with a sweet friend who can say "Me too. Yes. I hear you." How hard can it be? For the love!

Here's what I think happens....

There are Reachers... usually the extroverts... the ones who pick up the phone and call. The ones who don't like to be alone, so they reach out, and reach out, and reach out. They coordinate and invite and plan. They make Facebook events and keep up with what's going on around town. They make a lot of last minute calls to try to rope friends into their schemes... because they get life from being with you.

Then there are the Receivers... often the introverts. (If you are a Receiver, you probably don't want to admit it... but I see you! You'd rather others do the reaching for you. Fess up.) The Receivers are happy at home alone (at least happier than the Reachers) so they don't pick up the phone. They don't call. They stay quiet. They putter. They wall themselves up. They're so glad that there are Reachers in this world, because it's not that they don't want to see you... it's just that they don't think about it until it's too late. They get wrapped up in their stuff and they don't reach... because they get life from being with you, but they also get exhausted from being with you. So it's a toss up.

But the Reachers get tired of reaching. They want to be receivers for a while... so they stop. They go into their holes and wait. They're testing you. Will you return their love? But no one calls... because the Receivers don't reach. It's not in their DNA. So the Reachers get sad. And the Receivers get lonely too, but this makes them withdraw even more... and then everyone is drifting apart like particles in the universe...

We can fix this. We can't fix everything... world peace is still distant. Poverty is kind of huge. We can't fix everything, but we can fix this. We can. We can make everyone feel seen and heard. We can solve loneliness. We can eradicate one of the great wounds of the human condition.

Reachers... you need to get intentional about your reaching. Strategize. Don't wear yourself out. Don't reach in a million different directions. And when you start to feel worn thin, don't retreat. There is middle ground between reaching and retreating. I'm not sure what it's called... maybe "rest"? Stay there for a bit. Remember that you are loved, and just recuperate your strength. Don't, whatever you do, don't let yourself get lonely and convince yourself that you're unloved. Or, worse, unlovable. If you go there, no one will be able to find you and bring you back.

Receivers... you need to make space in yourself to reach. Not all the time. But, pick someone. Pick one day a week. Pick up the phone. If you don't know what to say, ask what the person is making for dinner. Anything. Don't do it for yourself, do it for them. Pick a reacher and reach back. I promise they will reward you richly for the love you share.

That's all... I just feel like we can do this, ladies. I feel like we can heal hurting hearts with simple human connection. It's how God designed us to function. Let's get after it!

Loving Opposites

When we love others--especially our children--we teach them what is lovable about themselves.

Which is interesting... and tricky... and dangerous... because our values and preferences get in the way. Who I am, how I've been loved, what I love, changes how I can love my children... and this changes how they can love themselves.

What a scary prospect. What a scary position to be in.

Having two boys who are so wildly different from each other, I'm already beginning to sense this unique challenge embedded in parenting.... how to love each child in such a way that their unique strengths flourish, their personal weaknesses are bolstered, they believe in the unimpeachable permanence of their own deep worth just as they are, AND they don't feel any sense of competition or comparison or inequitable love between each other.

As I was thinking about writing this, I had the one year old curled up contentedly in my lap working on building a lego tower (put the blocks together, take them apart, study their sides, put them together again, take them apart. Over and over.)... while the 3 year old was running back and forth squealing like crazy, working up a baby sweet sweat, and throwing socks at my head as I lobbed them back with psshew! pshew! sounds.

Everyone was having a grand time being exactly who they are. Exactly opposites.

One child is studious and intentional.
The other is passionate and creative.
One child is sweet to everyone.
The other is fiercely loyal.
It's not an age thing. It's who they are at their core... from the moment they came out.

Fact: Our culture values the quiet, studious, intentional, puzzle solver. Our culture is less appreciative of the wild, squealing, passionate, sock hurling mighty-man.

But they are both beautifully essential just as they are.

Our culture is wrong.

Each small boy is a budding man who has his perfect place in this world.

As parents, we must intentionally reject the notion that one way of being is better than another because it is more advantageous to career and finances. We cannot smash our wild men into tiny boxes. We cannot chide our box builders into greater wild-man-ism. When we try to change their natures, we water down their strengths. We must celebrate and take pride in the natural wonder of their first inclinations and help those to flourish.

What a challenging roll to take. Sometimes I feel like I'm living with split personality trying to love everyone the way they need to be loved.

Add to that a husband... and myself... and we're all so different but we're all yearning for understanding and connection. Wow.

God equip us to love others as they need to be loved, not as we wish to love them.
God empower us to appreciate what you have designed, just as it is.
God redeem where our strengths have erred into weaknesses.

And all for your love's sake.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

How Far Does Grace Go?

It's a question I've heard before. Last night I heard it again....

We were talking about an acquaintance who, for several years, has been cradled in a very loving and gracious community that has poured out grace until it hurts... but this person continues to fail... fall... lie... struggle... and rise... and fail again... and sometimes we wonder, "How far does grace go?"

We should wonder this, really. It makes sense.

We want a limit to the screw up count. We need to see progress or we question the formulation of the equation. Something must be missing... something must be wrong... This isn't a bad assumption.

How far does grace go?

Last night I just shook my head and shrugged. I don't know. I know we can't control others... only ourselves... but I don't know!

But today I had a thought...

It goes as far as it needs to. And then there is someone else to carry it on.

The most effective execution of grace I've ever seen in action is the Volley Ball method... one person gives what they can, then they bounce the need to someone else who is there to throw their giftedness into the pot too. Together they function to keep the ball rolling.

We are full of limited grace... but with our powers combined we create this net that can lob a struggling soul from one patch of love to another. Some patches are tough love. Some patches are compassionate love. Some patches are physical love. Some patches are spiritual love. It takes all of the above, but no one person can man all those bases at once. We haven't got enough grace to love someone whole. We only have enough grace to love one part really well.

We only have as much grace as we have. And that's as far as our grace goes. Only community can love wholly. So when our grace runs out, someone else's grace can take over.

It's true in churches, marriages, friendships, parenting relationships... no one person can give you all the grace you and your soul needs.

He needs your love, but he also needs to go talk man talk around a TV screen or a fire pit.
You need his care, but you also need margaritas in fancy glasses and long conversations about lady problems.
They need your particular brand of crazy, but they also need someone else's particular brand of sane.

How far does grace go? Not far enough for one person to give it all to you.

Here's a wonderful little miracle of design: Grace is a renewable resource. It can be emptied and filled and emptied again. A little rest. A little intentional recovery, and boom we have more grace to give. Praise! (It's been said before, it'll be said again... That's why a little self-care is so radically necessary. You can't give grace you haven't received for yourself.)

Two take aways...

1) Don't be afraid to step back and recharge your grace tank.

There are a million ways to do it. Sometimes it's going to involve studying the Bible in "quiet time." Sometimes it's going to look like putting on your hot pants and dancing to "Living La Vida Loca" with your girlfriends. (Just kidding, no one plays that song anymore.)

2) Don't be offended when people around you have to step back and recharge.

Sometimes you're going to reach out for grace, again, and the person you're reaching out to is going to get this crazy twitchy look in their eye and have nothing to give. It's ok. They still love you... Step back slowly. Take a deep breath. Don't take it personally. (This is going to be HARD because you're already feeling like crap... otherwise you wouldn't be clamoring for some grace in the first place.) But don't worry. They're not gone forever. They'll be back. They just need a little time to fill up their cup. If you let them do that without pitching a hissy fit, you'll be happy in the long run.

(PS This totally happened with me and my husband this morning... which is kind of what started this... I was like, "Waaaaah!! January!!" and he was like, "Babe. I can't even. Bye." O___O)

Ok, that's all. Give grace. Take grace. Give space. Take space. It will all come back around.

How far does grace go?
In a way it's endless... it never really dries up... because its origin is bigger than us, right? The heart of grace is in God...we're just agents. So, sometimes you have to give it a rest! For your sanity. For theirs. For the love! Don't worry. He's big enough to handle you taking the bench for a sec.