Coloring Grays

Yesterday on the way up the stairs to my therapist’s office, I wondered if she would want me to play with color. We’ve done that sometimes when talking about my mood, which we were going to do since I had admitted to feeling depressed again. I suddenly wanted to color – a simple pattern or design with all the shades of gray that I could find.

We didn’t get out the crayons, but she encouraged me to color when I got home. I forgot about it until after dinner, and when the TV was on and I wanted something to do, I remembered my wish to shade in grays.

I looked through my coloring books – I have 5 or 6 – and picked a paisley with very few flowers. I’m not feeling flowery. I’m feeling gray.

I chose what I thought was a black colored pencil and started at the center – it was actually blueberry, which came out on the paper as dark purple. So much for a picture in all grays.

I pulled all the pencils I could find that would give me the gray continuum, and a few complimentary colors, I had five blacks, one gray, one dark blue, one bronze yellow (it looked olive gray), two violets, one blue-violet, and one blueberry. I added honey gold for a dull yellow.

When I finished coloring, I sent a picture of it to my therapist. She asked why the purple and yellow. Yellow for a little light, but no idea why purple – really just because I didn’t have enough gray pencils. But she pointed out that the purple is in the center.

And then I realized that purple and yellow have always meant Jesus to me. Christ’s royalty as the Son of God, Christ Divine, Easter Sunday – yellow as sun breaking through symbolizing Christ’s triumph over death, or of Easter Sunrise Service, or even Christ the Son (sun). When I see purple and yellow together, I think Jesus.

(No “gray” in the last paragraph. Pretty cool how that happened, not by my plan at all. Just like the picture.)

Mood.

 

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I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, Down in My Heart. Where?! 

And I really mean that last part – where?

On one of my first visits to counseling, my therapist asked me what I wanted. What I want out of therapy? What I want in my life? My answer – “I want my joy back.”

Depression is a thief. It took lots of things away from me – sleep, right thinking, relationships, health, desire, peace, …and joy.

Speaking of peace (see Lightness), peace and joy are not the same thing, not to me anyway. Peace implies quiet, stillness, contentment.

And while I’m at it, happiness and joy are not the same thing either. Happiness has to do with external circumstances. Joy comes from within. So why don’t I feel joyful?

I have some joy now and then, but not all the time. I want my full joy restored. Like it was 8 years ago, before I had depression. And I’m trying to figure out how that happens.

I was encouraged by my psych doc, my therapist, my friends, to reach for it. In stretching towards mental health – away from depression, I was told I would also receive peace and joy. I understand peace, but I’m not finding the joy.

I was chatting with my mom about this last week. She is a very wise woman, a lady whom I hugely admire, respect, and love. Besides, she’s my mom! As I’ve grown older, we’ve had amazing discussions about issues of faith.  “As iron sharpens iron,” she’ll tell me, since we both benefit from our deep conversations.

I was a little stuck in writing this post, so I was sharing some thoughts with her, and she had some ideas, too, to help me to think this through.

She reminded me that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, which means that the Holy Spirit gives it. If I am living in the Spirit, then I have joy. But I must be fully yielded to the Holy Spirit, like Jesus was yielded to God, to be able to experience it fully. Yielded means I have to put aside my own agenda and timing, and let the Holy Spirit be my Guide. He gets to drive, I’m in a passenger seat. I’m not even riding shotgun or navigator. I’m buckled up securely in the back!

For a Perfect example: Jesus was fully yielded to His Father. The book of John in the Bible is replete with Jesus explaining that He is here doing the work of the Father. It meant that He had to die on the Cross. This was His Father’s will. Because Jesus was fully God, He knew that. But because Jesus was also fully human, He didn’t want to. Remember Gethsemane, when He asked God to “remove this cup?” But after that came His yielding: “Yet not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42, see also Matthew 26 and Mark 14). Jesus yielded to God the Father, and by doing so, saved all who believe in Him as their Savior to an eternal life, forever and ever, with God in heaven.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23 NIV).

So, here’s what I’m thinking. I’m a Christ follower, being shaped into the image of Jesus. And Jesus was yielded. So therefore, I must yield. Lay aside myself, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in my life, to develop the fruit of the Spirit in me. I was given the fruit of the Spirit when I first asked Jesus to be my Savior. Now, as I continue on this earthly journey of faith, the Holy Spirit is fine-tuning me, molding and shaping me into the image of Christ.

I have the fruit of the Spirit; I have joy. Since I’m not experiencing joy, if I don’t feel the full joy in my heart that I know I’ve had before, perhaps this means that I’m not fully yielded. I’m not completely surrendered in this area of my life, to let God do what He needs to do by the work of the Holy Spirit to shape me to look more like Jesus.

I asked my therapist (who is also a Christ follower) if she had any ideas why I am not reaching out for/toward joy?  What is my hesitation? She suggested that perhaps it’s fear – fear that things won’t all come together the way I hope. The way I picture it will be. Maybe I’m protecting myself so I won’t be disappointed.

What if what I think life will be like when I’m all done grieving my move, when I’m finally feeling like this is home…what if it doesn’t turn out the way I picture it? What if I don’t develop close friendships like those I left? What if I don’t serve in leadership at a women’s Bible study? What if I don’t have a group where I get to share my story? What if…what if…God has something else planned? Something different? 

The question then returns to my willingness to yield. Can I – am I willing – to stay buckled in the backseat while the Holy Spirit drives? And not as a back-seat-driver, but as a child of God, traveling wherever He takes me, excited for the journey and the destination.

I highly suspect that if I’m willing to stay yielded, surrendered, I will experience the full joy I’ve been longing for. I also think it’s going to take time. Because grief takes time, and I’m trying to walk with Jesus through it, not rush it. Even though what I want is for all of this “settling in” to be done so I can get on with it! But I’m in slow motion, because God is using this time of healing to get me ready for whatever He has for me next on the journey.

What will full joy look like? I imagine joy as something that wells up inside me, effervescent-like, bubbling like a child does when squealing in sheer delight. It might be a confidence that things will be alright, a twinkle in my eye that is contagious and positive.

What does full joy sound like?  I don’t think joy has to be noisy. I hear the sound of water as it drops down an incline – a gentle waterfall, or as it laps up onto the edge of the beach – a gentle tide coming in. I guess joy sounds gentle.

I hope it will lift me up, and others who observe it in me. After all, it’s a gift from the Holy Spirit. I want it to be obvious and appealing to others. And when someone asks me, I can tell them that it’s what Jesus promised: “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! (John 15:11, NLT)

Sometimes my eyes leak

Does this happen to you?  All of a sudden, your eyes leak.

Maybe someone jumps out and shouts, “Boo!”

Maybe you say, “I love you.”

Maybe your song comes on the radio: “‘Cuz I can’t fight this feelin’ anymore…”

Maybe your son walks quietly to the front for his solo.

Maybe your friend is grieving, and you’re holding her hand.

Maybe your daughter walks across the stage.

Maybe you’ve hugged and said good-bye. Again. And again.

Maybe you wish you could see them one more time. Right now.

There are lots of times my eyes leak. Yes, all of the above times. And then more times. Sometimes, they are expected. Other times, they surprise me. In startle or delight. In reflection or regret. In my fear. In my pain. In someone else’s pain. In the dark, when the lights are off and no one can see them. In a crowd, where someone might be watching.

My eyes fill up. They burn behind my eyelids. It feels as if there is something that pokes, for just a second, into my eyeballs. Blinking can sometimes make them stop. Or I close my eyes and one drips down my left cheek. Or I squeeze my eyes tightly to keep them in, but they spill out anyway. Pouring down my face. Off my chin. They are hot on my skin. They drip onto my shirt. Wait, is that one on my nose, or is my nose dripping too? I’m going to need a tissue. Or the whole box.

I’m learning to accept them. For the longest time in my life, I would choke them back. “Deal with them later,” I’d tell myself. Then I’d forget to deal with them, so they’d stuff down. Repeat that procedure enough times, and they can get stuck.

I went through 5+ years of major depressive disorder (MDD) where I couldn’t cry. I wanted to. I was sure I would feel better if could just get the tears out. But it had been so long. And the depression had separated me from many of my emotions, leaving me feeling flat most of the time. So I couldn’t cry. Not the deep cleansing sobs anyway. I tried. I watched “tear-jerker” movies, read sad poems. Nothing.

It wasn’t until my therapist made me sit with them. I could feel them, but I’d gotten pretty good at shutting them down. He told me to sit with them, and with the thoughts behind them. We waited in silence. And slowly the tears came. The pricks behind my eyelids. The eyes tightly shut. And then all the rest.

It was as if the dam broke. I know that’s cliche, but it really describes it.

I became concerned that if I started crying by myself, I wouldn’t be able to stop, so I continued to hold them until I was in a “safe place” where I could share them. I’d share a few with a friend, or my mom or sister, or a prayer buddy, or a coworker. Someone close, who knew me and understood me.

Now the tears come easily. Usually unbidden. Often unexpectedly. And I cry, and stop crying, by myself. I don’t really share them with anyone now. With whom would I? I can’t pick up the phone and call a friend when I’m crying unconsolably. What can they do? Last time I cried really hard with a friend, they stood across the room. Didn’t approach me, didn’t hug me or comfort me. I don’t think they knew what to do. Or maybe they were crying their own tears.

Please don’t misunderstand – I share them with my husband. He knows how to comfort me and what to say as he hugs me close. But there’s no one else to share them with.

Wait – that’s not true. God is here. He helps. Always. I simply need to let Him remind me from His Word:

Jesus wept. (John 11:35, NIV)

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; (Isaiah 53:3a, prophesy about Jesus, NASB)

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8, NIV)

I’m not crying alone! Jesus is with me always, and He understands. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, lives inside me. God cradles me on His lap. Someday, He’ll wipe all the tears away – there will be no tears in heaven.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17, NIV)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4, NIV)

I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. (Jeremiah 31:13, NIV)

Trust Drop Acrostic

Today’s poetry blog class – acrostic,
Rhyming and writing this form.
Usually this timing is not my norm.
Simply right now as I’ve made this commitment
To write on the poetry class daily assignment.

Do you recall the trust drop?
Ready, set, fall into the
Open arms of the
Person who stands behind you.

Limerick

A Journey with Jesus through grief:
His company brings great relief.
I won’t walk alone –
He’ll make Himself known.
He asks me to trust and believe

promises written in His Word,
like grace – to me freely offered.
I cast all my fears.
He’ll catch all my tears.
He is Jesus, the gentle Shepherd.

I’ve tried to run ahead of Him.
I’ve been sure that the “this” was the “when.”
But I’m learning to wait,
And to God dedicate
myself to His perfect plan.

He knows the future I face.
He created me for just this place.
Tho’ I don’t understand,
I’ll cling to His hand
And together, but He’ll set the pace.