Theme Word for 2017

Do you choose a word for the year?

I follow several bloggers who do this, and my folks do it, too – chose a theme word for themselves. A twist on New Year’s Resolutions, the word or phrase is something that they’ve chosen to represent what they’re looking forward to with God in the next 12 months. They pray about it, toss ideas back and forth, and eventually come to a one word or short phrase to sum it all up – their theme for the year. Examples: Return. Quiet. Finish strong. Happiness. Balance. Go bold. Rest. Pause.

I’ve been thinking – but only halfheartedly – about a word, and sort of praying about it when it crosses my mind. So I’ve not put real effort into this, but it seems that God is trying to get my attention anyway – He keeps giving me “contentment;”  the word fills my mind and Spirit. As if God is whispering to me, “Be content, my child. Stop yearning. Stop planning. Simply be with Me, and find yourself settled.”

Being content in my current circumstances – living in VA, working in my job, days of solitude, as empty-nesters, in the position of participant instead of leader, in parenting adult children, in long days of just me and the kitty until my husband comes home.

None of these things define me. They are simply where I find myself right now. God defines me, and He’s telling me to rest in Him. That I am His beloved, His daughter, His joy. I’ve entered a new season of my life, and He wants me to do that with Him leading the way. I’m to trust Him and what He says, and He’ll take care of all the details for what’s to come.

I do this by spending quality time with Him. Opening the Bible to see what it tells me about who God is and how He sees me. Praying His Word and my requests – bringing my honest self to our time together, and letting Him fill my heart with His love. Replacing my fears and insecurities with the truth about who I am in Christ.

Contentment will bring gratitude. Thankfulness for so many blessings of my life: my wonderful husband, my delightful adult kids, my home, my job and the opportunity to serve others, a church to worship with fellow believers, a Bible study to meet women who love the Lord. Living in a country where we can gather without fear for our lives as we worship and study and pray. For family. For friendships old and new and still to come.

Contentment will bring peace. Settling into my new hometown. Adjusting to my new roles. Not longing for the past or trying to figure out the future, but living in the present. Learning new things, new places, new people.  Being open to who and what God has for me each day, one day at a time. Paul said it in Philippians:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13, NIV

I can be content because God promises to give me the strength to do so.  If I have any success in my word for the year, it will be because He helped me do it – to Him be the glory.

Something to look foward to

I had an epiphany yesterday: I have very little that I am looking forward to.

This is a rude realization – it reeks of hopelessness and hints at depression. It leaves me feeling empty and sad.

And I see that it needs to be remedied.

I’m not talking about planning a vacation, or what museums to explore on the weekends. It’s not about looking forward to a trip, even a trip to see my kids.

What I crave is people. Interactions with others. Social relationships. Fellowship, as discussed in today’s sermon, where you give yourself to others, and they give themselves to you. I miss the opportunity to be in ministry, to be in leadership. To serve others. To be with others.

My job is not filling the need I had hoped – to connect with co-workers and to forge relationships. Instead, I work with an individual, do the paperwork, and go home. Very little to no interaction with anyone other than my student. Not what I was looking for in a job.

I could turn my attention to volunteering. Perhaps I should register with the local hospital, and find some hours that fill my days with people.

I am enjoying my Bible Study and look forward to Thursdays,  I also look expectantly to lunch dates, or chiropractic appointments, or anything else that gets me out of the house during the otherwise long days.

I need to find hope in my day-to-day. To have things that make getting out of bed worth it. I admit that I stay in bed many mornings because I have nothing I need to get up for.

What if I joined a gym? Would I look forward to walking on the treadmill, next to others walking too? I know I appreciated and even looked forward to my physical therapy – maybe it would be the same. Maybe I would even make a friend or two.

How can I become more eager to get out of bed to meet with Jesus? My Bible Study helps with that, definitely. I am excited to see what God will teach me. But how do I translate that to daily living? To jumping out of bed so that I can meet with God in my quiet time? Is that enough to bolt me from my bed every morning? I reluctantly admit that it is not, at least not yet. Maybe that is an area where I am growing.

And as I keep saying, these things – relationships – take time.

So I’ll be excited to do my daily Bible Study. I’ll anticipate lunch with a friend. I’ll look into volunteering. And I’ll pray for God to bring me the enthusiasm to get going each day, to expect what and who He has for me.  Perhaps those friendships are coming, and can be something to look forward to!

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.

 

A relapse, not just a bad day :(

So perhaps I was wrong. I had been hoping it wasn’t relapse.

But it’s been longer than a week, and I can’t shake the blah mood. My head hurts, my jaw aches from clenching my teeth. If I think about it at all, which I’ve avoided, I feel my breath get shallow and speed up. Last night and again today, I was overwhelmed with feelings of deep sadness; it took incredible effort not to cry.

I’m trying to figure this out.  How does the definition of depression change for a person who has had it before? Are the symptoms still the same?  What about for the 10th episode? Or the 12th? Or the 30th?

Does the ability to smile or laugh mean I’m not depressed?

If I want to stay in bed and sleep all day but I get up anyway, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If hopelessness is a symptom but as a Christ follower I have hope because Christ is with me, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If I’m not hungry at all but I eat because I’m supposed to, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If I want to be alone, just me and the TV, but I enjoy a little social time with friends, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If I can’t see “the light at the end of the tunnel” but experience has taught me that these blah feelings will go away, does that mean I’m not depressed?

No, it doesn’t mean that. It probably is depression, just not as dark and deep as I’ve had before. But depression again – and still real, still hard.

I’ll have to fight back; it won’t just work itself out. It won’t last forever, either, though I might think that at times. I might lose sight of hope, might doubt myself. I’ll probably talk to myself harshly and try to isolate more than is good for me. I won’t want to increase my exercise. I don’t want to take new medicine. I don’t want to do anything, except to curl up in a ball until depression disappears. Someone make it go way. Jesus, please?

In response, He reminds me that I’m not alone. I never have been, and He won’t leave me this time, either. He may heal me now, or not until I reach heaven. He promises either way that He will not waste my pain, but will use it somehow to help others. He loves me in the midst of my misery. And these things don’t change, with or without depression. Thank you, Lord.

It’s a blah day, not a relapse.

For many mornings in a row, when the alarm goes off I think, “Why bother?” I get up because that’s what I do, not because I want to. I have nothing to get up for. And then I remember that I intentionally planned something into my day so that I will get up. Otherwise, I think I’d stay in bed all morning.

I’ve had several days of feeling “in a funk” – not really happy but not really sad either. A blah mood.

A year ago, I would have blamed all of this on the weather – the gray clouds of the upper Midwest that cover the sun for days and often bring snow and cold. But I’m in Florida now, and while it’s been unseasonably rainy, there was sunshine and even warmer temperatures today. So what’s my problem?

I think it’s because it is February. And traditionally, February has been a tough month for me. According to my old psych doc, even though it’s the shortest month of the year, it’s often the hardest emotionally. Not sure why. But perhaps I’m feeling the way I do because I’ve felt this way for the past nine Februarys. Emotional muscle memory.

It took me a few hours today to figure this out – this thing about February. I should have seen it sooner – I knew I was feeling less than good. I kept arguing with myself that the mood would simply go away, and I suspect it will, now that I’ve identified it and called it by name.

A blah day, or even a blah week, doesn’t mean relapse. It doesn’t mean depression again. It means I’m in a blah mood, and I’ll be in a blah mood for a few days, and then it will get better. To keep it from descending into depression, I’ll keep doing what I know to do – eat well, get enough sleep, exercise some, take my meds, reach out. Get up and do the day.

And if I need to take a day to stay in bed all morning, that’s ok too.