Gray Areas, and Loving like Christ

  • Yield…
  • One Way…
  • No cell phones…
  • Wait your turn…
  • Thou shall not kill…
  • Stand in a straight line…
  • Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only…

All kinds of rules, directions, restrictions, limitations. Some are really clear. Some as defined by societal laws. And God’s Word gives clear boundaries on many things, but there are gray areas, too.

What do we do about these unclear places?

I think this is where love comes in. Respecting the other person. Putting them first, before self.

There are many laws in God’s Word, where He says “Do” and “Do not.” Where the verse reads, “This is God’s will.” Those are pretty clear!

And Christ came to fulfill all of those. Not just what the Old Testament verse says, but the meaning behind the verse – where “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” Matthew‬ ‭22:37-40‬ ‭NIV‬

And in the Sermon on the Mount, where He says, “But I tell you,…” and raises the bar on the original law, calling for a deeper attitude of obedience, a heart-change.

In some ways, it’s easier to just follow the written rules. When we know what the rules are, we simply obey, and expect everybody else to do so, too. That’s what makes the four-way stop signs work!

But if we live only by rules, including our own version of the rules, without regard to respecting the other person, we run the risk of becoming legalistic and judgemental.

The problem comes when the rules are not clear. When societal norms go against God’s Word, then it’s critical to remember that God’s Word is Truth. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32. But what about those places where truth is not clear? Where God’s Word doesn’t say definitively?

Honoring God and honoring fellow man.

It’s about respect. Respect for the other person, as an individual created in God’s image and deeply loved by Him.

That’s when we chose to live as Christ lived, and to love as Christ loved. Respecting the person. Loving them. Praying for wisdom. And letting God be the judge.

Casting Crowns: Jesus, Friend of Sinners: https://youtu.be/BY6VAy9y_iQ

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Fighting for Mental Health

I’ve had several down days in these past couple of weeks. I cried in my therapist’s office. I beat myself up about my past parenting. I’ve caught myself using self-deprecating words to myself, speaking negatively to me about me.

My husband has noticed – he’s very tuned in to my moods. In fact, he saw it before I did. But I’ve noticed a lower rating on my daily mood scale. So I’ve known something was going on.

We had a week or more of rainy days, so I was lacking in natural Vitamin D (I take a supplement anyway). I had some serious self-evaluation going on, and had to fight my own negative voices with God’s truth about how He sees me. My left leg is causing consistent shooting pain; it could be lumbar stenosis, which doesn’t really get better except with pain relievers and gentle stretching – when whatever inflammation exists subsides. Walking hurts, so exercise is hard(er) for me.

I realized today the foundational truth of Fresh Hope, the peer-led support group we’re starting at our church. Their mission is: To empower individuals with a mental health challenge, along with their loved ones, to live a full and rich faith-filled life in spite of having a mental health diagnosis.

I can choose to live a life that is rich and faith-filled. I can choose mental health vs. mental illness.

I have a mental health diagnosis – Major Depressive Disorder, Moderate to Severe, Recurrent. But that doesn’t mean I’m always depressed. Right now, my depression is in remission, and I’m relatively healthy (except for my leg pain).

It means, like I told my therapist today, that I realize that sometimes I can coast, and other times I have to fight for my mental wellness. So I’m fighting for it a bit right now. That’s ok.

Out of Sorts

Friday – what a weird day after a long week. I feel discombobulated today – out of sorts. Perhaps a culmination of the past few days.

Saw my psych doc on Monday – my emotional scale scored better than last month’s, so that’s good. I’m pretty stable in the psych world, so don’t need to see him for two months. That’s progress.

Feeling frumpy: saw an ear-nose-throat doc and audiologist on Tuesday – 40+% hearing loss in each ear – prime candidate for hearing aids. I’m only 54 years old! Have gained 5 pounds so my clothes don’t fit right. Can’t read anything without my glasses on. Feeling sorry for myself. Need to figure out how to accept these changes and move on without discouragement. As I’ve said before (last time with humor:) – getting older isn’t for sissies! Paul talks about being content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11) – not until today did I consider that might include ageing.

Got a haircut on Wednesday, but she didn’t listen and cut where I told her not to. Makes me miss Susie, who did my hair almost perfectly for 12+ years!

Had a good lunch with women from Book Club on Thursday – nice to be included. Took a relaxing nap during the afternoon thunderstorm. Reading a fantastic book for next month’s Book Club – I’m devouring The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Have had the book for 24 hours and am already on chapter 17!

Today is a lovely sunny day, but for some reason, it’s causing me to miss my Fort Myers house and pool and beach time. Sitting outside on my porch in Virginia is just not the same as on the lanai in Florida.

Leg pain has greatly abated – only hurts when I turn a certain way. So I won’t turn that direction! So glad to finally have relief, after weeks of severe pain.

Several friends going through really tough times. Have prayed hard for others all week, which is as it should be. Still, only one success story from them all – feels discouraging. So much pain and difficulty, and I am helpless to do anything. But praying is doing something – it’s allowing God to work. You go, God!

Missing my kids, my old friends. As always.

Need to remind myself that days like this happen to everyone. Just a funk. A week of ups and downs.

Tomorrow is Saturday – a lazy day, but includes dinner out with my husband to celebrate Mother’s Day. Then a new week. Glad this one is over soon.

I am not my depression

This is the subtitle to my blog.

It’s also a concept I’m grappling with right now.

Years ago, toward the beginning of my therapy, when I was healing from the blackest, deepest place of my depression, my therapist taught me to consider depression as separate from me, like it is its own entity. Like something else in the room.

Not “my depression.” Not “I’m depressed.”

Instead, more like “me struggling with depression.” “I’m battling depression.”

This seems like just semantics, but words are very powerful – especially the words I use with myself and to myself.

The first set of phrases makes me the owner of the depression, or certainly the victim of it. The second group places depression apart from me, not on nor within me. I’m not a victim – I’m a warrior.

The second set of phrases is more empowering. Stronger. More hopeful.

I’ve noticed that in the past several weeks, I’ve gone back to referring to depression in the first person – those first phrases. And I’m not sure why.

It could be a subconscious reaction to the biographies I’ve read recently – folks who wrote about their personal battles with “the black dog” of depression. Some people call those biographies written by “depressives.” That wording is really self-defeating!

It could be the ongoing (4 weeks and counting) of back and leg pain that is plaguing me. The diagnosis is lumbar stenosis – a narrowing of the openings where the nerves of the spinal column come through the spine itself, causing pressure on those nerves and then the nerves responding with inflammation. So far, neither stretching nor ibuprofen nor massage nor chiropractic are helping. (Next steps: yoga and stronger meds.)

It could be because I’ve been thinking about my journey through depression a lot lately: in writing, in therapy, in my Fresh Hope workbook. It’s been on my mind.

Whatever the cause, today is the first day I really caught myself speaking of depression in first person – “my depression.” I need to change that. I need to change the words, change my thinking, put distance between me and the illness.

“…but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think…” Romans 12:2b, NLT

Adrift

Adrift.

This is the word I’ve used recently to describe how I feel.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had several down days. Days of loneliness, days of insecurity, days of grayness.

Feeling untethered, unanchored. Bobbing up and down in choppy seas.

Not sure of my purpose. Not sure of my “why.” Not sure of what tasks to undertake next. Not sure of who I am or who I will be. Or even who I want to be.

Uncertain of relationships and commitments and activities.

Wondering what it might be to live in wholeness, instead of simply existing between depressive episodes. I’m going through a workbook to address that issue – living in fullness and wellness in spite of a mental health diagnosis (Fresh Hope). And I wonder what that feels like. I think I define myself as “a depressed person, currently in remission.” What would it be to call myself “healthy, with possible – occasional – bouts of depression?” Transition the focus to the positive. I’m hoping this workbook will help me in that mental shift.

In the meantime, I finish up my job. I’m excited about my trip to hang out with my daughter and best friend, and connect with other dear friends and a cousin, too. I anticipate future volunteer opportunities, yoga classes, starting a mental health support group. I’m praying about that last one in particular, that God would line up all those details.

And that I would no longer be assembling my boat in the middle of the ocean, adrift and bobbing up and down in the waves.

But then I remember:

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls...” Hebrews‬ ‭6:18-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬ (http://bible.com/116/heb.6.18-19.nlt)

I cry out to God for refuge, and then I am anchored in His love for me – His promise of eternity with Him, because of the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. He has a hold on me. I will trust Him for my future. I need to continue to assure myself that He won’t let me float away. He’s got a gracious grip on me and my future, and I am secure in His grasp.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT (biblegateway.com, Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.)

I have hope. He is an anchor for the soul. A safe harbor. A refuge. God’s got me, and I am fine.