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.

Gratitude thoughts

I’ve started something new in my journal. Instead of prayers or thoughts that are complaints, I’m ending those entries with thankfulness. And the more complaining in my writing, the more gratitude thoughts I need to record!

Some recent entries:

I’m thankful for my husband. He is an amazing man, and incredibly helpful and encouraging to me, no matter whether I’m hiking out of a waterfall valley or crawling across the floor with back pain. I adore and admire him, way more than 31 years ago when we first fell in love.

There’s a beautiful goldfinch who lands in the tree outside our living room window every morning. He is bright yellow, and sings a cheerful tune as he calls to his mate and then flies away. Gold finches are one of my favorite songbirds, especially for their haphazard flight path, chirping all the while. I didn’t have them nearby in FL, so it’s a delight to hear and see them again.

I love ice packs. And carbon-activated heat pads. And ibuprofen.

My cat Annabelle brings wonderful companionship, especially when she curls up at my feet for her morning nap.

I’m thankful for technology – for Instagram and Facebook and texting and FaceTime and cell phones.

And for family and friends around the world who use such technology to keep our relationships strong.

I’m glad for slow-paced mornings. I love my two cups of coffee, and my quiet time with Jesus. I like the devotionals on my Kindle and in my phone, and the prayer app that helps me stay focused.

I’m grateful that God is omnipresent, which means He’s with my kids even though I’m not. He comforts me when I’m missing them, and reminds me that He loves them even more than I do.

Practicing gratitude – a very good discipline, and a great way to combat negative thinking.

Social activity when depressed: an oxymoron

Depression is an isolating illness. It doesn’t involve a crowd.

Withdrawing from others is an indicator of depression. When I’m depressed, I don’t want to be with people, don’t want to do the things I used to enjoy with others. I find it hard to focus, to follow a conversation, or even get a joke. Depression wants me to stay by myself, sitting on my corner of the couch, safe in my cocoon of quiet. It causes me to become self-focused, very inward-gazing. It hinders my social interactions.

I find it hard to go out when I’m depressed, and so I’m intentional about scheduling events in advance that require I venture into public. Perhaps it’s a chiropractor’s appointment. Or Bible Study (which is very hard to attend if my mood is down). I’ve learned to build social activity into my weeks so that I have to be around people, even if it’s just a bunch of strangers in the grocery store.

To attend a planned event with a crowd is more difficult. I am most likely to succeed if I have support, like if my husband goes too. I can’t say “Yes” to attending a wine-tasting party or gala celebration if he’s not there – it’s too hard to put on a smile and make small talk for hours with a bunch of people I don’t know well. It’s hard enough to attend if he’s with me – the power of isolation is very strong and makes me want to say “No” every time we’re invited to any kind of social event. But going without him is more than just not-fun, it’s almost impossible.

I suspect this puts a lot of pressure on him – that I’m dependent on him for my social connections. But his presence gives me courage – I’m more outgoing and smile more easily if I know he’s nearby. The other day, he commented that I’m good with people – I guarantee that I wouldn’t have said hello to that other person, let alone had the encounter at all, if my husband hadn’t been around too.

This isn’t true all the time – only when I’m fighting depression. Usually, I’m right at home in group situations – I can come in and say Hello and introduce myself and smile, all with ease and comfort. I can be interested in the others in the group, draw them out with questions about themselves and engage them for long periods of time. I can lead the discussion or follow the flow of conversation easily, and I enjoy it immensely. When I’m not depressed.

It’s hard to explain this change in me to people who don’t know that I struggle with depression. Or maybe they know – I’ve told them – but they don’t really understand how hard life is when I’m depressed. They might think I’m flaky or just very inconsistent. They might even be offended when I back out of a commitment – this is one reason I don’t say “Yes” in the first place. I don’t always want to explain myself – I often can’t. I don’t want depression to be an excuse, even though it is often the reason.

For those folks who understand depression and my battle with it, I am able to say “No” without much guilt. In fact, I am more likely to attend a group, even in my depressed state, if I know they know I struggle. I can go and be myself and not explain everything. Usually simply saying, “Today is a tough day,” is enough for these friends, and they welcome me to come as I am.

 

Being Motivated to Stay Motivated

I’ve recently written about steps I can take to keep myself emotionally healthy, and my goals for doing what is necessary. But I’m finding it hard to be self-disciplined, hard to do the things I’m supposed to be doing for good mental health. When I’m not accountable to anyone but myself, where is the motivation to do what I should? In keeping with recent posts, am I putting the pieces in place to stay healthy, the tools that will keep depression away? If I’m not, why not?

I’m thinking about this because I had a blood draw today, and a followup appointment to discuss results next Friday. I’m nervous about the results – the numbers were headed in the right direction last time, but it’s important that motion has continued, and I have no idea what to expect. I need better cholesterol numbers, while keeping my blood pressure and sugars where they were 3 months ago, or even improved. My weight has gone up and down during the time passed, and I believe that changes in my medication may have had an impact – I’ll know next week.

But I can’t blame my meds when I’m not being as proactive as I should. I have reduced my sugar intake, but it’s only recently that I’m really paying attention to food labels. I’m still not exercising, hardly even a little. This is ridiculous, since I live in a beautiful paradise where I can take a walk in the sunshine nearly every day. I could walk to the workout room or pool, or drive to the beach and take a long walk in the waves.

My writing would benefit from some self-discipline. Perhaps a schedule – for daily practice, for blogging, even for my personal journaling. Certainly some discipline of regular writing if I want to be working on a book!

My efforts to reach out to others is good but could improve.  I’ve wondered if I should have said “yes” to that job all those months ago. The answer of “no” was still the right decision, but at least a job would have put me in other people’s lives regularly. Instead, I can stay at home if I want to – don’t have to leave the house if I don’t feel like it. So I’m trying to build in regular commitments:  lunch dates with friends, a Tuesday Bible Study group, a weekly school prayer group that I rarely miss. The neighborhood friendship and prayer group restarted – I’ve attended two out of three times.

And I’m contributing at home, which is easy to do since we’ve become empty nesters and only have one pet. This was much more difficult with two kids, two cats and a dog! I keep house, take care of errands and make the space a respite for my husband and me at the end of his work days.

I’m building my own personal growth by reading about writing and knitting a blanket for the living room (the largest yarn project I’ve ever undertaken). I’m finding both of these things fun and fulfilling, and they stretch me a little.

But some days, on days I chose to not go anywhere, I wonder if I’m doing enough. I know women who do way more than I do in a day, certainly in a week. Working moms especially! It’s easy to write blogs about what I should be doing, harder to follow through in real life. Am I just lazy? I don’t like to think so – I think it’s part of my mental health need to keep “space” in my life, to not do too much. Still I judge myself.

God’s Word says that Jesus has given us everything we need to live a life that pleases God by getting to know Jesus in increasing measure (2 Peter 1:3). Am I living in a way that pleases God? When I have my daily quiet time, when I start by focusing on who He is and when I commit my day to Him, I can trust that I am doing what He has called me to, and perhaps I don’t need to question these things.

It’s always about priorities and obedience – letting God put order to my hours and then doing what He wants me to each day. He wants me to take good care of my body, to get exercise, to reach out to others and share Him, to care for my family. I can remember to ask Him for motivation and self-discipline, and then obey Him when I see He’s given me the time to do it.

Day after Thanksgiving Gratitude

Thanksgiving Day 2015 was the first major holiday in 23+ years where the celebration was just me and my hubby. And it was a wonderful day.

Of course, I missed my kids and my extended family. And I am grateful beyond words for safe travels for my children as they drove to spend the day with a wonderful friend – she just took them in and added them to her holiday chaos and family and fun.  It was good to Facetime with the kiddos, but it will be better to see them in person in just a few weeks!

Yesterday morning I woke to the kitten’s antics – as always. Even when she has food, she seems to think that I only need 7 hours of sleep, so she starts our morning warm-up with nuzzles and purring and climbing on me and kneading her little claws into the back of my leg. I want to let my husband sleep in, so ok, I’m up!

I spent some quiet time with God, read through emails and blog posts and Facebook, had coffee, journaled a little. Our morning was pretty lazy – I read, blogged, knitted. We went to the pool and hung out for a bit. After having the pool area closed all summer, it’s so nice to have it open again, and to be able to relax in this place. I can’t believe this is in my neighborhood and not at some secluded spa!

lap and spa pool
lap and spa pools

I don’t write this to brag – it’s just that I love living in Florida – the warm weather and sunny skies bring me such pleasure! I get in the pool, the sun warming me, and lay back and look at fluffy clouds and palm trees in my periphery. Ahh! I feel so peaceful and content.

When we got hungry, we came back home and made a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal. Surf and Turf with Key Lime Pie for dessert – couldn’t get less typical for us.

Surf and Turf Thanksgiving 2015

    Surf and Turf Thanksgiving 2015

We’ll save the ham and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole and pumpkin and apple pies for Christmas – it will be good to share family tradition with the kids again.  Maybe they’ll let us add the key lime pie to our holiday dinner routine!

We enjoyed the rest of the day outside on the lanai (back screened patio) and watched a TV series until bedtime. Overall, a very nice day.

I thank God for family. For my husband. For my children. For friends far (most of them) and near (a few new ones). For good food. For sunny and warm skies. For my physical and mental health. For mental health help – my therapists, my psychiatrists. For writing and blogging and for blogging friends. For freedom to worship God without fear of persecution. For devotionals and journals and nice pens. For my computer. For my kitten. For beach towels and pool noodles. For my home. For life.