What to Expect in 2019

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I tried a few times over my 50+ years, but they never stuck. Why set myself up for failure?!

At the same time, there are things I’d like to see in my life in the upcoming year. So call them resolutions if you must, but I’m giving myself lots of grace, and no deadlines.

I’d like my morning time with God to be more consistent. It has been in recent months, so I don’t see any reason why it can’t continue to be a priority. I get several daily devotionals, but I’m not counting those. I’m talking about me in God’s Word each day. I just purchased a Lectio Divina devotional, and am looking forward to using that as my devotional tool.

I want to be more intentional about the friendships that matter most to me. I intend to make more phone calls, send more texts, stay more connected. I want to plan a trip back to my old hometown to see those people in person, to hug them and tell them how much they mean to me, even over the miles and years. I need to get that on the calendar!

I can’t say that I’ll exercise, because I am physically-active-averse. But there’s no reason that I can’t walk around the block several times per week. Just the block – no commitment to anything more. (Though I’m hoping that once I get out there, with headphones on, I’ll keep going.)

I plan to send more care packages to my kids. They’re no longer in school, so it’s really just “thinking of you” boxes. And I want to shop locally for the items in those boxes. I want to do a better job of supporting local small businesses.

I’ll try to eat more vegetables. Thank goodness for the vegetarian choice of Hello Fresh! I’ll use my new instant pot to put healthier meals on the table. I’ll learn to cook for two, instead of just reaching for the frozen pizza.

I’ll read more books. Goodness knows that I have plenty of them on my shelf that I haven’t even started yet! And that doesn’t count the books on my to-read list. Not just good-for-you books; I want to read for fun, not only for personal development. I used to read lots of fiction but got away from it in recent years. I want to get back to good ole stories.

There are activities I’ll continue in the new year: the library book club (which encourages me to read books I might not otherwise choose), volunteering (I want to get back to 2x/week), serving at church (leading a new mental health support group starting January 8th!), work, developing local friendships, taking weekend adventures with my husband (this requires spontaneity that I have to work at).

So I see myself growing and improving in 2019. If I do any of these things, even a little bit, I’ll be better for it. Resolutions, no. Aspirations, yes.

Happy New Year! Wishing you God’s blessings and a growing closeness to Him in 2019!

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When I grow up

Is anybody else struggling with who they wanna be when they grow up?

My kids are adults now. They live independently. Successfully. Without me. Which is as it’s supposed to be. If I did my job right, and I think I did, they are well equipped to live as responsible decent human beings. I continue to pray that they love God and follow Him as they did in their youth.

But I’m left with wondering what I should do next. Now that I’ve raised my kids, it’s time to find what’s on the agenda for me.

Most women my age – early in empty nesting – have gone back to work. Some have gone back to school. Many, including myself, are volunteering.

I’m excited about a new ministry that I am starting – a chapter of Fresh Hope at our church, which is a peer-led support group for folks who struggle with mental illness, and their loved ones. This is a ministry that I’m really excited about, and have dreamed of for years. It’s finally happening! Our training as facilitators is almost complete, and we’ll start meeting as a group at the beginning of January.

I’m quitting my job – again – right before Christmas – and will dedicate myself to this new ministry. But I wonder what I’ll do with my extra time, and am looking into becoming a peer support specialist. The training I’ve found doesn’t quite fit into my otherwise-free schedule, so I’ll explore continuing education as an option.

I’m also thinking about writing a book, which is something I think many bloggers consider. But I have a friend who has recommended a program that helped him publish his book, so it’s worth more review.

I considered all of these concerns in a previous blog post, so I’m not surprised that they are still issues I’m resolving. I probably need to discuss all of this with my therapist, since it seems to be a recurring theme!

But I think I’ve made her mad, or at least, I’ve introduced conflict into our relationship. That’s not a bad thing – just an issue to be addressed. I need to be honest with her as I consider my life and depression and all that it entails. She pointed out at our last appointment that I’m going to have my depression “in my face” if I write a book about it. That, along with the mental health support group, puts my depression front and center, and she cautioned me about balancing that with health so as not to be waylaid by it. Good point.

But I need some help navigating my next steps. I need clarification. I need her to say back to me what I’m saying, since I can’t seem to hear myself. What is it I want to do? What steps do I take to make “it” happen? What other commitments can I make that are healthy and feed my long-term goals? I need her to help me figure this out.

And if you have any insights, I’m listening! Please include your thoughts in the comments below!

“Start with where you are.”

A good friend gave me this piece of advice, and I’ve taken it to heart, especially in writing. I find that it keeps me honest, vulnerable, and hopefully relatable.

I remember when she said it. I had just arrived at church, getting ready to facilitate our depression support group. I told her that I had had a few rough days, and thought I might be descending into depression again. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to lead this group if I was depressed. She encouraged me to be honest with the group, to just share what I was experiencing. I followed her advice, and felt myself supported and encouraged, even as the “leader” of the group. Expressing my struggle was an example of vulnerability to the group, and they in turn opened up and shared with each other.

When learning about writing, authors are encouraged to write about what they already know. For one thing, it’s easier to write about something I have gone through. Secondly, no one can argue my own experience – it’s mine, and it’s true.

So I use this approach here in my blog. I start with where I am. I try to write about what I’m feeling, or what I’ve felt or experienced in the past. It’s my past – who can argue against what happened or what I felt? Or it’s my current situation. Not anybody else’s. It’s real for me.

My desire with this blog is two-fold. To help Christians who fight depression know they are not alone. While our specific experiences may be different, there’s definitely commonality among fellow sufferers.

My second hope is that I provide understanding to a reader who might not know what depression is, or what it feels like. Maybe that reader has a friend or family member who struggles with depression. Maybe someone in the church wants to reach out to the hurting, but isn’t sure what to say. I hope that what I write will ease that difficulty.

So I write from where I am, or where I’ve been. I hope I offer education, reduce stigma, and open doors for communication and understanding to those who suffer with this disease.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (italics mine)

My “Why”

Watch this first (it’s short):

Michael Jr. Comedy – Know Your Why

My “why” – to reduce the stigma of depression, especially in Christian circles.

My “what” – to lead a support group for Christians struggling with depression; to blog about depression within and for the Christian community; who knows what other “whats” I have!

Lord God, let me follow your leading in my pursuit of this passion.

(Thank you, http://www.freshhope.us, for the link to this significant video.)

Things I’ve Learned from my Depression Journey

Can anything good come from depression? I think yes.
I’ve learned:

      1. Empathy for those who are suffering from mental illness. I have the ability to relate and offer comfort, because I myself battle against depression. And while each person’s mental illness is unique, there are some consistencies that generalize across diagnoses.
      2. The experience of the Behavioral Health Unit. From my short stay in 2009, I have a better understanding of the chaos and turmoil in a psych ward.
      3. That there is tremendous pain in the world – I’ve had the “blinders” or “rose-colored glasses” removed.
      4. That I have never been walking alone – Christ has been with me through it all. He has supported, encouraged and sometimes carried me, even when I couldn’t see it. “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ” Hebrews 13:5b, NIV. And just because I couldn’t see His Presence doesn’t mean He wasn’t there. He does not depend on what I feel, or even think, to be true. He is God. He Is.
      5. Emotional intimacy with my husband – we’ve always been good communicators, but there is still room to improve.  Through depression, I was given chances to share my thoughts, feelings and fears with him. Previously, I would hold those things to myself because I didn’t want to “burden” him. But marriage requires sharing the tough stuff along with the good times. And he is a great husband, an amazing man, my best friend.
      6. How God loves me completely, even in my mess. I have a better understanding of His unconditional love, which the Bible tells us is beyond our understanding! “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:17b-19‬, NIV‬‬
      7. The importance of having a good Christian therapist – I’ve had two! They’ve each listened and understood, helped me think things through and make sense of my thoughts, and pointed me back to Christ and my husband for support.
      8. The value of a slower pace – no need to be over-the-top-involved in everything.
      9. An appreciation for naps! And gliders and rocking chairs and swings.
      10. A gratitude for the smaller and simpler things in life.
      11. The need for rest, space, quiet, even silence.
      12. The benefit of solitude and focus and breath.
      13. To not hide my emotions from my children, but to share/teach/show my kids that it’s normal to have troubles and it’s important to ask for help. I hope I’ve shown them God’s faithfulness to us through the hard times.
      14. To be more observant, to talk less and try to listen more.
      15. To pray about everything. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬
      16. The willingness to admit my weaknesses to my friends and family so they can pray for me. When I’m able to be honest and vulnerable, I allow others to help me.
      17. To serve from a place of brokenness. I had the opportunity to facilitate in a Depression Support Care Group for a year, after asking for 6+ years that God would use this depression in my life to help others. And now I blog, in the hopes that my story offers encouragement to other Christians with depression. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Cor 1:3-4, NIV
      18. Of my absolute need to rely on Christ for everything. I’m growing more dependent on Him. “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:10, NIV