What’s for Dinner?

What are we having for dinner? Oh, how I hate this question! Ever since I’ve been a grown-up, where I’ve had to decide for myself – or my family – I’ve dreaded the evening mealtime.

I’m not a good cook. I can follow a recipe, no problem, but I don’t love being in the kitchen. My sister got all of that talent (and she’s really good at it)!

I don’t remember how we figured out dinner, those five years before we had children. I do recall making menus when the kids were little, and basing my grocery shopping off of the dinner menus for the week. Usually, I’d plan the main dish – the protein – and “wing it” for the vegetable – canned green beans or frozen corn or salad from a bag. It used to drive my husband crazy! He’d ask, “What’s for dinner!” and I’d tell him, say, hamburgers. And he’d want to know what else, which I never had planned! We’d both feel frustrated at figuring out our dinner routine.

We tried multiple approaches: daily menus in detail, general weekly shopping basics, a cartful of veggies with a bag of frozen chicken breasts. Nothing ever really worked, and dinner always felt a little hodge-podged.

And if my hubby was traveling, all options were open. Popcorn, with sides of grapes and sugar-snap peas? Sure, we can have that for dinner! Or cereal. Or mac-n-cheese. Maybe carrots to round out the veggies, or at least to look like I tried!

The best we’ve done, I think, is since it’s back to the two of us. The kids are grown and gone – they have to figure out their own meals! And now my husband and I eat frozen pizza or carry-out sushi or take-out Chinese (tonight). In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been to the local pub for delicious “‘merican burgers,” and we finish eating before the live (loud) band starts playing! Or we grocery shop together, often with a few recipes we find, the ingredients on the grocery list. Then my husband will cook, and I assist and do clean-up. It works!

Recently, we started receiving Hello Fresh. We signed up for the vegetarian menu, as a way to force vegetables on us. And it’s a cinch! I clean the veggies, he chops and cooks, we eat delicious food, and I clean up the dishes. There are almost never any left-overs; they have the recipe designed for perfect serving sizes. That’s only a bummer when it’s a “keeper” recipe – one of the most delicious ones. But they send the full recipe, not just the needed ingredients, so we can duplicate the meal in the future.

I’m still not great at eating vegetables. I’ll grab fruit regularly; veggies are tough for me. But this meal delivery system has helped.

And while we’re still trying to figure out how to plan meals for two, I’m getting better at reaching for veggies in the produce section.

What’s for dinner? Sweet potatoes and broiled broccoli florets!

Explaining myself

A writer should always ask, “Who is my audience? For whom am I writing?”

Some bloggers say they’re writing for themselves, and they don’t care if anyone reads their stuff or not. To which I wonder, “Then why blog? Why not just journal?” I’m not questioning their motives so much as I’m trying to understand.

When I write, I have an audience in mind. Maybe it’s just one person, or maybe it’s a crowd. But I can picture a Christ-follower, usually a woman, who struggles with depression, anxiety, or another mental illness. Who wonders if she’ll ever be well. Who thinks she’s the only one in the world with these feelings. She’s me, or who I used to be, or who I could be again.

I know I have family and friends who read my blog posts, and that delights me. I like expressing myself in this way to them, hopefully giving them a little insight into thoughts that I might not express outwardly. But they’re my friends – they care about me – and I want them to know how I feel.

I’m also grateful for followers and readers of my blog who I don’t know personally. How awesome that they would take the time to read my words, to consider my experiences.

In both cases – with both groups of readers – I hope that I express the struggles of depression in a Christ-follower. I hope by writing about it, I help to diminish its stigma, especially within the Christian community.

I try to write honestly, from a place of transparency and authenticity. I might write about my current situation, or I might be recalling a time in the past. I try to make that distinction clear as I put my words on the page. Occasionally, I’ll write about the future, and I want those posts to be hopeful and not full of dread.

But the reality is that I have some anxieties when I look to the future. I wonder about relapsing into depression. I think it’s always in the back of my mind that it could happen. So I don’t look ahead too often; I’m trying to live in the moment, and write from this place.

For a long time in my dark depression, I anticipated and feared the future, the changes that I was inevitably going to face because of my maturing family. I wasted two years worrying about things that I couldn’t clearly foresee, and I certainly couldn’t control. I “pre-grieved.” I anticipated change and mourned it before it even happened.

All that did was drive me deeper into depression and anxiety, and rob me of the joys of the moment. Such are the beasts of these mental illnesses. A focus away from the present.

So I write what I’m thinking today, what I’m feeling at this time, or what I’m recalling as my emotional status in the past.

And I’m writing to explain my thoughts, emotions, moods and experiences with depression. What it’s like to live with it, when being battered by it, or when it’s in remission, like it is right now.

And I always feel better when I’ve written my thoughts down. So maybe I am my own audience, after all.

Thanks for reading!

Parenting Adult Children

“Hanging out with your grown-up kids is like visiting the best parts of yourself.” I saw this on Facebook recently, and couldn’t agree more!

We just spent five days with our twenty-something year old children, and it was a blast! We celebrated my son’s golden birthday with extended family, got to know my daughter’s boyfriend, and ate great food. We played games, including our unique guessing-Christmas gifts (new) tradition. We watched movies and shows, read books, and just enjoyed each other’s company.

I’m proud of my kids. They’re both hard workers, committed to giving their best to their jobs. They’re kind, respectful, and witty. They don’t just love each other as siblings – they actually like each other a lot, which warms this momma’s heart. While they no longer live in the same state, they communicate regularly, even if it’s just via text. My daughter probably hears from my son more often than I do!

I have known for a long time about letting go, but this visit solidified my desire to see my kids successfully fly. While I’m still adjusting to an empty nest (how many years is it going to take?), I’m delighted to watch them grow in maturity and independence. That was my job as their mother – to teach them Jesus, right from wrong, decision making, and responsibility. They’re good people, and God helped me do my job as best I could.

This morning as I woke up, I heard a voice in my head telling me that I had failed as a Christian mom; both of my kids have made choices that I would have made differently. But they only learn from making their own decisions – they have to figure life out for themselves. They must develop their own relationships with their Savior. My job now is to pray for them, and ask others to pray with me. I especially love the ministry of Moms In Prayer (MIP), and my prayer call with my best friend each week. I’ve prayed with MIP for years, and I know God has heard each prayer spoken (and unspoken) on their behalf, all the way back to their Kindergarten days. Nothing is wasted. Nor is anything in my timing. So I release them to their Heavenly Father’s hands, which is where they belong anyway.

And in the meantime, I watch them with thanksgiving and joy as they become my adult friends, not just my kids.

Christmas when Depressed

I’ve read several posts lately, encouraging folks who are struggling with depression in ways to manage this season. I began to think of one of the Christmases when I was depressed, probably the worst one. I’m going to look through my journal from that time, and see what steps I took to manage my emotions then.

I had just recently been released from a short stay in the psych ward (December 6-10). My parents live in NE, my sister in MO, and we were in WI at the time. So my family hadn’t seen me, and only knew how I was doing based on what my husband was sharing with them. But God had known that we would need to be together, so my sister invited us to come to her house for the holidays. Quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine Christmas at our house – I assumed it would be as miserable as I was feeling. I didn’t know how I would manage the drive (I ended up sleeping most of the way in the backseat of the van), but it really appealed to me to be someplace other than my home for the holiday. Besides, my parents would be there, too, and they’d all get to see first-hand how I was doing. I hoped that would bring them some peace.

I distinctly remember taking a lot of naps. Like one in the morning and another one in the afternoon! I needed rest – sleep – not just a break. But I needed respite, too, from the commotion of three families in one house, so I escaped to the bedroom a few times just to get some silence. I had an anti- anxiety pill that I was taking to help alleviate the shaking hands. Shoot, my whole body was shaking as I was adjusting to new medications, so I regularly had to excuse myself and go take my meds.

I remember after a nap, sitting on the couch in my sister’s living room, a room away from the TV. It was quieter there, more peaceful. My mom sat with me on the couch and I shared a little of what I remembered from the hospital. My voice trembled as I told her of the surroundings, the activities, the doctor.

I know we watched TV, but I recall finding it hard to concentrate. Several times, I got up and moved to the kitchen, where I could hear the TV but not see the bright lights from it. I sat at the kitchen table and drank a soda, and tried to focus on the conversation with my sister.

My husband helped shield me a lot, and kept an eye on me and my mood and energy levels. He probably made excuses for me when I had to leave the room. I’m grateful to him for running interference for me.

The trauma of me being in the hospital subsided for my kids a bit as they were distracted by their younger cousins, and reading entertaining books. It was good for them to be away from our home that year.

As always, my sister took care of delicious meals – she is an excellent cook – and my brother-in-law did all the dishes. I don’t remember doing any work of any sort – not that I was capable of it, anyway.

We didn’t stay long – just a couple of days. I know my family would have liked us to stay longer, but I could only manage a few days before I needed to get back to the safety of my own bed.

My journal reveals that by the time we went home, I was only taking one anti-anxiety pill a day. Seems like the family visit was just what I needed.

So my suggestions for how to handle depression this season, from my own personal experience? To the best of your ability, surround yourself with people who love you. But don’t be afraid to take a break from them – give yourself a time-out when you need one. Nap if you have to. Eat well. Rest. Take your meds as prescribed. Don’t be over-stimulated. Don’t overcommit. Give yourself permission to a slower, quieter pace.

It takes time, but it will get better. Even in deep depression, there are moments of lightness. Enjoy those.

And did I mention taking a nap?!

Giving Thanks

It’s good to pause and give thanks. We should all do it more often than just on the fourth Thursday of November! God calls us to make it a lifestyle: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:18‬, NIV‬‬.

Gratitude has been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. And while it may be hard to be thankful in the middle of a dark valley, it’s good to make an effort.

Give it a try. Just one little thing that you’re grateful for. Like your breath. Your pillow. Your cozy blanket. The quiet. The dark. Your pet. Your kids, or spouse, or sister, or parents. Pick just one thing, and think on it – what makes it special? Why do you like it? Tell God “Thanks” – for that one thing.

That’s the start of gratitude. One thing. Maybe the next day, or a few days later, you’ll be able to think of two. Or more. But no pressure – just one will do.

I’ve been thinking about gratitude lately, probably because the holidays bring it to the forefront. And I realize that I have lots to be thankful for! Kind of like this video: https://youtu.be/BSxPWpLPN7A

For my husband. My kids. Friends far and near, old and new. My home. My cats. My Bible and journal. Physical and mental health. Sight. Hearing aids. The freedom to worship. The freedom to vote. Food. Coffee. Chocolate.

Once I start looking around, I see all kinds of things to be thankful for!

And that doesn’t even touch on creation – like sunsets and beaches and streams and tall trees and wildflower fields with paths. And waterfalls and canyons. And goldfinches and foxes and bison. And gentle rain and big snowflakes and sunny afternoons.

I’m so grateful – yes, thankful – to be in an emotional place where I can see and (try to) count my blessings. “Lord, I do give thee thanks for the abundance that is mine. (LIDGTTFTATIM)” – Don Blanding, Today Is Here.

Try reading this talisman for 12 days – LIDGTTFTATIM – and each day, while reading it through, meditate on the different words of the phrase. You’ll find deep comfort and inherent gratitude as you focus on them.

Oh, thank You, great God, for the good gifts You give.