Discipline

Discipline – not a word that I like; I suspect many people don’t. But I’m finding that I need more of it in my life. I need discipline if I’m going to stay mentally and physically healthy, and reach my personal goals. I need good habits.

I’ve become more consistent lately at having my time alone with God in the mornings. The Lectio Divina Journal has helped with that immensely, as do the daily devotional emails I receive and read each morning over my cup of coffee.

I’ve started Morning Pages (The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron), which is three pages of stream-of-consciousness thinking put on paper.  It’s supposed to clear my mind to make way for creativity to shine through.  I’ve only been at it a few days – even for a writer, it’s harder than it sounds! But this is another discipline to my morning routine.

Now I need to schedule my writing – for my book as well as this blog. I’m hoping I can be consistent with writing each morning for at least an hour. We’ll see how this goes, since I tend to blog at night; that’s when my blogging thoughts come together. But even that seems a bit haphazard – as the mood strikes – so I want to plan for it with more intention.

I also need to set aside time for activity. I hate to say it – exercise. I need to put it on the calendar, and walk every day, at least around the block. Slip on my tennis shoes and put on my headphones and head out the door. How else am I going to get my 10,000 steps?! Besides, all research points to the many benefits of regular exercise, for both physical and mental well-being. Indeed, many studies have shown that regular exercise is as effective as a mild antidepressant medication. So why don’t I do it? Lack of discipline.

I want to be more thoughtful about eating, particularly in the evening. As I mentioned previously, I’m using Noom to help me with my calorie intake. Unfortunately, I’m consistently blowing it every night, with after-dinner munchies.  Now to replace that glass of wine with a cup of tea, and the crackers with low-cal popcorn. And one piece of dark chocolate – not four!

I want these areas in my life where I need discipline to become habits, not chores. That’s going to require consistency and effort on my part. But the benefits will be worth it.

“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:11, NLT

The role of therapists in my life.

from my therapist’s office

My first therapist was Bill, and I saw him a few times when I was in college. I distinctly remember visiting him before I graduated from school. I was moving back home for some surgery, and wanted his help in learning how to navigate old communication patterns. The tools he gave me were very useful as I adjusted from independence to needing help. I was grateful for the techniques I learned, and I think it made my stay at home a smooth one in an otherwise difficult time.

Ted was my next therapist, about 20 years later. I first started with Ted in April 2008. His practice was recommended to me by someone at the church office. I dialed three times and hung up before I finally let the call go through and scheduled the intake appointment.

I remember “clicking” with him almost immediately. Good thing, because I was in desperate need of someone to help me with my jumbled emotions. I was in my mid-40s, we had just moved back to town, and I had expected to pick right up with old friendships and circumstances. But instead, I was feeling incredibly sad and couldn’t shake it. I tried, but was unable to explain to my husband what was wrong. I could only cry. We both agreed that I needed to talk to someone.

So Ted has been with me from the beginning of my depression, which started that summer, and for all the years since. He was with me through the very worst. When I was at my lowest. When I didn’t think I could go on living. Through my hospitalization. He helped me through the trauma and drama of deep depression, during the days when it was overwhelming and suffocating. He helped me navigate through the darkness and slowly back into the light. And he did this several times as I repeated my depression over seven years.

Ted knows me so.well. Maybe even better than I know myself. He can take the words I say and make them make sense. He finds the thread between my random thoughts, puts order to them and gives them back to me. And he’s done this for me for years.

Ted has served as my coach, as my educator, as my mentor, and as my confidant. I didn’t share with him in place of sharing with my husband, but he helped me to formulate my thoughts in a way that my husband could receive them. So that I could say what I wanted my husband to hear, instead of getting lost in my emotions or randomness. He always pointed me back to my husband.

Ted’s a Christian, and he prays for me at our appointments. He helped me sift through the spiritual battle versus the mental illness, and reminded me regularly that Christ is with me in my depression. He was the first one to really help me see Jesus standing alongside me as I struggled to fight for my mental health.

Ted helped me navigate some difficult memories. He worked with me on abandonment fears. He let me sound off about things that made me angry and helped me learn to express anger in a healthy way, instead of squelching it like I used to. He pointed out my faulty thinking, and gave me a different story than the one I was telling myself. He challenged my all-or-nothing thinking. He showed me that I speak to myself in questions, and I “should” on myself a lot.

I remember one time in particular when he really pissed me off. It’s when he pretended to be me. He told me everything I was thinking, including the things I hadn’t said out loud. I was so angry! Or maybe I was just afraid, because I had been vulnerable enough for him to see through me, to know the way I think and how I form my opinions and thoughts, and he nailed it!

I don’t worship him, nor would he ever let me. But I do have a really hard time finding a therapist, because everyone gets held up to the measuring stick of Ted. And they often fall short. It’s not a fair comparison, I know, because they don’t have the years with me like he does. So of course they don’t know me like he knows me, which puts them at a huge disadvantage when I start comparing.

I found a Christian therapist when we moved to Florida, and she was kind and gentle and accepting. I drove 40 miles one way to see her, and it was worth it. She helped me through the grieving process of relocating, and together we navigated a depressive episode with faith in Christ as my healer.

I’ve tried three therapists here – one was a hit for a little over a year. We just “broke up,” as she is moving to her private practice and I’m looking for a Christian counselor.

But I know that I’ll always have Ted. He’s promised me many times that he’ll always “be there” for me, and he always has been. I haven’t needed him as much as I used to – I’ve found these other therapists over the years who have been helpful. But I suspect I will always reach out to Ted in my depressed moments, for just a word of understanding from him to ease me through the darkness again. And he’ll point me back to my husband, and remind me that Christ is with me.

Now that’s a good therapist!

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.

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.

The Lord is…

…my rock, my fortress and my savior; 2 Samuel 22:2b

…a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

…always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. Psalm 16:8b

…my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. Psalm 18:2

…my shepherd, I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

…my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? Psalm 27:1

…my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy…Psalm 28:7

…close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18

…my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide. Psalm 92:22

…a great God, a great King above all gods. Psalm 95:3

…God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

…good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:5

…compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. Psalm 103:8

…for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Psalm 118:6

…my strength and my song; he has given me victory. Psalm 118:14

…close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

…righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. Psalm 147:15

…your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. Proverbs 3:26

…a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. Isaiah 30:18b

…the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. Isaiah 40:28

…good. His faithful love endures forever!… Jeremiah 33:11b

…my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him! The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. Lamentations 3:24-25

…good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him. Nahum 1:7

…is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. Zephaniah 3:17

…the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

…faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3

…full of tenderness and mercy. James 5:11b

In the midst of my depression, it can be hard to see anything other than my deep dark despair. But if I can raise my eyes long enough to look at Jesus, to see that He is with me, that He has never left me, if I can see who the Lord is, I am encouraged and lifted from the pit. Even if it’s only for a short time, I am lighter and refreshed.


all Scripture from YouVersion App, version 8.0.8, New Living Translation