God’s Peace, and the Power of Prayer

I have so many things I’d like to write about, but I can’t, due to the incredibly personal nature of them. About health. Work. Family. Sickness. Siblings. Parenting.

All the normal things of life.

But I can write about peace, and God’s faithfulness to answer prayer.

With the many difficult things I’ve been going through lately, I can tell I’m being sustained by friends’ prayers for me and my family. Because of these prayers, I don’t have anxiety about the unknown future. I’m not experiencing stress or great sadness. I’m a little fatigued, but I know it could be so much worse.

There are literally friends all around the country praying for my family, for the various things I’m facing. And God hears each prayer. They come before Him as incense, the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8). They are forever before Him as He sits on His throne.

And I am welcomed – no, invited – to come into the throne room with my prayers and petitions. Scripture tells me that I can come boldly before His throne (Hebrews 4:16). In fact, He longs for me to do so. He tells me to bring every concern to Him (1Peter 5:7).

The other night, I awakened around 3am with a rush of anxiety. Yes, it hits occasionally. And my first thought was, “Oh, no! All my prayer warriors are sleeping!” Funny, eh?!

For those of you who are praying, thank you. My family and I are so grateful. Your prayers keep us going, knowing that we are being lifted to the King of kings.

We don’t know what the future holds. None of us do. But, as the song says, we “know who holds the future.” God has everything under control. He’s working all things for our good. He is trustworthy.

I am at peace.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Writing in the Glory

Assignment from Writing in the Glory workbook by Jennifer A. Miskov:

Depression is like a heavy, wet, gray wool blanket, carelessly thrown over my shoulders. It weighs me down, bends me to a hunched posture. And it stinks!

**********

Depression brings companions of anxiety, hopelessness, fear, apathy, and the desire to isolate. Nothing sounds good. Nothing tastes good. Nothing is all I want to do. To sit alone and stare into space with “nothing thoughts.” Or worse – spiraling thoughts, like a tornado swirling, repeating the condemning and negative self-talk: I’m a failure; I’m all alone; I’m miserable.

Medicine “un-muddles” my thoughts; it clears my foggy brain and reduces the accusing ruminations so that I can think more clearly. That’s when the work starts: to“take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV), and to replace it with God’s truth of who I am and how He sees me. This puts perspective back in order, and puts God back on the throne of my life.

Some days, the work is relentless. Every thought is off-base, and must be replaced. At those times, it would be easier to just rest in the familiarity of depression. I know the comfort of sinking down in my miserable-ness. It’s hard to reach for health.

But I don’t have to stay down – God will pick me up. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm‬ ‭40:2‬ NIV‭)

Thank you, Lord, that you do not leave me in depression. You are faithful to me, and You are always with me. I am not a failure – I am Your child. I am not alone – You are always with me. I do not need to feel miserable – You love me. You are good, God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Body Image

I’m turning 55 this year, and my body shows it.  I’m definitely in shape – round is a shape, right?!

I’m apple-shaped – the worst design for heart health, with all the weight around the middle part of my body. As far as I know, my heart is strong, but this place of carrying pounds is not recommended by health experts.

I like my face and neck, and I like my legs. It’s the mid-section that causes me grief, from boobs to butt!

Of course, I can’t really complain about it, because I’m not doing anything about it.  I’m still eating frozen pizza once a week, still daily eating dark chocolate pieces (healthy, right?!), and drinking wine. I have increased my vegetable intake, which is healthy. And I readily reach for fruit, but those of course have sugars in them, which is probably why I prefer them to veggies.

I do want to walk more – my goal is 3x/week, or more if I get my headphones on and listen to podcasts. I want to be ready, endurance-wise, for a trip to Europe in the Fall. But I’m not going to the gym; I’m not even doing my stretching exercises anymore, which I had done nightly for many weeks, faithfully.  Funny how quickly I can get out of a habit.

So, age 55. At what point do I accept my body? Not to say that I give up walking, but at what stage – or age – do I say that I am okay with how I look?

I’ve recently found a website with clothes that compliment me, and I’ve purchased several things from them which flatter my body. But I weigh more now than I ever have, and while my weight isn’t increasing, it’s not going down either. How do I look in the mirror and say I’m okay with what I see?

God looks at the inner part of me (“…The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b, NLT), which is definitely growing in closeness to Him. He sees my heart, which is full of love for Him, and gratitude for His gifts of eternal life, for the Holy Spirit, for His Word, for His faithfulness to me.

So while God wants me to take care of my body (Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your bodyI Cor. 6:19-20, NLT), He’s not angry with me about my body shape. He loves me just the way I am.

Now, to love myself – and my body – the same way that God does.

 

 

Prayer to God as Provider of Blessings

From my daily devotional by Ann Spangler (Praying the Names of God Week Five, Day One), personalized:

Yahweh Yireh, the Lord who provides for me, thank you for all your blessings–for forgiveness and faith, purpose and hope, food and shelter, family and friends, strength and wisdom, rest and work, laughter and light. Your blessings never come to an end because you are a God of infinite grace. Amen.

For forgiveness and faith – and forgiveness for when I lost faith during depression…

For purpose and hope – as I search for my purpose here – that it draws me closer to You; and thank You for restoring my hope from hopelessness…

For food and shelter – for food on my table, for this wonderful home in Virginia: may I not take them for granted but count them as blessings each day…

For family and friends – especially since they live far away: great friends and all of my family – watch over them and be with them in their joys and trials…

For strength and wisdom – I am oh so weak yet You are strong, and You promise wisdom if we ask – help me to lean on Your strength, and seek Your wisdom and not my own as I live each day here…

For rest and work – for rest: thank You for good sleep and for vacations; and for my work: may I be a light for You in my job…

For laughter and light – thank You for the laughter I share with my husband as we journey this part of our lives together, for bringing laughter and light into my life after the silence and darkness of depression…

Thank You for rescuing me from depression. Thank You for doctors and medicine and friends and family who helped me when I couldn’t see a way out. Thank You for life after depression. Thank you for the opportunity to tell of Your faithfulness to me during my journey through it. Thank You for Your blessings that never cease, Your infinite grace, Your eternal love. In Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.

Remembering Sadness: A Christmas Party

I was telling my therapist yesterday that I want to go back and read my old journals, written over the past 9 years, covering the times where I’ve been in and out of depression. But after I blogged about my stay in the hospital psych ward, I read about a work Christmas party that happened shortly after my release, and found myself crying. Sometimes, the stories are sad.

Typically on Holiday Party day,  I would work longer into the afternoon, and we would help Leanne in getting ready for the evening. She would have planned every detail of this party for weeks. She’s incredibly creative and clever, and she chooses the menu and theme and creates the fun game time for the annual event. We’d get tables set up and decorated, gather and set out supplies for coffee (the meal is catered), fluff the Christmas tree and check its lights, set up the sound system, move the piano out, and do whatever else we could to help her with preparations. The party is for Board members present and past, and the staff is invited to attend. I liked going, and my husband and I often served beverages before the meal. I had discovered this as my favorite way to meet and thank Board members without making tons of small talk! I don’t think I fulfilled this service in December 2009, and I’m sure that’s a good thing.

Looking back, I had no business being there that evening, not with my mental health fragility and the physical exhaustion I was experiencing as I was recovering from the serotonin toxicity. I wish someone had told me I couldn’t go. But I’d always attended before, and felt like I needed to this year, too. I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I was back to normal, even though that was far from true. My husband agreed to meet me there when he got off work.

I honestly don’t remember many details, but I do remember catching my reflection on the way to the bathroom. What I saw shocked me.

There was a short round woman, hunched over a little, her body being pushed hard toward the floor by gravity, her feet splayed for balance. Her hair was messy, but not cute-messy, and her face was drawn and tight. Her eyes were flat, and her lips turned downward. She looked horrible. And then I realized it was me.

I don’t think we stayed longer – I wanted to get out of there before anyone else saw me. I cried as we drove home – so sad for the woman I used to be. I didn’t think about how I would be her again someday – standing taller with confidence, attractively dressed, smiling with eyes sparkling. I could only be sad that at that moment she was gone, and in her place was this woman who had been beaten down and showed it.

Healing from the serotonin toxicity took way longer than I expected – months of me not feeling back to myself. My psychiatrist kept urging patience, reminding me that I had been through a major traumatic event. Everyone but me seemed to understand that I wasn’t weak, just healing, and it was going to take lots of time and rest for full recovery.

I cried a little as I retold this story yesterday to my therapist. And I realized that even though I really want to re-read all of my journals, it will not be easy. I am inviting myself back into sadness and sad memories, and I will mostly likely cry. She encouraged me to take my time – I don’t have to hurry – and I can stop at any point. She even offered that I could bring the journals to our appointments, if I feel that I don’t want to handle the emotions by myself.

At least I know what to expect. Some tears, definitely. But I’m also eager to read the evidences of God’s faithfulness, about the tools my previous therapist gave me, of verses of Scripture that sustained me. I will read expectantly, with my heart soft and ready to absorb the written emotions again, yet reading the journals with strength, knowing that I have come through difficult times and am the person I am today because of them. And I will cry.