God is Still Good

October 25 • My brother and I were messaging. He was so excited because he had finally been approved for health insurance! He had previously been denied because of his income. Now, “thanks” to new management and a cut in hours, he qualified. Funny, sometimes the bad things that happen today, God works them for our good down the road.

Johnny didn’t require a whole lot to be satisfied. He worked faithfully, full-time, at a local pizza joint in town for about 4 years. He rented a room in an old house in downtown Louisville. He did not own a vehicle so his feet were his transportation. Some may think of him as a sort of ragamuffin. He crossed paths with all the other ragamuffins. He had his struggles, his so-called crutches, that we feared held him back from his full potential. But I believe that even if those weren’t there, he still would have lived a simple life. He told me one day, “I don’t live 100% the life I would like. But, talking to rich people…they aren’t happy either. Happiness to me now is just being thankful for what I have…and knowing I could lose even that!”

Johnny told me this not too long before he made the decision to stop drinking. (Remember the crutches I mentioned? ) He was having a few health issues, although we didn’t know the extent of them at the time. One night Johnny had a long conversation with God and decided to make some changes. A couple of days into sober living was when he found out he was approved for health insurance. It was exactly the wind in his sails that he needed.

November 4 • We were messaging again. I tried to be the good, annoying big sister, and give him an accountability check every day. That day he had been sick at his stomach and thrown up. We just blew it off as a stomach bug. A few days later he began to complain of his back and leg hurting for four straight days, but we blew it off as a pinched nerve. Well I say we blew it off, but I think we both had unspoken fears we just weren’t voicing to each other. In the back of my mind was always this gnawing fact that he had a knot on the side of his neck that he seemed to ignore, for whatever reason.

Thanksgiving Day, November 22 • My parents went to visit Johnny and were immediately alarmed by the size of the knot on his neck. It had doubled in size. He had lost weight. My dad was ready to take him to the emergency room right then. But Johnny didn’t go. That night, he and I messaged and talked on the phone until around 1:30 the next morning. He was scared. Again, annoying sister stepped in and I told him to be honest with me about what was really going on. He said he was having a “lazy eye” problem, and his legs gave out on him the previous day. But he didn’t want mom and dad to worry. I realize now, he didn’t go to the hospital Thanksgiving Day because I think he knew. He wanted one more day at home to process everything.

November 23 • Black Friday. What seems the blackest of all Black Fridays. My dad drove to Johnny’s apartment. Whether he would go willingly or not, dad was going to make sure he went to the emergency room. He went, and within 3 hours dad called me with a diagnosis. It’s funny, we all, including Johnny, had tried to play off each symptom as something separate from the other, sticking our head in the sand maybe? Even my mom went to work that day. If she’d have thought that cancer would be the diagnosis, she would have been there. But now, looking back, it seems so obvious. Dad called and asked if I was driving. I told him I was, and he told me to pull over. I knew.

“Jenny…..it’s cancer.”

Cue the trembling.

“It’s in his brain, his lungs, his liver.”

I’m not sure that I need to try to convey the details of that moment. Unfortunately, some of you know. But just imagine a scene in the movies where someone receives shocking news, and then suddenly everything is spinning and in slow motion. It felt like we were in a nightmare.

One Day at a Time

At one point while in the emergency room, my brother’s hospital gown dropped off of his shoulder and my dad noticed a dark mole. He asked Johnny how long it had been there and he guessed maybe a couple of years. A couple of years! It had also changed colors over time. This was just inches away from the knot on Johnny’s neck. Dad pointed it out to the doctor, who didn’t seem to be phased by it. Johnny was admitted to the hospital and they continued with more testing…MRI’s, CT scans, blood tests. Dad pointed the mole out to a second doctor and he had it biopsied, along with the knot on Johnny’s neck. Our motto at this time became “one day at a time.” But it seemed that each day came with more bad news.

The cancer was…

….in his spine.

….in his ribs

….his hip, his adrenals.

….it was melanoma.

Every day, several times a day, doctors would come in to give Johnny updates. I had traveled in from Georgia to help mom and dad and to sit with Johnny. One day, Dr. “I” came in. He was so kind and mild-mannered and after speaking with my brother a bit, I think he felt free to ask, “Are you a praying man Johnny?” And Johnny said that he definitely was and that he knew that God would take care of him in whatever happened. So the doctor asked if he could pray with Johnny. We were so appreciative and thankful for the gesture and compassion the doctor conveyed. Johnny immediately thanked him and said “If you don’t mind, I’d like to pray for you.” Dr. “I” said “of course”and my brother prayed what had to be the most beautiful, humble prayer over the team of doctors tending to him, and a submission to whatever God had for him in the journey. I sat with tears in my eyes, thanking God for what had just witnessed, and amazed at my brother’s strength and attitude. I know there were days that he was in so much pain and down in spirit, but somehow he would always manage to come back around to saying “God is still good.”

Johnny praying with Dr. “I”

I want to try to remember everything in the order that it happened, but some days just blur together. But I’m able to pull out moments. Like, how he was certain that every pretty, single nurse that took care of him definitely had a thing for him. I kind of think it was the other way around. I guess that’s one of the perks of being single and in the hospital. He was the man of the hour. Then there was the nurse who put off the air that someone had stuck a lemon in her coffee. Just for a visual, she was a larger African American lady, kind of like the stern grandma-type that would spoil you like nobody’s business, make sure you left the house with your belly full, but wouldn’t hesitate to give you a good whoopin’ if you stepped out of line. Later she told us she had been nursing for 29 years! Her first visit with Johnny, she came in with not a word, not a smile. She fussed at him because he had started to struggle with swallowing and was eating a cheeseburger. She said that she may have to see about getting his diet changed. And then he said he didn’t want to eat no liquified meat. And with that, she busted out laughing. And just like he did with every single one of his caretakers when they left the room, he told her how much he appreciated her taking care of him. She was still smiling as she left the room. She really was one of the most tender and caring nurses during his time there. Then there was sweet “J”. She was another that would watch out for him. He eventually lost his ability to safely stand and was no longer able to take showers. He was embarassed at the thought of anyone having to give him a bath, but somehow she was able to break through all of that and convince him to give it a try. She had her hands full, but by the time it was all over, he was hoping every day was her shift. Every time she left the room, they would fist-bump, or he would hug her, thanking her for taking such good care of him. We watched many caretakers, doctors and visitors leave his room uplifted. He had a way of letting them know that they meant so much to him, and he truly meant it.

December 5 • Johnny went from pacing his hospital room to barely being able to walk within a week’s time. Then a week later he received a feeding tube. The tumor in his neck was pressing into his voice box and windpipe, causing him to choke and to lose his voice. In his own words, he sounded like Marge Simpson.

Johnny in ICU after his tachycardia spells

December 9 • He would not be able to do chemo or radiation since the cancer was so advanced. Regardless of how many times we asked, no one would give us a prognosis of time. Because of his young age, they were solely focused on doing all they could for him. His oncologist suggested immunotherapy, and with that news came some hope. If it worked for him, it would boost his immune system to fight the cancer. But, there were potentially fatal side effects as well. Johnny made the decision to try it and on December 9th he had his first treatment. The treatment went great with no obvious side effects. I returned home after my second visit and we all prayerfully waited.

My parents tirelessly took turns staying with Johnny. Dad would go in the mornings and mom in the afternoons. Tuesday after his treatment brought a trip to the ICU. His heart had some tachycardia spells. He had been there a week before for the same thing. It felt like he was forever being moved to another room. We teased with him that if he would just behave he wouldn’t keep getting kicked out.

December 13 • The Thursday morning after his treatment, dad arrived to find my brother had declined tremendously over night. He couldn’t even stand the weight of the hospital gown on his skin. He was in so much pain, especially in his head and legs. The palliative doctor finally told Johnny that he had just a matter of time. They removed his feeding tube and IV and moved him to the Hosparus wing of Norton’s. At that point they said he had days, maybe a week. So Philip and I made plans to head back to KY to the next day, Friday. I finished up some loose ends with my business, and we packed in anticipation of my brother’s passing and funeral. It was such a long night, like a horrible dream. Only I couldn’t wake up and make it stop.

My mom had stayed with him that night. He suffered tremendously. I can only imagine how she must have felt watching her baby in pain and not being able to take it away. I’m still amazed at my parents’ strength through all of it.

December 14 • That morning, mom told dad that he was declining rapidly and felt like it wouldn’t be long. Yet the Hosparus nurses still said it could be a few days. I called mom and had her put her phone to Johnny’s ear. Just in case, I said to him what I would say if I was there, and told him we were headed to see him but told him that if he was tired it was okay if he needed to let go. I tried to sound strong but wasn’t very successful. Inside, I was crumbling. I still wavered with whether we needed to be in a rush but my gut said that we needed to leave immediately. We did. At the same time, I knew it was a huge weekend coming up for Philip and our church, and leaving meant we would be bailing on all of it. But Philip brought me back to my gut feeling and said we weren’t turning back.

The trip home to KY is 5 1/2 hours from here, but that morning it felt like 500. We made it to Johnny’s bedside at around 3 P.M. I will keep all the intricate details private for now, although you are welcome to ask me about them in person. My brother drew his last breath at 4:31 p.m, just 90 minutes after we arrived. I wonder sometimes if Johnny was waiting until he knew that all of his family was there. It was painful and precious at the same time. Being with someone in their last moments is life changing. We have peace knowing that Johnny left this life surrounded by those he loved and that he had made peace once again with his Creator. We were able to say all the things we had hoped, with no regrets. He was pain-free the moment he took his last breath and that helps on these days where we miss him so badly.

Yesterday marked two weeks since Johnny’s passing. I’ve tried to use the days since to grieve and process. The last month has been non-stop, from Johnny’s diagnosis to pressing through the holidays. It’s strange how grief manifests itself. Two days after Christmas I climbed in bed and stayed there all day. Yesterday I got out and tried to do “normal” things but felt weak after just a few hours. My mom sent a text around 4:30 with this picture and I felt a wave of nausea hit.



My parents with Johnny on Dec. 13, the day before he passed

Some days there is numbness. Then there are moments of anger, questioning, and of course, tears and sorrow. I miss him so much. He is the only person on the planet that I literally grew up with so the world feels a bit more lonely. I miss his goofiness. I miss worrying about him walking home from work at 2 a.m. But then there is gratefulness that I had 41 years with him. And the last 3 weeks with him were like heaven on earth. We had precious moments together as a family that could never be conjured up by our own power. And God provided for Johnny to have insurance to cover his care. God is still good.

Then I think about the things about Johnny that will stay with me for the rest of my life. All of his life’s possessions fit in the corner of my parents’ dining room. He was a simple man, and I find myself wanting to be okay with living a simple life. He saw everyone as a person worthy of a smile and kindness. Despite what some would call a humble lifestyle, he still was glad to offer a helping hand to others even less fortunate than himself. His focus after his diagnosis was simply to glorify God and be a light and encouragement to others.

Now my only focus is helping others and maybe be a bit of a light.

-Johnny (Dec. 2 on FB)

He truly appreciated the ones that were looking after him. I will never forget how he would simply say, “thank you, I really appreciate you” and follow it up with a handshake or a hug. It was amazing to witness those simple words change the disposition of a person. Many times in the hospital he would reach out his hand and I would take hold of it. Sometimes he would say something like, “I’m sorry I threw that bike tire at your head when we were little” and I would say “I’m sorry I clawed you when you annoyed me.” Sometimes he would simply say,

“I love you Jenny”.

“I love you too Johnny.”

My world will never be the same without you, but it is better because you were in it.

When Your Kids Grow Up

It seems to be the season of embracing change again.  It’s 9 a.m. and I’m up. I’m physically out of bed anyway, I’ve been awake a couple of hours.  My brain says GET UP! But my body says NOOOOOO!  My brain finally won.  So, the rest of the house is still quiet, I have my coffee, and my brain and emotions are on overload. Preparing to move out-of-state is exhausting and the packing seems never-ending. Then, throw in the fact that our “baby” (by four minutes) moves to college next week, and our other two children will be staying behind to start “adulting” on their own, I’ve decided I’m going on strike. Can we just skip the hard things? Well, not really, but maybe just for the next 30 minutes I’m hitting the pause button. When you are anticipating that, come Monday,  you have to leave a huge piece of your proverbial heart behind, it hurts. Ahhhh, and now the tears…

But, I’ve got to get it together because that’s not why I sat down to write, although it is therapeutic!  I needed that session.  Thank you for listening. But, really, I’ve been thinking about other moms facing the hard thing of their kids growing up.  Reflecting back over a couple of conversations recently with moms preparing to send their babies to college for the first time, there’s so many experiencing this same unholy roller coaster of emotions.  And please, dads, I’m not diminishing your role and emotions by any means, but the moms and I just need a moment together. And honestly, we probably wouldn’t handle it half as well if we didn’t have the men in our lives being a steady, gentle reminder that our kids will be just fine.

I remember a year ago, loading up all our vehicles to move our oldest two babies (they’ll always be our babies after all) to a college in Louisville. And then even more recently, dropping our son off for boot camp.  I honestly didn’t know how I was going to let this happen.  I mean, my kids needed me!  They’ve needed me for 18 years!  They can’t suddenly just be ready to be on their own. I mean, they’re still teething, as a friend of mine says. But, I surrendered to the fact that it was happening and tried to embrace the change.  And guess what? My babies did it.  The caterpillars that we left on campus that day began to spread their wings and transform into beautiful, adult butterflies. The boy that shipped off to basic training, he came back a man.  Mind you, we did get these kind of phone calls:

Hey, my car just died in the middle of a busy highway.  But don’t worry, someone helped me push it out of the way.  Now what do I do?

Hey mom, my car got towed tonight because I parked in a no-parking zone. How do I get it back?

Hey mom (snickering), I had to do 200 push-ups today for impersonating an officer. Oh, and my platoon did too. 

Yes mom, you will get those kind of calls.  These are the growing pains.  Remember, what doesn’t destroy them will make them stronger.  But then, you also get these kind of texts or calls:

Hey mom, I got that job I was hoping for!  And I also made an A on that exam I was worried about!

Hey mom, the guys and I had an awesome time of talking and sharing and praying tonight in the dorm!

or, Hey mom, I got the second highest score on our physical training test! And I also registered for college today.

These are the words that encourage and let you know they are transitioning and grasping hold of their new “normal”.  And then, you get the BEST calls…

Hey mom, I’m coming home for the weekend!

As much as it seemed to me that my kids were dropping off the face of the earth, and they would never want or need their dad and I ever again, much to my delight, it didn’t happen that way.  They do come back.  They do still need you.  It  will just be in a different way.  You will begin to see them as young adults, capable of doing adult things.  And they will begin to see you as their friend and that you are their biggest fans.  And I said they do come back, like, sometimes they literally do come back, like have a change of plans and move back home.  They will not have it all figured out suddenly, and occasionally they will need to push the reset button. You will be that soft place for them to fall.

And might I add moms, you know how when they are younger, and all you long for is just a little time for yourself? Or you’ve wanted to try a new hobby, or there’s that trip you’ve wanted to take with your husband, or just that really long nap you’ve needed for like 18 years?…it’s just around the corner!  There may be some days with tears and missing them, but there will be new opportunities.  You will survive and they will too!

These are the things I will be reminding myself of the next few days and weeks.  Somehow, it makes me feel better sharing with you.  It helps to know there are a whole slew of other moms out there sending their babies off to college or kindergarten for the first time, or maybe off to basic training, or making a move that means some distance between them and their now-adult kids.  I’m there with you mom.  We’re all in this together.  If millions of other moms can do it, then so can we!  And our kids can too! I mean my goodness, think back over all of our journey. We survived the growing-up years and are now thriving adults, right?

And now we can settle in the fact that we’ve raised our kids to the best of our ability, we’ve entrusted them into His hands, and that the biggest growth comes from change.

When Our Heart Wanders From Home

Create in me a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalms 51:10
I stood in front of the mirror, no longer recognizing the person looking back.  The year before, my world revolved around serving my three children, my husband, and the church that he pastored.  But since then our family had experienced several major life changes and now it seemed to spin out of control. I was no longer sure this was the life I wanted to be part of, for it seemed completely different than just a few months before. I found myself in a personal identity crisis. I questioned my love for the Lord and His intentions for my life.  It was the perfect storm.

Where is the constant I once had?

God, I’m so tired.

I felt anger and bitterness from past and recent disappointments. I began to doubt and reject the values and belief system that pointed me north.

If this is how life is going to be, I don’t want it.

Rebellion and disobedience began to manifest in my actions and attitudes.

Eventually, I became exhausted from an internal struggle.  I could only balance conflicting purpose for a certain time before it became too much. I began to crumble, for, we can only cling to two sides for so long before we are called to abandon one for the other. God, in His mercy, will give us those moments to choose.

I eventually found myself in a moment where I had to choose whether I would reject what I’d always known as truth, or, cling to it in spite of fear and uncertainty.

Gracious Lord…I choose you and this life you’ve given me. Please forgive me. 

There was hard work to follow.  Old thoughts and emotions still lingered even though I chose repentance. I found great comfort in the Psalms.  I resonated with David and his struggles. David was broken after a time of disobedience and running. He finally came to a place of full surrender.  In Psalms 51:10 he calls out to God, “Create in me a pure heart, renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David’s words reminded me that I could ask for the same. I had not guarded my heart so there were internal repairs that needed to be made.

Lord, I’ve been trying to fix this in my strength.  Please do the work that I can’t do. 

Make my heart clean.

Help me to stay the course.

Some of life’s greatest battles stem from matters of the heart.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”.  The good news is,  when we fail to guard our heart, God can do a spiritual heart transplant.  With a new heart comes new purpose and affections.  I pray David’s words often. I am learning that God does just what he promised the Israelites in Ezekial 36:26, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.”

 

 

 

 

 

My 12 Tips for Coping with Depression and Anxiety

Today, I want to talk to the ones dealing with the darkness of depression.  Maybe it’s you personally or someone you care about.  I know you’re out there, so today, I want to imagine that this little blog has somehow reached you, and hopefully shines a little light into your situation.

I’ve been fairly open about my journey with anxiety and clinical depression, in hopes that someone walking the same path would not feel alone. I definitely don’t have all the answers, but struggled many years. Six years ago I was checked into the hospital because of feeling suicidal.  If I allow myself, I could think lots of scary, ugly, dark and discouraging thoughts about that time.  For several years I let that define me, but after about five years,  I made the decision to turn a new page in my life’s songbook.  I don’t want to play and listen to the minor notes on the previous pages anymore.  Now I look back with gratefulness and thanksgiving for the journey and all that I’ve learned.  I’ve written and shared many times from the open wound of depression, but today share from the scar.  I’d like to think that a lot of healing has taken place and that I can look at the last few years with better perspective and insight for others.  Mind you, the wound does get scraped at times, and I have to practice some TLC so that it does not become a gaping wound again. I guess that leads me to my intent in writing today.

Depression is like a big ol’ pit of dark and muck.

Sometimes the pain of it seems so much bigger than our ability to deal with it.  Everyone that battles with depression and anxiety has different contributing factors, whether they be internal or external triggers.  Finding the cause can be like peeling an onion, pulling back layer after layer.  My depression resulted from both internal and external issues.  And all along the way I prayed. And Googled. And read. And cried. And tried medications. And set across the room countless hours with a medical professional. And cried some more.  And then I went in the hospital because it all become too much.  There was a semicolon, but my story continues.  And you know what? If you’re reading this, your story continues too.

Your story is not over either precious one!  There is hope, there is hope, there is hope!

I’d like to share a list of the things that have helped me along the way.  It’s like a toolbox that I’ve gone to many times and may pull out all the tools or just one or two at a time.  It’s really a holistic approach of doing things that help spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  And these are not in any particular order of importance.

Well, I say they are in no order of importance, but for me this one was so very important.

  1. MEDICATION. Oh man, did I wrestle with this one.  There was no way I was going to get on “crazy meds”. That was for weak people.  That meant I wasn’t trusting God.  I had prayed that God would heal me.  That was enough. I didn’t want my personality to be altered or to feel numb. I struggled a long time with the thought of being on medications.  And once my doctor and I  finally made the decision that it was needed, it was a long process of finding what worked for me.  I mean years, like 10-15 years.  I even gave up on it at one point. Bad idea, Jenny needs medicine.  Not everyone does. But Jenny does.  Let me remind you that there is no perfect medication, as there will always be side effects.  The game-changer for me was having a genetic profile test done.  With a genetic profile test a cheek swab is done, then it is sent to a lab that specializes in genetic profiling.  The results are sent back showing how your body metabolizes medications and if you have any gene mutations.  Using that info, you are then given a list of which medications are the best fit for you.  I had been taking the wrong class of meds.  I only found this about four years ago and good grief, what a difference it has made!  So, if you find yourself facing the question ‘medicine or no medicine?’  I hope maybe that info may save you a long, exhausting journey of finding a match.  It literally saves my life.
  2. TALK THERAPY. This is an ongoing necessity for me. Find you a good counselor.  Find a counselor who will help you understand who you are in light of the God who made you and understands you.  This person will just be a neutral ear, with no pre-judgments or prejudices.  Sometimes just a good talk session helps sort all the fog.  Please don’t use money as an excuse.  There are counselors who will work with your financial situation. If you are local to me, message me and I can give you the name of a great counselor that will work with your money situation!
  3. A TRIBE.  You need people. The last thing you feel like doing some days is “peopling”. But let me encourage you to have a good support group. Not a big group, but a constant, faithful group even of just two or three.  It’s important to have someone who understands your journey, someone who can relate, and say “man, I get it”.  It’s important to have this person so that you don’t feel like you’re the only person walking the planet in such a state.  I thinks it’s also important to have someone who has been through the valley of depression but who has healed from it.  This person can offer you so much perspective and encouragement.  I remember receiving a letter from a person like this and I treasure it to this day.  They shared the things that helped them and the person was tangible evidence that it does get better and there is hope. So, find someone that is a constant visual reminder for you that it does get better. And also, maybe even have someone else who maybe doesn’t relate to depression but offers a more optimistic outlook on life.  These people can be our cheerleaders of sort.  They can cut through the lies and offer words of hope when our view of the future seems less than hopeful. My husband is my cheerleader, bless his heart.  God knew I needed an optimistic someone to keep me grounded. SIDE NOTE:  By a tribe, I do not mean just a “surface” social media tribe that you only connect with as you scroll Facebook, etc.  I mean a small group of people that will walk with you daily, that will meet you at any hour, that will go deep with you.
  4. VITAMIN D.  It has been shown that there is a relationship between low levels of vitamin D and depression.  Now, which one causes the other, I’m not sure has been proven.  There’s a reason we feel so amazing after a week at the beach, but when I realized I wasn’t allowed to pitch a tent on the beach and set up permanent residence, I thought I’d give Vitamin D a try.  I upped my intake with a supplement, as we usually don’t get the daily amount needed in our diet, and I noticed a difference in energy within just a few days.  When you’re dealing with clinical depression, lack of energy is a huge symptom, but this can help give a little boost.  And by all means, become a sun-worshiper. The sun offers the best source of Vitamin D.  Just use sunscreen!  Vitamin D is especially helpful in the winter when there’s not a lot of opportunity to be outside.
  5.  BE KIND TO YOURSELF.  Show yourself some love.  If being on social media triggers comparing and self-criticizing, then love yourself enough to remove yourself from it or decrease your exposure to it.  (Remember, we’re mostly looking at a highlight reel of everyone’s life when we scroll Facebook or Instagram. Ain’t nobody got it all together like most of us like to portray on social media. Just a friendly reminder). If you’ve made wrong choices and have stains, forgive yourself. Do little things that make you happy. If you can’t conjure up the drive to DO what makes you happy, then THINK about something that makes you happy. Do the best you can.  If all you can do is get up and take a shower today, that’s okay.  Congratulate yourself on the fact that at least you got up and moved.  I learned to cut myself slack on the days I had no motivation.  Sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves and tell ourselves we are useless in those moments.  My counselor encouraged me to tell myself it was okay if I was having a bad day or moment.  When I gave myself permission to to tell myself that, then it seemed I was able to recover quicker, and not cycle downward further from feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
  6. GIVE YOURSELF THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO.  Dark and suicidal thoughts can come mostly when we feel hopeless.  We fear that the future will be just like it is now.  So I have started trying to give myself things to look forward to.  They can be big things, like a vacation or weekend trip.  Or they can be little things like planning to see a movie during the upcoming weekend, or telling myself on Friday when I get paid I’m going to buy that dress I’ve been drooling over.  When we give ourselves something to look forward to, it shifts our focus forward.  It’s so important to give our mind something to break the never-ending negative thought cycles.
  7. GO HIKING.  Go for walks in the woods.  There is something healing about being in the simplicity of nature and away from all life’s distractions.  I love a quote by Henry David Thoreau, “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees”.  A good hike causes me to focus on the trail, or that switchback up ahead, or the gorgeous scenes that only untouched nature can offer.  Therefore my thoughts are not focused so much on my inner turmoil.  It’s a good break for the mind. Not to mention, the physical exertion boosts serotonin levels and relieves stress. And it works off that cream-filled chocolate donut I probably had for breakfast!  If you don’t like hiking, find some other form of exercise!
  8. RELIEVE UNNECESSARY STRESSES.  This one is pretty straight forward. Stress depletes serotonin levels.  Some stress we obviously can’t get rid of but if it’s not necessary and is causing you unhealthy stress, remove it from your life!
  9. STOP NEGATIVE THINKING AND OVERTHINKING.  I know this is so much easier than it sounds and it doesn’t always work.  Sometimes we can take a negative thought and feed it until it’s a big, ugly monster.  We may have something happen that triggers a dark thought, and we will keep dwelling on it, adding more reasons why it must be true or why our situation is only going to get worse.  My word, this is my biggest enemy.  I am an expert at it. So I’m working on a new exercise and I’ll explain. Our brain is geared to think one thought at a time.  You may have a hyperactive brain that thinks about five hundred different things in 30 seconds, but you are only capable of thinking one of those thoughts at a time.  So instead of dwelling on an ugly thought, consciously tell yourself to stop the thought and hyper-focus on whatever you’re doing at the moment.  My brain is a jumbled mess in the mornings and if I’m not careful I can experience anxiety within a few seconds of waking up. Getting ready for work can turn into one big, negative un-pep talk while I’m looking at myself in the mirror.  So, If I’m brushing my teeth, for example, I focus in on that moment and think about each action while I’m brushing.  Be in the moment as much as possible. This temporarily breaks the negative thought cycle, which in turn starves the monster.
  10. REMINDER: FEELINGS ARE NOT FACTS.  This is a big one. Just because we feel something does not mean it’s true!  Feelings are indicators but not facts.  They are not always something we should act on.  Feelings change like the wind sometimes.  I could not have told you with certainty five years ago that I would still be here today.  It took a lot of pushing and doing when I definitely didn’t feel like it.  If you are having dark thoughts or feelings of hopelessness, don’t act on them.  I can assure you that this is temporary although it may not seem like it at the moment.  Better days, better feelings, better moments WILL come.
  11. TALK ABOUT IT.  Don’t keep things bottled up.  Sometimes just talking about things helps to sort them and put them in their right place in our minds. I’ve even journaled my feelings to a friend, and sometimes just that act alone helps. And please, please, please, if you feel like giving up LET SOMEONE KNOW! You are not a burden.  You are loved.  Trust me, you are cared about.  I know your feelings may tell you something different, but they’re just not true.
  12. PRAY AND HAVE OTHERS PRAY.  My biggest catalyst of hope is a relationship with my Creator, the one who made me and knows me best.  We commune daily. Some days I haven’t always felt like praying so I just listen and let Him speak over me.  And you better believe, we’ve had a few conversations about why he wouldn’t just take this thorn completely away from me.  Dear one, pour your heart out to Him.  He already knows anyway.  Your feelings and frustrations will not be a shock to Him.  Have others pray over you, as my friends did over and over. On my worst days spent in bed, my husband physically knelt beside me and covered me in prayer.  Oh, my heart! Through this whole journey God has shown me so much of who He is. He’s walked with me and reminded me He is present.  I can’t explain, but on the darkest days, especially when I laid in the hospital, he reminded me he was with me.  Over time, I have begun to change the way I pray.  Instead of asking God to take the anxiety and depression away,  I have asked him to expose the dark, deep places that need healing and to open my eyes to how much he loves me.  Let me encourage you to ask Him to let you see yourself the way he does. Open your heart to each step he leads you to and there can be a healing from the inside- out. What a journey it has been but His hope is the anthem of my soul.

                 And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you.  Psalms 39:7

Obviously, if you are dealing with hopelessness and a constant cloud of sadness, there are professionals available and you should consider the help that they can offer.  These are just a few of the things that have helped me survive a moment or a day, and all those moments and days combine to make up the last several years, and today I’m still here.  And you’re here.  And we get to do life together.  I truly hope this has given someone a little something to help them through a moment or a day.  That would totally make my journey even more worth it.  Here’s to six years and counting! Here’s to hope!

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Psalms 40:1-3

Beautifully in Over My Head

I have two songs that seem to be the theme for my life right now, and move me beyond words. One is “No Longer Slaves” and then, this one, “In Over My Head”, both by Bethel Music. I stood in my kitchen this morning and poured these words out as a prayer to the Father.  Do yourself a huge favor and listen!

In Over My Head
I have come to this place in my life
I’m full but I’ve not satisfied
This longing to have more of You
And I can feel it my heart is convinced
I’m thirsty my soul can’t be quenched
You already know this but still
Come and do whatever You want to
I’m standing knee deep but I’m out where I’ve never been
And I feel You coming and I hear Your voice on the wind

Would you come and tear down the boxes that I have tried to put You in
Let love come teach me who You are again

Would you take me back to the place where my heart was only about You
And all I wanted was just to be with You
Come and do whatever You want to

And further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours
And further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours

Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
Then you crash over me, and that’s where You want me to be
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
Whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head
Whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head
I’m Beautifully in over my head
I’m Beautifully in over my head

My One Word

It’s January 4, 2016…2016 people!!

With that said, I’ve been thinking on New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve asked some friends and family if they have any goals for the new year. Some rattle off a long, admirable list.  Some tell me they don’t “do” resolutions. My husband says he is constantly evaluating and setting new goals for himself, so no need to at the start of the year, which is admirable as well.  Me, I’ve not been much for them until the last couple of years. I’ve decided that New Year’s resolutions aren’t so bad.  If it makes me refocus, even if it’s just for a month or two, which is probably around the time I’ll lose steam,  that’s a good thing, right? So, I do have some resolutions that I’ll keep to myself but I’ve also decided on a word for the year. Well, I say I decided, but really there was no deciding.  I really feel that God gave me this word after a lot of  praying and soul-searching the night before over some life transitions. I saw the one-word idea a while back, and love the thought of picking a word to focus on for the year, a word that sums up how you want to live or what you want to be. So, my word….

IMG_4436

(I had my sweet, artsy friend Presley paint this for me.  It’s going to be framed and hung in my house for when I need reminding, because I’m most sure I will.)

em-brace: an act of accepting or supporting something willingly or enthusiastically

Change is inevitable.

 The only thing constant about life is change and God’s faithfulness through that change. I know this will be a year for transition in our household, things we know are inevitable, and things unforeseen.  Change just happened this morning as my son was handed his license. Gasp! Why try to delay or fight something that we really have no control over anyway? Maybe if we welcome it and thrive in it instead of just survive through it, our eyes will be open to so much more God wants to show us.  That is my hope for you and myself this year.

em-brace: hold someone closely as a sign of affection, or, hug

Embrace those around you.

Some of you may be totally squeamish by that statement.  Maybe you’re not one that needs or shows physical affection, and I’m not talking in a romantic sense.  And that’s totally okay. Me, I’m all about it.  A friend and I discussed a while back how therapeutic a good, thoughtful hug can be.  A hug that says you matter to me, I’m so thankful you are in my life.  Even science says a good hug can actually bring improved health and elevated  happy feelings.

So I’ve decided that I am going to focus on both meanings of embrace this year.  I will open my heart to embracing change and I will strive to make sure the people in my life know I love and appreciate them, and it just may come through a thoughtful hug, but don’t worry I’ll try to respect your “bubble”.

Happy 2016!!

I’m Not a Minivan Mom Anymore

So yesterday I had to laugh at myself.  I found myself a little emotional over, of all things, no longer having a minivan.  Not because I no longer have one, but because I no longer have MY minivan. It’s funny how you can get quite sentimental over a material thing, much less, a vehicle. I even had this conversation with myself about how quite ridiculous I was being. But, you know, I realized it was a little more than that.  And some of you may think “this chic is just a wee bit on the emotional side”, but that’s ok, I can own that, and I think I’m just going to sit in it for a few minutes.

Here’s what I realized…this van has been part of my identity for the last 10 years.  I was a minivan mom. You see, when you have three kids, all born in the same year, mind you, (that’s another story for another day) and you live 10 hours away from “home”, you start to realize it really is the only smart solution. Some moms absolutely will not consider the possibility, which I completely get. But me, I didn’t mind so much. So I embraced it. We’ve owned a total of three.  This last one we had the longest.

IMG_4337.jpg

Here “she” is.

I stared at “her” in the driveway yesterday before we traded her off, and I had to take a walk down memory lane.  I thought about the dozens of trips from Virginia and Alabama to Kentucky, which is home.  I thought about our first major family trip in it to visit our nation’s capital, and how we lost that coveted new-car smell on the way home due to an unfortunate event involving a sour stomach and parents that were a little slow in comprehending that the groanings from the back seat were warning signs to pull over! There were the family vacations to Disney World and Panama City Beach, our favorite hang-outs. There was the time my husband and I loaded up two scooters in the back, not on a trailer, but in the back of the van, and hauled them to Sanibel Island for some fun in the sun. There were the endless times taxiing the kids and their friends with the music cranked. There were stains I could point to and remember exactly what they were, and share some funny story to go along with them.  And I can show you the spot where a certain child left a spilled soda drink in the floor and it dissolved the carpet. (Just thought I’d throw that in there. It dissolved the carpet folks! Just saying!) And most recently there were the driving lessons.  I’m sure that our friends that get the van will notice finger indentions in the dash board, and a slight caving in the floor of the passengers side from pushing on brakes that are not there.

So, these are some of the thoughts I had while staring at my van in the driveway yesterday. I suppose it is bittersweet. Bitter, because my kids are all driving age now, adult age, for that matter, and there is really not a need for Mom’s Taxi Service anymore. Sweet, because I can drive a car now and maybe reclaim a certain level of “coolness”, although I’m not sure that I even had a smidgen of it to begin with. And I realize that I’m not sad about the van leaving us, but, maybe I’m sad because my role is changing. But you know what? That’s okay! There is a season for everything.  I’m on day two of driving my car, and I must say, I’m adjusting quite well.

It’s Time..

Here I am.  I’m not sure where this will take me. This is not in my comfort zone. I may get emotional. I may face fears. I may laugh. I may find out new things about myself. But that’s okay. I’m excited for the journey. Yes, I’m talking about blogging, but I’m also talking about the reason why I’m blogging.

I believe our lives are a song. We live it in a way that sings to and about something. The theme of our life song may be sung to the tune of finding love, finding fame, finding financial security, the list goes on and on. I believe sometimes we can find ourselves singing one tune, turn the page, and the tune changes. I feel like the tune of my song is changing, for a few reasons. For a long time I’ve looked at life through a filter of fear, anxiety and depression. And I (and my husband,of course) have spent the last 18 years raising three beautiful, blond-haired, blue-eyed people that have consumed my affections, focus and energy. Well things have changed. I’m facing a change in my tune. I’m looking at life through a new filter. And this blog will be a tool for me to figure out my new melody.

So, I’m not sure where this will take me. This is not in my comfort zone. I may get emotional. I may face fears. I may laugh. I may find out new things about myself. But that’s okay. I’m excited for the journey. Yes, I’m talking about blogging, but I’m also talking about figuring out the new tune to my life song. I hope you will join me on the journey.