Dog toy, Cat toy, My joy

A year and a half ago, we gave away our dog Ella to a wonderful family. They were going to provide her a loving home in the countryside, and we knew that was a better alternative than moving her to Florida. She’s a mutt:  a mix of beagle, basset and labrador – but if you look up Coonhound on Google, you’d see her picture. I always figured hound dogs loved the south – remember the dogs on the porch in “Hee Haw?” Well, Ella hated the heat, was at home in snow and rain. So we felt it best for her to not bring her with us when we moved. And as much as I’ve missed her, she is with a family she adores and who love her back, in a climate that she manages well.

We had her for her first six years, and like most dogs, she had her favorite toys. She had a stick that she loved to gnaw on – she had been so proud dragging it home from her walk. She also loved pine cones – I remember seeing her on a Sunday in December, tossing the tiny pine cones that she had pulled from my front door wreath – just throwing them in the air and watching them float down until she could catch them and toss them again. She was so full of delight, her whole body wriggled. It was hard to get mad at her for dismantling my wreath with such joy exuding from her!

Inside, she loved stuffed animals, especially the ones that squeaked. She would zero in on the squeaker and with her very strong back jaws, bite through the fabric to pull it out. She would completely de-stuff the toy – there’s a lot of batting that squishes into those fabric carcasses! But the squeaker was her delight – rolling back and forth, wiggling with the squeaker squawking until she had completely punctured it. Her entire body would wag as she laid on her back, paws flailing in absolute bliss.

I bought her two rubber toys, thinking that she wouldn’t be able to disembowel or destroy them – one was a blue figurine of a person, and the other was a red shape of a dog. Oh, how wrong I was. She applied her strong jaws to biting off the feet of each animal, and tossing those in the air.  The footies flew just like the pine cones! For awhile, we had two blue footies and four red ones, but they slowly disappeared, until we were down to one of each, then only one red one, then none at all.

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Fast forward 12 months, and my kitten Annabelle discovered a new toy – a red footie. As far as I can tell, it somehow became lodged in the netting of the underside of our couch, until one day it fell out onto the floor. Because suddenly, my darling kitten is chasing a bouncing red rubber footie across the living room floor! If cats have favorites, I’d say she loves this footie. Just like Ella, she tosses it in the air, but instead of catching it, she watches it bounce haphazardly a few times before she pounces on it. She picks it up and carries it to another room, where the routine begins again. And then suddenly it’s gone – nowhere to be found, until it shows up several days later in the window track or by the TV or under the throw carpet. She tosses it, she pounces on it, she wrestles with it, she buries it, then delightfully finds it again and the play starts over.

Watching Annabelle makes me smile as I see her pure joy in playing with the little red footie. I often wish I had such a thing, that would bring me joy like her toy does, and did for Ella before her. But that is external joy, and the Bible says that our joy comes from within. Knowing that our names are written in heaven for eternity. Complete joy from Christ placed in us. A gift from our Heavenly Father and as fruit of the Spirit. Multiple verses speak of joy being found in the Presence of God.

So why do I feel like I’m still looking for it? For some external toy, some outside thing that gives me the exuberance of a small red footie. I told my therapist years ago that I wanted my joy back, and I feel like I’ve been looking for it ever since that first depressive episode 8  years ago.

I think it might be that I find that joy, that exuberance again, as I continue to sit with Jesus each morning. As I draw closer to God and He shows me His heart and fills me with His joy. A joy that cannot be removed or lost in the couch cushions. Complete joy of His kingdom, forever and ever.

 

My Plans for 2016

Thanks to Dawn for asking the question that prompts this blog post! You can check out her writings at INSPIRATION with an ATTITUDE – great thoughts and ponderings as she draws lessons from daily life and God’s Word.

Anyway, she asked me at the end of my last post if I had any plans – not resolutions, but plans, for 2016. I appreciated that she phrased it that way – I gave up resolutions a long time ago. I’m not sure when that happened – probably when the word began to mean failure for me. Or maybe not failure, but “goals set unrealistically high.” Or “too lofty,” or “not well-defined.” Whenever it was, I stopped setting resolutions because I knew that my life wouldn’t change from December 31 to January 1, and so why bother.

That’s not to say that I don’t have plans. I do, almost always – by personality, I’m a planner. I have plans for the future – like before I moved across the country – I had great pictures of when and what that would look like. Plans for the week – when is that chiropractic appointment? Plans for the day – gotta get the laundry done. But again, not plans that I’d really consider life-changing. Not plans to introduce new habits into my days or weeks or year.

I think this means that I react, but am not always proactive. And when I’m depressed (which I am not right now – yay!), I’m too tired to be proactive. I don’t have the energy to do more than respond to my circumstances. It’s too hard to make changes. Which makes getting well really difficult, because my thought patterns during depression have to change to bring about healing.

It’s at times like now, when I’m mentally healthy – this is when I need to put new habits into practice. This is when I need to think about steps I can take to bring healing, or to stay healthy. So when my mood shifts to the negative, I already have good things in place to combat the depression that wants to take over.

That’s why eating well and exercising and taking my medication and meeting with my therapist regularly and having daily time in prayer and God’s Word are critical – I’ll need all of these to be part of my routine when I get to the point that I can only function within my routine – when I can only react.

And times like now, mentally healthy times, are a great time for me to try something new – add something from my wish list. What would I like to do when I am mentally healthy that I might not be able to do otherwise?

Beginning in 2013, I have 1.5 years of my timing, my plans, that didn’t line up with God’s plans and so didn’t happen according to my timetable. I became so frustrated, aggravated, and I became further depressed when things didn’t happen when I thought they should. From that, I learned that my plans can’t be written in stone. I must plan with my palms open, not gripping too tightly, because God’s plans are always better, but often don’t match mine. So plans are good as long as I keep them in perspective and am willing to let them go when God leads me into better plans, His plans. And His plans are always for my good.

I plan to keep that in mind for 2016!

Other plans, ideas for my future year:

  • Continue blogging. My last post of 2015 was my 100th one!  I’m pleased with that for my first year as a blogger. I’d love to develop a consistent blogging calendar, but am afraid to commit for fear I’ll miss a deadline! Maybe I should have a plan for publishing, but not tell my readers, so then no one is disappointed. But then where’s the accountability in that?
  • I’ve decided to write a memoir of my depression years and the lessons I learned of God’s faithfulness through it all. I’ve read a couple of books on writing memoirs – now I need to discipline myself with daily writing assignments toward this goal. I sure hope it doesn’t cause conflict with my blogging efforts.
  • I want to volunteer a couple of hours per week in a memory care or assisted living facility. This is a great tool for fighting depression – investing in someone else. It takes my focus off myself and allows me to reach out to others.
  • I plan to find a Bible Study where I can meet other women who love Jesus. I think this is important in my effort of making friends, which has been slow to develop in the 10 months since we relocated here. And I’m tired of being lonely, so I plan to do something about it!

So, those are my plans. But like I said, only if they line up with God’s plans for me.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11, NIV 

What are your plans for 2016?

It’s Crooked

We unpack and put away

every item in its own place to stay.

We’ve moved it all in.

Let the fun now begin!

We’ll hang all the pictures today.

 

With level and hammer and awl

and nails we place art on the walls.

We’re tired, it’s true.

Took the whole day to do!

Not straight, but it’s even, we’ll call.

 

Writing201 Poetry: imperfection (topic), limerick (poetic form), enjambment (literary device)

Notebooks: organizing and planning

I love the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Every day is written as if Jesus is speaking to the reader.

September 16: (italics is my emphasis)
YOU WILL NOT FIND MY PEACE by engaging in excessive planning: attempting to control what will happen to you in the future...When your mind spins with multiple plans, Peace may sometimes seem to be within your grasp; yet it always eludes you. Just when you think you have prepared for all possibilities, something unexpected pops up and throws things into confusion.

I did not design the human mind to figure out the future…I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all your needs, your hopes and fears. Commit everything into My care. Turn from the path of planning to the path of Peace.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 PETER 5 : 6 –7

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. PROVERBS 16 : 9

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. PSALM 37:5 (NKJV)

I read this and thought, “Of course planning brings me peace! I have Notebooks full of peace!” An entire Notebook System actually. I pick up the 10-for-$1.00, 70 pages college-ruled wire-spiral-bound notebooks at the start of school supply season. And in a variety of colors, too, because each project notebook should have its own color. (I have to double up on a few – the stores only have six colors at that price.)

My Notebook System is a central place where I jot down my thoughts on whatever is happening, pages to organize and record them. It’s a collection of details, because I don’t trust my brain to retain those. And I carry the required project Notebook everywhere, so that I can write in it at a moments’ notice, as soon as the details surface. None of that “I’ll remember and write it down later.” No! Write right now!

So my Moving Notebook (M.N.) is full of things to tell a Realtor we needed in a house. Things to tell our realtor we wanted to sell with the house. Notes on what those realtors told us. Dates. Deadlines. Contact information – realtors, moving companies, inspectors, insurance companies and notes on what they said our policies would be, what to pack in the suitcases, what goes into storage for the kids, churches to check out, sites to see, restaurants to try, names of our neighbors. [I would meet folks along our street, and then rush home to write down their names and which house – “A&S – kitty corner, wine (welcome-to-the-neighborhood bottle), across from M&K who are next door,” “G&S two houses over,” “T – left next to A,” “Other A – kitty corner across from us,” – you get the idea.] Other Notebook stuff – what did we need to shop for? Measurements for windows, for lampshades. Christmas “New House” Wish List. You name it! If I thought of it as we were preparing to move or even after we were here, it got written down in the M.N. And I’d read through each page regularly, checking stuff off when it was completed, writing DONE across the top of the page when I no longer needed to read that one, writing things a second time on a fresh sheet if the old page had too many scribbles. I’ve got this Notebook system down! I even pulled out the M.N. yesterday to look up measurements for our nightstand covers. And I added that ice cream place E told me about.

I’ve had lots of Notebooks: Notebooks dedicated to Summer Vacation Bible Schools (one per summer – reference last year’s but each summer gets its own). A support group I facilitated. Moms In Prayer. A leadership committee at church. The band committee at school. I did use my Graduation Planning Notebook for both kids – the things that happened Senior Year for each kid were similar, but party planning notes from hers didn’t help with his. Except that I still had that business contact for tables and chairs!

Honestly, I depend way too much on my Notebooks. I’ve often jokingly said that this is the way God created me – to be organized, a planner. I love logistics – pulling together all kinds of pieces to create a final project. All those spiritual gifts inventories and good-for-me books confirm it – it’s a gift from God, to be used by Him through me for the body of Christ.

But I am learning to be careful. God may have created me with a passion and talent for organizing and planning, but not as the end-all. I am not to put the plan above the Master Planner. These Notebooks do not bring me Peace. For example – when our move to FL was delayed, there was nothing in the M.N. to help me. Nothing that relieved the anxiety. Nothing that hurried up the wait. I had made the mistake of treating the Notebook as if it was the ultimate plan, and I was wrong. The plan for our move was in the hands of God, not in my Notebook.

God knows the Plan. His timing is not mine. His direction is often not mine. I may have misunderstood – or probably assumed – certain details or expectations. And I’m sure to be disappointed if I trust only in my Notebooks.

God wants me to be so tuned in with Him, walking so closely with Him, that when He moves in a direction or at a certain time, I’m ready; I’m there. And that can only happen when I spend time with Him. In His Word. In prayer. In His Presence. I need to be so close to Him that when He moves, I move. Like a dance, and I let Him lead! I need to be ready – He might spin me and catch me in a flourish.

I think I’ll start a Dance Steps Notebook.

You might be a sandbag!

During one of my previous depressions, my psych doc described depression as a rushing river, and my supports as the sandbags – those things that keep the depression from overflowing the banks and washing me away completely. Together, we listed my sandbags (in no particular order): him, my therapist, my husband, God, several closest friends, my ladies prayer and Bible study groups, my tremendous co-workers, my parents and my sister, my medicines, rest and down-time. Pretty amazing pile of sandbags! As I look back over more recent depressive episodes, there are other friends who have joined the sandbag pile, even fellow bloggers whom I’ve never met, but support me in my struggles and and encourage me in writing about them. (It might not be the most complimentary term to describe you as sandbags, but it paints a picture I can easily visualize.)

This time around, my local sandbag list is much shorter: God, my therapist, my psych doc, my husband, my meds, my rest and down-time. I have a couple of folks here who know I struggle with depression, even that I’m dealing with it right now. We’re still new to each other, so I’m not sure what or even if I’ll share. This shorter list has made this depression harder to manage, I think.

I’m learning that while my local team is smaller, my previous sandbags are still available! A simple text or email can connect me to them. When I first thought I was heading into depression again, I sent an email to friends and family who I knew would pray for me, and each of them responded. I felt alone, but supported. Several of them told me to call if I needed anything or wanted to talk.

It’s not really an option for me to call anyone – it’s too hard to do. Depression is isolating, and zaps my energy and willpower. The lies of depression tell me that no one who lives far away can help me. So when I don’t call, please don’t take it personally. I might want to talk, but it’s almost impossible to initiate such a call. There are a few “sandbags” who are the exception, but generally, even though the offers are genuine, the reality is that I’m not going to call. I’m not saying that in order to solicit calls – it’s hard to talk, too. It’s not the healthiest choice, but I often just want to be left alone in my gray-clouds world.

Even when I don’t seem responsive, I know my support team prays for me, sending an occasional card or email or blog comment to remind me that I’m not alone. And I am grateful that God has placed you in my life, and that you pursue me – you check in with me – and in doing so, you show me His love in the middle of my depression. And I try to respond to the emails – it’s easier than talking, because I don’t feel like I have to hold back my tears or sobbing. It’s safer for me.

All through the first years of my depression, and especially when it got really bad and I ended up in the hospital, I would ask God to use this in my life to help others. And He did. I discovered that I have the freedom to talk about it, to admit my struggles in this fight against an invisible illness. I discovered my voice in the battle against the stigma of mental illness. I was talking about it, people were responding with “I didn’t know you had depression!” or sharing their own personal battles. And my sandbags increased! Even better, God used my experience to allow me to be a sandbag to others:

God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us…2 Corinthians 1:3b-4, NLT

I decided to blog in an effort to be a sandbag for others. To remind us – that means me, too – that we are not alone. We certainly have Christ with us, and we have each other – our sandbags.