Battling the Blues

If you are Rocking around the Christmas Tree and having a Holly Jolly Christmas then please….carry on…this post is not for you!

This one goes out to those who, when the holidays roll around, struggle with the blues.

Maybe the holidays bring back painful memories of an event that, by a cruel twist of fate, happened during “the most wonderful time of the year,” or maybe you just cycle in and out of funks and the added pressures and demands of the season trigger an episode that makes it difficult to fully enjoy the festivities.

I’ve been there and I’d like to walk alongside you.

comfort

I both love Christmas and the holiday season AND I struggle through Christmas and the holiday season. I battle seasonal depression and it always creeps in this time of the year. It rolls in just before Halloween and lingers throughout the end of the year. Some years are milder than others. Every year, I hope and pray that I will escape it but for the past 10 years the pattern has persisted.

In years gone by, I have worn myself out fighting it but now I’ve learned to live with it, never giving up hope that one year, it will disappear forever.

In the meantime I have a few coping mechanisms that help to keep the blues at bay and allow me to resist the gravitational pull that makes me want to stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head. Maybe they will help you too.

Be gentle with yourself.

Unfortunately, I can’t control when the dark clouds descend but I can control how I treat myself. I have stopped beating myself up for not being able to “snap out of it.” I allow myself to move a little slower if need be and cut back on activities that sap my precious and limited energy. I’ve learned to let those close to me know that I’m struggling when I need to. It makes it easier to not have to pretend. Pretending is exhausting.

Schedule something for yourself.

The season can easily get filled up with things you have to do; make sure you make time for some things that you love to do. This year I scheduled a “Tea with Santa” at one of my favorite places, with my sisters, nieces and granddaughter. Part of the experience is looking forward to it! Maybe it’s just a walk on the beach to watch the sunset but do something that brings you joy. *Moms – this is especially important for us since we are typically making sure that everyone else is taken care of!

Get outside of yourself.

This is a game changer. There are plenty of opportunities to give this time of year. In my struggles over the years I’ve learned the principle of healing through giving.

Isaiah 58:10-11 says:

…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

Earlier in the chapter it says that if we clothe the naked and don’t turn away from those who need us — THEN our healing will quickly appear. Nothing helps us rise above our own problems or issues like serving those less fortunate then ourselves. And it doesn’t have to be monetary. Give of your time by serving and I promise you, it will lift your spirits.

passion-led-us-here

Next Tuesday, I’ll be serving at Metropolitan Ministries in their Holiday Tent with a group of ladies from For the Girls International. (You can join us if you’d like – sign up ends today – click HERE and choose Dec 20th!) Let your passion lead you to someone in need. God set it up so that when we give, we also receive! I love that! Look for opportunities to serve.

One of my all time favorite verses is one my Dad wrote in my Bible when I was baptized at 14 years old. This is the message version of Matthew 5:16:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.

berries

Even if you feel like your flame is merely a flicker, I assure you it can still brighten someone’s day and bring color to their world.

The other day I was feeling a little low, wandering through the mall by myself and I determined that I would try to be extra kind to the salespeople as the mall was packed with impatient shoppers some of whom were being less than kind! After waiting an inordinate amount of time to be served, the saleswoman greeted me apologetically and appeared to be resigned to receive backlash from me for the wait. I told her I was not in a rush and it was no problem. She thanked me profusely for my patience and began to share how angry people had been that day and how she had been mistreated. She went on to tell me that she had lost her husband, her mother and her sister all this past year and that she couldn’t understand why people had to be so rude when life was so short and unpredictable. She wondered aloud why people could not find it in their hearts to be kind. We had a nice little chat and I went on my way. My spirits were lifted just knowing that I had made a tiny difference in her day.

Allow your sensitivity to pick up on the sensitivity of others. There are a whole lot of people struggling this time of year. You are not alone. Depression can feel so isolating. So, I’ll say it again…you are not alone!

Lastly,

Remember The Reason for the Season

I know, I know, that’s a totally overused expression from the 80’s but focusing on the Christmas story helps keep things in perspective and makes all the hoopla fade into the background. For me, music helps me focus. Some of the beautiful Christmas Carols are life-giving if you listen closely.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Hold onto HOPE. Allow your soul to feel its worth. Weeping endures for the night but JOY comes in the morning. Your funk or blues or depression or whatever you want to call it, will eventually pass. I pray for those who struggle, so if that is you, know that you are being covered. Feel free to drop a comment with any additional tips or share your coping skills. I’d love to hear from you!

Wishing you JOY and PEACE,

Tracey xo

When God is silent

There have been times in my life when I have been plowing ahead, charting new courses and feeling guided with every step by God as I’ve prayed for direction.

And, there have been times when I have believed with all my heart that I was being sent in a new direction, heard whispers of inspiration and promise and then suddenly without much warning…

Silence.

I remember clearly hearing in my spirit that we were to adopt a baby girl from China. I knew it as surely as if I had seen a line show up on a pregnancy test that I was expecting a baby. God had shown me signs and confirmed it over again and then without warning everything came to a screeching halt. We encountered roadblocks that stopped the progress of the adoption and I felt like God had gone silent for a little over a year.

During that time when it looked like the dream was lost, there were times I wished I had never heard the promise, so that I wouldn’t be so confused and frustrated at the lack of fulfillment.

Silence can be deafening.

I heard a sermon recently that inspired this post. The pastor spoke of the silent period in the Bible between the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and the first of the New Testament, Matthew. I never knew this but there was a 400 year gap between those books. Whereas previously the Israelites had a succession of prophets speaking on behalf of God there suddenly came a large chunk of time when there was no prophet saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” It appeared that God had gone silent.

The pastor went on to describe in great detail all of the things that were happening in the world during that silent period: The rise and fall of empires, the political and religious changes and on and on. But what struck me most was when he talked about the infrastructure of roads that was created during that time and the wide adoption of the Greek language – preparation for the spreading of the gospel that was coming.

During the silence God was at work to ready the world for the birth of the Messiah and the spreading of His message of hope and redemption.

If God had answered my desperate cries during the year of silence during our adoption process I would not have my daughter because she had not even been born yet. Anyone who knows our family knows that she is and was always meant to be ours!! During the silence He was making roadways for the completion of our family.

If you are in that place today where you are not hearing anything, I get it! It can be so frustrating, but be encouraged today. God is making roadways that you cannot see to take you where He has called you to go!

My prayer for you is that you can rest in the promises and find peace in the sound of silence!

silence

A recipe for PEACE.

We interrupt the continuous process of you replaying over and over again in your head, the same scenario or problem that is causing you anxiety, with this urgent message:

interruption

You can stop anxiety dead in it’s tracks when you start focusing on the only person who can actually do something about it and promise you peace in the meantime.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philipians 4:6-7 

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
Anything.
Everything.
and lots of Thanksgiving.

Steps:

1.Bring anything and everything to Him in prayer.
2.Add thanksgiving.
3.Let it simmer for as long as necessary until desired consistency.

And BAM! Peace!

Thanksgiving is not just a day with turkey and all the trimmings…it’s an attitude that will change the direction of your life and bring you peace that goes beyond your own understanding.

I’ve recently found myself obsessing over things that I don’t have the power to change. When I do that I lose my joy and my peace (and have heart palpitations!) So, I write this blog to remind myself and hopefully someone else who needs reminding.

thankful

We must take the time to practice this verse and really focus on being grateful for the good in our lives to help redirect our thoughts. And the bad…well we can be grateful for that too, knowing that God is working on our behalf behind the scenes brings us peace that the situation does not naturally provide. Jotting it down on paper or in a journal can be a great reminder.

The holidays can be stressful. Peace can be hard to come by for a variety of reasons. Take time to practice gratitude and watch your anxiety transform into peace!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

A time to dance!

Just like the writer of Ecclesiastes said, there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

I am familiar with these seasons of life.  I’m sure you are too.  There are times when things are going along smoothly and there is laughter and joy and there are times when the proverbial rug is pulled out from underneath us and we can’t find our footing.

Hard times often come without warning and it is important in these times to remember these things…

1. The darkest hour is always before the dawn.

This truth has helped me to find my center on days when I have had a hard time seeing clearly. No matter how dark it is in your world right now there is light on the horizon. Don’t faint, don’t give up…just hold on until daybreak.  It’s coming!

2. Endurance leads to maturity

My experience has been that only once I have come through a major trial, can I see the areas in which I needed sharpening and maturing.  If I am being totally honest, given the choice I may have chosen to stay immature and a little rough around the edges rather than endure some of the darkness.  But now, having come through some rough waters I have gathered tools for the journey and maybe more importantly have gained a passion to deliver hope to those coming along behind me who may still be in darkness.

James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I don’t know if I was ever able or will ever be able to consider depression “pure joy” James, but I think I get it now. I want to be complete.  I understand what it means to be “lacking nothing.”  I have confidence now that whatever life throws at me I have all that I need to endure. I am lacking nothing. God is with me and never leaves me. Ever.

3. There will be dancing!

There IS a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Unfortunately they are not always on our timetable. A year and a half ago I went through the darkest time of depression and soul searching I have ever experienced. I was mourning my mother’s death and dealing with past hurts and stuffed down pain that wreaked havoc on my body, soul and spirit. It took over a year to process through prayer and counseling. I would have liked for it to be faster.  I would have liked a fast forward button.  But healing takes time. It takes work. But once it comes…there is laughter, there is joy…and there is dancing!

I just returned from a 3 week trip to Europe with my husband and my daughter.  It was the most relaxing and joy-filled time I have had in a long while.  My spirit was free. My heart was refreshed and I was reminded of the truth that there is indeed a time to dance!

dance with balloons

My eulogy

A few weeks ago I wrote my eulogy.eulogy

Don’t worry…I don’t plan on going anywhere soon. It was part of an exercise for a workshop I attended. The workshop was called The Power of Life Planning.

At first I thought it was a really weird thing to do but the more the instructor explained it the more I understood it.

The general idea is that if you write out what you would like someone to say about you at the end of your life, you can then work backwards and make sure you put a plan in place for those things to be accomplished.

It was very telling about the people whom I love, what I dream about, what I care deeply about and what I believe my life purpose is. I will reveal a few tidbits but you’ll have to wait 52 years for the rest (…I plan to live to 100!)

““““““

Who I love…

“Tracey loved her family with all her heart…”

I realized after writing with passion about my love for my husband and children, grandchild, great grandchildren-to-come and my extended family that I need to make sure that I am investing my time and energy into those relationships consciously and purposefully. Life can get so crazy that those we love most get pushed down on the priority list.

What I dream about…

“Although Tracey enjoyed traveling all over the world it was at her lake home in a little town called Jefferson that she felt the most like herself…”

So, I am not travelling the world…yet. And we don’t own the cottage in Maine…yet. But these are things I dream of and if I want them to come to pass then I need to start putting plans in place to ensure that they happen.

What I believe in…

“Her relationship with God was so deep and so critical to her that she longed for everyone she came in contact with to have that same experience. At age 14 her Dad wrote a verse in her Bible – a gift commemorating her baptism. It was Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. Tracey took that verse as a charge and tried to live her life intentionally to that end.

“““““““

You get the idea.

Writing out that pseudo-eulogy painted a picture of what I would like my life to look like when all is said and done.

It gives me something to work backwards from to make sure that I am building a life of purpose.

Obviously this will look different for everyone and many people will probably have higher aspirations than I do – as it turns out I realized after writing this out that I am not as complicated as I thought I was. I can really make life more difficult than it has to be!

And the other thing worth mentioning is that of course life happens and things change but this exercise is a good place to start to figure out what matters most to you and what you can be working towards.

I’d love to hear your thoughts…crazy idea or helpful tool?

Overwhelmed?

You will only be overwhelmed if you allow yourself to be overwhelmed.
(major life crises excluded – you’re allowed to be overwhelmed then)

Unfortunately, I allow myself to be overwhelmed way too often.

In the past two months I’ve…

  • hosted and spoke at an FTGI major conference and hosted 2 luncheons
  • spoke at an outreach event
  • attended my husband’s 4 day business conference
  • hosted 2 major parties at my house of over 25 people at each of them
  • had 7 people ( including one very tiny soft, sweet baby girl) stay at my house spanning 30 days straight of in-house company
  • had the flu along with several members of the family
  • had to navigate a very bad reaction while trying to wean off medication
  • attended a baby baptism, a baby shower, a first birthday party and a work dinner with my husband
  • attended a plethora of meetings
  • had a daughter on Spring Break

And these are just the biggies, not to mention… cook, clean (which often are left undone) and maintain some of my work schedule.

Let me be clear, I am not complaining. Most of those things are things I really love to do and would do all over again. Some of them were unplanned or snuck up on me and threw me off my game.  But that is life, right?

I’m sure if you listed out everything you’ve done in the past two months your list would be just as long.

Here are some things I am reminding myself of in order to not allow myself to be overwhelmed.

1) Be sure to create margins in your schedule.

Things pop up that need your attention whether you want to give it or not.  Things pop up that you want to be able to jump in on and enjoy.  If your schedule is too packed ~ the unplanned things in life will send you into a tailspin. Creating what I call “white space” on my calendar also allows time to feed your soul – to do something you love like read a book, paint, write, play. When “white space” is missing from my schedule I get overwhelmed.

2) Realize that you are only one person with the same 24 hours as everyone else.

I wrote another piece about this because it is hard to strike a balance but really – You Can Only Do What You Can Do! Trying to do more than what reasonably fits into your life is going to lead to feeling overwhelmed.

3) Say NO to some really good things in pursuit of sanity. 

This month alone I had to opt out of 2 events I really wanted to go to, a radio interview and an offer to co-host a radio show. I have been known to say, “I want to have and do it all” in a passionate moment but in the real world I have to make some hard choices in order not to set myself up for chaos.

4) Commit my time to God 

He is so much better at knowing exactly where I need to spend my time. Sometimes I get caught up and forget to consult the One who has numbered my days about how I should spend them! I find that if I take just a little time each morning to ask where my focus should be and ask Him to guide my steps life gets a lot smoother. He has designed me to thrive on being busy but He hasn’t designed everyone that way and He doesn’t wanted me overwhelmed or unavailable for the unexpected blessings that come along.

This seems to be a theme for me this year.  I welcome your thoughts and suggestions!!

smile
A little levity! Just smile 😉

 

In Pursuit of Peace

Saying no more than yes is the key to staying sane these days.

I want to say yes to everything.

But I can’t do everything well.

Other people seem to be able to juggle more than I can.

One of two things is probably true:

1) They actually have greater ability to juggle than I do.

or

2) They do a good job hiding that things are slipping and they are completely stressed out.

That’s why I need to:

1) Be okay with knowing my capacity for “things I can juggle” may be less than someone else’s.

and

2) Stop comparing myself to others.

Comparison is the thief of joy and peace.

comparison