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

The long way around

I learned in school that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. When I travel, that is the route I always like to take. I choose “shortest route” on the map app on my phone.

But, in life, God doesn’t always take me that way.

Oftentimes, He takes me the long way around. I suppose it should comfort me that I’m not the only one.

Exodus 13:17
It so happened that after Pharaoh released the people, God didn’t lead them by the road through the land of the Philistines, which was the shortest route, for God thought, “If the people encounter war, they’ll change their minds and go back to Egypt.”

So, if I understand that correctly, He knew them well enough to know that if they faced the opposition that was inevitable on the shortest route, they would bail. Instead, He took them the long way around. On the way, they developed character, they learned about His timely provision. They acquired the tools they would need for battle.

If I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone, it is short lived. I become disturbed once again when I realize that if I had been determined enough from the beginning to handle opposition with resolute determination to persist on the journey NO MATTER WHAT, I may have saved myself a lot of time.

Of course, this is just speculation and I know that God in His sovereignty may have still decided to take me the long way around, however, if He gives me a choice in the future, I choose the shortest route from now on.

I say, bring it on! I am ready to face the giants.  I am ready, knowing that He goes before me, paving the way, protecting me, and picking me up when I fall.

Long way or short way…I’m going the distance.  How about you?

closer than before, on my way, go the distance, face the giants

Last Monday I had a hangover.

vulnerability

I thought that might get your attention!

But, it’s not what you are thinking. What I had was a vulnerability hangover.

Let me explain.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak at my church. It was a message of encouragement but within the message I told the entire congregation about the fact that my depression had gotten so bad last year that I decided to treat it with medication. It was pertinent to the conversation because I was talking about shame – something I felt a great deal of and had to fight off. I felt good about sharing because even though I knew it would be uncomfortable, I believed it would help someone.

It went well and many people thanked me for my transparency. On Sunday night, I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do.

Then Monday came.

I woke up and thought, “I can’t believe I shared such personal details with 3 services worth of people not to mention those who may watch the video.” I was experiencing a vulnerability hangover. I didn’t make that up. It is a term coined by Brené Brown, researcher of such topics as courage, vulnerability, authenticity, empathy and shame. Brené explains that a vulnerability hangover is “the feeling that sweeps over us after we feel the need to connect… and we share something deeply meaningful. Minutes, hours, or days later, we begin to feel regret sweep over us like a warm wave of nausea.”

I’m happy to say that because I have been sharing bits and pieces of my story for a while now, my hangover was not too bad. I was able to shake it off pretty quickly having learned these 3 things.

#1  It’s worth it.

The discomfort of vulnerability is worth it when you weigh it against the value of connection.  Connection, true connection is what people who are in need are looking for.  It doesn’t help them to see someone who acts like they have it all together all the time – it only adds to their shame and impedes their ability to open up and share themselves. When true connection is made, we share. When we share we heal.

#2  It’s not the critic who counts. (thank you, Theodore Roosevelt!)

At the heart of the vulnerability hangover is the fear of being judged.  Since depression is classified as a mental illness I battle the fear of being defined by my struggle. There are people who will disagree with how I choose to handle and overcome depression but in the end it is not those people who I necessarily feel drawn to connect with.  I have come to terms with the reality that there will be those who may not understand or have a different opinion than I do. I have resolved that I answer only to the One who has called me to share my story in order to help others.

#3  It’s not about me.

We live in a me-driven world. As a Christian and follower of Jesus, I want to live as He lived.  He lived His life entirely for others.  Notice I said I WANT to live as He lived. That doesn’t mean I always do, by any means. But when I am feeling exposed and vulnerable I remember that in order to live the way I claim to want to live, it requires dying to myself and living for a greater cause.  Ironically, it ends up being the best thing for ME. It is where I derive true joy and peace – so in the end it sort of is about me.  But that’s how God works.  The more we pour ourselves out on behalf of others the more he pours joy and peace into us. It’s a pretty good deal.

Final thought on vulnerability, again from Brené Brown. (can you tell I love her and her work?)

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. 

Amen.

Have you ever experienced a vulnerability hangover after taking a courageous step to share a part of yourself?  I’d love to hear about it ~ please leave a comment!

My Story.

This has been my year to be brave.

In the beginning of the year, actually at the end of 2012 ~ this verse leapt off the page to me and I didn’t really know just how much I would need to draw upon it until now.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go ~ Joshua 1:9

For five years I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my story and my struggle with depression but never in as much detail as this past Sunday.

A few months back my Pastor asked me if I would share my story as the wrap-up of a series called UNMASKED.  It was timely request.  After 7 years now of cycling in and out of rough bouts with depression I finally feel like I have a handle on how to cope with it.

Every time I make it through a rough patch I believe that I am done with it forever although I know that is not probable.  The difference now is that I feel like I have all the tools I need to fight. Until this past year I always felt like I was missing something. Now that I know how to combat the shame associated with depression I believe that I will never suffer as badly as I have in the past.

You can hear my story here. The message begins about 21 mins into the video.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 8.47.23 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shame affects every one of us without exception so regardless of whether you suffer from depression or not I believe this message will encourage you.  At least that is my hope and the reason that I have chosen to be brave and share.  As always I welcome your feedback and comments…

Beauty for Ashes

beauty for ashes, mourning, joy, garment of praise, prisoners, Isaiah 61A few years back I was praying for direction for FTGI.  I was hoping God would direct me to something in the Bible to steer me.  One thought led to another and I ended up in Isaiah chapter 61. It is a beautiful poetic chapter charging us as Christians to (among other things):

  • proclaim good news to the poor
  • bind up the brokenhearted
  • to proclaim freedom for the captives
  • release from darkness the prisoners
  • to comfort all who mourn
  • to provide for those who grieve

I love the way it describes the way that we are to bring hope ~~ bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair!

Whew! Like bringing oxygen to someone gasping for breath. What a privilege to be charged to bring such hope to those who are hurting!  Everywhere you turn in this life whether they look like it or not there are people with deep hurts and need for hope.

Here I am send me, prisoners, Isaiah 61

This week I have the privilege of bringing good news to some prisoners.  I have been invited to bring a message of hope to the women residing in a Pinellas county jail. I’m sure the platform won’t be fancy.  I’m sure the facility will not be particularly comfortable. I won’t receive a speaking fee.  I haven’t even given a thought to what I will wear. And yet this may be the most literal interpretation of what God has called me to do.

I find myself overwhelmed with the responsibility and yet I know that all I need to do is show up and allow God to speak his life and redemption through me.

There will be approximately 100 women attending.  I am looking for 100 women to partner with me to pray this week over these prisoners for their hearts to be open to the redeeming love of Jesus that I hope to bring to them. If 100 women pray for one nameless but specific prisoner we will have each one of them covered.

Will you partner with me? Leave a comment to let me know.

Praying that at the blessing comes back around to you!!

It’s OK not to be OK

On a daily basis I post a picture or encouraging word on our Facebook page for For the Girls International. To let you in on a little secret…I usually post things that resonate with me personally.  That’s how it works.  I see something that hits a nerve for me and I figure someone else probably needs it too.

Occasionally I check to see how many people we are reaching with our Facebook posts and the data I saw yesterday was very telling.  In case you don’t know how it works, the more people that “like” or “share” a post the more people it reaches.

The last 7 posts (not including the announcement of my incredible granddaughter’s birth – which generated a lot of interest!) averaged a reach of 284 people.

Then a few nights ago I posted this (because I needed it):

Tough times, hardship, depression,

The reach for that post rose to over 2000 just for that one post! I don’t have time to figure out the math (that would seriously take me several hours) but that is a huge increase in reach.

So why was that post so popular?

3 reasons:

Because we all have our struggles.

Because we all need to know it’s ok not to be ok.

Because we all need to know that God loves us and is working through our struggle.

This is a tough time of year for me.  Thankfully it’s not as tough as it’s been in the past but the process of writing my book causes me to unearth some past hurts and pain that stirs up some emotions that I struggle with.

Reading that post helped me take a deep breath and know that God is allowing me to go a little deeper and peel another layer off to become more and more whole.  He loves me that much.

Sharing that post helped me realize that the more we are transparent about our struggles the more we help others to know that it is ok that they struggle too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts ~ so please feel free to share.  It helps to know that we are all in this together 🙂

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I'm ok, you're ok, mental health, depression
And sometimes it’s ok not to be ok!