In With the New

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Gentle Reader,

Taking the last few weeks away from the blog has forced me to consider the time and effort that good, solid writing requires. I have had the beginnings of a serious project lined up since late summer, but fear and allowing myself to be distracted have kept me from starting. To craft a book, the kind I know that I am supposed to, is a serious commitment. What if I can’t do it?

Interestingly, I discover that I have had to work to keep the fear and the distractions going. The Lord has been pulling one thing after another out of my life; I have to find things to replace them. Once I actually sit down with all those research materials and start plucking at the keyboard, I know that I’ll be lost in the process. I know that I will regret not starting sooner.

Such is the nature of disobedience.

So, what are my resolutions or goals for 2013?

They can be summed up in one word: Discipline.

I want the self-control to (in no particular order):

1. Develop a writing schedule (subject to flights of inspiration and battles with writer’s block, of course). I’m getting nearer to 30. It’s time to be truly adult and serious about this.

2. Begin AND finish the project to which said schedule will be devoted.

3. Read through the entire Bible. I have a reading plan and a chronological study Bible that should aid in this. (In the past, I’ve always gotten bogged down in the Kings/Chronicles narratives. You’d think it would be Leviticus…).

4. Memorize 24 passages of Scripture, via the LPM Siesta Scripture Memory Team.

5. Disconnect from social media for long stretches of time.

6. Refuse to be part of any gossip or drama. Period.

7. Stop trying to people-please. This means speaking the truth at all times.

8. Stop indulging whiners or victims. We all have hard times, we all have bad days, and of course it’s okay to blow off steam or get emotional. I’m happy to stand beside anyone in that. But there comes a time in some when patterns begin to emerge and enough is enough.

9. Turn my anxieties over to the Lord. I have not yet learned to be “anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4:6) but I think that may come in the casting of the burdens upon His lap (1 Pt. 5:7).

10. Wake up at the same time every day. This might be the hardest thing on this list. Life with CFIDS is complicated, but becomes moreso with variances in sleep routine.

11. In relation to the above, I need to stick to the walking/yoga/stretching.

The first four goals on this list are the only ones with specific, attainable-this-year outcomes. The rest are all lifestyle changes that I’ve been working on for awhile now and may well continue to work on into the coming years. And that’s okay. I believe that we are all too obsessed with measurable achievement. Some victories are small and never seen. Some things are never finished this side of Heaven.

Easily enough written, but that list is mighty overwhelming at the moment. Thankfully, in the quest for discipline, I am not left alone:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.- Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)

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What Depression Means to Me: Joy

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Gentle Reader,

I woke up at 2 a.m. Saturday morning. For a moment, I didn’t know where I was. As it registered in my brain that it was still dark outside, I barely suppressed a moan. One of the worst parts of depression and anxiety, for me anyway, is the disruption of sleep patterns. I’m already tired all the time. I don’t need any help in that area.

Turning this way and that, I tried to get comfortable and float back into dreamland. It became quickly apparent that this wasn’t going to happen. I debated about going out into the living room, but the bed was so warm and I’m afraid of the dark. So, I flopped onto my stomach, smiling at my husband’s muffled protests, and began praying. I lifted up whatever and whoever happened to pop into my head, thankful that God understands that sort of weary, stream-of-consciousnesses kind of prayer.

More than once I turned to the idea of joy. For weeks now I have been searching out a definition that made any sort of sense. When others talked about joy, it took everything I had not to burst out screaming. What is joy? What does it mean? How do you get it? How do you keep it? Perhaps those seem like immature questions, and maybe they are. Maybe I’m immature. That doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is that God answered. I’m not one of these people that hears an audible voice or sees flashes of light. The Lord knows me through and through and I have no doubt that He knows such things would scare me witless. This answer was a sparkling clear idea, an idea that I would have never thought up on my own, pressed into all the cracked places of my life. I trembled with the sureness of it.

What is joy? It is the ability to look beyond the darkness and into the hope of the light.

That is what God told me, and it makes perfect sense to my mind. I’ve always struggled with Hebrews 12:2. How could Jesus have possibly had any sense of joy as He took the punishment of the cross? Did the author of Hebrews miss that whole Garden of Gethsemane agony thing? Now I read that verse and I get it. Jesus was absolutely depressed, anguished, full of sorrow and I’d even say fearful in His humanity. He knew the pain and the torture that was going to come. He felt all of those things. He sweat drops of blood. But during those terrible hours, in the midst of that horror, He looked beyond the darkness of His situation and into the hope of the light. His joy came in knowing that many people would be saved because of His great sacrifice of love.

Please pause here and thank Jesus. He’s just so awesome.

Joy is a choice. It is always available to those of us who are hidden in Christ, but we have to pick it up, just like we have to pick up the rest of the fruit of the Spirit. It doesn’t just happen. We don’t wake up one morning in possession of all these godly qualities. We have to cooperate with God and obey His leading. Yes, we grow and progress, but we’re never fully “there” this side of Heaven.

I have always thought that I was a defective, terrible Christian because I have not understood or grasped joy. Right now I think I’ve made it far too complex a concept. Joy is….

1. Taking an antidepressant each morning.

2. Knowing that the past is in the past.

3. Living under the authority of God.

4. Knowing, not just believe, that I’m forgiven.

5. Pausing to delight in glimpses of Heaven – a beautiful sunset, a fragrant flower, the laughter of children, freshly baked cookies, a happy dog, etc.

Joy isn’t a form of denial. I can’t sit here and say that I’m not sad and angry. I can’t realistically expect to wake up tomorrow and have every problem in my life worked out. I’m depressed and I’m anxious. This is not, however, the reality. The reality is that this will pass. There is more. There is greater. There is brighter. Joy doesn’t mean that a smile will suddenly stretch across any of our faces in the midst of struggle. It means we get through the struggle in faith, relying on the strength of God and knowing – not just believing – that the best is yet to come.

It is my hope tonight that this idea speaks to someone and encourages them as it has me. God holds joy out to you. He will give you the ability to look beyond the swirling storm. All you have to do is take it.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all the posts in the What Depression Means to Me series, go here.