Tears of a Clown~

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I had just given birth to my precious newborn son~ I had long-awaited his birth with great love and anticipation! Why then, when we arrived home, did I feel blue, dark, and sad……..for days?  I am a happy, positive person! Why was I feeling so “dark”.  I felt guilty and embarrassed.  I reached out to my personal doctor who helped me walk through what is called “postpartum” depression.  I found that experience scary and disconcerting; once it passed I was incredibly relieved.

It was in a small town in Northern California where my husband was serving as a pastor in a small church, I experienced the impact of depression once again.  I had two small boys, we were isolated, we were poor, my husbands schedule was enormous, and I was struggling to see where I fit in this community.  The darkness slowly began to settle in. As the church leadership became more and more unhealthy I became worrisome, scared, and lonely.  The darkness settled in even deeper.  I can remember the day when I called my mother who had always been so supportive; we talked for a half an hour when she began to say her goodbyes.  I can clearly remember saying to her ” No mom, you cannot hang up the phone, I can’t promise you that I’ll still be here”.  She remained on that long phone call until I could catch my breath and see a glimmer of hope again.  Depression had led me to the brink of reactional and unhealthy thinking.  It was scary.

In light of the recent passing of Robin Williams; a multi-talented actor and comedian, I was reminded of the power depression can have over the emotions and will of those struggling with it. I recognize that my depression was a result of hormones and situations that felt out of control~ yet, I have experienced just enough to know how scary it can be.  Clinical Depression is really serious and to onlookers often makes no sense.  A flourishing career and a history of great success could not remove the darkness that continued to settle into this actors heart.  Drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms could not make this darkness disappear, in fact it only made things worse.

We are left to ponder the power of depression in the lives of those we love and care for.  How can we help?  I know I don’t have all the wisdom needed to be a definitive voice on the subject; I have dealt with many people struggling with different levels of depression. Here are some ideas that could support those who struggle with depression:

1.  Talk about it, draw them out.  Be willing to sit and listen, really listen. Encourage them to journal.  Encourage them to find a counselor whom they can trust over a long period of time.

2.  Pray for them.  intercede on behalf of their un-healthy emotions. Believe that God cares for them. Remind them how precious they are to God.  ( Psalm 139:13-16)

3.  Get educated on clinical depression.  (http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-resources)  If we, or a family member struggles with depression, we must intentionally learn what we can so that we can watch for the signs and respond IF we see them.

4. Invite them into life-giving experiences–get outdoors in the fresh air, create opportunities for laughter, show you care.

5.  Isolation is a response to depression; be mindful that your friend or loved one does not experience long seasons of isolation.

Ultimately, we all need each other. Learning about depression, finding helpful tips, being prayerful can make a difference in those we love who are facing this “darkness”.

Suicide is heartbreaking for everyone! Everyone!  My prayer is that we will not lose another mother, brother, friend, or celebrity due to  the effects of depression!  😦

The Power of the Cross~

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As a young girl I loved Easter because I got a new frilly dress, a basketful of various forms of “goodies”, and my family always gathered together to eat and engage in the fun of a big ol’ Easter egg hunt.  I have lots of sweet memories of those days.

As I got older, I would hear about the sacrifice Christ made for me, but could not grasp the depth of what that meant for my life.  I knew I felt emotional, teary at the Easter services, but the idea that anyone would ever experience THAT kind of torment for me? Unfathomable!! I did not understand the gravity of the Cross.  I remember many years where the family would gather on Easter evening and the major TV networks would play the movie “The Ten Commandments”; still to this day I cannot figure out what that story had to do with Easter.  Perhaps it diffused the message of the Cross.

We wear crosses around our necks, I’ve seen tattoos of the cross on many an arm, and we have crosses displayed in a great deal of our churches. Yet, we can only begin to feel the Power of the Cross when we apply to ourselves personally; He did it for me!! For me!! I look at my life, my choices, and my challenges; I don’t deserve to be loved and forgiven in this way!  and yet, He did it for me….

Last night I had the privilege of walking through the Stations of the Cross.  It was a vivid experience as I knew with every step toward a new station I was walking nearer and nearer to the Cross. The moment was powerful to my soul when I rounded the corner of the room. My eyes were fixed on the Cross lying on the ground; nails still in place.  I wept with sadness and with joy.  I felt the gravity of the cost for my forgiveness. I felt the power of the Cross.

The Apostle Paul said it best; “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Grateful and humbled this Good Friday.

Don’t think He doesn’t hear YOU!

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The temperatures were rising as my friend and I made our way to one of the many pools at the resort where we were staying recently.  As we entered the gate we saw an adorable sight! A mama Duck and 4 daring, tiny ( days old) baby ducks! Really so cute!!    However, as I watched this sight for a short period of time I began to realize what was really going on.

This mama and her babies had been in the pool a really long time; too long.  Mama duck kept jumping up on the cement border of the pool, then turning to her babies in a sound that convinced me she was begging them to jump too.  The jump was too high, too far.  The babies were tired.

Well, my friend and I were so concerned so we used numerous methods to “try” and help them climb out on their own.  A pool float, and chair leaning into the pool, a pool noodle set as an angle that would have allowed them to simply walk out!  There was a way out and yet they stayed far away from these different pieces of equipment not realizing that they were there for there own good!!

Frustrated I sat in my lounge chair assuming that “nature” would figure a way out, I should let nature take it’s course.   I tried to ignore their constant peeping, tried not to acknowledge their attempts to climb out revealed by a tiny knowing splash! Ugh, I could not stand the thought of those little babies drowning on my watch!!

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With all the resolve I could muster I stepped into the pool determined to lift these precious little ones out of certain failure.  When they saw me coming they were so afraid, fiercely peddling those tiny feet trying desperately to get away! Didn’t they know I had a plan for their good~~ to save them???

Finally I was able to “corner” those tiny babies in my much bigger hands and lift them out to safety! Whew!  When their “feet” hit the dry pavement they scurried away into the bushes leaving the pool area! They were Free!! I was relieved.

I always consider all the life lessons around me; fiercely looking for a deeper truth hidden there and God is always faithful to reveal precious thoughts to me!!

So often we stay in unhealthy situations: relationships, jobs, or ministries because we feel we cannot find a way out. The leap seems to high, just impossible!  The Lord in His goodness often provides “escape” opportunities; ways to move out of a season that is creating undo weariness, and many times we just can’t see it! We may even see those options as something to fear! ( like the floating device the ducks “could ” have utilized but were deathly afraid of!!

We serve a compassionate God and even when we miss all the signs He will reach down and “pluck us out” of a situation and put our feet on a firmer foundation. Initially we may feel shocked or uncertain -yet hindsight will reveal the depth of His love for us!  I have seen this so many times in my life. Situations that seemed like an end was actually a fresh start on “dry ground!”.

Never imagine that your Heavenly Father is not aware of how fast you are peddling and that, like me listening to the peeps of weary babies, He misses your tears. He does not!  So I encourage you to look at your life with a fresh filter! If you recognize you are weary and a change needs to come; Trust that He is setting out tools of escape for you and if you face a dramatic ending to something unhealthy consider that with His big hands He has lifted you out of the water because His heart was breaking at your cries for help!  He can’t rest when His children weep.

Trust that if He hears you He will not leave the “pool” until He has seen you through!! He is so good.  Let that soak in! 🙂

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It’s Been a Year~~ Miss you Christopher Ryan Smith.

It was around this time last year that we learned that our beloved Christopher Ryan Smith had his life brutally ended by an evil, greedy individual.  The hearts of our family and hundreds of his friends were shattered.  We experienced despair, grief, and many questions for God.

As I wrote in previous blogs ( Christopher, Aug. 2011, We said Goodbye for Now, Oct. 2011, and the Uniqueness of Grief, 2011)  losing Christopher is the deepest grief I have ever experienced in my life. Ever.  Through this grief I have learned a great deal.

I have learned that God remains faithful in the darkness of night when questions flood my heart. I have learned that I don’t understand all the ways of God; but that my role is to trust Him even in the midst of deep sadness and unanswered questions.

I am reminded of Christopher in a song, a picture, facial features of a stranger, a smell or even a memory that sweeps across my heart at random and inconvenient times. Thoughts of my precious nephew are simply a heartbeat away.

I now have a very eternal perspective; one foot on earth, one foot anxious to be in Heaven.  I hold a short list of offenses recognizing that life is short and uncertain. I filter my calendar to be sure that I spend time with precious friends and family; never assuming I will get the chance “tomorrow”.

I will never have the perspective that Christopher was taken from us and that all the lessons are “worth it”. NO, I would rather have the chance to make memories, laugh, and discuss the mysteries of the world with that precious young man.

But–God is faithful to give us small opportunities to find “beauty for ashes” in the midst of great grief.

It’s been quite a year.

Perhaps you, too, have gone through grief points this past year. I pray you find, as I have, that God is very very near to the brokenhearted. May you find “beauty for ashes” as you navigate that sadness’s you have faced.

Breathe.