Wrapping up the month of November

Monday, November 28

The pain I’ve been dealing with is coming from the sciatic nerve. I’m going through physical therapy now and hope to be back to normal activities soon.

Tuesday, November 29

This morning started out with a sluggish weight and depression setting in. I’m not used to being home with nothing to do all day except think. I’m actually going this morning to talk to my mental health counselor and get a handle on my mood before it sinks into a full depressive episode.

I’m waiting to hear from both my doctor and my boss to see what the next few weeks will bring. I worked 4 days total in November, so this is going on a second month of sitting at home in pain and thinking too much.

Tuesday, November 29, later in the day:

My counselor was able to help me get back on track with a few statements we’ve talked about before. A) acknowledge that I am thinking negatively about myself; B) believe what is true about myself and God; and C) change the default. A) yes, I am in pain and am missing time from work; B) it isn’t easy, but God has never let me down and will help me through this challenge; and C) to try to stop the negative thoughts from taking root. Changing the way I think takes time and practice. I’ve done pretty well over the past few months but I needed some reminders. Thankfully I didn’t slide back into that pit of depression. God is awesome and His Word is true and powerful.

Wednesday, November 30

One of the steps to gaining back my mood balance is to “Change the Default.” That is something my counselor came up one day when something she was printing went to the default printer, and not to the one in her office. She told me that is like what I go through. Every time I struggle, I default my thoughts to blaming myself, self-judging, worrying about what people think about me. She said I needed to change the default thinking.

As I began to grasp that understanding, this is something I wrote down. A prayer of sorts, to read to myself when I need to remember that I am okay just the way I am.

I wrote this several years ago but it’s always good to refresh my way of thinking. 

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God is on the Move Today

Anytime I fight against the darkness in my life, God moves in with the light.

It was no different this week.

On Thursday night I struggled with sliding towards the pit of depression.

By the Grace of God, He reminded me to Feed the Light that is in me through salvation.

Through praise and worship, that lightness overtook the darkness and I was again set free from falling into the pit.

God is good.
All the time.
Even when our circumstances are not.

Plans for future lessons for children’s church have been rattling around in my brain the past couple of days. More so since I woke up at 3:00 a.m. which is the time I usually like to get up. I go to bed early at night so I can rise early and start my day while the world is silent.

A couple of cups of coffee, some social media until I wake up enough to work on my writing or children’s curriculum.

The Passport to the Promised Land curriculum that I created and others assisted with turned out successfully. We’re learning to work with flannelgraphs. If you’re not familiar with them, they are felt pieces of characters and items in the Bible that are presented on a large board as a story is told

We’ve also used videos, games and crafts to present unique lessons. We’ve stamped our passports and traveled through the Old Testament with Abraham, Joseph and Moses. We’ll cross the Jordan River in another week and then celebrate along with the Israelites who returned to the land God promised Abraham. We’ll learn that God keeps His promises. He promised to never leave or forsake us. He always keeps His Word.

Now that the holidays are nearly upon us, the focus of our children’s church lessons will be on the events surrounding birth of Jesus and how He brought hope and joy and love into our hearts.

Since those lessons are outlined already, I’m looking ahead to what the Year 2023 will bring.

Our church has saved Vacation Bible School curriculum for many years. I’m coming up with the lesson plans and creating my own curriculum, well, me and the Lord that is. And I brought home the director’s manuals for most of the previous VBS programs.

Last night I started searching through them. Today I did some more indepth searching and also looking up the stories that correspond with the lessons from our Betty Lukens Bible story book that came with the awesome set of flannelgraphs our church ordered last spring. We’ve used the flannelgraphs, which are bright and colorful, along with the stories in several of our lessons, successfully.

Last winter and spring, I taught the Bible in chronological sequence beginning with Jesus growing up as a boy and getting lost at the temple. Well, He wasn’t lost. He knew exactly where He was, in His Father’s House. His parents lost track of Him.

After that story we followed Jesus’ teaching and miracles, his death and resurrection and ascension (Return to heaven). Then we continued with Pentecost and the Acts of the disciples in May.

For 2023, I intend to do something similar but with all new stories and lessons. We’ll have the opportunity to put the flannelgraphs to good use..

I spent time last night and this morning organizing most of the lessons into an outline with specific dates and stories we’ll be learning. I’ve marked pages of the VBS directors’ manuals to search more thoroughly and gather ideas from.

I see some exciting things in our future!

God is on the Move!

I’m excited about the possibilities for the future, both for my local church and one day when I publish these lesson plans and make them available to other churches.

Sometimes we have only one child. Usually three or four. A couple of times we’ve had 9 children, and that is exciting when that happens. But we still do the lesson and work the program as much as possible for one or two children as we do eight or nine. Or 12, or 20.

Each child deserves our best effort and the full impact of the lessons.

You see, I grew up in a little country church. We didn’t even have indoor plumbing. The congregation faded away, until it was just our family and a couple of other people before the church closed.

Yet we always had Sunday School. We sang choruses in the opening and had class time. Our teachers prepared the lessons for us even though we were the only ones in the class.

The foundation of my faith began in that little church with those dedicated teachers.

I hope that the lessons we teach will be the foundation on which our children in my local church will build their faith, also.

God is on the Move!

The link to a song by this title is below. The lyrics are very meaningful to me. As evidenced in my own life in the past two days, God moves when we surrender to Him and move from the darkness into the light.

Feed the Light

It’s been a rough week.

I wish sometimes life would be good all the time, but that is not the case. Not for anyone. The tide ebbs and flows. The sun rises and the sun sets. Seasons change. We grow from helpless infants and travel through life only to find most of us helpless as we reach our final breath. The darkness comes at night, only to become light again as the sun rises.

“Feed the Light.”

Those were the words whispered in my ear last night.

As I said, it’s been a rough week. After some tests to find out what is causing abdominal pain, a doctor I saw in a walk-in clinic took time to talk to me about it and find out what was going on. She ordered an MRI so she can look at the big picture. I hope to find out what is causing the pain, yet if it is something serious, I don’t know if I want to know. People deal with pain all the time, but sometimes there are serious conditions causing that pain. Since I haven’t received a call to schedule the MRI yet, then there is nothing I can do but wait.

And pray.

And trust in God’s faithfulness.

I also may be facing laser surgery to correct glaucoma. It is a scary thought to me, to be so vulnerable to eye surgery. But without it, I could lose my eyesight. I have an appointment scheduled to see the specialist in December.

Again, there is nothing to do but wait.

And pray.

And trust in God’s faithfulness.

Our God is a good God, but not everything that happens in life is good.

We live in a fallen world full of darkness. God is our source of Light and Strength.

I wasn’t myself yesterday. I think the pain, the missed time from work, the fear of the unknown, all weighed heavy on my mind.

Late yesterday afternoon I found myself hurtled towards the darkness of the pit of depression.

“Feed the Light.”

Those words came to me.

I got out my phone and fired up my Spotify playlist.

This is the song that I played: “Rattle” by Elevation Worship. (Link to YouTube video below)

I couldn’t help but find the source of my strength and hope as I played the song.

This morning, I still don’t have answers. I still have pain. Yet I have found my hope.

I have avoided the dark pit of depression once again.

God is good. And faithful. He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.

He is my Light.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

From the Archives: Get Up and Try Again

Week 4 of my Journey out of the Pit

During the process of healing from my depression, I found that maintaining change was hard work. After just a few weeks of counseling sessions, I was already failing in my attempts to get out of the pit.

I felt like I was in a downward cycle. I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t maintain the house or remind myself of the truths I’d memorized.

I couldn’t find my way back out of the pit.

My counselor shared with me these Bible verses from Job:

Job 23:8-10

“But if I go to the east, he is not there;
    if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
    when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
10 But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

My counselor said that even though I couldn’t find God in my life, He knew where I was.

He was with me in the pit even though I couldn’t see Him.

My feelings were all over the place. My counselor reminded me that feelings are not facts. That’s why I needed to latch onto the truths I had learned.

She also said that it’s okay to slip and fall. But I had to make a choice: I could lie in the pit, or I could apply the tools I’d learned and continue to move forward.

It’s okay to pray, “No, I really can’t do this, but God, if You help me, I’ll try.”

In those low moments, we need go back to these verses in Job. God knows where we are. He is with us, even when we don’t feel His presence or see Him.

And we don’t give up hope.

We get back up, and we try again.

It’s now been several years since I began the process of healing from depression. I wish I could say that it’s easy, but it has ups and downs. I slid back into the pit a couple of times, but never as low as I was before I started counseling.

These days, I live above the pit. By the Grace of God, applying what I’ve learned through counseling, and with support of family and friends, I can fight the darkness that drags me to the edge.

I stand strong most of the time, but sometimes a person says things that hit me wrong, I make a mistake that I perceive as dumb, or a circumstance that I can’t avoid happens. (Like when a new job didn’t work out–more than once).

Then my feelings start to get in the way of the truths I have learned about myself. I falter in my steps and slide a little closer to the pit.

When that happens, I do these things:

I attend counseling sessions so my counselor can help me get back on track.

I also read my Bible often, and pray for myself and for others.

I listen to music. With a music app, I can set up a playlist for every mood.

I take care of myself physically through regular exercise, healthy eating choices and getting enough sleep. (Not always, but often enough to make a difference in how I feel).

I do a lot of journaling, as well as other forms of writing.

I have friends and family who offer emotional support.

My counselor said I remind her of the Energizer bunny. Remember those commercials? I slip, I fall sometimes, but I always get back up and try again to move forward.

Proverbs 24:16 says:

” for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again”

It’s by the grace of God and all of the above-mentioned efforts that I am able to keep out of the pit.

Still, one year later and 8.5 years after my first counseling appointment, I need to reset my mind and thoughts often. I don’t handle change very well, and my social anxiety is sometimes off the charts. But the only way to move is forward.

Psalm 46:1 says it all:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

From the Archive: Tools to Change

Week 3 of my Journey out of the Pit

I’ve shared in previous posts that 1) the rungs to help us climb out of the pit are the truths about ourselves; and 2) our feelings are not facts.

After the first two sessions, I was still integrating the new thought patterns into my life. One night, I was feeling down and negative about myself. I was in physical pain.

I looked back at my counseling notes and remembered:

One day at a time…THIS is the day that the Lord has made…

I remembered a pastor’s message to “make a joyful noise.”

I started to sing (I don’t remember what song). After a few wobbly notes, I was singing praise songs.

I spent time in my room, with Itunes playing on my laptop, and relaxed for half an hour. Physical pain subsided as I quieted my thoughts.

The next time I met with my counselor, she reminded me of these Bible verses:

James 4:7-8

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8(a) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

She encouraged me to resist the negative thoughts that had dragged me into depression and to turn and embrace God, who is powerful.

When we say, “Help me,” His Spirit comes in and rescues us.

The journey out of depression is like taking baby steps.

My counselor gave me some tools to help me in my battle with depression:

Get out in the sunlight.
Do something to move. Get my body in motion.
Deep breathing
Muscle relaxing
Picturing a quiet place (which for me was our friend’s cabin on the river)
Thinking of a hymn or song
Remembering helpful Scripture verses

Change is uncomfortable, but without it, we can’t grow. Change isn’t going to happen by accident, but by applying the tools I’ve learned and working on myself.

I thought of myself as damaged goods, but Jesus paid the price for my sins because to God I am worthwhile. I have value.

Therefore, I need to take care of myself.