Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Protect your Balloons

My mother has battled depression for many years.  For any one who faces this demon, my heart goes out to you for your bravery in battling each day.

I say it is a battle because I've watched her fighting.  It is tangible, physical.  Some days it is an uphill struggle.  Some days the attack defeats you.  Some days the enemy retreats and there are breaks of peace.

As of late, I have noticed a shift in mom's attitude though, and as a direct result, I think her depression is improving.  Things that would normally bother her, I see her shrugging off.  Where negative comments once would have entered, she spouts something positive.

She said something so wise to me a few weeks ago at lunch that I've wanted to share.

"When my balloons are up, I'm not risking being around someone who will pop them!"

I'm not sure she realizes how profound this is but I'm so very proud of her.

My mom has loved Eeyore for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it is because she could relate to his moods.  There are times we have to 'kick her in the pants' and remind her she is being like her purple friend.

But I can't remember the last time I've had to give her a pep talk.  Instead, I find her giving them to me!

You can't control when depression hits but you can control your attitude every day.  You can control your outlook on life and how you face each obstacle.  And that helps you battle this disease.

Choosing to protect your "balloons" keeps from letting others drag you down.  If you know you're prone to sadness, don't be around negative Nancies.  It just adds rain to the cloud.

Finding joy can be difficult when facing depression or great loss, but it is possible.  The first step is choice.  Choose to get up, put one foot in front of the other, and focus on the now.  Choose to see the beauty in the day, despite the sadness that may be present.  There is always something, even if a tiny sliver, that can bring you hope.  And if you'll do this day by day, the joy becomes easier to find.  Pretty soon, joy floods and cancels out darkness.

Imagine starting each morning with a balloon.  

That balloon represents the good - the JOY - that you have.  It could be watching a beautiful sunrise.  Hearing birds chirping outside your window.  Hugging a friend.  Having two legs to get out of bed.  A strong cup of coffee.  You choose...

But visibly put that joy inside your balloon and let it float.  Take it with you, wherever you go.
If you can find more than one joy, imagine more balloons.  

Now, protect them.  
If you see storm clouds brewing, stand strong.  
If someone threatens to pop them, walk away.  
Do whatever it takes to hold on to that balloon.

And then do it again tomorrow.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


According to multiple sources online, the average adult makes over 35,000 choices a day.  That number seems unreal to me.

Thinking through my typical day...
Will I get up immediately or hit snooze?  Shower or no?  Curly or straight?  Dress up or down?  Should I wake my son now or let him sleep?  Will he get up easy or struggle?  Extra coffee or make time for breakfast?  And that is only the first 15 minutes of my day.

Most of my choices are habitual, automatic, turning in places before I've really thought out loud.  At work and on the road I'm faced with choosing and prioritizing, shifting and dealing with constant changes in plans.

Once home, the ultimate question my husband and I face daily - what's for dinner?  Even being the planner I am, that one still plagues me, as it depends on my mood, energy level, and the weather to what sounds appealing to us both.

The majority of my choices don't have heavy consequences.  When I am faced with ones that require more thought, I am one to analyze and pray, if given the time.

Yet today, after a simple sunrise service, I've thought about nothing else but choices.

Sitting on the front row, my view was three simple wooden crosses under a sky, still streaked with black and navy, as morning began to wake.

There's a lot of focus put on the cross at Easter.  For Christians, it is a symbol of our freedom from death, the sacrifice of our Savior, but also a heavy reminder of our guilt in sin that led him there.

This morning though,my eyes shifted to the two crosses on each side.  And I was reminded how a single choice had such very different endings for the men who were with Jesus that day.

One chose life, in asking for forgiveness, moments before his death.  The other mocked Jesus and sealed his own fate.

Darkness to light.  One single choice.

As the sun began to stretch across the horizon, I noticed the glow it cast onto the cross in the middle.
At one point all I could see was light and the reminder of death had all but disappeared.

For the men on those crosses that day, they knew their time on earth was short.  Most of us don't have that foreshadowing.  But all of us have the opportunity to make the ultimate choice between everlasting life and eternal death.  Until we don't.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where's your Focus?

My husband's simple prayer at dinner one night this week nearly brought me to my knees.

We were both struggling with back pain, though for different reasons.  I've been blessed to not really have back issues until the past month or so.  It has been one of the few parts of my body I can count on (or could!). Whether from age or changing needs at work, I come home most days lately in pain.  Tim is battling a kidney stone (ouch!) something he's been lucky to avoid for many years as well.  

As we eased down to our meal, we were both hurting but the words my husband spoke completely changed the focus.

"If it be your will, help us with this pain, though we know it is nothing compared to what your Son endured this week for us."

Lord, help me...

My temporary pain seemed so trivial compared against what Jesus suffered for my sins.  Was I really just whining about the inconvenience?  At the same time I was both upset and frustrated for Tim.  He's had a rough six months medically.  It's difficult to watch someone you love hurting, knowing there isn't much you can do to help.

When we're in the midst of troubles, it is easy to wallow around in a pity party and question why we go through the trials we do.  I know I've even tried to quantify it in the past, as if God is keeping a tally sheet and I'm somehow eligible for exemption based on a lifetime of pain and loss.

Yet, it's made me ponder since, how often do we get so wrapped up in our hurts and hangups that we have blinders to anything else?  

This world is so hectic and fast paced, even on an ordinary day we can walk right past someone in need without noticing.  But it's much more likely we miss them when we're bogged down by own issues and pains.  It's certainly hard to help someone when you're hurting yourself.

And that's just where the enemy wants us.

Friends, life is hard.  He wants you so focused on your needs that you don't have the ability to see anyone else.  Or, to be so inundated with physical and emotional needs that we have no time to dwell on the one that means the most - our spiritual health.

Facebook is flooded with prayer requests.  Every day I read stories that cause me to shake my head in disbelief.  Heartbreaking needs that pause me to pray.  We're so quick to ask for prayers on social media that sadly there are now even fake chain requests.

And I'm not saying we shouldn't pray for those hurting or in need of healing.  I believe in the power of prayer and am grateful for an extra outlet to lift those up in need.

But aside from my Lifegroup and a dear prayer partner, I rarely get requests to pray for someone's salvation.  When is the last time you saw a status update asking for prayer for someone who is lost? #prayingforsalvation

It just doesn't happen.  Maybe because we're so weighed down with the every day chaos that is life.  However, we have the power to change and shift our focus.  To lean in closer and hear the whispers of God.

When an ache presses me to move or take notice, my new hope is that it reminds me to pray for someone who is facing eternal pain.  If I feel overwhelmed from a minor issue, may it help me to refocus on what matters most.  Whatever we endure here is temporary.

Nothing - no pain on this earth - equals the void and loss that comes with not having a personal and everlasting relationship with Jesus.  

As we enter this Easter weekend, my prayer is that I'll be more burdened to notice those with the greatest need of all.  If I'm focused on One that matters most, I know He'll lead me in the right direction.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Terrific Twos

Last weekend, we had the pleasure of keeping my nephew, Eli.  He was good as gold but I forgot how exhausting caring for a toddler can be!  Maybe that's why it has taken me a week to recap our adventures.

We weren't sure how he would do, never having spent the night with us, but he was eager to travel with Aunt Heather.  Living in the city, I don't think he's used to long distance because if he said "we go Heather's" once during our drive, he said it a hundred times.  

Since I know a two year old can really only wait patiently about two minutes, we passed the time by talking about the view out our windows.  I mentioned the barns, horses, fields and cows we saw along the way.  Somehow that translated into me actually having cows in my backyard.  Once we got settled at home, he kept going to the back door and looking for them.

Although it was a little chilly and we were running short on daylight, I decided to surprise him and run up to our family farm to visit the longhorns.  The cows weren't visible when we pulled in but a quick shake of the gate had them rounding the hill in no time.  Excitement turned quickly to fear as they drew closer and Eli took off back for the safety of the car!  It took a bit of coaxing but he was soon a master farmhand and loved feeding the cows.  

In fact, the rest of his stay that's about all he talked about.  He still believed they were in my backyard and would look out the door asking for them.  "Feed cows?" he would sweetly say.

After a day of reading, playing, naps and cows, Aunt Heather decided dinner would be easier if someone else cooked!  Noah happened to be working that night and, knowing Eli loved him and pizza, that became our dinner plans.  He couldn't have been better, passing the picking on uncle Tim and watching Noah cook.  We shared so many laughs at his funny, inquisitive personality and spunk.    And we couldn't have asked for a more well-behaved toddler out and about.
Noah snuck him off a piece of dough and he pretended to "cook" with his buddy.  He was so focused, rolling and patting, adding sauce with his fork and even a pepperoni on top.  I love watching their little brains think and work.

Or imagine, create and build.

And decorate the doggie...

Who says these are the terrible twos?  I'd say they're pretty terrific!


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