Happy? How did that happen?!

I was recently awarded this tag for overcoming a period of gloomy days and regaining equilibrium and good cheer…. As a mom it’s hard to escape notice when life falls flat and your feelings are reflected on your face. I’ve just come through such a time and I guess I didn’t hide it very well. The tag was from my youngest child in the middle of a happy school morning–the first in a while. It was the first day of a general upswing in disposition that caught me by surprise.

So I’ve been reflecting on what brought about the change. I’d like to know if there’s a magic ‘key’ so I can use it sooner next time to escape the ”gloomies”. These are the factors I’ve considered. Maybe they will be of use to you too in escaping the ‘fog’ that life sometimes enters…

#1 Chocolate. I say this tongue in cheek. They say the stuff does have a real chemical effect that cheers you up. I did dip into my little stash of Cadbury Milk Chocolate straight from England. It was creamy and smooth and felt good going down but… I’d have to say, it didn’t have much long-term effect.

#2 Exercise. I mention this one a lot because I know it makes a big difference for me. It’s almost like a drug. Endorphins are the thing it triggers. Work hard aerobically and they’re almost guaranteed to make you feel better, afterward anyway! However this time I got on my bike and headed up the highway and it was freezing cold. My hands very quickly froze and then grew painful. I couldn’t think about much else. I resented the whole thing and returned home feeling rather spent and not really comforted. Exercise doesn’t always yield an instant gratifying result. I’m sure it had a longer term positive effect but for the moment, it seemed to intensify my gloominess.

#3 Sleep. This was my effort one day. There seemed to be a physical component to my ‘sadness’. My eyelids were heavy even though I’d slept fine, had breakfast and even been out to town and back for an appointment. It was only 9 in the morning. But I went back to bed anyway with no knowing when I’d feel like getting up! And who knows how long I’d have lain there half asleep mulling over life, my troubles, and their solutions…and trying to recall Scripture that might apply…

#4 Friends. But there came a knocking at the door. And lo and behold it was the mail lady delivering 3 cards from friends. All beautiful in picture and sentiment. All personal. All affirming. Only God could have arranged for that. And it was enough to get me out of bed and into my rocker in the sun.

#5 Sunshine. Its effects cannot be underestimated. I don’t think we know how good the sun really is for us. We’ve always been warned to avoid it. But when it shines in the thick of winter, it nourishes the soul and really seems to have a physical effect as well. Is this just Vitamin D? I wonder.

#6 Honesty with God and myself. OK so there was a particular morning where I’d reached the boiling point. Issues I hadn’t been able to resolve had built up. I had asked the Lord for wisdom and guidance but I didn’t feel like He’d answered me. I was up a creek without a paddle and failing to make any headway. I was angry. I took myself outside paper and pen in hand and (sitting in the car all bundled up) began to journal my thoughts, my complaints, my ‘case’! I took it to God and admitted where I was at. I recognized I was actually angry at God because I believed He hadn’t ‘come through’ for me! This caught me off guard. But getting it out in the open, admitting it, was a critical step because it quickly began to dawn on me that I was believing a lie. I might feel that it was true but the Word of God is far truer than any feelings I might come up with. Something might be wrong but it certainly wasn’t with God!! Just coming to that point was a big step. Because when I come in repentance I can again see Him as my Ally, not my enemy. And I can ask Him to clarify what I’m missing. He has promised wisdom. If I’m not getting it, then it’s me that’s double-minded, not Him that’s miserly! So, that was the start. Though admittedly, I was restless in my complaints and not ready to sit and hear all I needed to hear.

#7 The Word. For this little outing I had also taken my Bible, in case there might be something there to point me in the right direction. Oh my. And did it ever. James 1 had all sorts of things to say to me, about how to latch onto wisdom (ask–in faith. No doubting allowed), about how to manage trials(rejoice, they’re perfecting you), about how to receive the Word if you expect it to save your soul! (Meekly! not defending yourself and your ‘case’). It was good stuff. And some solace. But still I wanted answers. Still I was focused on my perceived troubles… [The Word came into play again later also, when I was less agitated and more ready to hear. This time it was comforting and reassuring, and probably The Key to bringing peace to my heart. Very sweet. God is faithful].

#8 Psalms and Hymns. A sunny afternoon came along. [Mind you, all these factors did not come into play on the same day. We are covering a few days’ time here!]. OK so I must get out for a walk. I chose a formerly favorite destination overlooking the Strait though nature walks had lost their appeal. Life still felt flat mostly. And I walked. When I got to the overlook I sat and began leafing through Psalms, finding the ones focused on praise and reading them out loud. I have recently bought a Message New Testament, not because I think it a great translation but because it offers a fresh perspective, modern language, in which I can express praise… So I read through some Psalms out loud as my own expression of praise. Did I feel it? Not at first. But I know it to be true. I know God is worthy of praise no matter what my circumstances may seem to be… And my heart did begin to thaw. Perhaps life wasn’t so flat… I suppose it was a beautiful day…And my soul began to be revived. I went on to sing some hymns and sign the parts I could (in ASL). This was truly therapeutic. Could this be why we are commanded to sing to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? “It is good to sing praises to our God;…a song of praise is fitting.”(Ps.147:1)

#9 Reflection on God’s true character. Somewhere in this process, my thinking was righted by thinking about who God truly is. While I was whining along, complaining, I was believing bad things about Him. When I reminded myself that He is always loving, always good, never changing, and always keeps His promises, well… then something had to give way. Perhaps the fault was with my hearing…

#10 Taking time to Listen. To be honest, looking back I think the crisis point could probably have been avoided had I faithfully spent time in the Word every morning and consistently kept asking God for answers and listening to Him! My problem was that the more ‘tired’ I thought I was, the more I justified sleeping in past that sweet time of morning when I was guaranteed to find Him ready and waiting to meet with me alone, in the quiet, before the day was rolling. I had neglected this and it was showing… The day things turned ‘happy’ again was the day I got up and commenced an old habit called ‘Morning Pages’. This is a practice of journaling first thing in the morning whatever comes to mind. It is a unique opportunity to find out what’s really on your mind. Artists and people in pursuit of their creative genius practice this. But I find as a believer it is especially helpful to me. I not only clarify what I am troubled about but it gives me a chance to mull it over before God and hear His quiet nudges as He points out things I wasn’t aware of and suggests changes of action I might take. It has always been helpful when I take the time for it. And so I recommenced the habit ( :

And with that my days turned a corner from fog to light again. I feel like I’ve woken up again. My interest in taking pictures and blogging, in teaching Rachel and drawing, in being in touch with friends and enjoying my family… all these are coming alive again.
And oh, where is that Cadbury chocolate? I believe I’ve eaten it all up!


I’d be interested to hear what your experiences are with staying out of the ‘bogs’ of life. Leave a comment here or e-mail me ‘that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.’

Night Wanderings…

Have you read anything about Alzheimer’s? I’ve only just begun. After a week of real-life observation and a session with a doctor pronouncing the grim diagnosis, the subject has become suddenly relevant to my life. It’s not a stray word or a vague notion anymore. It’s attached to somebody I love, somebody I long for continuing relationship with, somebody I ache for as they enter this lonely fog of confusion with the fancy name…

Funny how life takes unexpected turns, how one day this life seems fine and its relationships forever, and the next, you realize it’s not so. You have today, maybe. For better or for worse. Hope of a deepening relationship this side of eternity is in vain. Death is not the only thing that can rob you of your loved ones. There is this living creeping fog…

And just when you think the grief is over and it’s just a fact of life to be accepted, you read a new paragraph that describes what you’re facing, and are reminded again, this is for real. It’s a deteriorating condition. It’s not going to go away. Things are going to get worse. You really are losing the one who gave you your name but no longer knows it some days… Grief over? I don’t think so.

And then there are the fears that rise especially at night, from being related to this case by genetics. What if I’m losing my mind as we speak? What would that be like? Not to know or be known… Just when I think I’ve nipped this fear off in the bud, I forget some simple thing and the insinuations arise… hmmm, could be ‘early-onset’… This makes for an atmosphere-lightening joke when you’re with your sister; alone in the night it’s more of a nightmare!

But in the midst of these dark ponderings hope arises. I woke this morning remembering I have a Father who knows my name, who never changes, who won’t grow old though He is called the Ancient of Days, who knows me and will love me forever, though my mind doth me part. This is good to remember.

I have been thinking too lately about life’s purpose. What is my life’s calling? Am I fulfilling it? Am I maximizing the days I have for relationship by making sure the ones I care about know I care? Am I sharing my heart while I have the capacity to share it? Will there be longings for relationship with me that go unmet because I have withheld myself till it becomes no longer a conscious choice? And, am I celebrating the life I have, the relationships I share, the love I enjoy? Every day, a new day, an opportunity to be truly present with and for the family still in my home. This is something to treasure. I see it now with new eyes–something to remember while my mind can cling to the remembering…

But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ (Lam.3:21-24)