Hang On

How To Keep Showing Up For Your Life: FOUR

Sometimes life takes our breath away.  Some days we stumble through the fog wondering if we will ever feel happy again. Most all of us experience this in one form or another. But not all of us are honest enough to call it what it is, depression, anxiety, fear…and not all of us are brave enough to share the experience with others so that it might be a comfort and help.

My final guest is both honest and brave.  I’ve known Linda most of my entire life. Among being an extremely talented woman, interior designer, business owner, actress, model, writer, music producer, yoga instructor…the girl isn’t afraid to try anything…she is the most vulnerable and transparent person I’ve ever known. Sharing freely her heart and life experiences with others just to shine a light, bring comfort or give hope to a weary soul.

Today’s final post in this series is a bit heavier than the previous.  But I believe that this topic is real and necessary for us to talk about.  Depression and anxiety affects every single home.  Although it can be very troubling and dark it does not have to be forever.  We can find our way through, but it takes all of us to be willing to discuss it openly, to pursue help, to de-stigmatize it so that we can all find our way through the fog.

Everyone, meet Linda.

It’s Going to Be OK

The hollow, heavy ball of fear landed in the pit of my stomach New Years Day.

Like an intruder.

Uninvited it came.

Stealing any sense of peace or fragment of hope that I was clinging to. I felt its’ constant grip tightening around my mind. My limbs felt as if electrical currents were running through them and caused me to feel uncomfortable even in my own skin. Sleep was elusive and unwelcome- it only meant that I would face more time in hell when I awoke.

My bedroom had become my prison cell, my bed a place of exposure-exacerbating the struggle to escape. My body curled in the protective posture of a child that would not settle, trembling as my mind drifted toward a hopeless place of despair.

Randi, a friend of mine since childhood, called me during one of these endless days of sheer fear and as she talked over the phone in her soothing voice like a mother to her babe. She painted a picture for me in my troubled mind.

Linda, you know when you’re driving in the fog and it’s so dark and thick that you can’t even see an inch in front of you? Then all of the sudden you reach the edge and it suddenly clears. Well , you could be very near that edge.

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It was a simple picture that had a profound impact on me. It was a divinely inspired word in season and ripe with the hope I needed at that very moment.

I didn’t expect it.

I didn’t do anything to make it happen.

It was a gift.

It’s going to be OK. I needed to hear those words repeatedly during this dark bout of anxiety. I would ask those close to me; my husband, my sisters, my family to say those simple words to me because I really didn’t know if I was going to be OK again.
I felt as though I was wearing a mask when I would interact with people. I had the sensation of peering out from my body like a costume.  My inward reality was much like that of a frightened child who was hiding. I was so filled with fear that I couldn’t eat. I lost over 30 pounds which only added to my anxiety. I felt like I was slowly losing my ability to function.

It scared me.

It scared my family.

I was seeing a counselor and she suggested that I go on a low dose of Prozac to help me get my emotional feet under me. She said, Linda, I believe you can get to the other side of this with or without medication, but the longer you stay in this severe state of anxiety, the more of a toll it will take on your self-esteem. I did go on Prozac for six months and it made a big difference with my ability to heal, but the aftermath and damaged self worth took a couple of years to heal.

I pleaded with God to lift the darkness and take away the fear but it was a slow process and it was hard to understand. I needed others to stand in the gap for me during  that time and they did. I clung to words of hope and truth from God’s word that became like doses of spiritual medicine as I would read them over and over.

So much of my fear was about my future. I felt that I would never do the things I loved again. I couldn’t picture how anything was going to be made right. I felt so lost. And I was. But through the help of family, friends, wise counsel, unending prayer, medication and a God who would never fail me – I made it through and became stronger because of it.

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Journal entry
3/5/2001
I think the longer I walk with God, the more questions I have…
I find this comforting. As His mystery and majesty have grown, so have His
trustworthiness and faithfulness in my life. I find His largeness combined with His goodness very settling. My faith has become more childlike in its’ maturity. There are many things I don’t even strive to understand anymore—I know that God is good, and that is enough. His goodness is like an undercurrent that runs beneath the surface of my being–it carries me through troubling times and reminds me that, if I allow it to, it will take me to deeper places of trust and faith.

linda lee puffer
11.21.17

Do you think you could be experiencing depression or anxiety and it’s bigger than you can handle?  The holidays can trigger emotional turmoil. Please, reach out to someone for help. If you don’t know a doctor or counselor, ask a trusted friend or family member to help you find the next step toward healing and help. A courageous person is not someone who feels strong.  It is someone who knows they need help beyond themselves. Blessings to you my friends.

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How To Keep Showing Up For Your Life: ONE

Do the Next Right Thing

Can you remember a time in life when you were waiting for something?  Waiting for a call from a doctor, prospective employer, a child at college or banker regarding a home loan?  At one time or another we are all waiting on something.

Not that long ago my husband and I waited longer than we ever had before. The most recent recession hit us hard.  Neither of us had any real experience with dramatic economic shifts. We were baptized by fire. My husbands entire department was eliminated from his company as was the case for countless Americans. Millions of people seeking employment at one time and there are virtually no new jobs available. Do the math.

We became a statistic.

A face-less number.

Casualty of the recession.

When trouble hits we usually maintain a cautious “wait and see” attitude.  That’s how we started this journey.  We told ourselves all the right stories of faith and courage.  We prayed and recruited others to pray. Filled our minds with Scripture and positive thinking. These things were helpful, for a while. But we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

We are most brave when the looming giant is still far away.  It’s not until we stand in its’ enormous shadow that bravery runs thin.

Days turned into weeks, turned into months which turned into years. Yes, years.

The giant was much bigger than we imagined.

Any sense of calm started to wane because no one can escape panic when you’re dangling over a pool of hungry sharks. This is how it feels when there is nothing protecting you from doom. This is how I felt.

Waiting became our new norm. I’d wake up to nothing changing, except resources. Those dwindled like sand through an hourglass. My fortitude dwindled too. My husband and I both needed each other to be steady. That just wasn’t always convenient.

I was running out of energy for everything; for hoping things would change, for God, for cleaning, for family, for thinking, for talking, for prayer. I was even too tired to sleep. This was an emptiness I had never known before.  My inner dialog made accusations,  You should be able to handle this. But I couldn’t. It was too much.

Some things happen to you without permission and without warning.

Honestly, at any given moment I didn’t know how to keep going. After all, there were kids watching. There were worried parents. There was an inwardly stressed husband holding up a strong and confident outer shell. God, how could this be? This isn’t how it’s supposed to work, right? Loving friends and family came along side but facing the daily fear monger was something I had to do alone.

Deep in the maze of endless time I heard five little words that changed everything. Do the next right thing. I don’t really know where I heard or read them but somehow they embedded in me. I found them to be a pathway; a way through the darkness by focusing on simple everyday things. As stress and fear became significant I stopped and asked, what is the next right thing to do right now. On any given day the next right thing looked surprisingly ordinary.

  • do two things on my to do list
  • go for a walk
  • say “yes” to help someone
  • listen to good music
  • pick up my Bible and lean in
  • meet with friends
  • to choose faith despite what things looked like
  • make my bed

Doing the next right thing is a form of self-kindness.

Under duress my soul was withering. I needed my mind and body to learn how care for itself. So, I began telling myself that I needed to be good to me when life became intense. It became a practice for me. A skill of listening to the Holy Spirit and invite His care into my real time situation. I didn’t deny my tension and fear but rather cast it in the direction of doing the next right thing. This was a gift only the Lord could give.

A sacred work.

A faith work.

It was my way of believing without seeing.

As our season ended I was still standing. Dealing with the fear of the unknowns? Yes.  Still practicing doing the next right thing? Yes. I grew to endure living in a place of tension and not be devoured by it at the same time.

Is this the power of God? (Philippians 2:13) 

Is this how He walks with us through the water and we are not swept away? (Isaiah 43:2)  

It’s still mysterious to me. What I do know is that my season of loss was also a season of gain.  Doing the next right thing became a life giving practice when I needed it most.  It kept me showing up for my life.

Celebrate That! Part Two

Have you ever had a hard time getting out of bed?  Maybe there has been a moment in time when you wanted to take a long nap and not wake up for a day or three? Life has become unexpectedly complicated and if you could just sleep your troubles away, well that would be perfect.  Who doesn’t like sleep?

I can remember being a teenager and having a reoccurring dream. In my dream I would wake up from a dream to find that I was still only 4 years old sleeping in my tiny little bed.  All the things I had seen and done were just a dream.  I wasn’t 16.  I was only 4.  All that was troubling me was only a dream and I could simply just be 4 and not worry about anything.

It’s funny, I can remember thinking, what an odd thing to dream.  Now I realize that it was a subconscious way of dealing with my typically normal adolescent life.  Life gets bumpy. Sleep removes you from the turbulence.  Dreams help you cope.

In the Christmas story Joseph, Jesus earthly father, is found sleeping. His life had become unexpectedly complicated and bumpy. Things with Mary, his soon to be wife, took a sharp left turn and now sleep was the only place he could get away from the turbulence. Joseph was so plainly human. His struggle was real. No one could blame him for what he was about to do. He had to let Mary go. The wedding was to be called off.  His hope for the future had been crushed.

It was too much.

His world was shattering right in front of him.

All he could do was sleep and hope it was all a dream. But dream he did.

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We think we are all alone when we dream. Not so.

God has access to our dreams and He sent an angel to Joseph’s dream.

This angel told Joseph to stay the course, take Mary as his wife.  God had big plans for them.  He would need them to be together, unified, for this assignment. Mary was holding God’s Son in her womb but Joseph would hold God’s dream with his hands.  Joseph needed God’s confidence.

Joseph woke up. Sleeping must always come to an end. There was no need to slumber any more. Sleep would help Joseph hide from his troubles but he could never hide from God.  The Dream Maker is also the Dream Giver. Dreams given in love, for love.  Love never needs an invitation. God is drawn to our wounds and patiently soothes, even when we are unaware, so Love can reform all that has become distorted. All that was ailing Joseph found healing through a divine dream. The angel explained to Joseph about what was happening and what was to be but Joseph…..he heard, I believe in you, Joseph.

Are you having trouble getting out of bed? Do you feel that if you could take a nap and not wake up for a day or three, things would be much better? I know how you feel.  Somewhere deep in our dreams God is whispering. I believe in you.  For all the things that have become distorted and troubling in your world God whispers, I believe in  you.

Like Joseph, it will take all of your energy to face your future and hold whatever God is asking you to hold. Like Joseph we have to wake up to whatever is troubling us and arise. Leave behind doubt, solving things “our way”, self-preservation or fear.

You cannot live out the God dream and hold onto pride.

You can be assured that in spite of your troubling, distorted and complicated world, God can meet you in your dreams. Each time your eyes open from slumber, remember God whispers, I believe in you.

Before God sent His Son, He sent a dream.

Celebrate That!

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Letting Go Of Broken Ornaments

How many ornaments have you broken this year?

I always break at least one.

Broken Ornament

 

I’ll be honest.  Some ornaments I can live without, others are special and I would be sad if they broke.  Things can’t last forever. Sometimes you have to let go.

Christmas is all about letting go.

God the Father let go of His son Jesus to come to earth.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to let go of her youth and hopes of a celebratory engagement.

Joseph, the father of Jesus, had to let go of his reputation and the security of his future.

Zechariah, a relative of Jesus, had to let go of his voice.

Elizabeth, a relative of Jesus, had to let go of her barrenness.

Christmas came through a series of letting go.  (Luke 1:1-2:20 NIV)

Letting go can be one of the most difficult things in this life. Broken ornaments are one thing but letting go of a job, a dream, health, a home or a child is altogether different.

When my children were learning to swim my husband spent time in the pool teaching them what to do. When the time came for them to practice they would have to let go and swim out into the water.  There would be that scary moment when they let go of the wall.  There they were, dangling in that frightening place between the wall and their daddy’s hand. Those were swirling moments, when they had to let go, when they weren’t sure if they could reach their father, when they had to feel fear.

Letting go is sometimes forced upon us.  We have no other choice and it is unwelcome.

Sometimes we have to let go for our own emotional, spiritual and physical health and it’s so very hard.

Other times we must choose to let go in order to gain something new.

In any case, letting go is a part of each of our lives, like broken ornaments.

Like many of you, I’m a bit reflective at the holidays.  I think about Joseph and Mary, real people faced with a real predicament.  An unplanned, albeit supernatural, baby.  An assignment directly from God.  A hostile environment both at home and abroad.  So many things to let go of.

  • Expectations for a “normal” life
  • Support of family and friends
  • Living in their hometown
  • Never having the “honeymoon” stage of marriage  (i.e. pre-kids)
  • Financial security
  • Reputation
  • Their own plans

Maybe you find something on their list that relates to you?

It amazes me the hardship that is wrapped around the story of Christmas.  It humbles me to think of how I idealize Christmas and forget how it was forged.

Letting go was imposed on Mary and Joseph.  Read their story.

They also chose to let go in order to embrace something new.  I think this must have been intensely difficult. Choosing to let go is just as challenging as being forced to let go.

My children had to let go of the side of the pool in order to find the waiting arms of their father.  Sure, they flopped in the water, their heads went under, they felt fear, they tried their best to swim, but their father grabbed hold of them just at the right time.  In the chaos of the letting go they found their fathers embrace.

Sometimes letting go is just that. Flopping, fearing, sinking, trying.  It’s chaos.  It’s a broken ornament all over the floor.

Is there something you need to let go of?  Has letting go been imposed on you?  Do you feel the chaos and uncertainty of it all?

Take heart.

Find your story in the Christmas story for it too is filled with chaos and letting go.

Letting go free’s your hands to embrace something new.

In the flopping, fearing, sinking, trying, chaotic, broken ornament minutes of our lives, Christmas comes to teach us how to let go because letting go happens to all of us.

Christmas is the display of the Father’s embrace.

It’s the tangible expression of Light’s promise to peer into our darkness.

Christmas lets us sink but will never let us drown.

It’s hope wrapping around, telling us our mess doesn’t have to define our lives.

Christmas is whispers of love songs that slowly melt us and lead us back to wonder.

Christmas comes to free our hands to embrace something new in difficult times.

I’m Losing My Patience With You…. God

Have you ever made this statement?

“I’m losing my patience with you.”

I have.  I’ve said it to my kids, my dog, my husband…and I’ve said it to God.

I’m running low on patience lately.  God just seems slow and it doesn’t seem as if I have what it takes to hang in there.

It’s not that God is behaving badly.  Confusion and doubt cloud my vision. I lack faith. I need perspective.

The Long View

The Long View

God and I are not on the same timeline.  He thinks and acts differently than I. He is not bound by the rules of this world. Finding my way with Him seems to require something other than my own intellect, knowledge, will and patience.  I cannot go where God is wanting to go without His ability to get me there. My limited abilities only take me so far.

I’ve run out of patience with God.

I’m impatient. I have to ask for something more because my hope in God depends on it.

Hidden in the pages of Scripture I find the direction I seek.

May you have more and more of His loving-favor and peace as you come to know God and our Lord Jesus Christ better. He gives us everything we need for life and for holy living. He gives it through His great power. As we come to know Him better, we learn that He called us to share His own shining-greatness and perfect life. Through His shining-greatness and perfect life, He has given us promises. These promises are of great worth and no amount of money can buy them. Through these promises you can have God’s own life in you now that you have gotten away from the sinful things of the world which came from wrong desires of the flesh. ~2Peter 1:2-4

  • The loving favor of God is something I can obtain.
  • Peace comes as I get to know Jesus more.
  • God is willing to share His own greatness with me so I can continue to press into the life He has for me.

Running out of my own patience could be a good thing. I become more curious about how God can help me in my mess. The end of my abilities can be the beginning of God’s abilities in me. When I get to the end of something in me a space is created.  There is room for God’s “shining greatness” the scriptures talk about. I invite God to enter my weakness. I am then able to wait.  Maybe that’s the goal?

Waiting…

  • causes the soul to pause and consider something other than self
  • demonstrates a inner longing that can only be filled outside yourself
  • is an act of humility

Waiting takes us to God

Waiting on God is something entirely different than having patience with God.  Believing that His answers and plan are far better than anything I could conjure up, trusting in His timing, being confident in His good love for me; all elements of waiting. Waiting fosters trust.  Patience is not enough to experience answered prayer, waiting is required.

When we wait for an appointment we believe the appointment is worth our time.  When we wait for a due date we are anticipating some important event in our life. When we wait for a loved one to have a change of heart we are believing that goodness can prevail.

Waiting reflects the anticipation of something better.

Maybe God wants to be waited on more than we think?

Maybe running out of my own limited ability is exactly what God has in mind?

Maybe it’s God’s way of pulling me toward Him?

What are you running out of?

Where have you come to an end?

It just could be the beginning of something.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;” ~ Psalm 37:7