family

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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I Love You

Three very simple words that possess the power to literally change everything.
We’ve heard them so may times we don’t always realize their full implication.
If we don’t hear them, it has a profoundly negative impact on our life.
If we don’t say them, it has a profoundly negative impact on our life.

But what if that’s all you could say? -Continue Reading

When Nothing Changes and Nothing Stays the Same

There are some people in my family who have been wearing certain clothing items for a long, L-O-N-G, time.  These clothes are allegedly, ahem, “broken in” and so comfy that they just a can’t seem to get rid of them or not wear them.

Are you like this?

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I’m not.

I can’t fill the Goodwill bag fast enough.  My motto is if you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not ever going to wear it again.  Get rid of it.  But that’s me. I like to make room for change.  I like to see what else I can find.  -Continue Reading

When someone you love hurts…

What do you do when someone you love is hurting?

What do you say?

When a loved one is hurting emotionally, physically, financially, professionally or relationally how do you respond?

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At first I imagine most of us react the same way.  We are quick to call, text or email.  We show up with visits to the hospital and bring meals to the home.  We listen, empathize and pray.  We offer to babysit, make a phone call, do some networking or meet for lunch. We send encouraging notes that are tucked with verses of victory and strength.  We cheerlead, motivate and preach.  We repair stuff, help interpret diagnosis’s and research helpful articles. We do anything to help take away the pain so hope can thrive.

But what about when things don’t get better after a week, or two or seven? When weeks turn into months and months into years? How do you handle it then?

People I love have experienced significant hurt, long term hurt, no easy answers kind of hurt. Dear souls tangled in painful scenarios that just won’t go away.  It’s impossible to not be affected.  It hurts to journey with someone whose hurt goes on. Once you’ve emptied yourself of every encouraging deed and word you can think of you eventually collide with their pain. Now you both hurt.

Mom and Jake

So what do you do when you begin to feel their pain because things just aren’t getting better?

Do you run out of things to say?  Do you stop asking because you don’t want to make it harder?  Do your emails and calls slow or stop all together?  Do you still come over for visits like in the beginning?  Do you avoid them because it’s too hard? Do you think about them?

We had a long season of hurt in our home. For the first time ever we experienced long term unemployment during the recession.  For a while it seemed as if the entire state was unemployed.  People were wonderful to us.  So much care, encouragement and support. But as weeks turned into months, which turned into years, things got quiet. Really quiet. I don’t think for minute that people didn’t care.  I think people just didn’t know how to care anymore.

When relief and answers don’t come for our loved ones what exactly are we supposed to do?

There were a few people who were constant. We treasured their presence. One friend called weekly, without fail. She listened for countless hours to my dialog that never seemed to change. Her prayers, unwavering and undying. Another friend invited my husband to lunch.  Every week.  Without fail. There they talked about everything or nothing. He simply showed up. A beautiful couple never gave up hope that God would help us. At the most unexpected and poignant times they were His messengers of aid to us. It was uncanny.  All of their gentle kindnesses pierced our darkness.  None of them had answers or remedies, only their presence.

They hurt with us. They felt the pain of silence and loss along side us.  They wrestled with their own expectations for God and people as they watched us slide deeper into hurt. They let themselves be hurt by our pain.

Sometimes you cannot do anything for others.

Sometimes you can only be with others.

A friend who enters the hurt of another.

Friends who risk being clumsy.

When we are willing to hurt with those who hurt we offer friendship in the lowest of places.  The place where hurt persists and relief is out of sight.

These low places are the most desperate places of our soul, the place where fear rumbles and frightens. No one can ignore vulnerability here.  Going into these low places, even for the sake of a loved one, means dealing with our own frailties, uncertainties, doubts and vulnerabilities. Everything that doesn’t get answered the way we want becomes front and center. I think this is why people don’t know what to do when the hurting goes on and on. They aren’t prepared to go that low. But love reaches deep.  It gets muddy. It enters doubt.

Something unusual also happens when you go to the low places with a hurting loved one. Light begins to shine. It’s not like a brilliant full moon that illuminates the darkness.  It’s more like a sky full of stars. Tiny dots of lights. Every hurting moment shared a new light pokes through the darkness. The starry night, a thing of beauty. The weathered soul in a weary place accompanied by the presence of loving friendship, a thing of beauty. I wonder if this is one of the greatest gifts we can give the world? To go into the lowest places with our loved ones, acknowledge their pain, let it rub against us? What if we don’t leave them alone? I wonder what good would come if we learned how to care for others when our encouraging ideas end and the hurt goes on? I wonder what would change if we learned how to get better at being “with” others?   What if we were more like stars than the moon?

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The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship.  Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. ~Psalm 19:1-4

home plate parenting

Parenting and baseball have a lot in common.

Once that little one is in your life you find yourself pitching.  You pitch comfort to that baby 24  hours a day.  You keep throwing at them whatever it is they need. Food, clean diapers, warmth, attention, you’d do anything for that baby.  You have become a pitcher.

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As time goes by you slowly become the batting coach.  It’s your job to get them to make contact with the ball and feel the connection of their own power.  Potty training, not hitting their baby sister, saying thank you, learning to pick up toys, things that help them to feel a sense of responsibility and consequence.

Before long you are the short stop.  Stopping the infield balls they hit.  You keep them contained, running only to 1st base.  They begin to create their own sense of identity and direction.  They join the hockey team, drama club or 4-H.  They have oodles of ideas or things they want to try but it’s your job to provide boundaries and allow them experiences at a reasonable rate.

Next thing you know, you are standing at third base coaching them on.  Your perspective and vantage point help guide them when it’s time to stay put or run the bases.  The stakes are higher, first jobs, driving and college prep tests require preparation, responsibility and discipline.  Your voice leads them. Their legs do the running.

Then when you least expect it, you have become home plate. You are the place they run to.  The place of safety and completion. The place they land on. The place they connect with to secure a run.  Home plate.

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You are no longer pitching them anything, helping them choke up on the bat, scooping up the infield ground balls or coaching them to stay put or run home.  You are home.  You are the constant in life for your newly grown babies.

My kids fit in the “newly grown” category.  Finishing college, first steps in building a career and moving out.  All good things.  But it leaves me wondering what it is that I am to be for them.  I haven’t got it all worked out. Honestly, I’ve never completely worked out any stage of parenting.  But this is the stage that our family will spend the most time.

My son and I were hanging out the other day.  We talked about his school work load.  He has a lot going.  As he shared with me I was overwhelmed. He wanted to share with me, for whatever reason. We are way past the stage where I help him organize his tasks but it touched me that he wanted to tell me anyway. I accept any and all reasons to engage with my children.

It seems that even as independence grows, the need for connection deepens.

And that’s what being a home plate is about I guess.  Connection.  Providing a source of belonging and acceptance.  Reassuring that their tasks, hopes, struggles and accomplishments matter. Affirming they will make it through.  Providing a moment to rest, refuel and inspire. Connection.

I like being home plate.  I’ll admit, I’m new at it.  There haven’t been to many times where my kids have touched base.  But before long I’m sure I will have dirty cleat marks all over me.  I’m good with that.

Home plate is the landing spot.  Meant to be crossed over again and again.  You can’t stay there for long. You have to touch it and get back in the rotation. That’s how the game is played. You play your position to the best of your ability.  You strive to round all the bases and touch home plate. You’ve then scored.  Connecting with home plate counts as a run.

I think I’ll like being home plate.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~Ephesians 2:10