All posts in Faith

Just like the writer of Ecclesiastes said, there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

I am familiar with these seasons of life.  I’m sure you are too.  There are times when things are going along smoothly and there is laughter and joy and there are times when the proverbial rug is pulled out from underneath us and we can’t find our footing.

Hard times often come without warning and it is important in these times to remember these things…

1. The darkest hour is always before the dawn.

This truth has helped me to find my center on days when I have had a hard time seeing clearly. No matter how dark it is in your world right now there is light on the horizon. Don’t faint, don’t give up…just hold on until daybreak.  It’s coming!

2. Endurance leads to maturity

My experience has been that only once I have come through a major trial, can I see the areas in which I needed sharpening and maturing.  If I am being totally honest, given the choice I may have chosen to stay immature and a little rough around the edges rather than endure some of the darkness.  But now, having come through some rough waters I have gathered tools for the journey and maybe more importantly have gained a passion to deliver hope to those coming along behind me who may still be in darkness.

James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I don’t know if I was ever able or will ever be able to consider depression “pure joy” James, but I think I get it now. I want to be complete.  I understand what it means to be “lacking nothing.”  I have confidence now that whatever life throws at me I have all that I need to endure. I am lacking nothing. God is with me and never leaves me. Ever.

3. There will be dancing!

There IS a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Unfortunately they are not always on our timetable. A year and a half ago I went through the darkest time of depression and soul searching I have ever experienced. I was mourning my mother’s death and dealing with past hurts and stuffed down pain that wreaked havoc on my body, soul and spirit. It took over a year to process through prayer and counseling. I would have liked for it to be faster.  I would have liked a fast forward button.  But healing takes time. It takes work. But once it comes…there is laughter, there is joy…and there is dancing!

I just returned from a 3 week trip to Europe with my husband and my daughter.  It was the most relaxing and joy-filled time I have had in a long while.  My spirit was free. My heart was refreshed and I was reminded of the truth that there is indeed a time to dance!

dance with balloons

A few weeks ago I wrote my eulogy.eulogy

Don’t worry…I don’t plan on going anywhere soon. It was part of an exercise for a workshop I attended. The workshop was called The Power of Life Planning.

At first I thought it was a really weird thing to do but the more the instructor explained it the more I understood it.

The general idea is that if you write out what you would like someone to say about you at the end of your life, you can then work backwards and make sure you put a plan in place for those things to be accomplished.

It was very telling about the people whom I love, what I dream about, what I care deeply about and what I believe my life purpose is. I will reveal a few tidbits but you’ll have to wait 52 years for the rest (…I plan to live to 100!)

““““““

Who I love…

“Tracey loved her family with all her heart…”

I realized after writing with passion about my love for my husband and children, grandchild, great grandchildren-to-come and my extended family that I need to make sure that I am investing my time and energy into those relationships consciously and purposefully. Life can get so crazy that those we love most get pushed down on the priority list.

What I dream about…

“Although Tracey enjoyed traveling all over the world it was at her lake home in a little town called Jefferson that she felt the most like herself…”

So, I am not travelling the world…yet. And we don’t own the cottage in Maine…yet. But these are things I dream of and if I want them to come to pass then I need to start putting plans in place to ensure that they happen.

What I believe in…

“Her relationship with God was so deep and so critical to her that she longed for everyone she came in contact with to have that same experience. At age 14 her Dad wrote a verse in her Bible – a gift commemorating her baptism. It was Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. Tracey took that verse as a charge and tried to live her life intentionally to that end.

“““““““

You get the idea.

Writing out that pseudo-eulogy painted a picture of what I would like my life to look like when all is said and done.

It gives me something to work backwards from to make sure that I am building a life of purpose.

Obviously this will look different for everyone and many people will probably have higher aspirations than I do – as it turns out I realized after writing this out that I am not as complicated as I thought I was. I can really make life more difficult than it has to be!

And the other thing worth mentioning is that of course life happens and things change but this exercise is a good place to start to figure out what matters most to you and what you can be working towards.

I’d love to hear your thoughts…crazy idea or helpful tool?

You will only be overwhelmed if you allow yourself to be overwhelmed.
(major life crises excluded – you’re allowed to be overwhelmed then)

Unfortunately, I allow myself to be overwhelmed way too often.

In the past two months I’ve…

  • hosted and spoke at an FTGI major conference and hosted 2 luncheons
  • spoke at an outreach event
  • attended my husband’s 4 day business conference
  • hosted 2 major parties at my house of over 25 people at each of them
  • had 7 people ( including one very tiny soft, sweet baby girl) stay at my house spanning 30 days straight of in-house company
  • had the flu along with several members of the family
  • had to navigate a very bad reaction while trying to wean off medication
  • attended a baby baptism, a baby shower, a first birthday party and a work dinner with my husband
  • attended a plethora of meetings
  • had a daughter on Spring Break

And these are just the biggies, not to mention… cook, clean (which often are left undone) and maintain some of my work schedule.

Let me be clear, I am not complaining. Most of those things are things I really love to do and would do all over again. Some of them were unplanned or snuck up on me and threw me off my game.  But that is life, right?

I’m sure if you listed out everything you’ve done in the past two months your list would be just as long.

Here are some things I am reminding myself of in order to not allow myself to be overwhelmed.

1) Be sure to create margins in your schedule.

Things pop up that need your attention whether you want to give it or not.  Things pop up that you want to be able to jump in on and enjoy.  If your schedule is too packed ~ the unplanned things in life will send you into a tailspin. Creating what I call “white space” on my calendar also allows time to feed your soul – to do something you love like read a book, paint, write, play. When “white space” is missing from my schedule I get overwhelmed.

2) Realize that you are only one person with the same 24 hours as everyone else.

I wrote another piece about this because it is hard to strike a balance but really – You Can Only Do What You Can Do! Trying to do more than what reasonably fits into your life is going to lead to feeling overwhelmed.

3) Say NO to some really good things in pursuit of sanity. 

This month alone I had to opt out of 2 events I really wanted to go to, a radio interview and an offer to co-host a radio show. I have been known to say, “I want to have and do it all” in a passionate moment but in the real world I have to make some hard choices in order not to set myself up for chaos.

4) Commit my time to God 

He is so much better at knowing exactly where I need to spend my time. Sometimes I get caught up and forget to consult the One who has numbered my days about how I should spend them! I find that if I take just a little time each morning to ask where my focus should be and ask Him to guide my steps life gets a lot smoother. He has designed me to thrive on being busy but He hasn’t designed everyone that way and He doesn’t wanted me overwhelmed or unavailable for the unexpected blessings that come along.

This seems to be a theme for me this year.  I welcome your thoughts and suggestions!!

smile

A little levity! Just smile ;)

 

Saying no more than yes is the key to staying sane these days.

I want to say yes to everything.

But I can’t do everything well.

Other people seem to be able to juggle more than I can.

One of two things is probably true:

1) They actually have greater ability to juggle than I do.

or

2) They do a good job hiding that things are slipping and they are completely stressed out.

That’s why I need to:

1) Be okay with knowing my capacity for “things I can juggle” may be less than someone else’s.

and

2) Stop comparing myself to others.

Comparison is the thief of joy and peace.

comparison

On Tuesday, I wrote a short blog on my Positively Depressed microblog that hit a nerve with some folks so I thought I’d give a little backstory here. It all started with this picture.
littleyou

I used to roll my eyes when I’d hear people talk about healing their inner child.  I was of the school of thought that the past is in the past and needs to stay there.  I didn’t think there was any point in going back and revisiting it.

I told my counselor as much the first time I met with her.  I told her, “I am not interested in rehashing the past.  I am ready to move on.” I told her, in the words of Carly Simon, “I haven’t got time for the pain.” She patiently nodded her head.  We began with what was going on with me in the present. Much to my dismay, within minutes we were revisiting pain from my childhood and young adult life. UUGH!

The problem with pain is unless you process it and get healing from it, it doesn’t miraculously go away. The great news is once you do, even though you will still remember it, you will not be held captive by it and it won’t hold you back from blossoming into the fragrant, most beautiful version of yourself.  Of course, there is always more work to be done but digging up bitter roots that cause damage is an absolute necessity.

After a recent session – I sent my counselor the above picture.  I thought she’d enjoy it since it went along with some of the things we had just talked about.  I didn’t expect her to ask me to actually write out how I would nurture my little self! Yikes. It took me a good long while to be able to articulate some of the things I needed to hear. This is a summary of what I wrote.

I would tell her:

That I love her just for being her spacey, disorganized self.

That I love her –  imperfections and all.

That she doesn’t have to try to fix everything.

That when she makes mistakes, I will be there to help her work through them.

That it’s ok to not feel strong sometimes and when she feels weak, I’ll be there to pick her up.

That she doesn’t have to push down her emotions but she can allow herself to feel them in order to process them.

I would tell her how proud I am of her

– just the way she is.

I realized, after reading it back to myself, this is precisely what God says to us in so many words… Knowing it is one thing, but speaking it over yourself and getting it to move from your head to your heart is quite another.

Humans do not always speak the truth our heart desperately needs to hear and if we rely on them to, we will be disappointed over and over. For those truths we need to listen to the One who created us. He loved us first, loves us still and always will.

Unconditionally.

Just like Little You needed to hear reassuring words of encouragement and love…Big You does too.

If you take the time to write out what your heart needs to hear – I’m willing to bet God has said them all to you.

I’d love to hear your feedback…♥

Time to heal, depression

 

I learned in school that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. When I travel, that is the route I always like to take. I choose “shortest route” on the map app on my phone.

But, in life, God doesn’t always take me that way.

Oftentimes, He takes me the long way around. I suppose it should comfort me that I’m not the only one.

Exodus 13:17
It so happened that after Pharaoh released the people, God didn’t lead them by the road through the land of the Philistines, which was the shortest route, for God thought, “If the people encounter war, they’ll change their minds and go back to Egypt.”

So, if I understand that correctly, He knew them well enough to know that if they faced the opposition that was inevitable on the shortest route, they would bail. Instead, He took them the long way around. On the way, they developed character, they learned about His timely provision. They acquired the tools they would need for battle.

If I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone, it is short lived. I become disturbed once again when I realize that if I had been determined enough from the beginning to handle opposition with resolute determination to persist on the journey NO MATTER WHAT, I may have saved myself a lot of time.

Of course, this is just speculation and I know that God in His sovereignty may have still decided to take me the long way around, however, if He gives me a choice in the future, I choose the shortest route from now on.

I say, bring it on! I am ready to face the giants.  I am ready, knowing that He goes before me, paving the way, protecting me, and picking me up when I fall.

Long way or short way…I’m going the distance.  How about you?

closer than before, on my way, go the distance, face the giants

Last night I cleared my inbox for the first time in 4 months.  I wanted to start the New Year fresh and it felt so good.

One of my resolutions is to be a better steward of my time. Our theme this year at FTGI is “It’s Time!” and I know that there is no way I am going to fulfill my plans and goals for the year if I keep mismanaging my time. Yesterday I heard this quote twice.

Nothing will change if you change nothing.

So, I am going to make some changes. One of them is getting up a little earlier.  I say a little earlier because I have to do this in small steps.  You see, I LOVE my sleep.  And I need my sleep. But I also recognize that I could be way more productive if I even got up one hour earlier.

Last year when I was overwhelmed with all that I had on my plate, my counselor tried to give me some perspective by saying, “Tracey, God gave you the same amount of hours in a day as everybody else.” She was trying to drive home the point that I need not put pressure on myself to be superhuman.  A good point.

However, the other day I saw this and laughed out loud!

 Image

Well, if that doesn’t make you feel like an underachiever, I don’t know what does!!

So, the dilemma is how do we balance the time and not fall into the dangerous place of striving too hard or on the other hand miss opportunities that we should be taking?

I have decided that this will be a guiding verse for me this year.

Image

I am going to begin every morning committing my time and whatever I have to “do” to Him. I will trust Him to lead me to the projects, work and leisure that He wants me to spend my time on. More than ever I am at a point in my life where my ambition is just to be right where He wants me to be, doing only what He wants me to be doing. I love for my life to be full, I believe that is how He created me but I don’t want it to be full of meaningless busyness.  So this will be a year of committing my time to Him.

What about you?  How do you balance your time?  Do you feel like you make the most of it?  Are you intentional about how you use your time? I’d love to hear from you!

Here’s to a healthy, joy-filled, fun and intentional 2014!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It’s actually a pretty difficult time of the year for many. There are images everywhere of ideal family dinners but for some that is not a reality. There is pressure to buy presents and spend money yet there are those who are struggling financially. There are emotions that the holidays stir up that lay dormant for much of the year.

I understand. There is, however, a way to manage some of the things that make it difficult.

As I unpack the ornaments, I unpack memories with them, sweet reminders of past Christmases. Many of the ornaments that decorate our tree commemorate a milestone…Our First Christmas, Baby’s First Christmas…etc. Many of them were gifts from my mom. While the memories are sweet, the pain of loss is bitter.

For years I would slip away from the activity of decorating to collect myself and shake off the sadness but I have learned over the years to change my mindset. Now, I look forward to the tradition as a way of setting time aside to be with the memories and celebrate all the love that my tree holds:

  • a faded ornament from my grandparent’s tree
  • little treasures made with tiny fingers that are now full grown hands
  • chubby faces of babies dressed like santa and an elf (the things we do to our children!)
  • gifts from friends old and new

ImageHere are a few tips to help you navigate the holidays with cheer!

1. Identify those things that cause stress 

Is there something you are dreading during the holiday season? Are there difficult relationships that you will have to deal with? Is the financial pressure of gift giving stressing you out? Unless you identify the sources of stress you can’t address them.

2. Find a way to limit if not eliminate those things.

If there is something that you are absolutely dreading, you can take control over how it affects you by changing your mindset. Go with a different attitude and you may be pleasantly surprised how things turn around.

You may discover as you dig a little deeper that you are striving to meet other people’s expectations of you which is not a healthy motive for continuing to put yourself in a negative situation. If you can’t eliminate it altogether then consider limiting the amount of time or maybe gathering in a place or time that would be less stressful.

If finances are stressing you out let people know ahead of time that you will be scaling back and giving smaller meaningful gifts instead so that the expectation is set ahead of time.  Maybe it’s my age, but I enjoy thoughtful things my children have done like recording a song for me or putting a slide show together as opposed to store bought things.

3. Carve out some time for yourself

Even if it is something really small, do something YOU love to do this season.  Last night on our way home from picking up my daughter from work we drove around and looked at houses in our neighborhood all lit up for Christmas.  Normally we zoom in and out hardly noticing. While I was organizing my closet the other day I put on Miracle on 34th Street.  I am the only one in my family who really loves that movie so I made a cup of tea and watched (and was still productive!) Ok, so I did two things for myself!!

4. Let something go

Unless you are incredibly organized or not very busy it is likely that something is going to get missed this year. For me, it’s Christmas cards.  I love to send them, I love to get them but I am letting it go this year.  There are just too many things to do and not enough time. Making that decision freed me of having it hang over my head. It just wasn’t in the cards this year. (pun intended)

5. GIVE!

This should really be first but if the holidays are difficult, stressful or sad for you the absolute best thing you can do is GIVE. It’s getting a little late in the game but I am sure there are still causes that need and would gladly accept last minute help. It may be giving of your time or a gift for someone in need but it will be the thing that brings you great joy this season.

ornament

Wishing you and yours a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xo

vulnerability

I thought that might get your attention!

But, it’s not what you are thinking. What I had was a vulnerability hangover.

Let me explain.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak at my church. It was a message of encouragement but within the message I told the entire congregation about the fact that my depression had gotten so bad last year that I decided to treat it with medication. It was pertinent to the conversation because I was talking about shame – something I felt a great deal of and had to fight off. I felt good about sharing because even though I knew it would be uncomfortable, I believed it would help someone.

It went well and many people thanked me for my transparency. On Sunday night, I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do.

Then Monday came.

I woke up and thought, “I can’t believe I shared such personal details with 3 services worth of people not to mention those who may watch the video.” I was experiencing a vulnerability hangover. I didn’t make that up. It is a term coined by Brené Brown, researcher of such topics as courage, vulnerability, authenticity, empathy and shame. Brené explains that a vulnerability hangover is “the feeling that sweeps over us after we feel the need to connect… and we share something deeply meaningful. Minutes, hours, or days later, we begin to feel regret sweep over us like a warm wave of nausea.”

I’m happy to say that because I have been sharing bits and pieces of my story for a while now, my hangover was not too bad. I was able to shake it off pretty quickly having learned these 3 things.

#1  It’s worth it.

The discomfort of vulnerability is worth it when you weigh it against the value of connection.  Connection, true connection is what people who are in need are looking for.  It doesn’t help them to see someone who acts like they have it all together all the time – it only adds to their shame and impedes their ability to open up and share themselves. When true connection is made, we share. When we share we heal.

#2  It’s not the critic who counts. (thank you, Theodore Roosevelt!)

At the heart of the vulnerability hangover is the fear of being judged.  Since depression is classified as a mental illness I battle the fear of being defined by my struggle. There are people who will disagree with how I choose to handle and overcome depression but in the end it is not those people who I necessarily feel drawn to connect with.  I have come to terms with the reality that there will be those who may not understand or have a different opinion than I do. I have resolved that I answer only to the One who has called me to share my story in order to help others.

#3  It’s not about me.

We live in a me-driven world. As a Christian and follower of Jesus, I want to live as He lived.  He lived His life entirely for others.  Notice I said I WANT to live as He lived. That doesn’t mean I always do, by any means. But when I am feeling exposed and vulnerable I remember that in order to live the way I claim to want to live, it requires dying to myself and living for a greater cause.  Ironically, it ends up being the best thing for ME. It is where I derive true joy and peace – so in the end it sort of is about me.  But that’s how God works.  The more we pour ourselves out on behalf of others the more he pours joy and peace into us. It’s a pretty good deal.

Final thought on vulnerability, again from Brené Brown. (can you tell I love her and her work?)

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. 

Amen.

Have you ever experienced a vulnerability hangover after taking a courageous step to share a part of yourself?  I’d love to hear about it ~ please leave a comment!

This has been my year to be brave.

In the beginning of the year, actually at the end of 2012 ~ this verse leapt off the page to me and I didn’t really know just how much I would need to draw upon it until now.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go ~ Joshua 1:9

For five years I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my story and my struggle with depression but never in as much detail as this past Sunday.

A few months back my Pastor asked me if I would share my story as the wrap-up of a series called UNMASKED.  It was timely request.  After 7 years now of cycling in and out of rough bouts with depression I finally feel like I have a handle on how to cope with it.

Every time I make it through a rough patch I believe that I am done with it forever although I know that is not probable.  The difference now is that I feel like I have all the tools I need to fight. Until this past year I always felt like I was missing something. Now that I know how to combat the shame associated with depression I believe that I will never suffer as badly as I have in the past.

You can hear my story here. The message begins about 21 mins into the video.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 8.47.23 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shame affects every one of us without exception so regardless of whether you suffer from depression or not I believe this message will encourage you.  At least that is my hope and the reason that I have chosen to be brave and share.  As always I welcome your feedback and comments…

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