Not this time

The “Write” button at the top right freaks me out every time. I don’t know how it’s different than picking up a pen and writing on paper. But let’s be honest: that freaks me out too.

For years and years before the advent of blogging (people know that this word originally came from web + log, right?) I used a pen, any color, though it drove me crazy to not have the same color, and a notebook to write my thoughts before bed. I had the same routine. I spent a lot of time writing. Now, since typing on a laptop is so much faster, I have eschewed analog writing.

I think for years I’ve actually been fighting the urge to write every night, or most nights. Things were simpler and less complicated when it was just me, Elizabeth, in my room with my music and my lamp and my stuffed animals. I didn’t answer to anyone (in those moments anyway). I wrote whatever I felt like writing, and often with damn good vocabulary.

Now as a thirty-something contributor to society I tamp down the urge to pour out my thoughts and feelings for eight hours a day. Then, when I come home from this thing that takes up eight hours of my day, I still have other adult-ish things to do and I further tamp down my thoughts. Then I spend time on this stupid thing called the Internet and I can just feel my subconscious screaming to be let up from the silence.

So then, my friends, after working out and making dinner and cleaning up and walking the dog my mind finally takes a huge breath and starts talking.

And here I am, on my bed (husband is downstairs, “Just 10 more minutes on ______”), window open, fan on, warm nonalcoholic drink on my bedside bookshelf, typing away while my brain works out the kinks not just from today but my whole damn life it seems.

A couple weeks ago I found my journal from literally 20 years ago. Ok, found isn’t true. That’s a lie. I knew where it was. I keep all my journals close. So I knew where it was, and I finally thought I’d had enough therapy to delve into my old journals to see what 13-year-old Elizabeth was up to.

Holy mother of everything, my friends, huge newsflash here: Elizabeth is still Elizabeth, and she always has been Elizabeth. She still is a hopeless romantic disguising herself as an apathetic wannabe emo. She still uses words like superfluous and reiterate in normal conversations. She still judges people for not using fancy words like the above in normal conversations. She still loves God and wants the approval of her friends and her mother. Elizabeth is still Elizabeth. Elizabeth is still me.

Upon encountering this 20-year-old discovery, I felt… comfort. I felt like myself. I felt like all the shit I’ve been through in the past few years might have done me in in some ways, but I’m still me. The skeleton and muscles are still intact. I am still myself after all these years.

I think we’re all under the illusion of two things: either that we can’t change at all, or that we could never go back to being the person we once were. I think both are true all the time.

As I embark on the next 20 years, I hearken back to these words, from myself, nearly 20 years ago:

Sunday, December 12, 1999

Dear Journal-

Okay. Brand-new journal. Crisp, fresh, “acid-free” paper. Bold black pen. This is how it starts. Excitement and anticipation build. Then long forgotten periods of neglect. But not this time…

Fighting fire with fire.

How do you overcome depression and anxiety, let alone when your husband is deployed? It’s not easy, and if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, so much that it’s starting to affect your every day life, you need to take it seriously. Maybe you’re like me and have dealt with mild or situational depression or anxiety in your life, and it comes and goes depending on your health and stressors at that particular time.

For me, it most recently hit me during my trip home. I have been treated in the past for depression/anxiety, both with therapy and meds. Both were needed at the time and both helped me a lot. Let me say this: there is absolutely no shame in finding help. This is the first time I have considered going back to the doctor since I stopped meds and therapy in 2008. I have a lot of situational stressors going on, so as of right now I’m going to do what I can to control it with lifestyle changes and reevaluate after my husband returns (soon!!!!). By that time, many of the stressors will be gone so I will probably not have to seek professional help. I have dealt with this since I was in junior high, so I know myself and my body very well.

The point of this post is to give some tips to help you if you’re dealing with mild depression or anxiety. I am not a mental health professional by any means; I’m a woman who has a lot of experience with these illnesses and have found little things to do in my life that help me cope without continued therapy and meds.

How do you know if you’re dealing with these illnesses? There are many online resources such as questionnaires that can informally assess your current mental state. If you choose to see a doctor or therapist, they’ll go over your personal and family medical history during your first visit. Be honest; no one is there to judge you. I have mental illness on both sides of my family, so that tipped my doctor off that I might need more than just cognitive behavioral therapy. Biology is hereditary.

1. Take a deep breath and don’t take yourself so seriously. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want to cry because it seems that everything is going wrong all at once. Remember that you’re not the only one going through this and that you won’t feel like this forever. Mentally step away from the situation.

2. Make your home your sanctuary. It’s really important that when you come home from work or a night out that your home is comfortable and somewhere you can relax. One way I do this is to make sure the house is cleaned on a regular basis. Ask my husband; I can’t relax unless things are picked up and dishes are done. Buy some candles and light them when you get home. Buy pretty towels for the bathroom. It may sound silly, but little things help.

3. Give yourself “me” time. The amount of “me” time depends on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, but since I’m the former, I need “me” time to recharge and feel refreshed. I know this all too well, so I try not to plan too many things with friends on a weekly basis. At the most, I’ll reply with a “maybe” if I’m just not sure about doing a particular activity. And it’s okay to say “no”! The night my husband deployed, I had just started final exams; I left my final early to see him off. That night I relaxed with a hot bath and a glass of wine. I made that time for myself and it made the first night alone that much easier.

4. Get a pet. My pit bull mix Missy is my companion when my husband’s not home. She offers protection and companionship, and she’s not too shabby of a running partner either! Of course, pets come with vet and boarding bills, but this time apart from my husband has showed me that it’s worth it!

5. Visit friends and family, or have them visit you. I have been blessed to have both my sisters visit at different times (and one with her new baby!), and my aunt came right after finals were over and we flew back to Illinois together. I just got back from a two-week visit with family. Visits, whether here or there, help you reconnect with family and friends from “back home” and give you something to break up the duration of the time apart.

6. Develop a few close friendships. We’re not meant to go through life alone. Being far away from family can be difficult, but it is possible to find amazing people to go through life with you wherever you’re stationed. Put yourself out there and meet people. Don’t write people off because you might be stationed somewhere new soon. We need each other. And when you get to know people in your community, you’re not just “passing through” anymore; you’re now a part of that community.

7. Set short and long term goals. This could be goals with a hobby, or goals for school. If you have kids, it could be places to see or things to do with your kids. For me, it’s running. While my husband is away, I train for races. Running keeps me sane, fit, gives me an endorphin rush and time to process things.

8. Lower your expectations. Part of my anxiety stems from things related to time. I’m always 5-10 minutes early, to EVERYTHING. It’s just the way I grew up. But in my 27 years I’ve learned that not everyone is like that. My anxiety also is tipped off when I expect to get somewhere in a certain amount of time, and unexpected traffic or a forgotten errand gets in the way of that. Another thing that gets me is when I expect to chat or Skype with my husband and he’s not available. Just take a breath and stay calm.

There are a million more tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years, but these are the ones that have come to mind recently. Every day down is another day closer to homecoming! You’re going to be stronger than the day you started.

>Our insecurities, magnified

>

I was thinking about this since I read a blog similar to it at Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, and since we had a rough morning at worship practice before church this morning.
Our insecurities don’t just disappear when we begin to get involved in ministry. In fact, our shortcomings can be magnified. That’s what the enemy wants.. for us to feel guilty, bitter, remorseful, and become so ineffective for the Kingdom. Who cares if we actually fall away from church… if we are lukewarm, we might as well have fallen away in my opinion.
My biggest strengths in ministry, and in life for that matter, are also my biggest weaknesses. I’ve been a musician for almost twenty years of my life. Piano lessons, guitar lessons, band, choir, worship bands.. you name it. I love being in a band, and having the freedom to go crazy on the keys. I love worship with all of my heart, and it’s brought me to my knees sometimes.
However, along with my passion, comes my critical side. Even on Sundays when I’m just out in the congregation worshipping, I listen to every little thing and quirk in the sound mix or whatever and it almost prevents me from taking hold of those awesome moments in God’s presence. Like I said, it’s what the enemy wants.
He wants me to become so critical and have such a condescending attitude that I will be rendered ineffective. Sure, I’ll play and sing with grace and feel something during worship.. but I’ll only be giving 5%.
So, I admit, I had a poor attitude this morning. Why can’t they play that right? Why can’t everyone be on time? Why why why.. blah blah blah. And guess what? I had my own humbling experience when I forgot what song we were playing after communion and Patrick had to tell me what it was. Embarrassing, yes. Without grace and precision, yes.
As I sat there at the keyboard staring at the keys in utter embarrassment (because you know, I never make mistakes.. ha!) I started to feel this bitter and self-deprecating attitude come over me. Then I realized that I’ve been through much more embarrassing things. I was not about to let the biggest joy of my life (besides being married, of course) be stolen from me in that moment!
Who cares what anyone else thinks? I made a mistake. I’m quite entitled, since I’m human. It’s inevitable. But it’s done, over with, and I have some worship to do.
In the past I would have let that one moment of confusion let me down for the rest of the morning. I still had another service to play through, and heck if I was going to waste it.
Part of maturity is recognizing and admitting to our shortcomings. Another part is realizing how detrimental living out our shortcomings can be to the Church. If I were to sit there and not engage in worship because of one little mistake that people won’t even remember in half an hour (we hope!), then I’m allowing myself to become rendered ineffective as a leader for that moment.
Of course, this little life lesson went right along with what Pastor Rick was preaching about… relating to people.
Hebrews 2:17-18: For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Jesus had to be made human in order to be relevant. How would it be if Jesus came in all His deserved glory, ruling over the earth with a spotless white silk robe and golden scepter? What if He were sitting on a throne, with thousands of servants obeying His every command? Because He’s God, He could have done that.
But He didn’t. He worked manual labor as a carpenter for almost twenty years before even beginning His ministry. He dealt with all temptations that we have, and was successful in overcoming them.
Sometimes we have to go through our manual labor for a long time before we’re ready to totally, 100%, embrace our calling. It’s hard at the time, but there is a great reward for our patience and diligence. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (I Pet. 5:6) 
Be prayerful and diligent in whatever ministry you are a part of… be faithful to the needs of that ministry and pray for its members as well. The Lord uses all things for good… maybe not good in our eyes. We deal with all our insecurities for a reason. I love what A.W. Tozer said,
All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure. Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined.”