For when the Winter is long.

It’s still dark when she gets up. Laura feels it like a heavy blanket. The weight of it is oppressive. She’s methodical in her tasks: she finishes her coffee, gets the kids breakfast, makes lunches, and sends them out the door to the bus.

She knows there are e-mails to respond to, phone calls to return. She knows that if she gets dinner into the crockpot early, it will make life that much easier when the kids are home from school. But she goes back to bed instead. She thinks perhaps another hour of sleep is what she needs to get back on track.

Xan griffin

Later, a friend invites her for coffee and she politely declines. The thought of doing her hair and makeup to go out is overwhelming. She dreads the prospect of putting on a smile and making small talk for an hour.

By the time the kids arrive home, shortly after 4 p.m., the sky is already dusky. Lights in the house blaze as dark falls by dinnertime. Her husband notices her lack of energy, her subdued responses; a silly child may elicit a smile, but not much more.

He asks about her day. She gives him a monotone, “Fine.” They are all the same.

Day after day, the story is the same.

Does Laura’s story sound familiar?

It’s easy to ignore the warning signs of depression. Symptoms identified in isolation are easy to justify away. We tell ourselves, “It’s just PMS.” or “I had a bad night.” “It will get better.” “I just need to snap out of it.”

And while it’s very possible that low energy or a bad day is a one-time occurrence, sometimes it’s more pervasive than that. Seasonal Affective Disorder—also known as SAD or winter depression—if left unchecked, can have a devastating toll on individuals and families.

Regardless whether your low mood is circumstantial or something deeper, it’s important to know that you are not alone. In the UK alone, experts estimate one in 15 individuals are affected by SAD between the months of September and April, with women twice as likely to experience symptoms of depression than men.1

Despite much discussion about mental health in public spheres, many women simply don’t feel empowered to speak openly about their depression. There is a tendency to withdraw from relationships because we don’t want to be a burden, we think we can figure it out on our own, or it’s embarrassing to admit that we don’t have it all together.

And because of that, many aren’t finding the support they need, both in the community and in the church. Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission, writes, “There’s an assumption among many people that if they were honest about what they experienced, it would be rejected or they would be shamed.”

This rings true in light of a 2011 study on prescription usage in the US which revealed that one in four women in the US take some sort of prescribed medication to treat mental illness—that’s 12 million women. And yet, a large percentage of those are still not talking about their issues.2

An enlightening 2015 Christianity Today article titled, Depression: The Church’s Best Kept Secret, shines a spotlight on the lack of support that generally exists in the church regarding mental health. In the article, Dr. Archibald Hart, a licensed psychologist and senior professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, recalls asking a room full of women attending a seminar on depression, “How many of you are on an antidepressant but have not told your husband?” At least half of them stood up, he says.3

Clearly, the church has a long road ahead toward dispelling the stigma of mental illness but that doesn’t mean there isn’t help and support available right now. If you think you may be suffering from SAD, an important first step is to reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Knowing that there is one person who sees you and knows what you’re going through can be a literal lifesaver.

Scripture reveals that depression has actually been part of the human experience for a long time. But it can be easy for well-versed believers to gloss over the passages because they make us uncomfortable or, on the surface, they seem irrelevant.

Hannah was “reduced to tears and would not even eat. . . . [She] was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:7, 10)

Elijah asked God to take his life. (1 Kings 19:4)

Job described his life as ebbing away. “Depression haunts my days,” he said. “At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly” (Job 30:16–17).

The human condition is not a surprise to God. There are real physiological changes that occur in the brain when depression begins to take hold. If a loved one had a broken leg, you wouldn’t hesitate to seek medical help. By the same token, depression should not be minimized as something that will pass.

What exactly is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a specifier—or subtype—of major depression. People with this type of disorder commonly experience symptoms during the fall and winter months. During the lighter and warmer spring and summer months, the depression often goes into remission.

Though researchers haven’t pinpointed the specific cause of SAD, we do know that several factors may come into play:

The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and circadian rhythms, leading to feelings of depression.

Reduced sunlight may cause a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, which may trigger depression.

The change in season can also disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

SAD appears to be more common among people who live far north or far south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter or, conversely, unnaturally long days during the summer, which impacts the internal body clock.

If you are suffering from SAD, there are a number of things you can do to change the trajectory of your mental health. First of all, talk to your doctor, he or she can help rule out any other possible causes for your symptoms, such as thyroid problems.

What are some of the symptoms?

Not everyone will experience all the symptoms listed, but if more than one of these resonate with you, you might want to consider looking into some treatment options.

  • * Sleep problems – usually oversleeping and difficulty staying awake but in some cases disturbed sleep and early morning waking
  • * Lethargy – lacking in energy and unable to carry out normal routine due to fatigue. Heaviness in the arms and legs
  • * Overeating – craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, which usually leads to weight gain
  • * Depression – feeling sad, low and weepy, a failure, sometimes hopeless and despairing
  • * Apathy – loss of motivation and ability to concentrate
  • * Social problems – irritability and withdrawal from social situations, not wanting to see friends
  • * Anxiety – feeling tense and unable to cope with stress
  • * Loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities
  • * Loss of libido – decreased interest in sex and physical contact
  • * Weakened immune system – vulnerability to catching winter colds and flu
  • * Mood changes – for some people bursts of over-activity and cheerfulness (known as hypo-mania) in spring and autumn.

Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Common treatments for SAD include:

Light therapy.

Daily exposure a special light for roughly 30 minutes has proven very effective. The light mimics natural sunlight and can effect brain chemicals that improve mood and relieve symptoms. Sixty to 80 per cent of people with SAD find significant relief from light therapy. Make sure you talk to a medical professional about obtaining the right type of lamp.

Medication.

If symptoms are particularly intense, medication might be the best course of treatment. Different kinds of medications work in different ways, so it’s important to discuss with your doctor which is the right type for you.

Counselling (or Talk Therapy).

Working with a counsellor can be very effective in identifying possible triggers for depression, as well as teaching skills to help break negative patterns associated with depression. Altering thoughts, attitudes and actions that perpetuate negative patterns is instrumental in bringing about change. Counselling has proven to be beneficial alongside other treatments and medication.

Self-care.

Low energy and mood often means that there are only so many resources to go around. And, for many women, these are often spent on kids and family, which leaves very little left for self-care.

The Catch 22 is that regular exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep habits, managing stress and staying connected to others are all an important part of navigating SAD in one piece. A good church community can also come alongside if they recognize the wisdom in encouraging these things along with meditation, prayer, and Scripture contemplation.

According to Dr. Hart, “there’s a healthy and healing synchronization that occurs when we realize that our bodies, emotions, and beliefs aren’t separate entities but all play an integrated role in shaping who we are. While the condition of our faith may not play a role in the onset of depression, it is certainly vital in treating it.”4

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

  1. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/women-and- prescription-drug-use_n_1098023
  3. https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2015/september/depression-churchs-best-kept-secret.html
  4. https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2015/september/depression-churchs-best-kept-secret.html

What does the bible say about hope?

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.” (2 Samuel 22:29)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

Janine Dilger is a Canadian writer who loves Jesus, her family, and a steaming mug of coffee in a quiet kitchen before the day begins. God wired her with an eye for beauty: nature, art, photography, design and words—these things whisper refreshment into her soul. She is as broken as they come and has way more questions than answers. But after a life’s worth of hard lessons, she is realizing the trick is to just keep her feet moving. To that end, she’s doing her best at navigating the twists and turns of this life with faith, hope and humour. You can Janine blogging about her journey at janinedilger.com

when the winter is long - could it be SAD? Mental wellbeing article for iola magazine

Finding place

I remember sitting at the counter of the diner, a narrow wooden plank with squeaky chairs. The gas station turned restaurant was much smaller four years ago. But the smell of fresh biscuits, flaky croissants layered with ham and pear, and smoked meat remained the same. I watched life unfold outside the window, wondering how I fit into the scene here too. It all resembled an old movie playing in slow motion with the sound turned off.

I didn’t know much of Winchester, the town my soon-to-be husband had moved to for a job.

I only knew it was quiet and slow. Less hurried and rushed. Strangers looked up as they passed and small talk was woven into the culture. It felt rude not to engage in conversation with the person in line beside you.

Hil

Like most people my age, I was living and working in Washington, DC. It seemed customary to move to a big, trendy city after graduation. That’s where you would find yourself, climb the ladder of success, and build your dreams. I got used to looking down or straight ahead during the week, walking quickly to work or weaving in between cars on my bike. Getting from place to place was more a race rather than a leisurely stroll.

I’d visit Matt on the weekends, where in-between holding hands and sitting real close, we’d chat with locals at the one coffee shop in town. The one he used to live above. The owner of the shop was one of his dearest friends.

I always left visits feeling filled up in places I didn’t know were empty. Deep, slow breaths came easier as we drove further out of town towards the valley. I learned how the Blue Ridge Mountains got their name, a bluish tint kisses the tops of each slope as you inch closer. The mountains are like a quilt, various shades of grey and blue overlap each other and on certain days, it’s hard to tell where the mountain ridge ends and the clouds begin.

These weekends served as a moment of selah and rest from my life of performing and hustle during the week. And while I loved the way this small town made me feel, I never actually considered building a life there.

Once we got engaged, I considered all the places we could live. Should we embrace culture and move to a big city? What about quitting our jobs and heading overseas as missionaries like I had always wanted?

We were young and limitless. We could do anything. My heart was restless, still holding on to places I had lived before and countries I longed to explore. I prayed God would call us to a village in Africa or a city with good food and rich culture. I figured to nestle in Winchester, a town I had never even heard of before, was to settle. And while I found it quite charming, I wanted to write a more interesting story.

And yet, the arrows kept pointing us back to living right here, as much as I fought against it.

“One year” I said, “That’s all I’ll give. After that we are headed somewhere new.”

It didn’t take long for the loneliness and wrestle with purpose and calling to settle in. I was unemployed and without deep, rich community. My days were spent cooking elaborate dinners, keeping the house clean, and applying for jobs I wasn’t getting. I’d be invited to interview, only to be told I lacked experience and all the gaps in my resume weren’t intriguing but flaky. My mornings were slow and meditative but also uncomfortable. I’d wake up anxious, jealous, and insecure – frustrated at God for being so quiet, begging Him to just tell me where to go and what to do.

And yet, He was there each morning, handing me a blank canvas and paintbrush I refused to embrace, cupping my face in His hands to say – Sweet girl, look. Look at all I’ve offered you. This is your Africa right now. This is your great adventure. Join me in making this place even more beautiful.

With time, patience, and tears – community was slowly built and I finally got a job. I actually got a few jobs. Only to fully step away from all of them last year to pursue my dreams of becoming a writer.

Friendship grew around tables and floors and lingering after yoga classes. Through inviting folks over and feeding them food I made with my hands. It took intention, time, and hard work. Trust was built on front porch swings, long walks through the park, and coffee shops. We ate in each others homes, rather than meeting out, so meals lasted as long as we wanted. We carried our friends’ hardships and suffering as if it were our own.

We ate at that diner we loved again and again. You still have to show up early if you want homemade biscuits. We bought a pass to explore the National Park, reminding me that beauty and adventure is only a short drive away.

Suddenly a whole year had passed and instead of buying a one-way ticket to Africa, we bought a house. Suddenly leaving felt harder than staying. The house we found was all the things and more we prayed it would be. And we were anxious to stay long enough to see how this gift God had loaned us, could be used for good.

Hilary Hyland

Our street became my Africa. Friends became our family. The one coffee shop in town turned to four. We joined a small church we could walk to. It meets in a school cafeteria, the place our future baby boy might eat his lunch and make new friends. All we ever hoped for was right here, in a town I didn’t know existed four years ago.

That’s what community does, it changes us from the inside out. We find abundance rather than all that is lacking.

Our town is teaching me that I don’t need more shiny, interesting things to do. I just need a few tables to sit at. I don’t need a plane ticket each time restlessness kicks in, I just need to look to the three feet in front of me and call it holy. I don’t need an interesting job in a fancy office perched way up high, I need a barista that remembers my name and order. And a front porch for greeting my neighbors and mountain tops kissed with blue.

Most importantly, I need to root myself where I am, hang a few things on the wall, lean in hard to community and take care of my people well. Because as we offer and receive – peace, contentment, and joy will follow.

Maeve is a writer, kitchen dweller, and people gatherer. She believes in building a longer table and make room for one more. Most often you’ll find her in the kitchen (because she loves to eat) or on her porch (because she loves people). She believes the art of neighboring, living and loving right where you are, could actually change the world. Her heart is prone to wander, though lately she’s learned the joy in abiding, of keeping close to the vine, and of staying. She shares more about hospitality, friendship and finding significance in the ordinary over on her blog: maevegerboth.com and instagram: @maeve_gerboth. Come say hello!

iola magazine articles

Desert Blooms

“Who is this one? Look at her now! She arises out of her desert, clinging to her beloved…” – Song of Songs 8:5 (TPT)

I sensed the Holy Spirit draw me into the desert.

My soul was longing for Him.

The hiddenness of the desert seemed to me like the perfect place to follow Him.

Little did I know this desert season was going to be far harder than I could have imagined and more restorative than I could have ever dreamed.

Just before Christmas my husband had hit his usual post go, go, go slump after the teaching year comes to an end and without so much as a word I could see he was heavy in spirit.

I wrapped my arms around him and asked if he was ok.

Through tears, he shared that he was deeply sad and he didn’t know why.

Now let me give you some context. We are an ordinary family, raising our three young boys, working in jobs that are challenging but meaningful and we work with some of the greatest people on earth. Our wider family are good and kind people. We have some financial struggles but nothing so drastic that we’d be in over our heads, and this is simply the cost of me having been at home with my children for the last nine years without a second income. We are paying off a small mortgage in a nice area, with a lake we can walk to. Our boys are challenging at times, whose aren’t? But mostly they are really sweet.

In short, we are blessed.

And that’s why he was struggling to put his finger on the deep sadness.

Now I had my suspicions and had left another job to be able to be more available to support him. So it wasn’t a surprise when he realized he had depression. It was more like a, “FINALLY! Now you can seek healing!”

Can I be really honest; this wasn’t what I thought my desert would be like. I pictured Jesus and I learning and growing together in the secret and hidden spaces. What I had really imagined was an oasis, lush and rich and dense and flowing with Living Water instead of a desert.

I didn’t expect that it would be dry and that my thirst would grow by the hour.

I didn’t expect that I would need to be the strong one, the supportive one, the one researching, and learning and be seeking answers and prayers, the patient one and let’s be honest, some days I’m not…

I’ve had to let go of some dreams for this season to walk with him through this. I’ve had to let go of resentment and bitterness. I’ve had to rely on God in my weakness like never before when I see him sitting broken, and there is nothing I can do.

Some days I don’t have the energy to ‘deal with’ his sadness, and in those moments God whispers that I don’t have to because He alone is enough.

And this place of deep trust and wild faith is right where my soul blooms. The pressure and the hard things are all a part of this little soul seed pushing down deep roots into the nutrient soil and growing upward toward the Giver of Life.

And it’s healing me in ways I did not know I needed healing physically and emotionally. Still, some days hurt like crazy and I’m trying to sit in my pain instead of run from it because Jesus is right there with me. And I’m waking up, over and over again to more of His love…

This desert season is far from over. The journey through this desert wilderness is long and hard. But I hold to two of God’s life-giving promises.

One. I’ll arise out of this desert clinging to Jesus. Song of Songs 8:5, TPT

Two. He will stay close to me and will guide me along the pathway of my life Psalm 32:8-9, TPT

These promises are enough to keep me walking in faith.

In this dry desert, my soul is blooming.

I pray that as you seek Him in your desert journey, your soul will bloom too.

Carly Thomson

As a wife and mother of three boys, a teacher, and an author, Carly’s life is always full of adventure, be it the every day ordinary moments of life or the high energy fun, she chooses to remain present and connected to Jesus and the world around her. Carly is the founding director of the She Collective movement helping young women discover their identity and self-worth. If Carly is not writing, you’ll find her playing, exploring and adventuring with her family OR completely lost in a good book with a cup of tea and a cookie.

www.carlythomson.com

iola magazine articles

For the sake of beauty: How to invite beauty into your everyday life

When I was a little girl, I spent most of my childhood hidden away in the pages of a book or wandering in the woods listening to the birds and trees whisper stories. I was drawn to beauty and mystery in equal parts. I liked to think I was unique, set apart somehow by the things I loved, my senses alone tuned to beauty.

 

I know now that I was never alone in my loves, and certainly not the only one attuned to beauty. We are all hardwired to seek it, know it, and name it. Like many children, I was drawn to stories and art and the natural world. Others are drawn to bodies in motion, bounty at the table, or the beauty of friendship and intimacy.

By nature, we desire what is beautiful, having an innate awareness of it. We’re drawn to the lovely, the sublime, the evocative. Beauty fulfills our longings, however imperfectly, providing a feast for our soul and our senses.

Our love for imperfect beauty arises out of our desire for perfect Beauty itself, which is the beauty of Christ, the Kingdom of God in its fullness.

As an adult, it’s easy to overlook the beautiful in life for pressing daily tasks and imagined urgency. I find I have to work at beauty, both in seeking and creating it. I must offer it an open invitation. I return to these simple steps when my vision clouds and I imagine I need to overhaul my life. Instead, I open my eyes to the beauty in front of me.

Perhaps you need to issue an invitation to beauty as well? Here’s how:

Kimberly Coyle

Expect Beauty:

Live expectant, open handed, wholehearted in all things. Allow Philippians 4:8 to guide you as you extend your invitation. “…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Perhaps you’ll discover beauty in nature, in a circle of sister-friends, in the work of your hands, in cooking, in children, in stories, in order, in design, in peace-making, in justice, in art.

Not all beautiful things carry an obvious form of beauty at first glance. Truth may be painful. Light may expose what’s hidden in darkness. Justice may reveal wrongdoing. But, beauty is what happens when the Kingdom of God enters in, when we see with the eyes of possibility, when redemption is at the end of the story.

Capture Beauty:

Practice new ways of capturing surprise or smallness or symmetry. Look for the odd, the original, the otherworldly. Photography, journaling, letter writing, old-fashioned crafts, collections, or capturing snippets of life using social media can help us focus and capture the beauty we might ordinarily walk past without thinking.

Return to your first love. What did you gather and collect as a child? What shimmered in the rough of everyday life and caught your eye like a magpie? Did you squirrel away small collections of shells or pressed flowers or scribble long lists of favorite lyrics? Did you write terrible teenaged poetry? How did you capture beauty when you were half-formed? When the earth and sea and sky and friends and fireworks and uninhibited play left their fingerprints on the wet clay of your soul?

How could you invite those loves back into your life today?

Practice Beauty:

The more we embrace and capture beauty, the more inspired we become to create. We are made in the image of God: the original Life Artist, the Creator of all things. Embrace your role as co-creator—participate in the naming of the unnamed. Call the world around you beautiful with defiant acts of creation.

Allow your creation to complement the beauty you discover elsewhere. Reject comparison. There is nothing new under the sun, but your unique perspective offers fresh inspiration to the rest of us.

Give us yourself and your best work, for the sake of beauty.

 

Kimberly Coyle is a freelance writer and an adjunct professor of writing with an MFA in creative non-fiction. She has written for publications such as In Touch Magazine, Fathom Magazine, (in)courage, and Grace Table. When not writing or teaching, she dabbles in photography and can be found on Instagram as @kacoyle.

She writes regularly online at www.kimberlyanncoyle.com

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I stole a bra!

I did, I really did, and it wasn’t even a sexy one.

Let me explain.

I’d been out to lunch with a girlfriend and our laughter and chatter hadn’t stopped for a moment. The modern, deconstructed menu challenged my taste buds, and our conversation stirred my emotions – she was going through a rough spell and I couldn’t fix it.

We paid our bill and decided to spend the precious minutes before school was out and our kids needed us home, meandering the smorgasbord of new shops that had sprung up in the area.

The sun was out … the sky was blue… the shops were open …

All was calm and as it should be on a girl’s lunch out, until I screamed,

“Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!! I’ve stolen a bra!”

I’d left the first boutique empty-handed and as I grabbed the handle of our next fashion emporium, eager to find something more my style, I noticed a rather ugly bra dangling not-so-innocently from my wrist.

“I stole a bra, oh my goodness, I stole a bra!”

Immediately, I spun on my heels, waving the snow-white undergarment above my head, determined to confess and surrender to my fate. Peering around her shop door, the store owner’s confused expression said it all …

“Did this middle-aged English woman really walk out of my store, wearing a rather unsexy brassière slung over her wrist like a Kate Spade clutch?”

To which the answer was, most decidedly, YES! Yes she did!

With a thousand apologies spewing from my lips, in my humblest English accent (I’ve found a good Downton Abbey accent gets me out of the stickiest situations), I paid for the bra and left – embarrassed and contrite.

She had silently watched me pick up the bra, turn to my friend to exclaim that I’d been looking for one just like it (yes, I wear unattractive underwear … for comfort!), sling it nonchalantly over my wrist to buy later, get distracted by the shiny objects in the jewelry area, and then absent-mindedly turn to leave; completely unaware I was still carrying the underwear I’d so admired for its practicality and comfort!

Her grace, humor, and understanding kept me out of jail and in a slightly heady, I-can’t-believe-I-just-did-that kind of mood for the rest of the day. I had the clear sense I’d dodged a bullet, or at least an awkward conversation with my teenagers about underwear, policemen, and the dangers of mixing the two.

But as the day wore on, my relief turned to reflection as God nudged me to think about the day’s events and the allegorical connection between my lingerie thieving and my tendency towards emotional kleptomania.

“How much emotional baggage, invisibly slung over your wrist, are you carrying around with you?” He asked.

Whoa! He had me there!

As I looked at myself, I saw myself tired and exhausted from carrying the weight of emotions and beliefs I’ve refused to put down over the years. There were slightly hippy looking hurts from growing up in the 70’s swinging next to beliefs from the 80’s still lurid in their neon ra-ra skirts. Work-related resentments, deep unforgiveness from failed relationships, and ugly self-beliefs, all tumbling down my arm like thrift store rejects.

“I’m not good enough.”

“I can’t forgive him”

“You’ll leave me.”

And so the list went on … and on … and on!

Boy, do I have some spring cleaning ahead of me!!

Thankfully, just like the shop-keeper, God’s grace and humor prevail, and like the shop-keeper, He knows I didn’t mean to pick up all that emotional detritus along the bumpy road of life. He knows it weighs me down and gets me into trouble, and He knows just how to help me put it down.

He forgives me.

He heals and comforts me.

The one BIG difference between my new favorite shop owner and God, is that He paid for me. I don’t owe a thing. Nada. Zip. Zero. All I have to do is put this baggage down, let go, and walk away.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, but I know it’s worth it.

So, that’s how God spoke to a dippy, middle-aged woman, through a very unattractive piece of underwear, about how to lay down her emotional baggage! Wow. I guess He meant it when He said,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

I love His sense of humor!

Niki Hardy

Niki Hardy is a Brit in the USA, a cancer survivor and pastor’s wife, a fresh air junkie and tea drinker. As a speaker and blogger her candid, humorous storytelling helps us find humor and grace in the darkest place, and learn to laugh and trust God when all we want to do is scream. When she’s not speaking, writing or running trails with her Doodles, she can be found trying to figure out which of the three remote controls actually turns the TV on.

You can find her, encouragement, and lots of practical resources at nikihardy.com.

 

Self-care for when you are coming out of a time of depression.

On either side of my driveway crocuses and snowdrops have started to appear. They have forced their way through the decomposing leaves. Bursts of colour against the damp brown matting.

I take a rake and gently pull it across the flowerbed, easing my way through the flowers carefully, trying not to knock off the delicate blooms. The flowers I expose are top heavy, their stems are white, translucent, anemic. Many of them flop forward, unable to support their own weight. I fear my zeal might have shortened their already brief life.

I recognise myself here.

I have been re-learning how to live in a way that enables me to be well, to enjoy my days and weeks without the constant threat of sliding under. Figuring out what I need to do to make sure I don’t fall foul of the beast that is anxiety… again.

I have pushed through. I have worked my way into a new place, out of the dark. And now I am here in the sunlight. I feel disoriented, sun-blinded, unstable.

Elli Johnson

I fear my legs will not continue to hold me as I venture forward.

I am top heavy with new ideas, new habits, new ways to be.

This new life I am discovering has involved a complete overhaul of my priorities, how I spend my time, who I spend time with, how I treat my body.

Everything has had to change.

And change at such a rapid rate (okay so I’ve been on this path for over seven years – but that is pretty quick to change your whole life) can leave you vulnerable, exposed, it can tire you out.

To ensure I grow in a way that promotes strength and enables longevity I have put some things in place to protect me. To act as a safety net while I am venturing forward.

Scheduled rest.

Constant activity was one of the pillars of my old way of life. Busyness was seen as a status symbol and any rest was treated as an unnecessary luxury.

I need rest now.

Rest to enable me to remember how to live in this new way, and rest as part of the new life.

Rest in the rhythm and routine of my days and weeks.

I look at my diary and schedule in time for nothing, for having a bath or watching trashy tv, for playing board games and walking by the river. Rest and renewal is an essential part of growth and forward motion. And I have learnt it only happens when I schedule it.

Surrounding myself with grace-speakers.

I make sure I spend time every week with people who will remind me of the new things I have learnt. People who will prompt me to let myself off the hook, to have compassion towards myself, to cultivate a life of present attention, not future obsession. These ideas are still new to me. I can easily begin to lose them in the hustle of the everyday.

I have made new friends, and new ways to be with old friends, to ensure I am surrounded by people who will remind me my worth is not determined by my productivity or achievement, people who won’t let me forget the truths I have learnt the hard way.

Remembering rule number 6.

As decreed by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander* rule number 6 is:  Don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously.

Blimey, all this talk of mental health and self-compassion can get a bit serious. Learning to laugh at myself is important, no – vital. (Ask my husband).

In the process of changing my life and learning how to live again, I am going to make mistakes. This is a fact.

I am going to do too much and burn out, and I am going to go to the other extreme and find I have become a little too hooked on soap operas. I am going to say the wrong thing. I am going to take two steps forward and three steps back. I am going to make a fool of myself.

But it’s all good.

No one ever learnt anything new with an unbroken record of success. It takes failure and mistakes too.

Not taking yourself too seriously is a necessity when you spend your days talking about mental wellbeing and depression-busting strategies.

(My children are very good at making sure I don’t forget this!)

*From The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander, an excellent read.

Elli Johnson

This article is from the first issue of iola magazine.

 

Elli Johnson has been blogging at thehippochronicles.com for over 4 years. She writes about mental health, creativity, beauty and the chaos of family life. She is a professional child wrangler, (over)thinker, and tea drinker.

Elli lives in Liverpool with the river Mersey at the bottom of the road.

To find her newest and most exciting work, check out: patreon.com/thehippochronicles