The Day Has Come {Advent: December 25}

The day has come;

Hope has come.

No longer do we fear

The setting of the sun.

Though darkness rises, it too must fall

And see the glory of broken chains,

One for all.

No more sorrow, no more pain, no more suffering will end this game, for dawn appears just there along the horizon, why do you fear when all our hope keeps arisin.’

No more fear, no more pain. Only love like cleansing rain, come wash over me your cleansing flood, let me see the glory of the risen Son.

Depressed {Advent: December 22}

Do you have depression? Do you ever feel depressed? In the midst of seasons that are supposed to be full of joy, do you just feel miserable? Well, I’ve been in that boat too, and with what my family has walked through recently, I know what that feels like. Call me a grinch, but I’m almost ready for the radio stations to stop playing Christmas music. How do you deal with depression? The following may or may not be beneficial to you depending on your circumstances.

1. Acknowledge and accept the circumstances of your situation and your mental health.

2. Get help for the depression. Go see a counselor. No, you’re not a crazy person for needing therapy. Well, we’re all a little crazy, and everyone needs therapy. You and your counselor will decide on the best treatment options for the depression. Fortunately, there are many options available.

3. Surround yourself with light. Physical light helps you see through the emotional darkness of depression. Physical darkness can worsen your depression, make you feel awful, and can lead to detrimental thoughts. Go look at Christmas lights, take a walk in the sunlight, or simply turn on a lamp.

4. Ask God for strength. As believers, we have an extra source of strength. We don’t just have to rely on our own resources and strength.

5. Surround yourself with people. You may not feel like being around people, but sometimes you need to make yourself be around people. Isolation is a dangerous place, and being around people, especially people who encourage you, can lift your spirits.

Reflection {Advent: December 21}

This season is a time for reflection. You look back over the course of the year and reflect upon various moments throughout it. Then you start looking ahead to next year wondering what personal goals you’ll set at the beginning of the year and actually keep the rest of the year.

Instead of just focusing on personal goals during this season, focus on specific moments that contributed to your growth spiritually and personally. Journal about these questions:

  • What moments encouraged you to drawn strength from the Lord?
  • What did you learn about God this year?
  • What did God teach you about yourself this year?
  • How did you grow in your management of stressful situations?

Do You Know Someone who is Grieving? {Advent: December 19}

Yesterday I wrote about when you’re the one grieving, but what about when someone you know is grieving? How do you help? Here are some suggestions.

1. Remember this is a sensitive time for all family members. Each family member has a different relationship with the person who passed away. Just because one person is more vocal with his or her emotions doesn’t mean that the silent one doesn’t have the same or even more intense emotions.

2. Ask your friend what he or she needs and list specific items that they might want or need. Don’t wait for your friend to ask. They don’t have any energy; they’re in a daze; and the last thing they want to do is summon up the effort to make a phone call. Don’t know what kind of food to bring? Ask your friend his or her favorite food or what would taste good. Ask your friend what he or she hasn’t had in a while. Ideas for items to bring (food, coffee, paper products <– that last one is gold.)

3. Call your friend, send a text, write a private Facebook message. Whichever means you choose, just make sure your friend knows that you are thinking about them or praying for them. If they post something on Facebook, it’s okay to click the “Like” button, as it’s more of an acknowledgment of the post.

4. Extend grace more than necessary. Your friend may snap or express frustration. It’s nothing personal, and it’s most likely not geared toward you. It’s not ideal, but neither is your friend’s situation.

5. Send a stand or bouquet of flowers with a note. These are beautiful, and the family wants to tangibly see love and support from friends and people in their community.

6. Go by and visit your friend. Don’t just send them a gift, go by and see your friend. Carry some food and go talk to them. They might could use some company, especially if they have a small family.

7. Run some errands for your friend. If they need some groceries, sundries, or if they need to pick up carry out or whatever, offer to do it for them.

8. Get a feel for how the emotions are before sparking conversation. Some people want to talk about their loved one, and other people just want to be silent. Some people want to do both.

9. Be creative with your comments or questions. When the moment seems right to ask your friend about their loved one, ask them about their favorite memory instead of asking “how are you doing.” If you want to ask the latter, just be ready for a burst of tears or anger or a range of emotions.

10. Familiarize yourself with the stages of grief, and realize that their order is cyclical, not linear. Just because someone has moved passed the shock or denial stages doesn’t mean that he or she won’t return to them. Let your friend grieve in a way that’s healthy for him or her, and be patient. You might run into your friend a month from the tragedy and your friend is back in the denial stage. That’s okay. The best thing to do is validate your friend and empathize with him or her.

These are some suggestions. If you’re still lost for knowing what to do, remember that your friend just wants to know that you care about him or her. This isn’t a time for some abstract form of love, because now their loved one is a memory. Now is a time for concrete, tangible evidence of care and support.

Are you Grieving? {Advent: December 18}

My grandmother passed away this week. I’m grieving a great loss. In my faith tradition, I believe that she is in heaven with no more pain and no more suffering. I keep saying to my friends, “I know that she is completely healed, I know that she isn’t in pain anymore, I know that she is home.”

I know I know I know I knoooow.

But my heart still hurts. I’m still in so much pain. In the middle of a season with lots of joy and celebration, I’m hurting very badly. Every time I hear a Christmas song on the radio, I turn it off. I’m numb to all the excitement of the season. I love looking at Christmas lights. I’m comforted seeing light in the midst of great darkness. Where is my Meme? Why can’t she come back? I’m grieving.

Are you grieving this season? Maybe someone in your life has left this earth, maybe you’re in a difficult relationship with someone, or maybe you don’t see the point in all the excitement. I’m right there with you. Below are a few things that are helping me during this time. Maybe they can help you too.

1. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself cry, scream, shout. Whatever you need to do – as long as you don’t hurt yourself or someone else – let yourself go. Now is not the time to hold back any emotion.

2. Ask for help. I know, this is the part where people could just offer something instead of waiting for you to ask for it, but we all know that doesn’t always happen. The fact is that people don’t know how to help. They don’t know what you need. A lot of people just aren’t good at anticipating the needs of their friends. Being aware of this, you have to ask for help. Now isn’t the time to be codependent and think that you’re bothering someone by asking for help.

3. Be patient with yourself and with your other loved ones who are also grieving. It’s gonna take some time for the pain to subside. Lots of time. You’re gonna feel awful and awkward for a while.

4. Lean into the pain. Sounds weird, but it works. Let yourself feel awful and awkward. Don’t try to ignore the pain or pretend it isn’t there, because that will only make it worse. If you let yourself feel the pain now, you lessen the risk of dragging out the grieving process beyond the healthy point. What’s the healthy point? Only you can decide that. The point here is that you allow yourself to feel the painful emotions. Just make sure that you’re in a safe place and that you don’t hurt yourself or other people in the process.

5. The little things can be triggers for tears. Slow, sappy music in the nail salon, a TV show, a specific restaurant, and certain smells are among the small things that may trigger tears. You don’t have to run away from these triggers, but if you can go ahead and be aware that these bring on tears, you can avoid them or buffer yourself from their effect on you.

6. You’re not alone in your pain, so don’t isolate yourself. Everyone on this planet knows what it’s like to lose someone. You’re not the only one who has felt this pain. I’m not saying this to be rude. I’m saying this because you will be tempted to become isolated, and that is a dangerous place to be in. There are people in your life who know the pain that you feel.

7. Eat your feelings and do what comforts you. You heard me. Jillian Michaels may not be so happy about this one, but this is not the time to think about staying on track with some diet. If you’re craving carbs, pasta, sweet treats, or savory snacks, eat it! Now, you don’t have to become a glutton and you probably don’t want to make yourself sick, but let yourself enjoy the foods that comfort you. If it isn’t food that comforts you, think of something else that comforts you and go do it. Get a pedicure, a massage, go workout, sleep in, watch a movie, etc.

8. Don’t let it hurt you or surprise you if someone grieves differently than you. People grieve differently and experience a wide range of emotions at varying times. If someone isn’t crying at the same time that you’re crying, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care. There will come some moments that the other person is crying and you’re not. That’s okay.

9. When you think about funny things and start to laugh, don’t push away the laughter. You might feel like it’s an inappropriate time to laugh, but it’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to laugh, to cry, to be angry, to feel whatever emotion that you feel.

10. Find ways to talk it out. I know, talking is probably the last thing you want to do. If you don’t feel like talking, don’t. However, if you do feel like it, find avenues to talk about your loved one. Share some memories on your blog or call and talk to a friend. Don’t think you have to keep it all to yourself or hold it in.

I hope these will help you as they have helped me. May the Lord comfort you during this time, and may you find comfort among friends and family.

Breathe & Take a Break {Advent: December 9-15}

You need a break. Don’t let this season become a time in which you simply check off items on your to-do list, including advent devotionals. Don’t let them become a rote, mundane part of your day. Take some time to spend with God without someone else’s thoughts in your head. Talk to God, and tell him about your day. Listen for his voice. Practice solitude. Read a story you don’t know from Scripture.

Daily advent devotionals will resume in a week.

Secrets {Advent: December 8}

We all have them. We’ve all had them. What is something that you haven’t told anyone because you would be embarrassed or dishonored? What’s the one thing (or multiple things) that you are reluctant to tell someone? Part of our healing comes from vulnerability, which helps us come to terms with ourselves. If there is something in your life that you are not willing to talk about with at least one person, then that is something from which you need healing.

The Dangers of Secrets

1. Secrets eventually make you pathologically afraid of the people who are closest to you. What did Adam and Eve do as soon as they heard God looking for them after eating that fruit? They hid. They hid from the person who was closest to them. (“But, wasn’t God the only other person around anyway?” some might ask. No. Adam and Eve had companion-like interactions with animals prior to the fall.)

2. Secrets cause you to lie to yourself. Why would you want to lie to yourself? If you can’t stop lying to yourself, then you can’t expect other people to stop lying to you.

3. Secrets cause you to lie to the people who are closest to you. Not only do you learn to hide, you also learn to lie to the people who would drop anything for you. This pushes people away and makes them wonder what they did to invoke your lies.

4. Secrets lead you to miss out on what makes being human so endearing. When you open up about things that are hurting or troubling you, you realize the freedom that comes with vulnerability. You also witness the empathy and warmth that a lot of people still have. Secrets keep you from experiencing that.

Now, hear me. I’m not talking about disclosing every single detail of your life. You need to practice discretion, only confiding in people who have a proven track record of trustworthiness. I’m also not saying that the people closest to you are entitled to knowing about your inner struggles. This is about you acknowledging an area (or multiple areas) in your life that makes you uncomfortable to even think about discussing.

What is that area?

FYI: A counseling session is a great place to talk about things that are uncomfortable. If it’s something you need help sorting through, find a licensed professional counselor who has experience in this area.