Depression

As a Hospice volunteer I visit a little old lady in a nursing home. One day I visited she was fast asleep. I took her hand because I didn’t want her to miss my visit, but she didn’t wake up. She was so peaceful there, lying with her little mouth wide open.

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We had agreed during my last visit that I would read the Bible to her, so I prayed and then just softly began to read Matthew for 45 minutes, all the while she lay sound asleep. I don’t know if she heard me or not, but the words calmed my soul in the process.

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It’s hard for me to make these visits, but I know it’s what God wants me to do. He wants me to bring joy into someone else’s life while I can sometimes find no joy in my own. The depression keeps me home, bored out of my mind, but it’s so hard to get up and go somewhere. I have to pray every day that God gets me out of the house, and with Hospice, I know they depend on me and that makes it easier to go.

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As I was talking with the staff after my visit, another little lady told me how pretty I was. That was so sweet it melted my heart.

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My own mother benefitted from Hospice and I feel like this is my way of giving back, just a little, for the good works they did with her and for my family after she passed. Giving back can also increase positive experiences in my life. DBT tells us to look at the short term by doing things we enjoy. We are to increase positive experiences by making changes in our lives so that positive experiences can occur more often.

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You’d think having a life of positive experiences would be a dream come true, but when you have depression, everything, even positive things, can be an effort. Some people might think that since I don’t work, my life must be filled with the things I want to do instead of things I have to do.

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What I read about depression is that it leads to inactivity and inactivity makes depression worse. This is why I make myself do things. If I don’t make myself, then I won’t get better, It’s a vicious cycle. Depression breeds inactivity and inactivity feeds depression. I am told not to wait until I feel motivated to do things, action is the key. By being active I will begin to feel motivated.

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Believe it or not, even watching TV can take effort. But I make myself get into a new series, so I will be motivated to watch more. And I know that by volunteering I am helping someone else too. I know I have to shower so I make myself do it. Isn’t is scary how depression could make it seem impossible to even take a shower- let alone put on makeup and do your hair?

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It’s a daily battle for me. I have to plan something to do and then I have to do it. Sometimes I have to just put one foot in front of the other. Even going to church is planned and sometimes I go-sometimes I don’t. My therapist tells me to schedule things. So I schedule that I’ll make pork chops tonight. I tell my husband I will and then I’m committed. So I do it.

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It seems so simple- but its hard. I pray every night that I will do something of meaning the next day. God answers me with something. Sometimes its just writing this book. Sometimes it’s going out to see my little lady. Jesus is with me on this path.

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I downloaded a workbook: SCDPAntidepressantSkills and I am working on the chapter called “Reactivating your Life.” It’s a self-care depression program that I hope will give me more skills in my toolbox. Right now, I am working on small steps toward the goal of reactivating my life. I know I just need to take that first step every day.

Consult Wise Mind (God)

God is Wise Mind. Wise Mind is what DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls being balanced between Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind. We need to have this balance to make good decisions, and this is where Jesus comes in.

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The world throws things at us all the time and we get shaken. We worry, we despair and that puts us in Emotion Mind. Jesus can restore the balance if we trust and collaborate with Him.

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Reasonable Mind in its extreme may cause us to question things that we know to be true. Such as the Glory of God that we cannot see, taste or hear. DBT describes it as being task focused, rational, cool while Emotion Mind is described as mood-dependent and emotion focused. Looking at it like this you may think that Reasonable Mind is a smart place to stay, but it doesn’t lead us to be loving and empathetic, as Jesus commands us to be.

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“However as it is written, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

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It takes trust and faith. To me having faith in Jesus is Wise Mind. If I can just consult Him when I am broken or when I don’t feel compassion for others, He will give me strength and knowledge to do the right thing.

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There is a time and place for both Reasonable and Emotion Minds. It’s when either of these get us to be thinking ineffectively that we need to consult Wise Mind which is described as Intuitive, The Middle Path, and I describe as God.

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Praying or Mindfulness in God is how I consult my Wise Mind. I just ask Him to lead me and I put my entire faith in Him and not people or things. Circumstances are unknowable. But God knows them. God knows where our lives will lead. You never know when you might be in an accident and hit your head on a rock, or be diagnosed with Leukemia or some other disease, but God knows what’s in store for you. That’s why consulting with Him is the wise path.

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It’s faith that God does all things for our good. I didn’t know I had Leukemia when my son died, and I’m glad I didn’t. God hid that from me until I was strong enough to deal with it. I bet you have these miracles in your life too. Things you can look back on and say, “That was God.” Don’t forget about those things but call them up when your faith needs to be renewed. Call them up in circumstances that you feel helpless.

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DBT states that Wise Mind is almost “always quiet, like a ‘still point’ within. It has a certain peace. It is the part of you that knows and experiences truth.” I feel that way when I pray, when I collaborate with God.

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When we look at things from God’s perspective, we can get a tiny glimpse of the future, a future in which God loves us and comforts us. A future of being in Heaven with Him that will make all of these trials here on Earth seem trivial.

Sorrow

Jesus knows how I feel. Psalm 62:8 tells me to pour out my heart to God, He is my refuge. There are some bad days- and there are some good days. But if I learn to pour my heart out to Him regardless of it being a bad day or a good day, He gets to see me. The Real Me. The Me I don’t want anyone else to see, and the Me who bestows thankfulness to Him for the good days.

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“Everything happens for a reason,” is something I say to myself as a buffer, but even now, I do not know the reason that my son died so young. I feel like even to say that “everything happens for a reason” puts a callous tone to my grief. It’s like saying, “Oh well, it was meant to be!” My Wise Mind who, I often personify as Jesus, tells me it was meant to be. Do any of us know the exact moment that God will call us home to him?

Won’t there always be things left to finish since we might be caught off guard by death?
I judge myself for looking at what happened to me when he died, rather than looking at what happened to him when he died. Tyler is in Heaven because God wanted him to be, at the exact time that he went. But I am stuck in a place where I am looking at the effects of his death, the depression, the sorrow and the general falling apart of my life. And the chance to speak to him one more time is gone.

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This is my “Me, Me, Me” mode and it is selfish. I want to trust God. I want to get all of my emotions out through prayer with Him. I know He shares my pain and I do feel this burden getting lighter as I continue to trust in Him.

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I cannot possibly know why my son died- I will never know the reason, but I think it has more to do with him and his time to go home to the Lord, than it has to do with me and my suffering. I should be happy for him, because he is with Jesus.

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I am going to focus on acceptance and trust in God. I am going to stop being willful by focusing on why Tyler died and start being willing to accept this great gift I have received of a closeness to God that was a result of it.

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“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8

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I collaborate with Jesus in my radical acceptance of my son’s death. He tells me truths through His word. I believe Him. In my collaboration, we walk this path together. I am not alone. He feels my sorrow and He knows my innermost thoughts.

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I know that if I collaborate with Jesus during my worries and sadness, He will not only give me respite, but He will also give me strength. And instead of worrying, I will begin to feel the excitement of what God has in store for me today and every day.

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“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.” John 14:3

Soulmates

I married my soulmate, Terry, in 1998 when I was thirty-eight years old. My Mom babysat while we ran off to Las Vegas a few days after Valentine’s Day. We had an “Elvis” wedding at the Graceland Wedding Chapel and videotaped the whole thing, including a mini concert from our middle-aged “Elvis.”

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We had a choice for our Elvis: we could have the thin young one or the old fat one. We chose the old fat one because he would be more like the Elvis that would be living then. He looked remarkably like him and he sang in perfect Elvis manner!

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We were picked up from our hotel by a seventies style limousine with crushed velvet interior. The limo was long and sleek- burgundy in color. When we arrived at the little white chapel, me in my long black dress and Terry in a perfectly cut blue suit, we had decisions to make. Did we want flowers? Rings? YES! We bought everything at the chapel, a silk red rose flower bouquet, and thirty-five-dollar rings. We kept those rings for many years until they finally tarnished, and we decided to get “real” rings for our fifteenth anniversary.

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Elvis walked me down the aisle singing “Love Me Tender” and stroking his guitar. The minister was great, and Elvis sat in the second row while the ceremony took place. Then just for me and Terry he got up and sang a few songs at our request. It was wonderful though it would have been perfect if we had our big brood of family with us.

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Hillary was six, Kendall was four, and Tyler was fifteen. Terry had four kids from previous marriages, Kelly, Stacy, Chad and Krista, and all together that made seven! We called us the Bundy Bunch after that seventies show the Brady Bunch.  We never all lived together at the same time, what with Kelly and Stacy being older and on their own, moving in and out with us as events occurred as they always do. Chad lived with his mother and Krista with hers. Krista was right in the middle of Hillary and Kendall in age and spent summers and holidays with us. Tyler lived with us until we moved to Ohio in 1999.

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Summers in Ohio were filled with three little girls laughing and arguing and basically getting reacquainted every year. Christmases never brought all of us together at the same time- there was always one kid, or another, missing. We never had a family portrait taken with all the kids, but we were determined that they were all “our” kids and never have used the term “step.”

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Terry is a great father to my kids, though he and Tyler didn’t get along. Tyler was at the age where he was jealous and angry with me for marrying someone other than his father. And he was a difficult kid, getting into all kinds of trouble and hanging with the wrong crowd, sneaking out of his bedroom window at night when the train would come by, so we couldn’t hear him. He told us about this later when he was older.
It took awhile for all this to settle in as blended families are. Eventually everyone came around and I think they all know that Terry and I are meant to be together.   God put Terry in my path at work and we had a great friendship before we started dating.

When I think about my gratitude’s, all of the kids and my soulmate are at the top of the list. I have never had such a love as I have with Terry and all of the kids.

God did that!

 

Do What Works

Part of being Mindful is to focus on what works for you. Do what needs to be done in each situation and don’t judge yourself. For instance, when you get angry with someone ask yourself, “Is this effective?” When you want to climb into bed and forget the world ask yourself that same question.

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It may be a horrible day, things aren’t going my way, I feel anxious and disturbed. I have found that one of the most effective ways to be mindful is giving thanks. Being grateful. How many times can I thank God for what He’s given me today? It changes my perspective.

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It can be especially difficult to be thankful when you’re having a bad day. But mindfulness to me is seeing what is in the emotion and what is outside of it. If I am angry, it may be an opportunity to set something straight. I can be mindful of my feelings and explore what it is that is making me angry and then I can consult Wise Mind (God) on how to deal with it effectively.

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Being mindful is not acting out on those anger urges but exploring them in our minds. Being thankful and being angry cannot exist together at the same time. If I explore what I am thankful for while angry I can usually come up with a way to talk to the person I am angry with in a loving way. If I am angry about a situation I can usually change my mind to the things for which I am grateful in spite of the situation.

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“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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I read in Jesus Calling July 24 the following:
“Thankfulness opens the door to my Presence. I have gone to great measures to preserve your freedom of choice. I have placed a door between you and me and I have empowered you to open or close that door. There are many ways to open it but a grateful attitude is one of the most effective.”

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DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) says to let go of vengeance, useless anger, and righteousness that hurts you and simply doesn’t work. I understand that can be easier said than done when you are in the heat of the moment, but mindfully looking outside of these emotions and focusing on gratefulness may be the answer for you as it is for me.
How many things can you be thankful for today? Really thankful? Focus on those things mindfully and you will see your perspective change.

Doing Nothing?

Some people might think of Mindfulness as sitting around doing nothing. The fact is that Mindfulness is observing and participating in whatever is happening in the moment. You don’t even need to be sitting around to participate in Mindfulness, you can practice it at any time doing anything.
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You‘re having an ordinary conversation say, being mindful simply means paying attention. Paying attention to the other person. Paying attention to their words, their body language, to how you feel during the conversation. Selecting the right words to respond back and paying attention to your own body language is being mindful.
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There are so many Bible verses in which God tells us to enjoy being in His presence. He tells us to let the problems fall by the wayside and have a real conversation with Him. While we can’t see His body language, we can be in tune to how we feel when we speak to Him. And there are plenty of verses that describe God’s being to us that we can imagine a loving God focused on us.
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Being mindful in our relationship with God puts our focus on Him. That’s what He wants. For us to trust in Him, to focus on Him.
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“In quietness and trust you will find strength.” Isaiah 30:15
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Being Mindful isn’t doing nothing. It’s asking Wise Mind (God) to replenish our spirits and calm our minds. It’s glorifying this exact moment, this one moment in time. It’s loving the person you’re talking to. It’s loving yourself by finding joy in the Now.
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And it can be especially important to seek God when you are overwrought with emotions. Plenty of times God has calmed me when I have been worried and overwrought. I seek His face and am mindful of His Glory and Power through Mindfulness.
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“Despite all of my emotions I will believe and praise the One who saves me and is my life.” Psalm 42:5
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You don’t have to meditate to be Mindful. You can though, and it can prove to be very calming especially when you our mindful in prayer. But just relaxing in the Spirit and being aware of your surroundings can be done without sitting cross-legged on the floor and meditating.
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I am Mindful now as I write. Feeling my cozy chair, noticing my fingers on the keys of my laptop. Seeing the room I decorated as my office. Knowing that God is here. Seeking His face as I plug away at the keys. Reading His Word as I look for inspiration.
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While I like meditating on God as it brings me closer to Him, I find some of the most beneficial mindfulness exercises can occur while I’m doing something. One of my Mindfulness exercises was written after driving and being mindful as I drove to a meeting. Being Mindful calmed me as I drove, and I was ready to participate when I got to my meeting.
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My husband and I like to sit on our deck swing and look at our backyard, watching birds and squirrels. Sometimes we talk, my husband loves to talk! And sometimes we just sit and watch. That’s Mindfulness. Sitting on the porch listening to my husband is Mindfulness. We grow in our relationship whether we’re just watching or talking.
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So the next time you think you have to get in a yoga position and meditate to practice mindfulness, just be where you are and pay attention.

The Magic of Mindfulness

I was at a crossroads-stuck on Earth but wanting to be in Heaven with my son. I tried to get there on my own a couple times, and for a long time I hoped God would just take me there. When I first tried to commit suicide, I was forlorn that it hadn’t “worked.” And for months afterwards, I didn’t care if I lived.

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I had such a distorted outlook that I didn’t see the pain I was causing my husband- my kids. I was blinded by death and I couldn’t see a life for myself. God entrusted some knowledgeable professionals and armed me with His word to make me see the error in my thinking. And I was selfish. All I could think about was being in Heaven and seeing my son again. And being with Jesus where He would put a balm on my wounds. There would be a reunion with all of my deceased family and I would live for eternity in the arms of the Father.

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I didn’t know that there could be Heaven on Earth with Jesus- not real Heaven, but Jesus can take our sorrows and turn them to joy. I had yet to know that Jesus can do that anytime, here on Earth, if I just ask. He can put me in touch with people who are meant to help me, he can show me how much my family needs me here.

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This is what the Lord says, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest in your souls.”         Jeremiah 6:16

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I learned that Mindfulness is a way to be in Jesus right where I am. I learned to look at my surroundings and participate in them, completely forgetting myself. That by doing this with God, I can change the urge to do something harmful. I can rejoice in what IS, right now.

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At my brother’s house in Wisconsin, he has loads of bird feeders on his deck right outside a big picture window. When I was recuperating, I spent some time with him and his wife and I would marvel at the birds and squirrels outside that window. This Summer we decided to get a bird feeder for our backyard, nothing as elaborate as my brother’s, but a nice one just the same.

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Have you ever seen a cardinal? How perfectly red they are? The cardinal is our state bird in Ohio and we have a pair of them that like to feed on our birdfeeder. They seem a bit shy, not afraid of the other birds but they don’t linger with them once they’ve got their seeds.

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Recently I was feeling very restless as I sat on my deck swing. I had a magazine called “Mindfulness” that I was paging through. Just reading about mindfulness calmed me. I began to see the backyard and all that was happening out there. I began to participate in the goings-on, laughing at the birds, watching the squirrels walk the tightrope of cables in the sky. These are things I saw every day, but today, I was in it with them.

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I saw the trees in their Summer glory with the years old trunks and their thick leaves. And I saw the grass that needed watering from the past over- ninety degree dry heat.

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That’s what mindfulness can do. It can slow your heartbeat, help you to appreciate the NOW. Participating in my backyard helped me see how God takes care of all that is on the Earth and I am part of that. He feeds the birds and squirrels, allows them to build their homes and sleep soundly. Every summer He brings leaves and grass and every winter He brings rain to soak the ground. I am part of that as He feeds me with His word and calms me when I am struggling.

I don’t want to die too early. I want to take the ancient path and see what God has in store for me today and every day.

Walk on the Water

When emotions are turbulent and fit the facts, DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) says to use Problem Solving. We Christians know that Jesus is our Problem Solver.

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I think about the verses in the Bible in which Jesus walks on the water and calms the sea as the Disciples are wracked with waves that threaten to capsize their boat. Sometimes my emotions feel like those choppy waves. They threaten to freeze me, I want to go back to bed and put the covers over my head to ward them off.

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Just like in the story, Jesus can step out and turn my emotions to smooth glass if I choose to ignore the urge to go back to bed and instead focus on Him, the Problem Solver.

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Have you ever felt like your emotions are engulfing you? You can’t find a way to calm them and they crash against you in waves of despair or fear or anger. Your action urge is to lash out and make the waves even bigger, or ignore the problem and sit in the boat hoping it won’t do you in. You can’t stop it- your bad feelings are overtaking your ability to think of anything else.

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DBT has a flowchart- a step-by-step for what to do I this situation, ultimately ending in either problem solving to put it to rest, solved, or opposite action, doing something the opposite of what you feel. (PDF) DBT Problem solving

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I wrote my own step-by-step using the story in Matthew 14 about Jesus walking on water to calm the sea.
1.) Think about the event that is causing your problem
2.) Bring it to Jesus
3.) Allow Him to step out on your emotional wave, to calm it as smooth as glass.
4.) Listen to the calm and wait for the voice of God (Wise Mind).
5.) During this calm, pour out your heart to Jesus.
6.) Take His hand and step out onto the calm.
7.) Do not falter as Peter did. Do not give into the emotion and cause the waves to speed up again.
8.) Stand firm and think of ways to solve your problem with Jesus.
9.) If the answer doesn’t come to you, because God has His own time, consider doing something opposite of the way you feel in order to ease your suffering.

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22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.
25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-33

Willing

When I was little I sat in a hospital waiting room for one of my sister’s many mouth surgeries and I came upon a Christian book of stories. One of the stories I read was about a little boy who was in the hospital and very, very sick, he was passing. A nurse came to the boy one night and told him that he just had to raise his hand and Jesus would take him to Heaven with him.

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The story was about giving yourself to Jesus to be saved. That little boy raised his hand and was saved that night. He went peacefully to Heaven. But in my child’s eye it meant that holding up my hand at night meant I would die- then go to Heaven.

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I was terrified! I slept on my hands for days and prayed that I wouldn’t accidentally raise it in my sleep and die. I eventually got over this, but that story stuck in my mind and I recall it always in hospital waiting rooms.

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Raising our hands to Jesus is a way of expressing our wanting to hold him. We express our need to hold His hand by opening our palms in what DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls “Willing Hands” posture. We raise our hands in praise during songs at church. Sometimes in mindfulness, I raise both of my hands high and turn my face upward in order to feel the joy of communing with God.

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This sign of willingness opens my heart to what God has to say to me, to the glory of His joy in me. That little boy in the story was willingly giving his life to Jesus, not being willful and denying the fact that he was dying, not refusing to accept the reality that he would soon leave the world.

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Part of being willing is to listen carefully to your Wise Mind (God). It is not refusing to tolerate whatever pain you are feeling, but rather bringing that pain to Jesus. It is not trying to fix every situation but allowing God to work His will through the situation. Willfulness is trying to be in control.  Willingness is to let God be God.

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Willingness is acting with awareness that you are connected with God. When willfulness is unmovable, ask yourself, “What is the threat?” Then bring that worry to God. With an open-ness to God you can think through your problem using His guidance to a solution, or if no solution is available be open to God’s time. God will answer your prayer- he promises- in His own way.

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“I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and fill my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast.” Psalm 91:15

Forgive Yourself

According to the Mayo Clinic, “By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy.” And we should, “Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.”

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Forgiving yourself can give you peace. God forgives us when we ask. Jesus died for our sins and washed us clean. The step of forgiving yourself can be difficult.

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When I was little, around Junior High age, I told a couple lies about people to others. I had such guilt over it that my stomach cramped, and I thought sure I was going to Hell until I made it right. The only thing that would give me relief was confessing to the person that I had lied. It was embarrassing, but I did it, and afterwards I felt cleansed of the sin.

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That’s how I feel now, as I grapple with the “sin” of not spending enough time with my son before he died. The only thing is that I can’t ask him for forgiveness now that he’s gone, so I have to just forgive myself. But that means accepting reality, and that is hard.

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You may argue this, but I think it’s easier to forgive others than ourselves. It’s easier to ask God for forgiveness because we know His promises of it and we believe them. It takes loving kindness toward ourselves to forgive.  We know we are our own worst critics.

I have said before that forgiveness is a gift. Why can’t I give myself this gift? And part of acceptance is forgiving- I have to accept that Tyler died before we had the chance to talk about everything, but in order to do that I have to forgive myself.

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It hurts to try to control things that we cannot control, but surrender is a greater Christian value than control. It’s going from playing God, judge jury, to seeking God. A concept of Christian Cognitive Behavior Therapy is Forgiveness Intervention. It is seeking the help of a loved one or therapist to help you through forgiving yourself and knowing that God is the one who completes the work of forgiveness in our hearts.

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As I am writing this, I wish I could follow my own advice! I would give anything not to feel the way I do about myself.

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My therapist and I are working on this. Self-blame is a cognitive distortion when we blame ourselves for things we may not be entirely responsible for. One of the ways we talked about is to make a list of the things I want to forgive myself for and pray for each of them separately. We also decided I would write a letter to Tyler and send it up in a balloon.

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You have to develop your forgiveness capacity, and one way to do this might be reading about forgiveness in the Bible. Luke 6:37 says, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

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I will also write a letter to God, falling on His promises for forgiveness and asking Him to help me forgive myself.

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“You Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to ALL who call to you.”
Psalm 86:5

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If God forgives ALL of us and loves us even with our sins, and if I strive to be like Jesus, then I must forgive myself and love myself, for that is His command. I am working hard at this. DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) says radical acceptance is not pretending it didn’t happen or avoiding the issue, it is recognizing, all the way, with mind, body, soul, that something happened and deciding to accept it as fact.

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Acceptance is not allowing the suffering to accompany the pain of an event. It’s not ruminating on what could have been but accepting what is.

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There will be time for me to show my abundant love for Tyler when I am in Heaven. There is time now for me to show my love by writing him letters and everyday thinking about how much I love him. It is real- this love. It is a fact. I love my son regardless of anything else I may have or have not done. God knows this, and I know it.