Gratitude

So here I am, miserable and sick with a case of stomach flu and an even worse case of self-pity. In bed, able to keep only a few things down, sleeping most of the day.

But deeply hidden in my heart was a little question-mark that would not shut up.

Aren’t you supposed to give thanks, even now!?
But how!!!? What for!? This hurts and there’s not much I can do!?” I asked.
Since there was no answer that I heard but the question wouldn’t let go of me, I asked my longest online friend on Facebook  “How to be thankful while having a case of the flu 🤔”. His response:

It could be worse“.

It could be worse. Four words that sent my mind spinning and put an end to my self-pity. Yes it could be worse. A lot worse.

Like for my sister in law, who has been feeling like this for over 30 weeks now because of her pregnancy. She has four kids to worry about already, to raise and care for. And still quite some weeks to endure what others think to be a blessing… but to her it comes with a cost. My flu will be gone in a few days. Already I have spent 12 hours without throwing up so the worst is over now. I Thank God!!!

Or…

I could have to do without the support and care of my husband. Without him to look after our daughter, take her to school, feed her, clothe her, take her to a friend to play have fun… and without him making me soup and hot tea or to take over whatever needs to be done in and around the house, what would I have done?! It is because of his care that I get to migrate between couch, toilet and bed undisturbed, that I can rest and let this bug run its course without worry. I Thank God!!!

Or…

I could have to do without my little girl, who is bringing me drawings, kisses and hugs, who crawls in to bed with me and offers to stay the night… if that would make me better. She doesn’t nag or whine, she understands why mommy cant read her a book now, or put her to bed. Thank God!!!

Or…

I could have to still show up at work to either have enough money or even keep my job… But no! First of all, I have a job, and one I love doing. That alone is something to be grateful of! But mine comes with compassionate coworkers and paid sick-days! I Thank God!!!

Or…

I could be homeless and without a bed to hide away in until this is all over. Cold and lonely out on the street, no warm blankets,  no fresh towels, no extra set of clothing when this one gets dirty… Instead I have a warm bed in a safe house with a warm shower, clean towels and new pj’s to wear if I should mess these up. And then another blanket on the soft couch downstairs where I can sit and sip tea and watch my family… I Thank God!!!

For almost two years now, there is a saying on our wall. One that my husband put up there for me, to remind our family of this daily: “Dankbaarheid is de kortste weg naar geluk“, which is Dutch for “Gratitude is the shortest road to happiness“. Yet I needed a friend from an ocean away to remind me today.

I Thank God he did!!

Praise the Lord, who carries our burdens day after day; he is the God who saves us.
Psalms 68:19 GNB
http://bible.com/296/psa.68.19.GNB

G.

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100 Happy Days

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Sometimes I need to remind myself that taking baby steps is important to me. It goes against my nature of enthusiasm and high expectations… But my “all or nothing” mentality has been exactly what has gotten me in to this dark place called depression in the first place. For I am not able to keep up “all” for very long, so I ended up with nothing.

Baby steps to me means lowering my standards to more healthy, and let’s face it, more realistic expectations.

I cannot expect to be happy every day, all day. I used to, but it was such a high expectation that made reality seem like a disappointment. And the very thing that got in the way of reaching my goal!

Understanding this was key to my change. In the darkest of days when my treatment was insufficient to say the least, I accepted the 100 Happy Days challenge. And a challenge it was! Up front I made myself a promise to allow myself to miss a day and not consider all lost. I had nothing to prove to anyone, least of all myself, it was not a game to be won or lost. It was a means to shift my focus to the light, instead of the darkness.

And it worked! Every event in my life asked for my attention, to decide whether it was something that made me happy or not. If so, the designer in me would ponder on how to make it in to a picture that would tell the story.

Don’t misunderstand me here; it was not at all easy and to find happy moments was near impossible some days. I soon learnt that it was best for me not to post the first happy picture I took in the morning, because I would lose focus on happy stuff if I did.



What did help was the positive comments I received on the happy moments. Several people said they were awaiting my posts daily. With most if not all of my Facebook friends knowing of my depression, it helped them to worry less, perhaps.

I even received a text message on my phone once, asking “no happy picture today”?  It was 10 minutes ’till midnight and it made me smile. My mother in law is such a sweetheart.



When I started out, it seemed like a huge number, 100 days. But I took one day at a time, that was the only way for me to deal with reality. And before I knew it I was on day 25… day 38… and so on. Hard as it was to find happy pictures some days, when I was getting closer to day 100 I knew I was going to miss it, in a way, after it was done.

I ended up making a photo book of the pictures, along with the captions I used. I still look at it when I am not feeling too good, to help me remember that it is the little things in life that make it good.

If you are interested in taking this challenge as well, you can find a link to it on my Links -page!

G.

Putting Christ back in Christmas

The past years we have been sending our Christmas wishes the old fashioned way still…  by snail mail.  Looking back I remember buying cards with cute little penguins,  reindeer,  jolly santas or owls wearing santahats… ever careful to avoid cards that were printed with the despised “X-mas”.

But this year I felt I wanted to do something different.  I want to bring Christ back into Christmas.  With help of my little girl I picked up some empty cards, coloring stuff and started looking for nativity scenes to print and color in with her.

Our Christmas cards will be showing all our friends and family what Christmas is about,  this year.  Baby Jesus with Mary and Josef will appear in the houses of all the people we love.  Ok, there might be some unpredictable color choices made by a 4 year old who is not held to our grownup expectations yet…  but a purple faced Mary is still Mary, right!?

I found peace in coloring in those scenes,  had fun doing it with my daughter,  who is proud to be contributung. We had the cutest talks about baby Jesus in the meantime. I even ended up designing my own version of the scene in PowerPoint.  It will be among the cards that are sent this year from our house, but also here on this blog. For all who think they need more Christ this Christmas.

 

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G.

Forgetfulness

How fast am I to forget
All Your Mercy,  Love and Grace
Get back upon my high horse
As soon as the tears dried off my face

 

To stumble around again
Like a blind man pretending to see
Forsaking all that You are offering
Thinking I can manage this,  little ol’e me.

 

How much You must love me
To watch me stumble and fall
And then to lift me off my knees
Every single time I call

 

To fill my heart with your Peace
Only to watch me squander it away
Yet watch over me and stay near
Every single day.

 

Lord,  I know I do not deserve
Nor have I the right
To have You love me like You do
When I again lose sight

 

But this time,  Lord,  can I ask
For You to help me stay with You
To remember it was never me,
Always Your Love that saw me through!

 

 

G.
December 4, 2016

 

Jesus said: blessed are those who are sad for they will be comforted. 
(Matthew 5:4)
I have been blessed by His comfort often but fail to remember. I pray this time will be different.

Rock Bottom

Do you ever have the feeling that something doesn’t add up? That your life is going all wrong no matter how hard you try to fix it? No matter how hard you fight, you are still headed for Rock Bottom? And then you give up and meet that one temptation that promises you all you ever wished for. Comforts you, makes you feel good about yourself, takes your hand and takes you on a trip. A trip that is carefully planned and leads you further away from what you were trying to fix in the first place? It starts to distract you from the things you valued. Honesty. Fidelity. Trust. Family.
Temptation feels like a blanket made especially for you. It keeps you warm and keeps the truth out. It tells you you don’t have to fight anymore. It tells you you can do whatever you want. And if there is a little voice inside your heart that tells you “but how can it be?”, temptation will give you a rational answer that soothes your conscience. It seems to justify your actions, your self-pity, your pride, your anger, your lust. It makes you forget about forgiveness, humility and love. Further and further it leads you away.
And slowly, temptation will show it’s real face. Will not be as warm, as committed anymore. Will leave you out there in the dark, cold and uncertain. Feeling more alone than you ever did with no way to find your way back. All your bridges burnt behind you, nothing but hurt left. You have arrived. Rock Bottom, population 1.
I have learnt that Rock Bottom is perfect to kneel on.
It is there in that darkness, in spite of all my wrongdoings, that God found me. All I had to do is reach out to Him. Ask Him to help. To light the way back, not to whom I was, but to whom He wants me to be. A better version of myself. There is no way I can get there. But He can! He took one of His soldiers and helped me to my knees. I couldn’t even do that myself. He took my questions and confusion and loneliness away. Asked me to give up my struggle, my pride and my anger. Asked me to not be afraid, but to have Faith.
I am not there yet. But I have given up on temptation. I confessed it to Him and I don’t want it anymore. Not even now that it has put his friendly, warm and tempting face back on. I have a better Friend now. I want to do what Jesus told me to do in Matthew 5 and 6. I want to be that person He wants me to be. I know I will stumble. May even hit Rock Bottom again. But I have learnt that Rock Bottom is perfect to kneel on.

G.

Light after dark

When You carried me through the dark night
Lifted my head for me to see the light
Of that star that guided me so long ago
I didn’t realize, I didn’t know

 

There would be an end to feeling numb
To feeling like a failure, useless, dumb
To have a purpose in my life again
That overrides this awful, crippling pain.

 

You moved my hands to help reach out
You woke me up from that pit-black cloud
To realize that Your Strength, not mine
Is what enables me to shine.

 

I had to lose what pride was left in me
To be able to clearly see
That You are the One Who knows the Way
Even on the darkest, emptiest day.

 

So help me, Lord, to be your candle
To give up thinking I can handle
Whatever life decides to throw at me
For I cannot, now I can  see.

 

It is Your Mercy, your Love and your Grace
That got me out of that horrible place
To be for others what You need me to be
And of depression be, from now on, free.

 

30.11.2016

 

G.