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A Broken Spirit is not Despised

6 Jun

So there we were, my two littlest girls and I, creating another batch of playdoh cookies.  The girls were happily mashing discs of colorless playdoh together to make “oreos” while blissfully singing another round of Baby Shark, Space Unicorn. and Spaghetti Cat;  I sat across from them.  Sobbing. 

I am not talking about a loud boo-hooing, ugly cry.  This was an ominous, reckless torrent of silent tears.  They continually brimmed, poured over my eyelids, ran down my face, collected under my chin and pooled onto the plastic craft table.  Brimmed and poured.  Brimmed and poured.  I had to use a kitchen towel to sop it all up.  This was for about the fifth day in a row.

Crying while playing playdoh just means that I am a high-functioning malcontent. 

–Or–maybe it signifies the return of my malady.


Is there a healthy way to battle depression?

How do I get through this tunnel?  It seems so so long.  I don’t know.  But when I am in it, I am sick.  Truly ill, and recognizing that makes me feel a little more free.  I know I have done everything in my power not to feel this way, for it not to be true, to reason my way out of it, to ensure I have the right nutrition and chemical balance. 

But it just is.

Do you see how everything starts with the word “I”?  I this, I that.  What a shamefully selfish place to be.  I am so self-involved.  Jarrod Jones wrote about this in his Ten Ways to Support Someone with Mental Illness.  This is an inherently selfish disease, but what disease is not?  You can break your pinkie toe, and the pain will take over everything in your day, become all you can think about. 

Depression is much the same way.  I can’t think about anything else, I just want it to stop.  And so I have to wait.  I must wait well. 

I wake up in the morning and think–am I going to be better today?
Let me get my coffee and hopefully this fog will vanish.

It’s still here.
Is this real?–Is this in my head?–Am I making a choice?

I have found some freedom in resignation, akin to moving on in the stages of grief.  I don’t like this about myself, and I scratch to get away from it all.  But it festers like a nasty emotional infection.  I can’t undo any of this with all the positive thinking in the world.  So I wait.  I am not going to try to hash it out anymore.  I am going to just settle.  Just be.

I do everything I can to wait with my dignity and grace intact:

I talk less.  I do less.  Plenty of good comes from doing and saying less.  I take comfort in that.  I relish the quiet time with my husband.  There’s nothing more to discuss about all this.  If I can’t change myself, he certainly can’t change me.  So we sit quietly.  He sits next to me shoulder to shoulder.  Holds my hand.  We enjoy a quiet cup of coffee.  A funny episode of TV.

I fall asleep earlier.  The storm in my head makes me tired.  I crave silence and wear earplugs to block everything out.

Am I being mean to my family?
They deserve an upbeat mother who throws parties and is a cheerleader.

They are getting quiet-me.

I am still functioning.  Doing laundry, making all meals, making sure they are all bathed and fed.  I make lunches and make sure everyone gets hugs and kisses even if I feel like an empty ghost.  I get up and take the little ones for an outing.  That’s worth something.  They have quiet-me to take them around. 

That has to be better than couch-me.

I still attend my bible study groups.  I still host my brown bag lunch group.  Even though I feel utterly disconnected, I go through the motions, and the motions matter.  I won’t stop trying.  I keep putting one foot in front of the other.  That is what I am doing for my family.  They have to know that I am doing everything I can.

I say “I love you” to everyone.
That’s everything I can do, regardless of how I feel


What will people think? 

There are recognizable triggers for my crashes but I don’t need to unpack them here.  

My mindchaos makes no sense to people who see my happy marriage, five healthy children, an “adventurous” life, my health, and the myriad of other blessings I enjoy daily.  People in my closest circles, with whom I have privately shared my struggle, have literally recoiled before me.  It’s bewildering when someone reacts to me that way.  

Yet one of my darkest seasons taught me that there just are people who can not handle pain.  I have to forgive them for that.  

I have begged my family not to share my situation with anyone…because I don’t want to be labeled “a negative person” and then written off entirely.  I don’t want my cyclical melancholy weirdness to interfere in friendships or cause someone to feel rejected.  So, in a rather desperate bid to be understood, I’ve started selectively telling my friends about my struggle with this.

But what if they don’t believe in depression?
Transparency is risky. 

The most crushing reality of all this mess is how I feel untied from my husband.  I see the look of helplessness on his face and another layer of guilt grows.  I can see how my hurting hurts him.  I best get myself together, and quickly before the tide turns, and *he* just can’t anymore. 


A broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise.  

This scripture I’ve read 100 times before, but it came freshly alive in the midst of all the quiet and fear and darkness.  It was sheer light breaking through.

  • Am I broken?
    Yes.  A thousand times yes. 
  • Am I contrite?
    I wake up and empty out my pockets to God every day.

I know the twofold root of my mess:
1.  A messed up (sinful/selfish) heart.
2.  Not being exempt from the disappointments and maladies of our broken world.

Still, brokenness overcomes me and whittles me down to the bone.

But all this: the feelings, the anguish, the spirit of confusion, the quietness…
NONE OF IT IS DESPISED by God.  

What breath that is for me when I feel like I can’t find air.   

I’ll continually pursue healing, and

  • He
  • won’t
  • despise
  • me
  • like this.

He can when everyone else can’tSome people have no grace for this, but His grace is sufficient for me: I don’t need validation from outsiders.

God is here–He is near to the brokenhearted, saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18)

He won’t recoil.  

pc: Hannah Daroczy

Beating Cancer: Seven Tips for Keeping your Head in the Game

18 May

Some stories need to be told.




My friend Jen Hartney is a champion in so many arenas. 

She graduated from West Point, served active duty alongside her husband in the Army for 6 years, deployed to combat zones, commanded an Engineer company in Korea while pregnant, mothers five beautiful children, developed and runs her own nutritional wellness business, and created a beautiful and welcoming home to boot!

That’s a small list of what she has done.  Let me tell you a little more about who she is.

Her thoughtfulness, compassion, generosity, loyalty, and charisma all come together to make her one of the most magnetic people you will ever have the privilege of knowing. 

She freely passes out compliments and encouragement.
She is a fantastic listener.
She gives the most thoughtful gifts and always remembers to bring you a card on your birthday.
She is a people-person in the truest sense of the word.


 

There is a big part of her story that she did not want to be true.  It rocked her world.  It rocked the worlds of everyone who knows her.  When she was pregnant with her fifth child, she received the unimaginable diagnosis of breast cancer.

this photo simply breaks me. a beautiful handmade quilt to cover her “grenades”

 

each ‘grenade’ was attached to tubes coming out of the sides of her chest to drain fluids…. she had them for about 6 weeks

When professionals presented her with the various treatment options, Jen chose to take the least common, most unconventional route.  She did go through various medical procedures and “ectomies” to eliminate the cancer. 

But then, brimming with staggering, prodigious, audacious courage–the precise amount David was given when he faced Goliath–she declined the chemotherapy/radiation regime that doctors *highly* recommended.

Armed with the stones of

a razor-sharp faith
a radically strict diet
laser-focused positive thinking
+ a God ready to show the world His power

Jen achieved a cancer-free status!  

I asked her if I could share her story here at The Prime Pursuit because I wanted to make sure each of you know Jen Hartney, hear about her cancer-defeat story, and be aware of her wellness consulting business, The Prodigal Table

Most of all, I wanted to spotlight a good-news cancer recovery story.  My hope is that we all draw strength and hope from this story…for ourselves and for loved ones who face a devastating cancer journey.  It is responsible to spread this sort of fascinating news in order to encourage others who are suffering this same disease.  You must read the entirety of her story over at The Cancer Tutor


 

Over and above the clean eating regimen she adopted, a different part of her holistic treatment gripped me.


How, exactly, did she fight cancer by “keeping her mind right?”

I asked her to unpack that a little more.
I had to know the practical tips for keeping your head in the game when it comes to beating cancer.

She wrote it up, and graciously gave me permission to share this wisdom with you, my beloved readers.  This wisdom was COSTLY to for her to glean. 

It’s “free chicken” for the rest of us.  


1.  Surround yourself with Truth.

Human hearts can be fickle.  So, surround yourself with truths that are true no matter how you may be feeling in the moment.  Personally, that means reading the Truth, aka the Bible, every day.  Even if just for a few minutes.  Breathe in Truth, exhale doubt and fear.

 


 

2.  Read the ‘ring theory’ and understand your limitations if you are the person ‘in crisis’.

Being very honest here:  I would get resentful when I told people about my diagnosis and then they would react in a way that would leave ME comforting THEM.  And then I was ashamed about feeling resentful.  But understanding the ‘ring theory’ helped me get past feeling guilty.  Read it.  And pass it on to others.  My friend, Kerry (who is current on all things FUN and important) articulated this theory when she was visiting me/taking care of me and it relieved so much guilt from my shoulders.  Check it out here.  The main gist is in the diagram below.

 
 

 


 

3.  Laugh

Laughter is a gift from above.  Yes.  Your situation may truly stink.  It may be tragic.  It could be downright awful.  The absolute worst thing that has ever happened to you and you don’t know that you’ll ever recover…and you may not even want to.  You may feel like the world around you has crumbled and you’re happy to go right down with it because your heart just aches too much.

But here is some truth for you:  laughter is medicine for your heart.  It’s the best pill against depression because it gives you a break from your current tragedy and makes you breathe DEEP.  And you have to keep breathing to keep going.

About a month after my diagnosis I realized that I couldn’t even remember the last time I had laughed and I longed for it.  So, one night, my husband and I looked up some comedians on Netflix and we chuckled and gut laughed for the evening.  My situation hadn’t changed:  I still had cancer.  But for one night, we were able to forget about it and laugh and my heart felt a million times lighter.

Now, hear me on this:  I’m not saying you need to laugh within 30 minutes of being given the worst news of your life (remember, I curled up in the fetal position on my bed and cried tears that I wasn’t sure would ever stop…being pregnant sure didn’t help the flood of tears!).  But I’m telling to tuck this away in the back of your mind and when you finally get a chance to come up for air, even if just a tiny bit, remember this.  Laughter is medicine for your soul.

 


4. Tell People

Yes.  It’s awkward.  And hard to do.  Especially if you are an introvert like me (and if your friends also live all over the world, you can do what I did: write a post, hit enter and walk away:)).  No matter how much of an introvert you are, no one was meant to walk this life alone; we were designed to be in community with others.

I try to stress that over and and over again (hence, the name Prodigal TABLE…a place to gather with other people).  Tell SOMEONE.  All the energy you use hiding the ‘secret’ could be used to heal instead.

Trust me.  I get it.  Telling people about my diagnosis was so unexpectedly hard and I even debated just keeping the news to a very, very small, tight circle of people I trusted because I just didn’t want to burden anyone.  But you know what?  That’s a lie straight from the enemy.  Your heartbreak is NOT a burden to someone else.

In fact, you’ll find the part of humanity that just encourages you to keep going….the beautiful, selfless, grace giving aspects of humanity as people pour out their love on you.  And it will remind you of one of the many things you are fighting for.

You will see people come out of NOWHERE to love on you and your family.  And guess what happens afterwards?  You’ve gained some space and perspective and risen from the ashes in a way you never imagined possible.  Someone will reach out to you when (not if) tragedy enters their life.

You will every bit of your experience to serve another human being and that is redemption, my friend.  Redemption for those years, moments that were lost.  Redemption for the heartbreak and tears that you thought would engulf you.  Redemption.  And it can’t happen unless you tell someone.

 


5.  Accept Help

This follows closely after #4 for a reason.  When you share your heart with someone, people will pour out their love on you in ways you never imagined and then you have to make a choice:  To accept or not accept their help.

Guys.  I’m an 8 – I like challenges and my independence.  “I can do it myself” is something that was forced on me and then became a personal motto of mine.  God, literally, had to bring me to my knees to make me realize “my goodness.  I can’t do this on my own.”  My goodness:  it took being pregnant with baby #5 and being diagnosed with cancer to realize I had been doing it the hard way all along.

I remember the incredibly sobering moment when I realized that I couldn’t even go to the bathroom on my own, much less even hold my 6 week old baby.  So, guys.  Learn this from me.  There is a time and place for everything.  A time to be a big girl and ‘get ‘er done’, but a time and place to ask and accept help.

Be smarter than me.  Don’t hit the bottom of the barrel before you admit that you can’t do it all on your own.  And you know what?  Something magical happens when you accept help without the pretense of ‘trading favors’.  You see a community come together.  Again, like I mentioned in #4 above, you see humanity at its best and it makes your heart smile…and you thank God for these amazing people.

…and it makes you want to fight harder to stay with these amazing people for as long as you can.

 


6.  White Space

I’ve heard interior designers refer to white space as the ‘blank/empty space’ in your home that gives your eyes a break.  The concept here applies to your heart/brain/emotions, etc.

After a diagnosis or crisis of any kind, you get BOMBARDED with information, protocols, long list of doctor names, medications, notes from other people who care about you, people approaching you in the hallways of your school, etc., not to mention your OWN thoughts.  It feels like from the moment you wake up til you go to sleep, you’re surrounded by stimuli and it can drain the energy from you.  Even if you are an extrovert.

So, find some white space.  For me, that goes back to my early mornings where I read in peace and quiet (to me it’s worth getting up early).  Or limiting social media.  Heck, unfollowing someone that is just a negative Nancy.  (you can pick it back up later, if you want!).  Remember, even Jesus got up early to pray and often retreated to be by himself.

If Jesus needed that, then heck, we need it, too.  

Find your white space.

 


 

7. Your identity

Last, but not least.  When you are going through a crisis, it can feel like your identity is being shredded to pieces.  Personally, I saw my body being literally cut apart, stitched back together, with foreign objects and sadly, it shook my confidence.  What I saw happening on the outside, affected who I thought I was on the inside.

When I didn’t recognize my outer skin,  I questioned who I was inside.  I questioned my strength.  I questioned whether my husband would desire me.  I questioned whether anyone would want to be my friend if they knew what I looked like underneath my layers of clothes.  The broken lines on my body exaggerated what was broken inside of me (see the need to fill your head with TRUTH each day?  All day? Refer to #1).

I was embarrassed by the scars on my chest and felt ashamed on the inside…I felt less than.  I could no longer depend on WHO I thought I was.  I had to go back to the beginning and remember WHOSE I was.

When your identity is up to you and your accomplishments/feats/pants size/physical beauty, etc., one small adjustment can bring the house of cards crumbling down.  But when your identity is rooted in WHOSE you are – the never changing, always faithful, God of the Universe who also knows the number of hairs on your head, you breathe in peace and breathe out a sigh of relief.

You remember that your identity as a child of God has been BESTOWED upon you. Your identity has not been earned. Despite what our world says.  What He has bestowed upon you, no one can take away.

 


 

This is not an all-inclusive or exhaustive list by any means…. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but for now, I hope you can lean on these truths that I learned about ‘getting your head in the game’.

I also get many questions about how to help someone else they know in need.  I’ll get to that list in a post coming up.

But for now, let me leave you with this:  If you know someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer, FOR THE LOVE, do NOT tell them about another person that just died from cancer.  That may seem obvious, but apparently it isn’t.  Just keep that information to yourself.  I wrote that in caps so you would remember it, but there is a LOT of GRACE, if you have been guilty of doing it.  I stick my foot in my mouth all.the.dang.time.  Truth and Grace, friends.

Jen

 


 

Whoa.

I TOLD YOU Jen was amazing.  I read her advice over and over again, just…dumbfounded.  How could she have had enough wherewithal to see that forest for those trees?  I can only come up with one answer.  When life is shattered by uncontrollable circumstances, the grace and strength of the Lord comes rushing, flooding in to fill in all the gaps, make up for lost time, give you the breath you need, and make your story into a memoir the entire world can learn from.  It’s a prayer-breath away: “Lord help!”  

If you want Jen to be a part of your life, if you want her to come alongside you and help you walk through your healing journey, if you want solid confidential, grace-filled consulting toward physical and spiritual nourishment, take the opportunity now.  Or, point her out to a friend in need.  

Leigh

P.S.  Would you be bold and share this message on your favorite social media platform?  I am convinced more than ever that we need to share every good-news story we come across, it’s one of the ways to be light in the midst of the dark world.  

please pin! 🙂

Consuming or Creating? Choose Daily.

10 May

I think I broke about three molars when I was pregnant with my fourth and fifth children.  My need to crunch ice is a more reliable indicator of pregnancy than a positive test.  I go from zero to get-me-an-ice-rink at the moment of conception, and it does not stop until I pull up the mesh undies.  Maybe it was an iron deficiency, so I turned to liver meatballs, (actually quite good!).  Upside = calorie-free snacking option.  Down side = broken teeth. 

Why why why someone did not buy me an Opal nugget maker, I will never know.   (FYI the ice machine is about the best maternity gift you can give an expectant mother.)  Instead I had to chew on the huge, superfrozen hunks that my big machine dumped out every hour, and yes.  The ice drawer ran out every day.

This is a really dumb anecdote to say that I am not used to

having to go without what I want (ice),
when I want it (every minute),
even if it is bad for me (I can no longer eat popcorn without pain on teeth numbers 2, 15, & 16 respectively). 


 

It’s not a groundbreaking statement to say that we’re in an era of unprecedented consumption–often with no concern for personal hazard.  I’m talking everything: food and drink, social media, streaming TV and movies, grocery delivery, Audible, Amazon, me-time, all of it.  We don’t even have to go a day without the right kind of ice anymore! 

Right in the comfort of our own homes, we have access to everything.  We just sop it all up, right now.  Sometimes I end a day of hours of mindless consumption and wonder, “Am I dumber today?!” 

The very process of consuming is inherently addictive.  We keep coming back for more.  It puts us into a mindset and a cycle of fear that we will miss something if we don’t continue looking under every rock to see what we can get.  We look and search and then strive to consume.  Consume.  Consume.   Is it fear of missing out on the next morsel?  It definitely points out our hardwired, innate “me-first.” 

All this time spent consuming squanders time we could be creating.

 


 

My sister got me really thinking about all this when she wrote about it a few weeks ago:

 How many moms (or dads, for that matter) are baking bread? How many of us sit at a piano and sing? And lord knows, I have no business holding a needle and thread. But the more I pondered the suggestions, the more I realized how few opportunities I get in my day to simply create.

Instead, I spend a lot of my time consuming. I go to coffee shops and order food to eat that someone else prepared. I watch television. I listen to podcasts. I scroll through the news. And social media. I scroll and scroll. And scroll. Most of the time, I am a consumer.

For much of human history, culture encouraged and life necessitated creativity. Elite classes were tutored in  painting, music, singing and sewing. Even the poorest Americans cooked their own food, built their own furniture, hung their own laundry out to dry. Kids built forts and created little universes in their imaginations while playing House or Store or School. 

Creativity is a practice in leadership. 

Now, we look for others to follow, simultaneously envying and imitating their success.

clairegibson.com

 


 

Does over-consumption rob us of some of our humanity?  When we consume more than we create, are we missing out on an essential piece of our purpose here on this beautiful planet?  I believe that we were made to create.  It is one of the privileges of being God’s image-bearers.  Creativity may even be requisite for feeling valid, significant, effective, feeling alive.  


 

As an army spouse, a multimom, and especially while living abroad in a remote duty location, I’ve had the opportunity to take a very sober look at my day-to-day existence.  I don’t have a career to fill my time.  Watching after the small children is really mundane.  Living outside of my normal society has isolated me.  All 3 of these things meshed into a perfect storm of emptiness and sometimes despondency (shameful admission) as I try to make each day feel like it mattered. 

In an effort to escape, or in the name of convenience, I consume.  But it doesn’t scratch the itch–I want more to show for all this.  

Meaning is found in creativity; i.e. creating.  Creativity does not have to mean innovation.  It just means putting your hand to something, and having something to show for it.  I am brainstorming and here is a very short list of ideas.

  • Scratch your child’s back
  • Painting fingernails
  • Piece together and consolidating 5 outfits–hang them in the closet so that they are ready to go
  • Make love, in the truest meaning of the phrase.  
  • Handwrite a note or a journal entry
  • Make an old recipe/Try a new recipe
  • Exercise (this creates the 10 physical skills)
  • Take a walk on a new route
  • Host a small gathering around your table.
  • Read aloud to someone
  • Plant seeds

here is Claire’s list: 

  • Bake something to give to the neighbors
  • Pull out an instrument you used to play, or learn to play one
  • Write something that you don’t share
  • Take photographs on a real camera, instead of on your phone. Print them out.
  • Read a book (preferably a paper one).* (I call this creativity, because it requires imagination, rather than simple consumption. And since reading is a creative endeavor, I imagine that’s why reading rates have gone down. Consuming is easier)
  • Rearrange the furniture in your house
  • Create a new game to play with your spouse
  • Tell a story that you invent, rather than reading from a children’s book

Some are small, some are more substantial/time consuming.  Some are simply everyday activities–therefore, we don’t really count them as doing anything special.  That’s inaccurate.  A lot of the boring stuff in your day is actually creativity, and you’ll see its value if you purposefully take notice…

It is for human touch.
It’s for authentic experience.
It’s for spiritual connection.
It’s for progress.  

 


 

There is a pressing need to model this kind creativity for our children to compel them forward into their own creativity.  

There is no program for this, no scheme to buy into.  Just go.  Creating is moving forward.  Don’t consume, put forth.   

How are you putting your hands back into creative pursuits? 

Thanks for pointing this out to me, Claire.  

 


 

spontaneous tea party

teach your kids to make dinner rolls…recipe to follow 🙂

Interact with Creation…spend time in 3D world

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