It’s freezing cold and snowy here today, and I’m really tired, but it’s a good tired. It’s the pleasant kind of exhaustion that comes from hard work.
In the last week, I’ve sorted and organized every closet, drawer, and cabinet in this house. Every shelf or cubby, every nook and cranny. I have consignment store appointments every week, all month long, and my little craft area in the basement is full of bags and boxes. This has become the landing area for stuff on its way out of the house.
This morning I completed and filed our tax return. I also baked brownies for Bee’s Valentine’s Day party at school tomorrow, and made little Valentine packages for my children. On Saturday night, my husband and I had our own Valentine’s Day celebration at our favorite date restaurant. It was so nice to have some time alone together, a novelty that has become more and more scarce with the advent of each child. I recently found this photo of us in a scrapbook, taken more than 11 years ago, and I was overcome with nostalgia for the days when we spent all of our time together. We worked together, cooked dinner together, watched TV together, and slept (without interruption!) curled up in each other’s arms all night. And then we had kids.
It’s interesting though because parenting has brought us closer than ever before. We may not have time alone together, but we have a family, and that is a precious and hard-won gift. We don’t ever take it for granted, and there is not one thing about our life we would change (except sleep…I wouldn’t mind getting more of that. Also, it would be nice to be as skinny as I was in this photo).
This week I need to update our budget and savings plan for the year, and write a speech for MOPS next week. I spoke about organization at MOPS last year, and this year they invited me back to talk about meal planning. On the surface, everything seems fine. Life is busy and active, we’re all healthy, things are moving along as planned, but…I can feel myself teetering precariously on the edge of depression, which lurks around all the corners of my life in the wintertime. Every day, in spite of the big smile I plaster on my face for my husband and children, in the midst of my cheerful busyness, I can feel it creeping in. Every morning, it’s just a little bit harder to drag myself out of bed, and every day I feel a little more tired, a little less like myself. My daily work requires more effort, and is done with less and less enthusiasm. My depression says, “It’s OK to stay in bed and read a library book all afternoon. You don’t need to fold that laundry, and the kids will be fine with cereal for dinner! If you cook for them, they’ll just complain anyway!”
Depression is like that one destructive person most of us have had in our lives at some point or another. The person who, if you spend too much time together, starts to drag you down into the muck.
In church on Sunday, I had one of those “AHA!” moments, which are not unusual for me. Often, during difficult times, I feel like God is speaking directly to me through the sermon. Our pastor spoke about the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-20), which is a tale of self-destruction, but also of grace and redemption. This is a story about a young man who demands his inheritance, then runs away from his father and squanders it. At this same time a famine sweeps over the land, and the man, penniless and starving, is forced to return to his father in shame.
There are many lessons to be learned from this story, but our pastor focused on the fact that before finally swallowing his pride and returning home, the man persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. Feeding pigs was a great humiliation for a Jew, because according to Moses’s law (Leviticus 11:2-8), pigs were unclean animals, and could not be eaten, or even touched. This man had reached rock bottom, but Pastor John pointed out that he, just like most of us, unnecessarily prolonged his time in the pigsty, instead of just taking responsibility for his life. However, the most important thing to recognize is that he didn’t stay there – “he got up and went to his father.” (Luke 15:20).
He got up.
This may not seem like any great revelation, but if you give it some thought, you’ll see that it IS. I think that all of us, when we’re down, tend to wallow a bit. Sometimes it feels good to wallow, but that really serves no purpose. It doesn’t help us to do nothing but focus on our misery – all that does is prolong it. The best thing we can do is get up out of whatever pigsty (literal or figural) we’ve found ourselves in, whether we ended up there unintentionally, or by choice, and try to help ourselves.
So…because I know that I fall into the proverbial pigpen every year around this time, I’m going to do just that. I’ll bring out my arsenal of defense weapons against depression – exercise, good nutrition, proper sleep habits, fresh air, plenty of light, a change of scenery, good books, good friends, and most importantly, prayer.
Because the most wonderful thing about God the Father is that no matter how much wallowing we’ve done, no matter how far away from Him we’ve wandered, when we’re ready to get up and return to Him, he’s always waiting with open arms.[print-me/]