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Joy! The Choice and the Feeling.

My insomnia is back.

A few weeks ago, this would be a terrible thing. It was in the night watches that my dark thoughts would spin; endlessly looping in my mind. All the problems and difficulties in our lives would swirl around creating a hurricane of depression in my brain, leading to conclusions that were just more destructive and discouraging than anything. Yes, there were thoughts of leaving my husband, of suicide, of just walking away from everything. None of these are actually options for me… or choices that I would make, but the perpetual thoughts were there. I felt like I couldn’t stop them, couldn’t escape them, and for the life of me, couldn’t just go to sleep. Even for the time I was on medication, the nighttime battle was there.

I’d get up and pace to the couch where I’d cry and pray and beg for rest. Usually, the sun would start lightening the sky before my exhausted body would finally fall into a short nap before it was time to be up and back to taking care of the family.

I love my husband, but he didn’t understand. I love my children and my current role as stay-at-home mom, but didn’t find joy in that.

I’ve said before that I would battle it, that I would fight it, that I would choose to be happy and content with where I am. That would work for a time, but not for long.

My post a few weeks ago was about the basic idea of capturing thoughts. It’s an old spiritual discipline that I’d forgotten… but the basic idea comes from 2 Cor. 10:4-5:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments (imaginings) and every pretention (assertion) that sets itself up against the knowledge (truth) of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  

Pretty much, although I don’t have control over the thoughts that enter my brain, I do have the authority (“divine power”) to tell them to go straight to the pit of hell where they belong.

So I have been.

And you know what? I’ve had an awesome last few weeks. Yes, there’s moments of sadness (our home church’s women’s retreat is this weekend and I wish I was there with my friends… the coastal town where my family lives had a fireworks celebration on the cliffs that my kids would have adored…), but I can acknowledge my sadness without STAYING there. Moving on to the next thing, fixing the eyes of my heart and mind on Jesus and the joy that He’s given me in my day-to-day life. Even if I still can’t go to sleep, I remind myself to meditate on scriptures, sing songs to the Lord in my head, count my blessings, or even just get out of bed and spend some time reading my Bible until I’m tired enough to go back to sleep.

This has been so helpful. I can FOCUS on my kids, and I’m realizing anew what a total delight they are… and I can’t imagine enjoying them more or better if we lived anywhere else. I can wrap my head around the reality that we’re having ONE MORE, and she’s going to just add to the happy chaos that is our home. I can see my husband as a man, not my SOURCE of joy or happiness, but as my partner as we try to figure out our lives and family.

So today, when I was reading Psalm 9 in my quiet time, my spirit shouted “YES!” to these verses:

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; 
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High!

The Discipline of the Mind – Conviction and Confession

Although I can’t find any current information about Anne Ortlund (at least not online), I am being blessed and convicted by her little self-published book from 1977 called “Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman.” It’s a book I borrowed off my mother’s bookshelf years and years ago, before I’d met Anthony or even become a college student. I remember that I kept it because it had an impact on me, and this morning in my quiet time, the Holy Spirit urged me to pick it up again.

Because I’d missed an important lesson.

The wonderful, amazing thing about books (and especially books inspired by God!) is how you can read them over and over and discover new treasures, new wonders, and fresh revelations with each reading.

I obviously have been a terrible blogger lately, which has a lot to do with my depression, a little to do with my new pregnancy (13 weeks!), and a lot to do with the fact that I just don’t feel like I have anything interesting to say.

Because I don’t. But God does. Here’s what Anne wrote that convicted me:

One of the disciplines of a godly woman must be the discipline of the mind. We are not free to let our emotions flip and flop all over the place. We are not free to fret and worry if we feel like it, to indulge ourselves in pouting and stewing. That doesn’t mean that “blues” aren’t permissible; they are. Many of the Psalms are David‘s laying out his feelings openly before the Lord–his “down” feelings as well as his “up” feelings–but putting them both into God’s hands in completely surrendered faith. “Lord, I feel great today; I praise you”; or “Lord, I feel lousy today, but I praise you, anyway.” Bad feelings aren’t necessarily the result of sin; if I feel down, maybe I just ate something that didn’t agree with me. 

But anxiety–that’s something else. Worry is disobedience. The disciplined mind makes no room for doubting God’s plans for me. “What if ––––?” has no place in my thinking. The graph he has plotted for me can include automobile accidents, visits to the zoo, hot chocolate in front of the fire, hysterectomies–it’s up to him.

I understand that a big part of my depression comes from some chemical imbalances going on in my body, in addition to environmental realities that I have no control over right now (I think every other Facebook status I’ve posted since we’ve moved to AZ has been about how homesick I am). Since becoming pregnant, I’ve discovered that I can either choose between taking my anti-depressants but being miserably nauseous and sick all day, or not take them and not throw up. I’m choosing the option 2, as if that was a difficult choice!

With the medicine being taken away, I’ve worked really hard on being aware of my moods, and in my Bible time, I’m reading through Psalms again. David seems so relatable right now, and I’m enjoying reading his poetry that acknowledges his sadness, but always returns to God’s goodness and sovereignty in his life. I need to practice that.

I guess the part of Anne’s writing that convicted me the most was how she said it’s not OK to let our emotions flip and flop all over the place… the “blues” are permissible but must be surrendered to God… and how worry is disobedience.

So often, I just let my thoughts take off… there’s not much here to distract me from myself… and off I go, imagining “what if,” wishing things could go back to how they were, feeling cut off and left out of my “old life.”  It’s not that it’s BAD that I miss home, or our friends, or our church, but when that becomes my whole life… not living here because I wish I was living there… that’s allowing my emotions and thoughts to dictate the direction of my day. And THAT’S depressing!

So my focus this week is going to be the discipline of the mind: surrendering my life here in the desert with total faith that God obviously knows what He’s doing much better than I do. When I catch myself feeling down because I’m here and not there, I’ll acknowledge the feeling, and then return my focus back to the Lord. When I start to worry about how we’ll never get back home, I’ll remind myself that it isn’t my job to make anything happen in that department, and turn the worry over to Jesus.

And hey, if you think of me, would you pray that I would find joy in our new life out here?

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