A moment for Shelby

img_1162-e1524843967812.jpeg

It all began with the mental health unit in my eighth-grade health class at Hamilton Middle School. I had self-diagnosed myself with depression and anxiety earlier that year and had been assuming I was mentally ill since I was in elementary school. Besides researching coping mechanisms online, I had never done anything about either issue. Yet, for some reason, reading signs and symptoms in a textbook impacted me more than the repetitive results of severe depression I received from free online tests. I was tired. I found no pleasure in things I used to enjoy. I was hateful towards myself and others. I blamed myself. I didn’t sleep. I was impulsively hurting myself when upset. I was only thirteen, and I had been struggling for years. Reading all those terms on a page given to me by a teacher hit me harder than my ‘perfect score’ online in twenty different tests. It was a real problem. I needed to do something about it.
Two obstacles prevented me from reaching out to my family. The first was fear. I imagined two extremes and each equally terrified me. I thought they would blow me off, tell me I was being overdramatic, and say that everyone goes through this. Maybe I was just weak. I was also concerned they would take it to the other extreme. Lock me up in an institute and throw away the key because no one wants a crazy daughter. The other aspect that was hampering my cry for help was the concept of how to even begin the conversation.
“Hi, I’m so depressed and anxious I can’t sleep or eat. Could you maybe put me in counseling or on medication, so you won’t have to pay for my funeral?”
However, Mrs. Feight had given me an opportunity to talk to them when she handed me that sheet of paper. I never thought to thank her until I put it all down on paper.
Sitting at the kitchen counter, I could feel myself shaking. It was a common occurrence for me until I received anti-anxiety medication. It was worse than usual as my mother turned around to look at me in the midst of her cooking dinner.
“Do you need something?”
“Could you help me study for my health test?”
“Sure. Give me a second.”
The classic case of waiting for her to stop cooking changed from annoying to dread-inspiring. The longer she kept cooking, the more I desired running away. I could just go study in my room. Sizzles and warm smells from the stove-top made my stomach turn. I wasn’t going to be able to eat regardless.
“Ok,” she announced while wiping her hands dry. “Do you have a study guide?”
“Yes, ma’am. Could you quiz me in the blue room?”
My home’s little island paradise was in the room beside the kitchen, separated by double glass doors. It was the only room in the house that was painted blue, and we had filled it with succulents, grasses, and two trees acquired from my mother’s friend. It was a safe place. My mother sat on the cream-colored couch with her back to the bright windows, and I kneeled on the rug. She began to quiz me, and my stomach dropped to my feet when she read the question I had been waiting for.
“What are the ten signs of depression?” I easily listed them, and my mom looked into my eyes with concern as I finished.
“Blames self or others, low mood, thoughts of death, irritable, pessimistic, low energy, sleeping issues, eating issues, loss of interest, trouble concentrating and remembering.”
My abdomen was twisted into irreversible knots as I watched her try to compose her thoughts into words.
“Shelby,” she began slowly. “Did you realize you have most of these symptoms?” Against my will, I began to tear up. My mother always made me cry. I could hold them back around anyone else, but the environment her presence surrounded me in always bought my emotions out.
“I have all of them.” A weight lifted, and another put on my chest. Now she knew. Now I waited for the response. Luckily for me, neither of my two imagined outcomes came true. Instead, she asked me what kind of person she should look for to be my therapist if I thought therapy would help. We sat in the sunlight, surrounded by windows and green plants. I felt safe and terrified all at once, but I’ve always been glad that it happened. I’m very grateful for the way she handled my problems at that moment. No one is perfect, but the time I needed her the most, she was.

Shelby

A moment of fighting part 1​

pexels-photo-669032-e1523383133477.jpeg

My daughter recently said something to me that hit hard. She told me, “In our house, you are either a victim or a bully.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized the truth of her statement. She also said, she is learning,  that you don’t have to be either. I pray that I can communicate what this statement taught me about living in an almost safe place, and how I can be part of making it sanctuary.

This is not about abuse.  If you are in an abusive situation, you need to seek the proper help.  This is about loving people who in their humanity hurt each other anyway.

How to not be a victim:

-Do not be easily offended-  Often the person upsetting you is not actually doing anything deliberately to you. They are reacting toward the world around them as a result of how they feel about themselves inside. Being offended can cause hardness of heart, but it does not bring justice.

A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city;
disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.  Proverbs 18:19

-Have compassion- Remember the days when you have hurt others because you were feeling off, insecure, or anxious. Understand that how a person acts is not always who they are.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  1 John 1:8

-Protect your spirit-Remember that you are deeply loved, and an attack from someone else can not change that.​

The beloved of the Lord rests in safety–the High God surrounds him all day long–the beloved rests between his shoulders.  Deuteronomy 33:22

-Turn the other cheek-This is often misunderstood as allow someone to hit you again. What it actually means is, stand firm in your conviction, and act in such a way that the person offending you is made to think about their actions.

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.  2 John 1:3

-Forgive-With forgiveness in our hearts for others we can be better prepared to let go of the offense instead of reacting to it.

Forgive, and you will be forgiven;  give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”    Luke 6:38

 

I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.  Isaiah 44:22

 

 

A moment of loneliness

54290500901__E807589F-930E-42CA-8359-3DF3C2778C29
by Shelby Cruse

Genesis 2:18   the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”

 

 

 

There are 7 billion people in this world, and yet loneliness is becoming more and more common.  It has been reported that the average number of close friends Americans share has dropped from 3 to 2.  And the number of people in America with no close friends has tripled since 1985.   If you are one of these people, who suffer from loneliness you are not alone.

Interestingly loneliness is not a term used in the Bible, although the word alone occurs 195 times in the NRSV version.  Being alone is often a good thing and does not imply loneliness. Jesus had 12 close friends, and of those 12, Peter, Andrew, James and John were held even closer.  Even with this intimate group of friends always around he still often chose to be alone with God, which is still not alone and would not be lonely. These 12 men were called to friendship and set out to bring others into this fold.

Isaiah 41:10  do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Improve social skills–Practicing social skills can be very scary especially for the introvert.  But practice anyway.  Speak to at least 2-3 people a day if possible.  Smile, make eye contact and say ” Hi, how are you?” They may reply with a simple “fine.” However, it is the smile and the eye contact that will have the real impact on your loneliness level.  Asking others questions takes the focus off of you and offers it to the other person.  You are now thinking of someone else, and loneliness is moved aside even if only for a moment.

Increase social interaction–Put yourself in places where you can meet other people.  Even the seemingly superficial act of asking “How are you?” as I have said can have an impact.  If you can find ways to increase the questions, you will have more interaction.  Ask for help finding something in a store.  People love to be helpful, and you are offering them a chance to feel needed, and show they care.

Avoid negative thinking–Not all of the conversations you open will have a positive impact but keep your feelings neutral.  The smile and the eye contact you offer will be the thing most remembered and what you said will be forgotten very quickly.  Unless by chance, you said something very positive to a lonely person and made their day. That they will remember and you have done a very good thing!  Try to have a positive impact on everyone you encounter today.  It is a win-win!

Seek support systems–Look for groups that share your interests and join them.  I once said to someone,  “Close friends aren’t made they just are.”  It did not take me long after to realize that was not even close to accurate.  Friends are made, by seeking people with whom you have commonality.  By taking an interest in them and what interests them.  By noticing their low times and offering encouragement.  By sharing in their joys and laughter.  When you do this for others, you just might find that it comes right back to you.

Remember you are never alone–We were created in Love, by Love, for Love.  Open your heart to the Love of God and offer it to others.  It is the Love I feel from God and for God that pushed me to write.  It is my Love for His people that prompted me to send it out.  When I have moments of loneliness, I think of you.  You warm my heart.

A moment of blindness

img_65841.jpg

A blind spot is an appropriate metaphor for our failure to see things as they are in actuality.  We fail to see what it is we do not see.  And, it’s those very things we do not see that cause intelligent people to do stupid things.  Daniel Goldman

What causes our blind spots?

We think we have it figured out.  Our preconceived notions are a big issue.  How often do we jump to conclusions about a thing and then act on our judgment?  Often people will get into trouble by either thinking they are capable of more than they are and will then feel disillusioned by the reality.  Or they will think they are less intelligent than they really are and not even try, limiting the possibilities for success.  Those that run as if all the lights are green are dangerous to others and themselves often leaving a wake of hurt.  Those people who put up roadblocks are failing to live into their potential and depriving the world of their gifts.  Keep an open mind and open eyes.  We are always changing and so is the world around us.  What is possible one day may not be the next.  What was impossible yesterday might just be possible today.

We hide from reality.  We live in a world of distractions, and we use them to avoid and protect ourselves.   Avoidance can be detrimental to our growth.  Our temporary solution can ease the immediate pain but can often lead to a long road back.  Life is hard, and facing that reality head-on might just make it easier.  Breaks from reality can be useful when we need to recharge, however, a reality check needs to happen before the escape.  We must make sure we are using flight to restore and rejuvenate our spirit and prepare ourselves for the next launch forward.

We focus in on the wrong details.  Many times I have found myself focusing on one negative aspect and as a result, failed to see the big picture.  Things are imperfect, and indeed there is no way around it.  The world is utterly imperfect, and acceptance is key to a healthy focus. Seeing things as the whole that they are and not the flawed details can help.   We must also be sure to make fair comparisons.  The goodness or badness of something can be entirely relative.  Changing the context of a thing can change the way you see it.

We can’t see what we can’t see.   If we knew what we didn’t know that couple in the garden might have told a different story.  We need each other and God to reveal truths we might otherwise miss.  Trust is difficult but crucial to healing our blindness.   We need people that we can open up to and trust to tell us what we are missing.  There are lots of snakes in the world who will tear us down to make themselves feel better.  Be discerning and find someone who loves you and puts your joy at the center of the conversation.   Consult scripture.  So many answers to so many questions can be found there.

 

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light;  but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!  Matthew 6:22-24  (NRSV) 

We all have blind spots, and it could be overwhelming to have our eyes opened wide all at once.  I am very grateful that is not how God works.  He gives us a little at a time so that we can get it right.  What is God revealing to you today?

IMG_6584