Monday, September 26, 2011

When God helps you see something in a new light

 As I've mentioned quite a few times on this blog so far this year, I've been struggling with seasonal sort of depression, probably seasonal affective disorder -- except this year was much worse than last year. 

When the depression was still hanging on into July, I went to go see a doctor and got a prescription for an anti-depressent. I took it for three weeks, but it made my heart race, especially at night when I was trying to sleep, so I stopped taking it. I hadn't noticed any change as far the depression though I knew it might take a while. 

I kept praying, God: show me what to do. Go back to the doctor for a different prescription? Or maybe look into herbs or some other naturopathy?

He started answering me, maybe I didn't hear it at first, but then His answers suddenly became obvious and then I started to see connections. Four of them, actually. (You don't have to read them, they are kind of long, skip to the end for the GOOD NEWS!)

1) I reached the end of Beth Moore's Breaking Free Bible study, where after pages and pages it finally sunk in: the truth will set you free, but the other part of the equation is tearing down the lies (2 Cor 10:4-5 - demolishing strongholds and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.) I took a long thoughtful look at some things I've been doing that might be lies, and contributing to strongholds, such as depression. One I've known about for a long time is insecurity, but I realized there was another one that had been sneaking in under the radar: escapism.

When things get stressful, I react by escaping - not dealing with things. Sticking my nose in a book instead. But it turns into a vicious cycle: escapism ultimately leads to more stress, and certainly contributes to depression.

So how do you overcome lies that lead to strongholds? After you tear down the lie, you have to put up the truth - Beth calls it "re-wallpapering". I'm on the lookout for a verse to counter my temptation to escape. In the meantime, I've  found Habbukuk 3:17-19 to be a great encouragement.

"Even though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vine" (e.g. depression, lack of productivity)  "I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, he has made my feet like hind's feet and  made me to walk in my high places" (high places = opposite of low places, or depression).

2) also in that study Beth warns that  if you get serious about tearing down the lies and putting up the truth, the enemy is going to redouble his attack.  That sure is what happened right after I started trying to fight the lies. Huge fight with B. More stress at work. More temptation to escape. But this time I realized that this was a counter-attack and that made it easier to deal with.

3) This one is a bit complicated. I realized I've been depressed since February, which is also when I got back into writing - finishing my historical fantasy which involves magical creatures (see, I love fantasy). I put a twist on the genie in the lamp idea - what if you had two genies trapped together in a lamp, who were mortal enemies? So instead of getting three wishes, you end up with just a bunch of trouble?  Great idea - but there was a hidden problem I didn't realize at first.

One of these "genies" (I was calling them spirits) was good, the other evil, which translated into an angel and a demon because of my Christian worldview. So by April I had reached the point in my story where the demon was playing a large role in the story, but every time I opened my document up to write, something just didn't "feel right" and I couldn't make any progress, so I chalked it up to maybe I needed more research, or maybe I was just too depressed, or stressed because I've been behind at work.

But after the two revelations above, I realized that I was stalling out because I couldn't write the demon parts (God's protection, perhaps?) The parts of that book I enjoyed writing the most were the human relationship parts  and the historical tie-ins, not to the fantasy elements! A word of caution to other Christian writers - beware writing about demons. Do we really have the authority (and strength) to do so? Even C.S. Lewis said he could never write a sequel to the Screwtape Letters; it was too hard writing from a demon's point of view.

4)  okay, this one is kind of corny, but B. rented Nicolas Cage's "Season of the Witch" one night. I should have just walked away from that train wreck after the first five minutes but I didn't. It's an awful movie, all about witches and demons and it made me feel nauseous that I ever wanted to write about such ugliness, even if my intention was to show the ugliness. So Cage and his buddy defeat the witch/demon by reading some obscure latin "book of Solomon." We know that demons are defeated by the power of God through Jesus alone, not through any Latin mumbo-jumbo.

My book never mentions the name of Jesus, either (because I intended it to be allegorical to reach a broader audience, rather than just a Christian audience). But it hit me that I'm writing basically the same thing as that awful movie. Now I could definitely make it a book for a Christian audience, using the name of Jesus, but I don't think I'm strong enough right now to write about that sort of spiritual warfare. Maybe someday when I've become enough Spirit-yielded to demolish my own strongholds. But then again if C.S. Lewis could barely muster the strength to do it...

The remarkable thing was that instead of feeling sad about all that work I put into my book, and that "great idea" I thought I had with the two spirits trapped together - I'm feeling liberated. I know God can supply more great ideas and all the energy and inspiration I'll need to write if that's what he wants me to do.

It's been almost two months now since I realized these four ways God was answering me (I originally wrote most of this in an email to a close friend) and I thought I would revisit and post them here, kind of to remind myself. And to keep myself on track with recognizing the lies/temptations that I'm susceptible to and keep fighting them with the Word of Truth.

And maybe, just maybe, someday another person struggling with depression might read this and find some encouragement and direction. My good news: I can joyfully say that I have been depression-free for two months now! thank you, Lord.

However, I have not yet found a verse yet for specifically fighting escapism. Need to dig more into the Word!

Dear reader, always remember to search for your answers, and your Strength, in the Word of God. If you seek Him, He will answer You. He keeps proving that to me time and time again.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

1000 gifts: end-of-summer fling

Continuing my list of gifts, blessings that I write down to remember all the wonderful things that God gives me along life's journey (from Ann Voskamp's book and her blog, A Holy Experience).

We like to take a trip at the end of August - one last fling before school and fall activities start. This year we drove to Estes Park, Colorado and then across the 12,000 ft Trail Ridge pass down to Grand Lake.

338. Old wooden lodges with interesting themes.
The Bald Pate Inn in Estes Park, Co  is a beautiful old lodge with uneven floors and fireplaces and a neat theme: keys. Based on The novel Seven Keys of Bald Pate Inn, The collection boasts over 20,000 keys including examples from the Pentagon, Westminster Abby, Mozart's wine cellar, and even Frankenstein's castle. Here's my daughters holding one of the biggest keys in the collection.

339. Mountain views from the middle of a lake
We rented a motor boat to zip around Grand Lake. A great way to admire the mountains and all the fancy houses built around the lake.

340. Sailboat races
A bunch of sailboats setting up for a race makes for a beautiful sight on a lake.