I'm enchanted with a woman's laughter at the table beside me, her gray hair half-swept in a sparkly clip and also with the man in the booth in front of me apparently reading computer code four inches from his face...... scratch that, I now see that it's Chinese....
I'm chuckling because I can see it better than he can.
Welcome to my Suburban Panera, friends.
Where the Chai tea is piping hot and the crowd, bustling.
I'm sure thankful for a friend's goodness in Panera gift cards that makes another writing day possible. Thank you friend.
Did you make it out of the Holidays unscathed?
I so admire those who didn't expend enough energy between family functions/traditions and church events and have plenty left over to attempt a New Year's adventure like, "Clean out every drawer in the house every day WHILE doing lunges AND listening to two new books."
Sure I love a new pen and planner.
Right now I'd settle for a new address book because some of my friends have moved 37 times and I fear correspondence might end up in Guam or some such place due to one too many zip code zero's.
You know who you are.... (cough, cough, Tis.)
I adore a clean junk drawer and would actually like to know what really IS under my bed.
This year, this 2022 I'm taking it SLLLLLOOOOWWW.
I'm not even hurrying the waffle in the toaster, friends.
I'm just letting it get good and crispy-borderline burnt so that when the butter and syrup hit each square they don't ruin a good thing.
Yeah, I'm aiming for a year like that.
If the coffee gets cold, I'll learn to like cold brew.
If I get a walk I get a walk.
If I get the laundry folded AND put away, even better.
Sometimes real life just swallows you up for a while making a really good nap the most important spiritual decision you can make in one day's time.
I'm not sure when I first decided to attribute a dip in my spirit to the little black rain cloud that followed Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, but it just seemed to be the most fitting mental picture for me.
These dips can be called, "feeling down," "not like yourself," "off," "struggling," and even "depression."
What is depression but, "An area sunk down below its surroundings," as the dictionary points out.
I have seasons where I am sunk down below my surroundings, struggling to keep my head above water, so to speak.
Maybe you have been there lately.
Mine inevitably follow a period of stress- even good busy- and one morning I awake to see the tip of the dark cloud on the horizon.
I usually try to ignore it, full-well knowing that it's arrival is inevitable.
Be it days, weeks or even a month's time, it will cloud up and rain for a while and I will have to sit in its shadow for another season.
How long it lasts is never known- a few days usually- but sometimes a few weeks.
I say this not because I am a Dr, or even pretend to be one on T.V.
I mention this because depression can be isolating.
It can jerk the rug right out from underneath a very good season in your life.
It can come when you've had four straight months of a steady streak on the Bible App, when you are in the thick of homeschooling, ministry or even counseling someone back to the Lord.
If you use your arm to knit too many socks for Christmas you will aggravate a certain set of muscles and nerves in your forearm.
Ask me how I know this.
These muscles and nerves will need you to cool it for a while and take up cooking or something else until they have a chance to heal.
To not do so would lead to a dangerous situation where you could cause them real harm.
You need to take a break for your arm's sake.
Sure socks are great to knit, but a month's rest will make them even more fun to get back to, and when you do, you don't try to make socks for the neighborhood. You take it slow.
This goes for our minds and our spirits.
If you have swallowed the reasoning that an arm, leg or blood pressure can weaken or struggle but your mind and emotions are "off limits," you are sadly mistaken friend.
Man I love to laugh.
I love to bring a smile, I love to connect- deeply connect- and I love to talk about what God is doing.
Over-connecting leads me into a fog where I cannot even figure out how to order "Four for Four" at the Wendy's drive thru.
Depressing seasons come into all of our lives.
Sure some are more prone to them than others, but we all have them.
And here's the wonderful thing about these seasons.
They are just seasons.
Already my mind fights to regain some of the funny things my kids said and did in their younger seasons.
Our minds cannot absorb every single detail of every season of life we have come through.
Seasons come and seasons go.
Just as sure as Pumpkin Spice Cheerios will make their seasonal appearance so will the gray rain cloud.
Seasons of depression may not be as popular as the Seasonal Starbucks reusable cup, but they are allowed by an Almighty God who loves us more than we could ever imagine.
So what do you do when these seasons come?
You give yourself a "time out."
You may need to excuse yourself from busy, from meetings, from the yearly clean-the-whole house pressures on the calendar.
You rest your spirit just as you would rest any other injury.
This is NOT the time to examine every decision you have ever made in your life or chide yourself for never finishing the twelve cross stitch gifts in a box in your closet.
While preparing for my college kids to come home, before the really busy even hit, there it was, my old friend the rain cloud.
I was moving things around when my son mentioned that he wanted to have this Charlie Brown tree in his room to share with his brother coming home.
This tree actually makes Charlie Brown's look like it was from Martha Stewart's line.
The base is uneven, the tinsel from the 60's, nevertheless I decided to help him bring some cheer to his room for his brother.
The makeshift bookcase between the beds left too great a gap for this little cord of lights on this tree and so I searched for something to remedy the problem.
Cheer just pushes right on through you know.
On one of the beds was a strand of lights from years ago that had completely burned out.
Being the non-electrical gal that I am and all, what I am about to tell you came straight from the Lord who loves me and wanted to teach me a great lesson.
My mind wondered if this strand, though darkened and useless on their own, could become some sort of bridge to help this tree spark a little light in this room.
So I joined the lights together and then reached for the outlet.
And hear me, I was literally holding my breath, as if all of the Season to come hung on this little Science experiment in a cluttered boy's bedroom.
Right there, with little energy even left, this dark and deadened string of lights lit that little tree and it completely amazed me.
Right there in that room with an old little tree propped up on a tube of Carmex, I realized that deadness and dark just needs to be given up and allowed to be used.
Isn't that the Christian life in one word, "Conduit."
A means by which the Lord is seen.
No power of its own.
When I realized that the cloud had come to visit just in time to shove presents under the tree I had a choice to make.
I could fight it, get angry or even allow it to swallow me up completely in a puddle of tears (which I did do on Christmas day truth be told) or I could just allow the Lord to use it.
I could hold it up with a half-cracked smile to the Lord who created this weak mind and heart and say, "If you could use this little strand of mine that is broken to light a bit of something lovely, I'd be so grateful."
And here I sit, with my now cold Chai and tell you that the cloud up and lifted this morning.
Just in time for Thursday to come again, for my oldest to Marco Polo, "You going to write today, Mom?" and for another to hug me out the door and say, "You can write about me if you want to."
And I say that God used my little darkened strand just like he always does in this season.
Bright and beautiful, broken and darkened, it's all the same.
It's only Christ in us.
Colossians 1:27- "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”
This mystery of being used for anything at all is something I am reminded of in cloudy seasons of life.
Am I thankful that the cloud lifted today?
Do I want you to know that you aren't alone in cloudy seasons?
Will there be another season pulling me under?
I will again cringe when my peripheral picks up the lining just out of view.
But I will choose to remember that rain or shine I am a conduit the Lord will use.
As are you friend.