Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Dear God: The Art of Waiting

posted by Beyond Blue

Dear God,
I get the point of today’s readings: Stay awake! Wait!
In his letter to the Romans (Romans 13:11-12), St. Paul says:

Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Matthew has you saying this in his gospel (Matthew 24:37-44):

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Song of Man will come.

I hate waiting, God. In fact, I only eat at restaurants with immediate seating or reservations. When I see a bunch of shivering folks—winter coats and scarves on—engaged in small talk as they try to stay warm outside the front doors of the Outback Steakhouse, I’m out of there.
Even worse is the bar. Don’t get me started on that.


Waiting … … … … it seems to me … … … is … … yet … … another discipline a person needs to work at and eventually master in order to find peace, whatever that is.
Advent is a good time to practice waiting.
The four weeks that precede Christmas are like pregnancy: chock full of excitement, anticipation, bloating, and heartburn. The closer we get to celebrating your coming into our world, the more likely we’ll start to engage in peculiar behavior, much like “nesting” in those days before the baby arrives: cleaning out cupboards, painting basement walls, sorting through your “The Idiot’s Guide to …” collection of books you haven’t touched in three years.
However, in Advent the nesting manifests itself as manic shopping sprees, annoyingly long and boring holiday letters (Do I really care that Joey can now wipe himself?), and the urge to invite friends and neighbors over to gossip and drink eggnog.
During our birth-preparation classes, Eric listened with delight to the nurses’ description of this whole nesting phenomenon. He came home every day during my ninth month of pregnancy (both times) like a little boy on Christmas morning, hoping to see a spotless kitchen. Instead he found his wife in gastrointestinal distress.
The nesting angel apparently skipped over our home seeing that it was hopeless. Which brings me back to my point, God, that I suck at waiting. Always have. Always will.
I need your help with this.
Henri Nouwen devoted a whole book to the topic. In “The Path of Waiting,” he wrote:

The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination or prediction.

I think that’s why I have trouble with waiting: it requires some relinquishing control. And, in the brain of a depressive, anything that can’t be controlled is automatically bad. In other words, I tend to categorize all things without an ETA (estimated time of arrival) as dangerous: something hurtful might very well happen; I must brace myself with defensiveness and shield my heart with sarcasm.
But the whole point of your coming here, the whole point of Christmas, is that you come with hope and joy, not sadness and sorrow.
I could get used to that.
Because if I’m doing the best I can–if I’m loving you with all my heart, mind, and soul, and loving my neighbor as myself–then your coming only means good things. I don’t have to worry that I don’t have it down perfectly: that my house didn’t get cursed, I mean blessed, with the nesting syndrome, that it’s still a mess; and that I haven’t composed an annoying holiday letter chronicling the boring details of my life (“Katherine’s favorite Disney princess has just changed from Ariel of ‘The Little Mermaid’ to Jasmine of ‘Aladdin.’ We’re still grieving the loss of Sebastian the Crab, and his wonderful influence over our daughter …”), or bought any gifts, participated in any charity event, or have invited the neighbors over for a drink.
Waiting doesn’t always precede bad things: death, depression, illness.
Waiting also heralds joy: birth, weddings, book offers.
I think, God, that what you are trying to say with all this “stay awake” and waiting stuff is that if we just live in the moment, like Henri Nouwen said, then we can trash our expectations and anxiety and worrying, because no body—well, maybe you—knows what’s coming. Trying to predict is time wasted, energy spoiled.
The poet T.S. Eliot nailed it–the message of Advent–when he describes how we are to wait:

I said to my soul be still, and wait without hope; for hope would be hope of the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith. But the faith, and the love, and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: so the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Help me to wait, God. Help me to dance in the stillness.



  • kristie

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts ….we are all waiting for the day that death …pain …sickness …illness will be no more ….that alone is worth waiting for …..but there is truth there is light , and it is here so anyone can find it…… still in a world so full of bad …love ..still remains

  • Lynn

    I ,too, hate to wait. That is why I never finished anything that takes more than a day to finish. I always feel like the end of whatever will never come. I never finished Nursing school, and I still have dreams that center around the working towards and waiting for the finish of that un fulfilled goal. I think God knew that Nursing would be to much for me, I burned out so quickly, but there is still a niggiling desire for this acheivement. Maybe waiting all this long time has prepared me, so that someday I can Finish. Time will tell. Funny things , Time and waiting. With George too, I thought I will never love this man the right way or enough. Over time though I have come to love him more than I even imagined. The very thought of losing him, greives me. Life is very, very strange and wonderful at times. Perhaps, in the end, it all will be worth the wait. ?????????? :)

  • Nancy

    This post is so timely for me. Actually, this post is timely for me at any time, as I too do not like to wait. Anything that my mind anticipates is in a negative context for the first thought; and to get out of that mental loop of replay takes concentrated effort, reframing, prayer, and staying in the moment and not thinking ahead.
    I have so much history as a frame of reference to know that many situations turned out particularly better than I foresaw them as being, yet I am still hard-wired to flip right to fear and negative outcomes. The anticipation is usually worse than the actual event.
    That anticipatory anxiety when channeled properly could propel me in the past to very productive outcomes; but truth be told, the fact that the foundation was based on anxiety and fear wore me down.
    What’s that you say about casting your cares on the Lord?!? How much trust and faith did I really have? Wasn’t it, if you want something done, do it yourself, and do it all and perfectly until your next to dropping dead? Ahhh, the lovely illusion of perfectionism, which is why I needed and still need the shift in mental perception and rearrange my thinking instead of my home furnishings.
    I could also come up with a list of history to “defend” my knee-jerk reaction to the unknown with fear and impending doom. But where does that get me? To be right about something that only keeps me in misery, regardless?
    The last few years have been relentless in so many areas (but the blessings have been there also, particularly with the kids), that I’ve lost a great deal of the ability I had gained in either not projecting into the future, or at least staying somewhat neutral about it.
    My husband is attempting to keep me hopeful (I know it’s not his job to be responsible for how I feel) about seeing another new, better, improved “specialist” for the current mess of an immune disorder I have, which has rendered me practically disabled in my entire being. A part of me wants to be hopeful, but I have put up the “good fight” for so many years now (re: video – take 57, take 58, take…) and persevered, that I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment, and I am needless to say, cynical at best.
    I am going, regardless, because I want to believe that even if I have to co-exist with another serious illness within my body and brain, that it can be done with gaining and recapturing a decent quality of life, as my history proved itself with the relentless near death experience of deep clinical depression.
    So, it is that I wait. I will be repeating the story again, which is so tiring in itself, along with presenting a 24 page repetitious history report on myself. I just want to right – “Look – I’m here, so obviously I’m at my wits end and I am severely ill, and what are you going to do to help me, and if you have anything, give it to me all now, and make it work NOW, because I’ve waited long enough and my family and I have endured enought with this. I have no more patience”. But obviously, I’ll have to acquire some, and if not of my own doing, then on the prayers and strength of others and the gift of “perseverance” granted by God.
    This year is the first Christmas season in my life where we will truly be extremely quiet for the holidays. I have to maintain it that way, regardless of the woulda, shoulda, coulda that my brain plays out. No parties, giving or going; gift giving only to the kids (but not the magnitude of years past – however the “quality” is great – and they’re not exactly waiting for the lastest gadget from Toys R Us), no decorating, but a lot of Pine Spray and Candles, and there will be Love. I realize it sounds corny, but that’s what it comes down to; a good meal (catered in) and the 4 of us (and the dog and cat), a 24 hour “Christmas Story” marathon that my husband loves (ugh – I double dog dare you) and our love for each other.
    We’ve had so many wonderful Christmases, and as I’m writing this out, I am starting to believe that this will be a good one also. Different does not always mean “bad”. I’m writing that for my own brain to reinforce in its pathways to doom and gloom.
    So, what’s the cliche?, “If you want to give God a good laugh, tell him your plans”. I can only set the preliminary ground work within the frame of circumstances as they are, not as I’d like them or wish them to be. Having said that, there is still a great deal to be grateful for. I’ll stay awake when my illness lets me, stay in the moment for as much as my brain can be rewired that way, and know that this too shall pass.

  • Larry Parker

    The sign on the Methodist church I pass by every day walking to and from work:
    “PATIENCE IS BELIEF IN G-D’S GOOD TIMING”
    Hmmmmm …. is G-d trying to hit me with a sledgehammer from heaven or what?
    I agree, people with depression and especially bipolar disorder are allergic to patience. Because patience is ultimately serenity, or calmness, something that is pathologically absent (or at least largely absent) from our beings.
    And it’s not something the Prozac or lithium or what-have-you helps. It’s something you have work on yourself.
    (Or let go of yourself, as the case may be.)

  • Nancy

    P.S. – previous post was by Nancy L. or Nancy from NJ -
    I forgot to add the “sign-off” – since you have more than one Nancy – lucky you!

  • Nancy

    Larry – I like the saying. Yes, I hear you about the sledgehamer. I also like the reference to an “allergy to patience”. Yep – you’re right – it’s an inside out job on that one with constant repetition (or a labotomy).
    Nancy L.

  • Frank

    This was so good. It’s difficult for me to honor the best of intentions when it comes to waiting (or being quiet). ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ gives me the willies. What if God wants me to do something that I’m certain I’m not up to? I get really tense when I’m told about somebody else’s life issue – and I know I’m not supposed to fix it, but just listen. I want to scream, “Why are you telling me this? I’m no magician and I can’t make him/her do anything. It’s her/his life and I’m not in charge even though I would fix it if I could. Can’t we just pray about it and let God handle it in His own sweet time?” My choices are difficult when I’m feeling tense. I want to speak out in my own defense even when I’m not being attacked. “It wasn’t me!”
    Anyhow, patience really is a virtue. I’m a slow learner but I’m trying. I’m trying to avoid being the master of the comeback quip that’s just a smoke screen. It isn’t about me. That is the ultimate truth of most of my nonsensical responses to conversation that confuses me. I probably misunderstood and just need to smile and plead the Fifth. I do believe that waiting and stillness offer the best opportunity to find peace. I’ve tasted from that cup once or twice and it’s sweet – very sweet.
    Thank you for a major thought provoking moment that contained a true moment of insight.
    Goodness and mercy…
    Frank,

  • Cully

    It’s difficult for me to honor the best of intentions when it comes to waiting (or being quiet). ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ gives me the willies.
    Posted by: Frank | December 3, 2007 1:07 PM
    how about, Be still and know that I am with you…
    “with you” as in: on your side.
    hugz,
    Cully

  • sandy

    hello i use to be a person who struggled with deppressionand anixoitys. i was married to a man who controled my life everywhich way he could and i stayed with him and at this time i really never put a bible ion my hand. he had left me and went to florida. and every morning when i woke a preacher was on thid station. her commets were always intersting to me and i went with it i fought it for a while. but i started biblw studing. i learned alot about me and about. angerand paticens. and it was a very ruff road. i started taken better care of me and my children.then he came back and it got worse all over again. i know we are tought to stay with the husband. but wee are also taught to stay away from evil and he was that at the time. i left him wioth all my children in toe all eleven of them. he has divorced me. re married and evry sence i have left this man i have only had 3 panic attacks and my deppression is gone. but everynow and then i fall and lose my faith for a sstyep or two and it comes back.but with a gental touch from a dear kind man that i have fallen in love with brings me right back to my faith and ground. i have done this a many of times also when i start to feel those feelings coming about i run around my hopme and scream at the top of my lungs satan go away your not welcome here only the goodness of god is welcome here and it leaves. i dont know scripters very well and i cannot quote any but i do rember this always have faith. and it will work out and it has for me put your depression in your hans and throw it out the door and say out of my life. and with faith it will go.

  • Regu K Doraisamy

    I have gone through much and I’m still in the ‘crucible’of circumstances that are out of my hands to some capacity.
    I believe all things that are contrary to our very perception of what a good life shoould be is considered as ‘hardship’ to verying degrees!Second to our sinfull nature is our individuality; a misconstrude gift that sets us apart from each other and therefore incapable of simply perceiving the difference thereoff in each context; for this same reason, fitting into ‘someone elses shoes’ merely is an extraordinary task that requires an extraordinary insight and that insight is God.
    I recently wrote a poem, something that maybe relevent; hoopefully it would help, if not ..maybe in His time and not mine.
    Always in Christian Harmony,
    Regu

  • Wisdum

    The only thing of value in this world is Time, and each of us a given a certain amount of it, and only God knows what that is. Some live for only seconds, others for hours, some for years, some over a hundred years. A diamond is only a rock until a lot of people devote Time to it. The more time attached to it the more valuable it becomes. It is no wonder why most of us hate waiting, for it is a waste of Life. One of my favorite mottos is “If I am to die tomorrow, what would I be doing today!…Then do it!”
    Then you get some cutesy Biblical words like “soon” which could be anywhere from a “blink of an eye” to 2,000 years … and you’re supposed to “be patient and know I AM with you” I truly believe we are in the period of Time of the appearance of the Messiah, all things point to it, especially all this “Tribulation” going on Which we hope ends “soon” and we hope and pray that Armegeddon/Har Meggido doesn’t come “soon” …but we do hope that the Messiah comes “soon” but He/She ain’t commin because everything’s good, either! As they say “It’s ALL in God’s Time!”
    LUV 2 ALL
    Wisdum

  • Anonymous

    waiting is vey difficult for me even when God says that He will do something for me. At times, I will stay still, but at other times is when God? When?

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Control and patience (also known as waiting) are difficult forboth my depressive self and my adult child of an alcogolic self, which is fairly typical. ACOAs tend to want EVERYTHING to be in their own control and when we want somethinh we want itNOW regardless of how unrealistic that might be. It’s kind of like, ‘Okay, I haven’t eaten ANY chocolate today, not even one bite1 I didn’t even look at it or smell ir, so why haven’t the sacales dropped from this norning;s wweight? They MUST be broken; I need a bew digital set, i’llgo buy them if i don’t haveto stand ib a checkout line, Whastever happened to the days of the general store who would DELIVER whatever you phoned in and asked for? Now, my rational mind knows and understands that that is all bizarrely unrealisric, but my ACOA self finds it to be exactly the way things should be! I cn’t TELL you how frustrated it was when i first began working to discover that even though i had worked that week, I wouldn’t get a paycheck until the following Friday! I felt abused and CHEATED! mY SON WAS DUE ON THE FIRST OF jULY, AND IN SPITE OF THAT FACT THAT I HONESTLY AM A QOMAN OF ABOVE AVERAGE INTELLIGENCE (Way above if the tests are to be believed, I actually packed my bag on june 30 and set it by the front door. this wasn’t done in a “I’ll be prepared” mindset, mind you; it was done in an I’m going to need it TOMORROW frame of mind! i cried every day for the next three weeks until my wonderful Ryan w(hom no one had told about the 1st!) decided it was rime to put in an appearance! by then I was even MORE of a basket case than my usual self! was it worth the waiting? Absolutely! did it teach me to be more realistic? Absolutely NOT! aT LEAST FOR ME, waiting hasn’t gotten easier for me with experiemce; it’s still the most difficult thing I must do Although i am friendly by nature, I’m NOT INTERESTED in passing the time in the checkout lane bt conversing with my fellow waiters…why can’t that clerk move FASTER? dOES S/HENOT KNOW WHAT SS/HE’S’S doing? Where’s the MANAGER, for pETE’S SAKE? Maybe THAT’S what it will take to light a fire under him’her! I don’tCARE if it’s his/her first day; s/he shouldn’t have TAKEN the job if it was too much for him/her to handle Hand me one of those comment/complaint cards, would you please? I know EXACTLY what I want to say! I pray to God that there won’t be a line at the Pearly Gates; I might blow it before I get to the front! I think there must be some connection between emotional matuity and the ability to wait…FORGET waiting PATIENTLY, waiting PERIOD!!! One of my biggest faults as a prayerful Christian is leaving my burdens at his feet. Oh, i’ll TAKE them there, but I tend to snatch them back before I leave because even God himself isn’t working fast enough for me! It makes for a difficult time in receiving His blessings, believe me! I’m too busy golding on to my burden to let go long enough to receive them! (Maybe I really DO have manic episodes! They just always strike when i’m in a waiting siruation!?)) My wonderful friend/caregiver has a habit of using the word “shortly”…as in “I’ll be there shortly” in what to me is an incorrect manner. “Shortly can be anywhere from five minutes yo an hour in her lexicon. needless to say, it’s caused more than one moment of tension between us! To ME, “shortly” cannot extendIpast a few minutes–seconds would be even better! the thing is tht i’m not normally a difficult person to please. It’s just the waiting and control issues that make me grouchy…but them waiting is all about lack of control, isn’t it? Sorry to know you have the same issues, T, but why should I be surprised? (Are you SURE you weren’t adoped? Because we MUST be related somehow or other! Otherwise it’s JUST TOO WEIRD!) Strangely enough, i don’t appreciate the impatience of others when i’m the one causing the delay. You’d think my own difficulty with waiting would make me more empathetic, but it doesn’t work that way for me!
    On a different note 9and YES, i’m just about done–have a little patience, pleasse! that whole issue of loving our neighbors as ourselves is a complicated one for those of us who’ve yet to learn to love ourselves, isn’t it?

  • Margaret Balyeat

    One more thing, and this is directed to Sandy. be careful howyou say that it only takes faith to lose depression. that kind of comment can leave people doubting their faith. Just be cause it worked for you doesn’t mean it will be the same for everyone, even if they DO have FAITH. It’s all well and good to adress saran and tell him he isn’t welcome, but it can be destructive to imply to others that if they have faith they can just utter a gew words like “Be gone!” and experience immediate and total healing of their depression. I too adress satan and invite him to depart, but for me it also has taked meds and therapy to move my “Eyorecloud” aside and let the sun shine in for awhle. Eventually that cloud drifts back over my head, however, and i DON’T believe it’s due to a lack of faith on my part.

  • Kay

    Waiting…..waiting for things to change…..waiting to wake up one morning and feel happy, waiting to come across new friends,waiting to find and meet love…..always waiting for something or someone that never seems to turn up……hope shrivelling slowly. We cannot MAKE things happen…if we could things would be oh so different. I have been waiting for people to have a change of heart too….but nothing does change no matter how much i wait….no matter how much i pray and beg and plead. Its a cruel world.

  • Sharon

    As we ponder the definition to waiting, for me it’s all a matter of perspective, for me waiting means learning patience, waiting can also mean I’m not ready just yet to handle what might be coming my way. Timing is everything or at least in my experiences. Sometimes waiting that never comes to pass inadvertently meant No but I just couldn’t see past my wants to know what in my own best interest. So I guess life is full of lessons to be learned that helps us grow and eventually grow up it’s all apart of the process. I think we learn as early as when were born to want what we want when we want it, like the baby cryin to be fed, or the little girl wanting to get on the swing while someone els is riding and she has to wait her turn and on and on. I’ve learned that good things truly come to those who wait and not just to sound cliche but it seems whenever I forced the hands of time to my favor it seemed it costs me in more in pain and labor.
    When the student is ready the teacher will appear.
    Sharon

  • Wisdum

    Re – Margaret Balyeat | December 4, 2007 6:45 AM
    Hi Margaret … just a point on faith. Yeshuah said “If you had faith the size of a grain of sand (or mustard seed) you could command that mountain to leap into the sea, and it would” … As far as I can tell, there were no mountains that leapt into the sea, during His Lifetime! So it looks like we are ALL in good company here, dealing with all the same crap! (Don’t let all those self-righteous types throw you, crucifixion is no Garden Party, if you catch my drift!)
    LUV 2 U / LUV 2 ALL
    Wisdum

  • Margaret Balyeat

    RE:Wisdum: I didn’t meab to discount Sabdy’s (or anyone else’s faith as being fruitless; Phillipians 4:13 is one ofmy favorite scriptures. I spologize if I stated my case so poorly that I gave theimpression that I thought faith had no power; that’s not the case AT ALL! I’ve just sen too many cases where people with a real mental illness ae chastised for not having enough faith to rid themselves of their condition resulting in them critiscizing their own faith and was trying to help avoid that unfortunate circumstance from repeating itself here on B.B. where we come for edificatiob in in our afflictions. I think it can be quite dangerous to imply to someone else that their depression/mania/schizophrenia stays with them because they haven’t had enough Faith to cure themselves Faith is an important componnent for me in the healing process, but without my meds and therapists I doubt that i’d have made what little progress that I (thankfully have!

  • Lynne

    Faith has a lot of demands put on it. It’s expected to be a cure all, a miracle, move mountains (maybe the one made of laundry in the hamper)walk through walls, walk on water, turn water into wine ( I especially like that one ) Calm storms, create new ones, end famine, disease, old age , ignorance (although it can be bliss) Faith must be exhausted! I know my “Dear God” was’nt pretty last conversation I had with him. I really wanted to cash out my ticket and come “home”. I’m just really tired of this wrestling match. I’m still waiting on His reply. I know my brain is too busy to hear his voice right now. That’s where the patience in waiting comes in. Also note in reference to Matthew…when would you least expect Jesus to return? When you think he’s already here. Ponder that one if you will…

  • Lynne

    P.S. I think perhaps God did say something quietly. It just took a while for it to sink in! I threw a fleece down in a moment of misery and it came back in the form of some positive feedback concerning something I am very passionate about and feel I have a talent for. What a wonderful Christmas present that is! Now my gift back to God is to see that I make good use of it. Thankyou Jesus!!!

  • Larry Parker

    Cully:
    Some of us don’t have that confidence :-(

  • Anonymous

    Re -Lynne | December 4, 2007 7:38 PM
    ** Hi Lynne, hope you don’t mind my two cents in this.
    Faith has a lot of demands put on it.
    ** Faith, has no demands! Faith is the belief in something unproven, you believe in what you choose to believe, and don’t let anybody covince you of anything different!
    It’s expected to be a cure all, a miracle, move mountains (maybe the one made of laundry in the hamper)walk through walls, walk on water, turn water into wine ( I especially like that one )
    ** You know that Yeshuah was the first “moonshiner” (that kind of stuff can get you crucified! “Render unto Caesar” or you will be in deep shnit!… Since He said that He was the “Living Water”, you think that was a metaphor for walking upon yourself? hmmmmmm
    Calm storms, create new ones, end famine, disease, old age , ignorance (although it can be bliss)
    ** Old age? Did He cure that, or stop that? I think He was all about ignor-ance as in “I came to set you free” (from all this organized bondage!)… Of course preaching that kind of anti-authority stuff can get you abused, tortured and crucified … or worse!
    Faith must be exhausted!
    ** Only when you get to Heaven!
    I know my “Dear God” was’nt pretty last conversation I had with him.
    ** Listen, a lot of those conversations are with all kinds of spirits. You want to stick with the Holy Spirit/Spirit of Love/Spirit of Joy/ Spirit of Happiness (not to be confused with the Spirits of Happy Hour, although it could very well be the same!) Stay away from the Spirit of the Unhappy Camper, that ain’t no fun spirit!
    I really wanted to cash out my ticket and come “home”. I’m just really tired of this wrestling match.
    ** As they say in the sports field “No pain, no gain!”
    I know my brain is too busy to hear his voice right now.
    ** That’s the Spirit of Distraction/Resistance … be real cautious of that spirit!
    Also note in reference to Matthew…when would you least expect Jesus to return? When you think he’s already here. Ponder that one if you will…
    ** It all comes down to (for me and my family) “ASK – Ask and you shall recieve, Seek and you shall find, Knock and the door shall be opened unto you” … (be careful what you ask or pray for, you just might get it!)
    LUV 2 U / LUV 2 ALL
    Wisdum

  • Rhonda

    Wow !!! that was very much needed. I am an Army Wife & my husband is in Iraq right now. He has been gone for over 4 months so far. His R&R isn’t til April 08. So I am going through alot of waiting & yes alittle depression sneeks in there as well. you are a real inspiration for me. please keep it coming. if you do have a book(s) out I really would want to know. so I can put them in my library. :-)

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