Category Archives: encouraging words

A New Season

We are deep into the fall season, although in Texas it still feels a little too much like summer. But the leaves are beginning to change and in the morning there is a coolness in the air. To really tell how late in the season it is, I have to look at the calendar. Sure enough, soon it will be Halloween then Thanksgiving and next… Okay, I won’t say what’s after that. We all know. And in case it might freak you out, I won’t make you spill your coffee in your panic to get shopping.

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I love this time of year, the colors of the leaves, the spices, everything flavored with pumpkin, and most especially cooler temperatures. I’m one of those weird people that actually likes change. I get bored easily, so change even when it’s not so positive is often eventually a good thing in my estimation. A couple of years ago, I was looking ahead, as my son was about to graduate from high school with his sister following right behind, and I knew I would soon have an empty nest.

My chicks were about to fly. Even though I knew they were ready, I wasn’t. Since I had placed my writing on hold to help them with college apps and essays and touring colleges and traveling for interviews and auditions, I knew this was not going to be a good change unless I figured out a way to fill up my calendar and days when they were enjoying the college life. And by the way, juniors and seniors often need us as much as if not more than toddlers. It’s a stressful time. So I began to pray about what God wanted me to do. Did He want me to write again? Did He have something else in mind?

The first thing I felt Him press on my heart was a prayer group for moms. Prayer has been a passion of mine for a long time, so it was fairly easy to say, “Yes, God!” But then, I thought I had to invite moms to my house. Of course, that meant I had to have a clean house. God gave me the idea to have a private community of moms on Facebook, where we could pray for our children and ask for prayer when it was needed. “You mean, God, I don’t have to clean my house first?” “Nope,” He said (and sometimes in my head He has a Texas accent), “you don’t.” I was thrilled and immediately started the group. And I haven’t looked back since.

It’s been a learning curve, and I’m still learning and growing and well…praying. My kids are now pursuing their dreams at their respective colleges. I can’t say this change has been easy on this momma’s heart, but I know God has a plan. I love praying for my friends’ families as well as my own. And I’m slowly getting back into the groove of writing. The full scope of God’s plan is a mystery, but I can rest in these changes because I know He is not taken by surprise. He saw the change of seasons, and He has a plan.

Are you approaching a season of life change? What is God telling you?

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Lord, Your word tells us that for everything there is a season. Some seasons of our lives are joyful, some sorrowful, some full of laughter, some full of tears. Lord, we give this time to You now, whatever season of life it is. We thank You for this season, and we know You have a plan for how we are to walk through it, for what we are to accomplish, for the divine appointments that You have set up in advance. Father, we ask for Your guidance as we take the hesitant steps into this new season, that You will guide us, give us strength and wisdom, and that our footsteps will grow bolder and more confident in Your light. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

From my heart to yours,

Leanna

Hope is Available

I wonder if Robin Williams knew how loved he was? Did he know how much he would be missed? Look at the outpouring of love this week in the aftermath of his untimely death, I wonder if he knew. I suspect he didn’t. I suspect he couldn’t see beyond the pain he was feeling.

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The darkest time of my life came after the birth of my second child. I had two babies—a toddler under the age of 2 and a newborn. And I was depressed. I don’t mean I was tired and weary. Yes, I was. But I was truly depressed. It was a very dark time. On top of that, I felt guilty for the depression. After my firstborn was delivered, I felt euphoric. I was elated to be a mommy finally. So, it was hard for me to accept that after my second was born, I faced crazy tears and a darkness I had never experienced. Where was the joy over this new and healthy baby? Thankfully, I spoke to my doctor about my unusual feelings. We quickly realized that it was the birth control pills I went on right after her birth. All those hormones wreaked havoc on my system. I immediately got off the pills and my hormones regulated themselves. The storm clouds cleared. Sunshine returned.

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Depression comes in all shapes and sizes. For this optimist, it was a shock when I experienced it but it was also quite a shock to watch my father go through it after his heart surgery. It’s a common phenomenon for heart patients or anyone who has had a serious ailment to go through depression. My dad was like John Wayne–strong, confident, steady. And yet, to watch him go through depression was heartbreaking. Even more shocking to me was the lack of response by his heart doctor. My mother would slip a note to the nurse during a doctor visit telling her how depressed he was. The doctor would come in and say, “Are you depressed?” My father, being stoic and never accepting what he perceived as weakness, would deny it. And nothing would be done to help him.

My mother is also very calm and steady, so it was also a shock when she realized several years ago that she was depressed. She was unflappable during her bout with breast cancer. Her doctor kept asking her if she was depressed during follow-up visits because some medication she was on could cause depression. One day, my mom was watching Grumpy Old Men, a comedy, and she cried three times. That told her something was not right. Thankfully, she sought help.

Depression can be caused by hormones or medication or traumatic situations. Some people have an illness, which is depression, and there are all sorts of manifestations of that. Unfortunately, I have also known those who have not sought help. Robin Williams’ death by suicide brought that home to me again this week. I ache for his family and friends, because I too had a friend who committed suicide. I have asked myself all the questions that follow. Did I…Could I…Why didn’t I…What if I’d…? There are no answers to those questions only a lingering pain. I simply understand the deep ache of what they are now facing. Suicide doesn’t just affect the person that takes his or her own life. Suicide devastates families and friends. There is not a week that goes by since my friend’s death (and it’s been 3 years) that I don’t think of my friend, of those last moments in her life, and wish I’d been able to help.

I didn’t know Robin Williams. I don’t know all that he struggled with. From the outside, his life looked to be ideal. But no one’s life is ideal. Everyone struggles. Everyone faces difficulties. He recently had heart surgery. He struggled with addiction. He struggled with depression. He faced financial difficulties. Here is what I know: depression is an isolating illness. It makes you feel alone, and in that isolation lurks hopelessness.

This morning, I was reading out of the book of Job. Surely, if anyone had reason to feel depressed and hopeless, it was Job. All of his children had died. His wealth had been taken. His health was failing as he suffered boils on his body. He was in severe pain. Friends came to see him, trying to help and also accusing him of sin in his life, which they believed caused his suffering. Job 3 is Job’s lament. “Why didn’t I die as soon as I was born…” “Instead of being alive, I would now be quietly lying down. I would now be sleeping peacefully. I would be with the kings and the counselors of the world who built for themselves what are now ruins…. I would not exist…I have no peace! I have no quiet! I have no rest! And trouble keeps coming!”

Surely, Job was in a desperate situation. He was in a very dark place. He needed help. He needed hope. Let’s skip over what all his friends said to him in response. Because what really matters is what God says to him in chapter 38. “Then Yahweh answered Job out of the storm… “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have such insight.” Later, God says, “Will the person who finds fault with God correct him?” Finally, Job responds to God with, “I know that you can do everything and that your plans are unstoppable.”

Life is temporary. Eternity is forever. The suffering we feel here on earth does not last forever. It is a season. There are answers and solutions to any problem. God has the answers. He can work miracles in our lives if we will but allow Him.

For those who cry when others are laughing…if your life feels dark and hopeless…if you think about ending your life…reach out to a friend, a family member, a professional doctor, nurse, anyone. I know it’s scary. I know you feel as if no one will care. There is someone who wants to help. Please, reach out and get help. You do not have to live with tears or loneliness or darkness. Reach out. Get help. If you haven’t reached out to God, then do so. People make mistakes and fail each other, but God loves you. Always. Let me repeat that. God. Loves. You.

For those who have been left behind by someone they love who took their own life, it’s okay to walk through all those stages of grief: sadness, anger, etc… There are organizations that can help you in the aftermath. Get help. But also, reach out to God. He understands your pain, your suffering, and He wants to help you through this very difficult time.

For those who do not face depression (yet), please remember that no one knows what situation another faces, what resides in another’s heart or the pain another suffers. Looking at Robin Williams, it would be easy to assume that his success, his laughter, his life would cause happiness. It’s never that simple. Be mindful that others are hurting and reach out to help, listen for clues that someone needs help or is asking for help, and most importantly simply love each other.

For those who have gone on, who found this life too painful, too dark, you are not forgotten. You are loved. You are missed.

Down Beside the Sea

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.
My holes were empty like a cup
In every hole the sea came up
Til it could come no more.
Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was little, my mother used to quote that poem to me, and since then I’ve taught it to my children. Sand. Surf. Sea. I’m at the beach this week with my family, enjoying some down time. One of my favorite times to visit the beach is early in the morning before the heat of the sun and crowds. I like to walk along the surf, feeling the sand between my toes, the wind in my hair, and occasionally letting the water bubble around my ankles.

This morning on my walk, I was thinking about sand and how it gets everywhere and into everything. It burrows under your clothes, sticks to your skin as if its been glued on, and somehow no matter how many showers I take it ends up in my bed. Sand is like words. Words spoken by others have a way of sticking to us. Sometimes that’s good if they are encouraging words. But what about words that are harsh or painful? Words can exfoliate, buffing off the dead and reinvigorating the soul. But it can irritate, getting into eyes, and scratching delicate skin until it wounds. Words can be good and bad. Sometimes we need to hear the truth in order to help us. Yet, sometimes words can be aimed to injure.

Collecting words in a jar and holding onto happy memories can give us strength and hope. Yet, if words stick to us rub and scratch and continue to wound, then shouldn’t we get rid of them? How do you sweep away painful words from your past and hold onto those that have brought life?