Talk About Weather

I should be a Midwestern girl at heart, and I probably would still be if it weren’t for the weather. I grew up in eastern Indiana and moved to northeastern Ohio when I was heading into high school. I don’t recall ever feeling like the weather was oppressive, although, I do recall staring out across the cornfields at ominous dark clouds watching for a funnel, anticipating the storm’s power. Snow came and went, sometimes with fierceness and malice, sometimes gently and quietly. There were the years growing up when the blizzards hit and the snow draping down off the nearby church roof met with the drifted snow climbing the church wall and we had to cover the doors to the house with blankets to keep the snow and cold from drifting in. And, invariably, June and July would roll around and every single day we had swim lessons or the opportunity to board the bus for a nearby pool grey clouds would settle in and the wind would rise. The pool water was frigid and the air wasn’t much better. The next day, the sun would bake the land around us and send us panting to the shade of a large tree. But I moved in and through the weather, sometimes getting a late-sleep because of a fog delay or a free day off school because the roads had drifted shut with snow. I viewed these days like gifts from the weather gods. Weather was what happened around me and nothing more than that.

When we moved to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, I heard expats who had moved there from sunnier climates complaining about the weather. “Why doesn’t the sun ever shine here?” seemed to be their refrain. For me, the fast-moving clouds, the sporadic showers, the breaking sun through enormous puffy orange clouds was heavenly… so much better than the nebulous grey murk of home where horizons don’t exist, where sky and snow-covered landscape blend together in an endless greyness. And then, I moved to California where for several months each year there is no rain. At first, the incessant sun seemed to scorch my soul. I felt dry and thirsty… partly for rain and partly for companionship. I still embrace the first rain of the winter with open arms, but I quickly bid it good-bye. Hasta la vista, baby. Bring back the sun! I have become a sun-bunny and the dark, dreary rain storms that pass through don’t just happen around me, they happen in me too. Headaches, sadness, fears sit like a proverbial cloud over my head; it is a heavy cloud.

I’m talking about the weather here because one of my devotionals today describes depression in the way I would describe a winter’s day in northeastern Ohio – interminable darkness. Please read:


Coming Out of the Dark — 
Mary Southerland

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD (Psalm 40:1-3, NIV).

Florida is famous for its sinkholes. I personally find them fascinating since I grew up in Texas where most holes are made intentionally. As I studied these overnight wonders, an interesting explanation emerged. Scientists assert that sinkholes occur when the underground resources gradually dry up, causing the surface soil to lose its underlying support. Everything simply caves in – forming an ugly pit.Depression and sinkholes have a lot in common. Depression seems to overwhelm with a vicious suddenness when it is actually the result of a malignant and constant process. Inner resources are slowly depleted until one day there is nothing left. The world caves in and darkness reigns.Depression is America’s number one health problem. Someone once called it “a dark tunnel without a ray of light” while some cartoonists often describe depression as a “little black cloud hovering overhead.” I have a friend who says, “Some days you’re the bnd
Florida is famous for its sinkholes. I personally find them fascinating since I grew up in Texas where most holes are made intentionally. As I studied these overnight wonders, an interesting explanation emerged. Scientists assert that sinkholes occur when the underground resources gradually dry up, causing the surface soil to lose its underlying support. Everything simply caves in – forming an ugly pit.
Depression and sinkholes have a lot in common. Depression seems to overwhelm with a vicious suddenness when it is actually the result of a malignant and constant process. Inner resources are slowly depleted until one day there is nothing left. The world caves in and darkness reigns.
Depression is America’s number one health problem. Someone once called it “a dark tunnel without a ray of light” while some cartoonists often describe depression as a “little black cloud hovering overhead.” I have a friend who says, “Some days you’re the bug. Some days you’re the windshield.” Many believe depression is simply a spiritual problem while others insist it is an emotional and physical disorder. I think they are all right. Studies indicate that over half of all women and one out of three men struggle with depression on a regular basis. Because no one is immune to the darkness, we must learn to face it honestly, with emotional integrity.
That moment came for me in the spring of 1995 when I realized that something was drastically wrong. I was empty and completely exhausted. It seemed as if I had been living in the fast and furious lane forever. Overwhelmed, I mentally listed the demands on my life:
• Serving as pastor’s wife in a large and fast-growing church
• Raising two young children
• Maintaining a hectic speaking schedule
• Directing the Women’s Ministry of our church
• Teaching a weekly and monthly Bible study
• Counseling women in crisis
• Playing the piano for three worship services
• Teaching twenty piano and voice students
No wonder I was struggling. I was just plain tired. Being a perfectionist, I had always been very strong, driven to excel with little sympathy for weak people. Now I, the strong one, couldn’t get out of bed. Getting dressed by the time my children returned from school meant it was a good day. The simplest decisions sent me into a panic and the thought of facing crowds was overwhelming. Many times, I walked to the front door of our church building but couldn’t go in. I felt guilty missing services but couldn’t handle the sympathetic looks and questioning stares as I stood, weeping uncontrollably. I was paralyzed, imprisoned in a bottomless pit where loneliness and despair reigned, wreaking emotional havoc from their throne of darkness. I had no idea how I had gotten there and what was even more frightening was the fact that I had no idea how to escape. I did the only thing I could do. I cried out to God.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:1-2, NIV)
With that single heart cry, my journey from darkness into light began. The first step was to recognize the factors that can trigger depression; a lack of replenishing relationships, various chemical imbalances, and a poor self-image, just to name a few. One of the most common and deadly factors is failure to deal with the past. The “mire” mentioned in Psalm 40:2 means “sediment at the bottom.” When our children were small, we frequented the beach. Wading out into the ocean, they took turns pushing a beach ball under the water and counting to see who could hold the ball down for the longest time. Eventually their arms would tire, or the ball would escape their control, popping to the surface. The “mire” in our lives is like that beach ball. The “sediment” or “junk” that we have never dealt with settles at the bottom of our souls, randomly popping up until we run out of energy to keep it submerged. Eventually, this mire works its way to the surface, spilling ugliness and darkness into every part of life.
“Mire” comes in all shapes and sizes — buried pain, unresolved anger, hidden sin or a devastating loss. I had never really dealt with my mother’s death or faced some very painful parts of my past. As I looked back over my life, a startling realization came — I had painted a picture in my heart and mind of how I wanted my childhood to be, not how it really was. I had spent my whole life running from the past by filling the present with frenzied activity. In the following weeks and months, the Lord and I sifted through the enormous pile of “mire” that had settled into my spirit and life. Together we faced experiences that I had carefully locked away until they slammed into my heart and mind with breathtaking force and fresh pain; an alcoholic father, the trusted family doctor who molested me, times of loneliness and rejection, haunting failures, unreasonable fears that were never spoken. It seemed as if the flood of polluted memories would never end!
But God is good — providing a defense mechanism for those experiences that are beyond our ability to face. He gently tucks them away until we are ready. When we bury pain alive, it keeps popping up at unexpected moments. Pain must be dealt with and buried … dead! Freedom from the pit of darkness demands a confrontation of our past, straining every experience through the truth that “all” things work together for our good. The will of God admits no defeat and penalizes no one. We can allow our past to defeat us or empower us. Harnessing the power of the past is a compelling weapon in the war against darkness.

I’m pretty sure I fall into the 50% of women who have experienced depression. It’s such an ugly, lonely, dark place. My heart has cried out over and over again, “Lord, please take this.” Do I successfully hand it over to Him? Or do I keep grabbing it back? What about the times I think I’m doing great and then something happens to me? Someone says something that hits a nerve, or resurrects the head of the multi-headed serpent of self-doubt and self-recrimination and self-loathing, or throttles me squarely into the middle of a battle I didn’t start and want nothing to do with. These are my beach balls I suppose, the mire-covered buoyant issues that eternally pop up and try as I might to drown them again and again and again I can’t. I would like very much for the beach balls, with their mire-covered relentlessness, to go away. I would like to wash my hands of them, watch them drift ever further out to sea, ultimately to sink from view. But wouldn’t you know, to carry the metaphor a bit further, here comes a dolphin balancing the balls on its nose, tossing them back at me. Here, catch! You’re not done yet. WHY NOT! WHY CAN’T I BE DONE?

Because my work here on earth isn’t done yet. Seriously, I’ve got babies to raise, people to shepherd, tea to sell and lives to change, a husband to love, and parents to help. I’ve got rainbows to see, new foods to taste, faces and people to delight in, and a lot of growing in Christ. God’s not finished with me yet; in fact, He’s not finished with this whole experiment He’s got going on, this thing called “life on earth.” Yesterday, I took a walk and as I walked I marveled at the blue sky peeking through the grey clouds with tinges of pink outlining it all. And I prayed, “Lord, I can’t wait to see Jesus come riding through those clouds with thousands of angels blowing their heavenly trumpets. Because when that happens I will know I’m going home and all the pain of this life is behind me, a flash in the pan, a momentary blip, the bitter pill swallowed and ultimate healing complete. No, God didn’t send His Son back to fetch us all, not yet, although He promises to do so.

In the meantime, we work and serve.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who has been facing a number of health issues. The health issues are limiting, and after a lifetime of servitude, this person was beginning to feel sort of put out to pasture, like there wasn’t much left to do. Oh, but there is still so much to be done! One of the things that I keep learning over and over is that we all face hardships and problems. Tragedy, illness, death, financially difficult times, scary times… we are exempt from none of it. It is the definitive in the world… not if, but when. We have two choices when we reduce it down. Choice A is to turn inward and ask things like, “Why is this happening to me? What did I ever do to deserve this?” and crawl into the proverbial bed, pulling the covers over our heads, and shutting out the world. Choice B is to take the necessary time to grieve and adjust and then to say, “God, how are you going to use this? Show me the way for this to become your glory revealed. What role do you have planned for me? How can I serve still?”

We shouldn’t turn each other out to pasture. Our elders are wise and offer a contemplative view of the world. Our youth are full of vigor and passion, which can be harnessed into productive servitude. I think of Dawn Leppan at 1000 Hills clinic in South Africa, who, despite her own health problems, continues to serve roughly 1500 people a day through her feeding center, her nursery school, her jobs programs, and her medical clinic. I think of two of the founders of Compassion Tea who have traded an easy retirement for the rigors of running a tea business, while the other founders squeeze Compassion Tea into already filled days. I think of our members who understand that they are serving others by simply drinking a cup of tea. Or I think of Betty who called the CompassioNow office recently and said she was sending a check to CompassioNow for $9.00. For years, she and her husband Bari have kept an annual jar where they collect money that they find on the street or that falls on the floor. At the end of the year, they take whatever is in the jar and send it where the Lord directs. Recently, Betty read about how patients in Tanzania pay 60 cents for their healthcare costs, a cost that seems miniscule to us but which is actually prohibitive for Tanzanians. Betty said she felt the Lord directing her to “the jar.” She had $8.72 in the jar. She figured by rounding up to $9.00 she could help cover the patient portion costs for 15 patients at Tanzania Christian Clinic.

There is a service yet that you can provide. There are mentors needed, Bible studies to be led, communities to be built, lives to be saved, lives to be drawn out of the dark.

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  1. Talk About Weather « compassiontea

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