It's been a while since I've written. While I've had a multitude of topics bouncing around this brain of mine, I haven't felt any particular topic-focus for which to write until this week. So, I've gone about my daily life, filled with wellness routines that God led me to establish for myself over the summer. I am grateful for them. They keep me grounded and whole and on an active journey to be in tune with my Savior.

I also welcome new ones, as I continue to seek God's daily guidance for new opportunities to learn and grow and share his beauty. This is something I endeavor to do until the day my Lord calls me home. I could never possibly learn all there is to learn, but I want to be open to learn as much as I possibly can of and for his glory while I'm here.

I encourage anyone who reads this to do the same. As one of my sons recently brought to mind, reach back in your memories to the wonder of childhood, and begin to wonder again. Seek, like a child discovers, the truths of your Creator and the gifts he has bestowed. They are all around you, every single day, no matter the situation. Open hearts, and eyes, and ears, and minds make it possible to be filled with all he desires to fill us with. If you're reading this, I don't care who you are, I have prayed that very prayer for you, many, many times with more sincerity and care than I've ever known possible, particularly this year. I have prayed that you would know him fully, and DELIGHT in him. As I pray for myself, I pray for you, that the desires of our hearts would BE him and HIS desires. It is my biggest hope and prayer for all I know and all I don't, for every leader of every nation, and every race, and every person with or without a current belief in God.

On this quest, however, it is crucial that your God encounters be authentic, free from distortions and deceptions that run rampant. They may even appear glorious and healing, but when uncloaked, they are anything but. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." The emphasis in those words is mine, but Jesus said these words, as recorded in Matthew 7:13-14, and he alone is that gate.

We live in a time of world chaos, such that I've never witnessed in my lifetime. We all want peace... well, most of us, anyway. Some are hoping in politicians and protests and scientists and "experts," but God, and ONLY God, gives true peace and true answers to the chaos to those who seek it. Jesus IS the answer! It doesn't mean the chaos goes away. In fact, for instance, I believe more chaos, likely even severe chaos, lies ahead, not less. I know that may sound pessimistic, but I believe it to be true. Yet, in the midst of the chaos, "DO NOT be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-8 - emphasis mine)

I cannot state strongly enough, now more than at any other time, that we must exercise extreme caution and discernment, using ONLY the Word of God - the Bible - as our instruction and guide and HOPE. If any part of the "truths" we discover are in any way contrary to or do not align with the Word, run from it... far, far, away from it. Do not take with you even a tiny PIECE of anything which is contrary to the Bible.

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." ~Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 7:15-20

I will conclude with this. The other day I listened to the song below, and oh how it reminded me of this summer as I walked with God as he led me to rest in "green pastures" and "beside still waters" even with chaos all around. And oh, the peace; the wonder-full (and yes, wonderful), God-given sweet, sweet peace in the midst of chaos. Nothing compares to him. If you don't know Jesus, or want to know him more, please contact me. I would love to talk to you, and pray with and for you. The gifts he has given before we ever knew to ask are more precious than anything else you'll ever find.

Photo above and writing below are from August 6, 2020

It is a grey, wet day here in Seattle . Some call it gloomy. I just call it glorious. Life-giving water drenching the atmosphere, replenishing lakes and streams, refreshing dry soil, bestowing floral blooming power, and saturating evergreens with strength to raise their branches toward the heavens. It's my chance to cuddle on the couch with Gracie, feel her tiny heart beat beneath furry softness in one hand, and soothing warmth of coffee-filled ceramic in the other. I absorb this reality and reflect on the gift of wellness. My soul swells with gratitude for my God who has held my hand and my existence through darkness back into life... from a gloomy to glorious life

A life that is in love with water in all forms. A life that longs to be at the edge of the shore - especially the seashore, but anywhere there is water, really. I didn't realize it at first, but that's where I needed to be over and over and over this summer. It played a vital part in restoring my soul... and bringing me from gloomy to glorious.

As I think on this, it occurs to me that God has walked me through Psalm 23 over the past 8 weeks that I've been on medical leave. Metophorically, He made me lie down in green pastures, as I have taken this time of rest and healing. It was a time rich with an abundance to feed me in every way - emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically... even socially. He led me beside still waters, overflowing with His artistic expression and majesty that hydrated my mind and spirit. He taught me how to not fear and that anxiety is an enemy that can more easily be slayed with the weapons (coping tools, strategies, etc.) he laid on the table before me so that I am equipped to live in peace, even in the midst of chaos around me. His goodness and mercy sustain me, even when the world is oppressive and malevolent, and I am excited to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Below are just a few photos taken during this time of rejuvenation. Notice all the... WATERS! If one didn't know, they would think I just took an 8 week vacation, but trust me when I say that every experience displayed in the photos below were therapeutic and absolutely essential to my health. I needed to step outside of the concrete and sirens and honking of horns and viral/social-induced pandemonium to the tranquility of His creation, far away from the negative energy of the city, or by design, guarded from it (close to the city, but in nature preserved within it). There are dozens of examples and explanations and insights I could share, but I will just share some of it now in pictures.

Before I do, I will just quickly say that I am WELL now!!! I return to work on Monday, and I am looking forward to it!

Enjoy the beauty captured below. I recommend turning the volume up for the videos, and expanding them to full screen.

Trip to Tahuya Lake

June 22 - Leaving the ferry dock in Seattle to Bremerton

Mt. Rainier from inside the ferry, through the windows, thus the glare.

Pulling into the Bremerton ferry dock, Olympic Mountains in the background

Tahuya Lake, 30 minutes from the ferry

Surrounded by peace-producing blue and green beauty

June 23 - Good morning, Tahuya Lake!

Families of geese and ducks out for a morning swim on the lake

Awww, look at the babies! They're bigger babies, but look at the fluff on their heads. This makes my heart smile.

Trip to Pacific Beach, Washington Coast

July 7 - view from the deck of our cabin

Do you think Gracie loves the beach as much as I do???

Chillin' and watching the waves from the deck. Is it my imagination or do they both look like they're just tolerating the photo shoot.

Pacific Beach sunset

July 8 - Dark cloudy morning on the beach, but nice sun breaks

July 9 - Goodbye Pacific Beach - we'll be back soon!

Daily walks at Alki Beach, Puget Sound/Seattle

Palm trees? I never saw the palm trees here before!

Blue Heron slow-walking through the water - this was fascinating to watch. What I was unable to capture was a bald eagle fiercely diving into the water a little while later to catch and fly off with his breakfast. It was a magnificent sight!

This anchor was a new discovery, as I'd never been to this part of the beach before

Space Needle and Ferry, taken from Alki Beach

Alki Beach Seagulls

Visit to Kubota Gardens, Seattle, Washington

July 29

This dragonfly actually let me get mere inches away from him! I waited for a long time, hoping he would spread his wings open, but you can't always get what you want! I decided he looked like he was praying. Haha! I love his color!

I hiked to the top of these waterfalls (from a lot lower than this) where there were places to sit. I had brought a book that I'm reading by Ann Voskamp titled, The Broken Way (excellent book, by the way!) It was so relaxing to sit there reading while listening to the water.

I loved this area with the bridge. The water was so still that it's almost hard to see where the foliage ends and the water begins. So peaceful.

Visit to Green Lake - Seattle, Washington

August 4 - I decided I needed a little trip down memory lane. When I was a little girl, my family lived in the University District in Seattle. One of my fondest memories during that time is of the frequent trips my mom and I took to Green Lake, which was fairly close to home, to feed the ducks. That was, of course, before knowledge that feeding the ducks bread is bad for them, but oh, how I was thoroughly delighted by every minute of it back then!!! I brought my sketch book on this outing, and sat on the bench with Gracie and did some sketching, and watched the ducks. Thanks for all the childhood memories, Mom!

Gracie: "Mom! Did you see that duck???"

"I want to jump in after him sooooo bad!!!"

Gracie is a very quiet dog, so listen close and you'll hear her whining.

Time to go home, with Gracie leading the way.

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

On June 8, I asked this question in the photo above on Facebook. There was a reason, and that's because I was NOT doing well or fine or good or any of the other typical answers we give to that question. I was trying to be. I was fighting to be. I was failing to be and that scared me. I needed to know if I was alone or crazy. As it turns out, I was neither. It helped to know I wasn't alone, but I still was not doing well.

It's been 2-1/2 months since I last posted here on my blog. I just finished re-reading everything I've posted so far. In my second post, An Introduction to This Joyful Life and Me, I mentioned, in so many words, that you'll find that I write when things are going well, but you won't hear from me much when they're not. I wish I could always write no matter what, but as I warned you in the beginning, it is highly likely that I won't. Sometimes it is because I just don't feel like writing or I don't feel like I have anything to say. This is the case particularly (though not always) when life is hard. During this time that I've not been writing it has been especially hard and life has changed quite a bit for me, especially in the past month.

The following is not something I normally talk about with most people because there's so much misinformation, misunderstanding, and/or lack of both that it makes it an uncomfortable topic to discuss at a personal level. At the same time, it should be discussed more to overcome the stigma and provide those who don't understand with factual information. I'm not going to give an educational lecture with this post, nor will I go into personal details, but I do want to share a little, and encourage you to educate yourself, ESPECIALLY right now, about mental health, if you haven't already.

So, as those closest to me have known, I have a well-managed Depression and Anxiety diagnosis. For many of us with such a diagnosis, it isn't something that just "goes away" either with or without medication, like an ear infection or a cold. Rather, it is managed, like Heart Disease or Diabetes, for a lifetime in many cases. I am proud of the way I have managed it over the years, and thankful for every person and organization in my life that has supported me in doing so successfully throughout the years. There have been a few times in my life, however, that it has needed more management than normal, and I've needed extra support.

The stress of COVID-19 has triggered one of those times for me. A death in the family earlier this year, and riots in my city have not helped. I've been on medical leave from work since June 15. A few days before my last day of work, I was offered an opportunity to participate in an informational and interactive group discussion that gave helpful mental health support. I jumped at the chance! I was relieved to learn, again, that I was not alone in the ways I had been feeling, but for someone who already has a mental health diagnosis, everything we've been facing is even more difficult in that regard. Try as I might to pull all my coping tools from my mental health closet, it just wasn't enough, even with the strength of faith that I have. And that's okay. It's not a weakness. It's not a matter of just "snapping out of it." It's not a matter of simply praying or thinking positive, because depending on the severity of the Depression, it may not be POSSIBLE to think positive, for very real medical reasons. It is a medical condition that needs medical treatment.

I also do believe that spending time reading the Bible and in prayer helps - a lot. Sometimes we may need others to do that for us though. Thankfully, I know I've had many family members and friends doing just that for me. I am deeply grateful, and love you all so much!

I feel like I am starting to turn a corner right now, and hope to be fully recovered by my target return to work date of August 16. I am now at a place where I CAN read the Bible and pray and use the therapeutic tools I've acquired over the years as well as some new ones I've picked up. I'm applying the principles of living "present" in the moment, whatever the moment holds, and leaving tomorrow up to God.

I believe in miracles, but I also believe that sometimes the hardships we face have invaluable learning opportunities by going through them, rather than being rescued from them. So, I have been asking God to walk with me through this, to give me strength, and to help me to keep my heart open to learn new truths he may have to teach me through this experience.

Reading through all my blog posts today was encouraging to me. It painted a picture of how I got from there to here, but it also reminded me of my well self and gave me hope of being there again soon. A couple of days ago, I was afraid August 16 may be too soon to go back to work, but for the first time, I can see that as a very likely and attainable date. Trust me when I say that's a good sign! So is the fact that I'm writing!

I've cried many, many, many tears since this all began, but the tears I have at this moment are, for the first time in what feels like eternity, tears of gratitude... an overwhelming sense of reality of how much good I have in my life, how truly blessed I am. I have the most loving and supportive husband I could ever ask for who is faithfully my rock - always, and especially right now. When I've been so overcome that I can't see or think about what I need to cope, he has reminded me, encouraged me, researched for me, pampered me, taken care of personal business for me, prayed with me, prayed for me, been patient with me, and had no expectations of me, but (and this is really important) believed in me. I don't know how I would have navigated this without him.

I don't tell you about this to get an "I'm so sorry." And I REALLY don't want (or need) anyone to worry about me. I mean, I appreciate that and all, but more than anything I want others to be aware that just because you don't have a diagnosis, you still need to be aware of how the current situation could impact you. And if you DO have a diagnosis, it is that much more important - really!

I read a Forbes Magazine article today that says, "A Total Brain survey announced today that 83% of women and 36% of men had experienced an increase in depressed moods. 53% of working women and 29% of men have experienced an increase in anxiety since February. The toll of Covid-19 on mental health is concerning and needs to be addressed as soon as possible."

This is real, y'all, and I know from statistics, that some of you (1 in 5) reading this do have some sort of mental health diagnosis. I had no idea that my well-managed condition would be derailed so significantly until it was too late, but I (we - all of us) have never been through ANYTHING like this before either! So, I encourage you to do everything possible to take care of yourself at this time - physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally. At the same time, give yourself grace if you've tried to take care of yourself and it has not been enough. And give yourself grace if you need to let some responsibilities go to care for yourself. I need to hear that as much as anyone. Fortunately, my husband has enough grace to offer when I can't find any to give myself.

We are ALL in this crazy mixed up global boat together, all with different backgrounds, experiences and challenges, but all needing self-care. Please don't hesitate to reach out to someone if you ever need to. Take advantage of any community or employer offered mental health support opportunities. Above all else, please don't let shame play a part in whether you ask for help or not. I know personally how easy that can be to let shame get in the way, but also how unnecessary it is.

I'm normally available to talk about details of my experiences and strategies privately, and have done so to help others many times in the past. Right now, however, please understand that for my health sake, I am NOT in a place to talk about it more than what I have here. It actually causes anxiety right now when people ask how I'm doing. Please believe that while I have a little farther to go to be well again, that I WILL be well again. While I might not have said this a month ago, I am absolutely certain of it now, so I ask that you will be too. I will be able to talk about it again in the future, just not right now. I also may not feel like talking at all. Please don't take it personally.

For now, for me, it's one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, but I do so with hope, faith, and gratitude today, and I do mean TODAY. I haven't had that before now, It feels SO good to have a positive outlook again! I know I may still have some bad days or moments ahead, but I'm confident that they will be fewer and farther between, every day, and before long, I'll be my old self... but likely much stronger than ever before.

I leave you with three resources, below, and prayers for overall health. Take care, and God bless!

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Emotional Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Outbreak

P.S. All of the above was written on Saturday, July 11. It took until today to be brave enough to post it. (Please be kind!) Also, Social Media is NOT my mental health friend right now. Neither is the news! You will find many professionals and articles that say the same. They are actually telling people to avoid both right now for their mental health. I'm not posting or commenting and I'm only spending about 10-15 minutes a week reading (and skipping over all the political and COVID-19 related topics). So, you just won't see me on social media right now.

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