In the last 10 years I have suffered from depression on and off. I know I''m not alone, because every 3rd commercial is about some kind of anti-depression medicine that will apparently help your mood, but may cause blindness, heart problems or suicidal thoughts. Well, NO thank you Zoloft, I do not want any of those side affects. For me depression has not been debilitating. I function just fine. There have been times that anxiety has kept me from a social life, but for the most part living my daily life has not been a problem. The best that I can describe what I feel is joyless.
Although I knew I wasn't always happy, I really had no idea how unhappy I must have been, until one day when one of my son's friends said, "Miss Angela, why are you always mad?" I was a little taken aback. Always mad. Why you little......... I'm always mad because I have all these kids and they are so exasperating. I'm always mad, because I'm exhausted. I'm always mad, because the work of raising children, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and schooling NEVER ENDS.
This angry women who walks around with a scowl on her face and barking orders all the time is not who I want to be. The Bible talks about a joyful mother of children and I want to be her. They didn't have Zoloft when the Bible was written so what did this woman know that I don't? How was she so stinking joyful when she didn't even have a washer and dryer?
I don't see many women that are happy today (I'm sorry if you are reading this and think I'm thinking about you, but....) and I wonder why? We have every convenience that we could want to make our lives easier. We have every pleasure right at our fingertips. We have it all and we are so unhappy. Could it be we are making ourselves unhappy, by focusing on ourselves CONSTANTLY? Could it be unrealistic expectations or could it be envy of what other people have?
Why would a woman with everything she has ever wanted and prayed for be so unhappy?
Could it be that happiness is not found in stuff? Could it be that happiness is not found in getting everything you want all the time (think spoiled kid)? Could it be focusing on yourself, only makes you sicker? Could it be envy is enough to kill you softly?
Read a few of these verses:
"Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith." Proverbs 15:16
"A merry heart MAKES a cheerful face: but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken." Prov. 15:13
"A sound heart is the LIFE of the flesh: BUT ENVY rots the bones." Prov. 14:30
"A merry heart DOES GOOD LIKE MEDICINE: but a broken spirit dries the bones." Prov. 17:22
All of these verses are from Proverbs, which was written by King Solomon, the wisest person who ever lived, according the Bible. King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that there was NOTHING that he withheld from himself. If he wanted it he got it, but he found that he had it all and it was all vanity. He had everything, but you can tell by his writing that He had times of intense melancholy. He struggled to find joy in life. WHY? Because joy is not where or what we think it is. Joy is counter-intuitive. Let me show you....
There are so many treasures hidden in plain sight in the Word of God. Sometimes you miss them and sometimes they smack you in the face. Look at this little beauty "...but he that has mercy on the poor (needy), happy is he."
The last couple of weeks our family has been celebrating Advent. Advent means to "look forward to an event". We are looking forward to Jesus coming again. The Bible talks about being prepared when Jesus comes again and we studied what he told his disciples about that very thing, before He his death on the cross. He spoke of finding His people working for the Kingdom, while he was gone.
"Then the King shall say unto them on the right hand side, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For when I was hungry, and you gave me food: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and you took me in: Naked and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me." Matthew 25:34-36. It goes on to say the righteous asked, "when did we do these things to you?"
And Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, Insomuch that you did it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me." vs 40
Each day of this Christmas month we have tried to follow this command. Find ways to do some good to someone. I'm going to tell you 2 of the things that we have done, NOT to brag on my family, but to share with you the effect it has had on all of us, especially myself.
On a cold and windy day a few weeks ago I woke up thinking of 3 men, that we had seen panhandling on a cross street in Dallas, on our way home from the Zoo. I couldn't get them out of my mind. What could I do? Sitting in my warm bed, drinking my hot coffee, far away in a cozy suburb. A crazy idea popped in my head. Chicken noodle soup. That's what I could do. I may not be able to feed the world, but I could surely feed a few. I got to work in the kitchen making a big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. My mother in love raced off to Walmart and came back loaded down with things like socks, chapstic, snacks, and little water bottles and my children sat around the table filling bags to give away, when we took our pot of soup downtown. After we got it all loaded up in the car, we drove downtown and found a spot to park our car. It didn't take long before we had a crowd formed around us. Word had spread that there a bowl of warm soup and hot chocolate. After everything ran out and we said our goodbyes we piled in our warm car and drove away. I will never be able to get the image out of my head, of the lady that I had been talking to for a while, climbing up a set of stairs with her all her worldly possessions in 2 plastic bags. She sat down and hunkered in for the coldest night of the year so far. There was nothing to block the wind, whipping around the building, just her blanket wrapped as tightly around her body as she could get it. At that moment because she had forced me to see her and talk to her, she changed my world. I drove home in a daze. My heart full from the love and joy that was in all of their faces, all because of ONE BOWL of chicken noodle soup.
It took me a long time to go to sleep that night. I was thinking of all of them. All the men and women who wouldn't have a house to go home to, a bed to sleep in, or a food to eat. How could I EVER again be ungrateful? How could I be sad? How could I give a crap about my stained carpet or my old beat up car? How could I care about who did or didn't like me? How could I be upset because my kids messed up the house, at least I HAVE A HOUSE. All the things that were so important to me before that little trip downtown don't seem to matter much anymore.
"When I was hungry, you fed me."- Jesus
Another day last week we made a call to a little lady in a nursing home and asked if we could come for a visit. We had never met eachother, but I thought it would be nice for her to have some company, so the kids and I would bless this lonely soul with a visit. What a fool I am. We knocked on the door and waited for her 90 year old body to bring her to the door. As the door opened the most beautiful soul I have ever encountered cheerfully ushered us in the room. I was immediately in love. She made us feel comfortable and we got to know eachother. She shared with me that her husband of 67 years had just been moved to another facility, because his disease had gotten so bad that she could no longer take care of him. Her voice broke and tears welled in her eyes as she talked about going to see the love of her life that day for the first time, since he had been moved, and then she turned the most beautiful smile on to my children and told them how their visit had been perfect timing. She told her about her children and grandchildren. She told us about being a school teacher. She told us of a full and wonderful life. She also shared that her life felt empty now. Her chair faced the only window in the room and outside the window was a bird feeder. How many hours of her day was spent staring out that window, her only company the birds who flew in?!
How could I go home and resent my life? One day the husband I complain about will forget my name, but today we can be in love. One the children that frustrate me and makes messes will be gone. My life will be quiet. My days will stretch long and my memories of a full life will be the only thing that I have. How can I do anything other than LOVE MY CRAZY LIFE?
Elaine haunts my thoughts. How after meeting her, can I be unhappy?
"When I was sick, you visited me." -Jesus
In the last week there has been a strange thing happen in my house. It's so odd that every time it happens people ask what's going on. "Why are you smiling?", asks my husband. I guess my little neighbor friend was right... I was always mad. I didn't know it, but the people around me have noticed a subtle change. A happy smile has replaced my angry scowl. My thoughts are filled with people other than myself, who have so many reasons to be sad, but all they showed me was a beautiful, joy-filled smile. Each one of them have humbled me. Each one of them have haunted my thoughts.
I thought we were finding ways to bless others, but they have blessed me far more than I could ever have imagined. I thought I was rich and I was sharing, but I found out things don't make you rich. The smiles of those men and women are imprinted on my heart and they are contagious. The smile on Ms. Elaine's beautiful face and the glisten of tears in her eyes have broken me. This Advent season the little I was able to give, Jesus has increased a hundred fold. When I gave what I had, he gave what I did not- JOY.
J- Jesus first. O- others second. Y- yourself last. He shared the secret to joy and we miss it. We think happiness is a feeling that comes from having what we want. But Joy comes from giving our lives away. Joy comes when we put ourselves last.
Paul said in Acts, "I have shown you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, 'It is more blessed to give than receive."
In this context that word blessed means -blissfully happy or content.
Do you see it? BLESSED TO GIVE. We are not mad happy when we get. We are content and blissfully happy when we GIVE. Give money, time, things, chicken noodle soup. Whatever you have today. If all you have to give today is Christmas cookies- GIVE.
I have read that scientists have studied the affect of giving and the natural high that people receive from it... they have found that the effects of giving are better than anti-depressants to lift mood and quality of life.
Science supports the Bible- "It's more blessed to give than receive."
Find someone to give yourself to today... the effects are better than Zoloft.