In the last few weeks, I’ve been hit with a mild case of depression. If you’ve read my book, Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday, or know my story, you know I have a naturally melancholy personality and have learned that having joy is something worth fighting for.
If you’ve been depressed before, you understand the description of “unexplainable sadness” and one you can’t seem to just shake yourself out of. I felt on the verge of tears all day for several days and nervously saw it coming on, wondering how far it would take me and how long it would last. When I was around the girls, I felt a complete lack of energy, more than usual and wanted to ball up and just sleep. And when I was all alone with my thoughts, I’d feel the pit of my stomach somehow sink lower. It was heavy. I call it mild though because I know people experience much more.
On a work trip last week (to photograph our prayer journals with Megan Gonzales in Minneapolis!), I found myself in the hotel lobby each night writing out prayers. I’m an introvert and have found that when I travel, a little time in the lobby alone in the mornings or at night is super refreshing!
To be totally honest, the Conversations Section of my Yearly Prayer Journal has sat nearly untouched with maybe a written prayer every two weeks. My Gratitude Section? I had planned to write a lot more prayers so I was going to do gratitude in a different journal and leave those pages for written out prayers. I never got around to starting that gratitude journal. : /
On my 5 day trip, I wrote prayers every single day, and two of those days I wrote twice a day. Something shifted. I kept coming back to God. I kept going back to Him knowing I was utterly dependent on Him. I could not get through the day without Him. I’ve talked about this need – how it’s when we are so dependent on the Lord that we pray consistently. If we don’t think we need God, if we aren’t desperate for Him, we try to muster through on our own. And if I’m being more honest, I felt like I’ve in some ways refused God’s grace, the fact that He wants to spend time with me. And the fact that in His presence is the fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
This recent battle started months ago. Around January when I was knee-deep in creating our Prayer Course, I felt a spiritual attack because surely the devil will try to sabotage anything that will help us create a consistent prayer life. And even when it “let up” a little, I still felt really dry but more like one of those valleys that we’re supposed to go through. The ones that deepen our faith and remind us God is not a genie waiting to grant our every wish. He is a Father who loves us and disciplines us too.
I think it’s possible to stay in the valley longer than necessary because we forget what thriving looks like. We forget the abundance awaiting us and think the valley is our new level ground.
Back to Minneapolis. At the end of our trip, I told Kara I didn’t think it was just the excitement of what we were doing that brought me joy. My baseline had shifted. That place when you’re alone with your thoughts. The hardest part of the day when you’re depressed. The moment you get home from something fun and are reminded of how you really feel. It had shifted to a calm and grateful place. I wasn’t completely through it but I was seeing hope again.
And as I returned home, I saw the Gratitude Journal that I had my printer print just for my use. I actually made two cover options because I couldn’t decide. I planned to start it on my birthday, August 28, but as I returned home, I knew I needed to fill my life with every reminder of how good my God is. So a few days ago I decided to write 1,000 gratitudes by my birthday (when I’ll start my official new gratitude journal for my 35th year). 1,000 gratitudes in a month. That’s 33 per day. I’m two days in and just hit 66. I cannot tell you what this has done for my heart. I am LOOKING for everything good thing in my life and I am FINDING more than I ever knew possible. My life hasn’t changed. My circumstances are the same. My struggles are still there and so are my fears. But my God is becoming bigger than them all in my mind.
I remember when I started connecting the dots. I’ve been writing gratitudes every morning for years, This was the first year I wasn’t and I coincidentally was experiencing the dryest spiritual season I’ve had in a while. It’s no coincidence though. Counting gratitudes is not a placate thing to do that every business, wellness or “spiritual” guru thinks is good. It’s deeply faith-filled. It’s giving us eyes that see God’s hand everywhere.
It was also the first year I wasn’t writing out prayers a few times each week. I love this time because even though I pray plenty in my mind, there’s something about writing my prayers that makes it impossible to say something without meaning it.
I sure didn’t time this. I promise I would have loved for the joy to have come sooner but I don’t think God wastes a thing (and trust me, I’m still struggling a bit). We’re getting ready to launch pre-orders for our Yearly Prayer Journal, a journal of prompts, space to write out prayers and gratitudes. And it’s odd. After 6 years, God is still teaching me that this idea for a product that He birthed inside of me isn’t just for everyone else, but still for me too.
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS
1. I’m praying for you today. For everyone suffering, and lifting you up to our Father who longs to heal our hearts and minds for His glory. Would you pray with me? I’ll gladly take prayers for my own journey too!
2. Want to know when the Yearly Prayer Journals are coming? Click here and sign up to be notified. It has a whole gratitude section to record up to 1000 gratitude in a year!
3. Can’t wait till 2020 to start writing gratitudes or want to do a month of 1,000 now? Click here to grab one of the journals I designed for myself. We’ll do pre-orders for them through August 1, print them and ship them out in the next two weeks. These won’t be a permanent product but I hated to share about it and not have it available! (This offer is no longer valid!)
Disclaimer: I know talking about depression can be a super sensitive topic. I also understand more serious forms of depression require more treatment but I promise, even though writing out prayers and gratitudes may not change your circumstance overnight, it is so worth committing to if for no other reason than 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Struggling isn’t fun but it does offer us an incredible opportunity to glorify our God and show the world what it looks like to praise Him even when things don’t go as planned.