Tag Archives: new year

Dear 2018, You Tried to Sting Me Like a Bee, but I’m Still Floating Like Butterfly!

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2019 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

woman wearing purple boxing gloves
Photo by Ambar Simpang on Pexels.com

Dear 2018,

You old pest. You waved your gloved fists for 365 days, managing to body punch and intimidate me. I bruised, but you are the one KO’d. This fighter is standing tall and victorious! 

On your first day, joy had me floating like a butterfly.  I admit, your sucker punch of cancer and surgery in the second round was disorienting. You were good at the old one-two. Round five – a thrown back.  Round seven – shingles. Round nine – a triple punch combo.  

Maybe you hoped emotional blows would force me to take a dive. Round two left hook –  betrayal and humiliation. Round three jab – family member missing for two weeks. Round four upper cut – oldest son moved to another part of the state. Round six foul – ex-husband remarried.

Counterpunches of hope, faith, and gratitude weakened you. Despite my almost home-bound existence, patience and positivity scored.  Not once did you overpower me, 2018!

Your round nine triple punch combination came close.

The first blow fouled below the belt. Bed bugs? Really? This Ohio epidemic endangered what scant social interactions remained. Between that and your second hit, severe  anemia,  I was almost totally isolated for months.          

I staggered. Your third punch tossed me to the ropes. Anxiety swelled, accompanied by undeniable early signs of depression.   

If you stuck out your chest to boast, you underestimated how much fight boils in my blood!. Upon recognizing my old mental nemeses, I rose inspired, powerful, and defiant.  

Not only did you lose twelve rounds, it was JOY that knocked you out for good in your last wheezing weeks. You see, I know something you do not. God gave you to me. God turns everything out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:26-28). 

Too bad for you, 2018. You stung like a bee, but God grounded this butterfly in his love. 

Hello 2019! You may yet turn out to be a ringer, but I know Who holds me and will never let me go.  

Check out the score!

  1. JOY √ A neighbor came to Christ
  2. JOY √ A second member of the neighborhood Bible study came to Christ
  3. JOY √ One neighbor started bringing her grandchildren over for their very own “God class.” 
  4. YIPPEE! √ I won my very first IRS tax-exemption status without using a lawyer! 
  5. JOY √ The bugs forced a healthy household purge, and brought by an exterminator who needed encouragement.  
  6. FUN √ I hosted Thanksgiving reuniting long-lost relatives.   
  7. JOY √ Anemia keeps me home most days, so offering support is more of an inside job. (fostering a cat for a woman in transition, and sorting papers for someone with depression.) Occasionally, people drop by who need a listening ear. The neighborhood Bible study continues.
  8. JOY √ My church’s new associate pastor is allowing me to teach short-term classes.
  9. YAY √ Finally, I began formal (online) schooling for certification as a Life Coach. This workable compromise opens a virtually unlimited field as one can grow and specialize. 
  10. JOY √ I was able to speak to the women in recovery at Timberline Knolls in Chicago

          Today’s Helpful Word

     Romans 8:38-39 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

 

Joy Is In the Making: How Stress and Poor Health Led to Positive Change in 2017

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse   (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

One year ago, I was struggling with severe stress, doing what I knew to do to cope, and having some rather good days despite inner turmoil. I was in pain emotionally, however the drive to push forward and change how I feel had become somewhat automatic in recent years. 

Familiar depression and darker thoughts visited in January, February, and March. I was never in danger of self-harm, yet wondered dozens of times each day why I was trying so hard.  Grief over personal loss, a terrible sense of rejection, and a loss of focus ministry-wise held me in mental chains. 

In trying to express this to a few carefully selected confidants, I watched as they reacted by  backing-off.  Honestly I cannot blame them because they feared for me, and in the past I have unfortunately given reason to their concern. It was disappointing though, mostly that the work I’ve done to combat stigma did not seem to have had an impact. I felt very alone.  

What no one knew is what all this was doing to my physical health. Severe anemia due to stress-induced gastric blood loss landed me in the hospital twice. Complications to one of those admissions caused harm to an ankle that has still not healed. July to September were spent in a wheelchair, and a cane has accompanied me since.  

Eventually, Always The Fight Ministries changed, as instead of giving up (the biggest temptation), it was rearranged to require less of my focus. The details to all this are many. Those decisions took months and in some ways continue still. 

Change is good much of the time. A direct result of my health problems led me to switch to an accessible church where I discovered my gifts are needed and desired. The care ministry there provides opportunity to use my art as gifts to the sick. I’m excited to be teaching a scripture memory class beginning this Sunday.  Old friends attend this church, and chances to meet many  new ones abound.

The personal loss and grief that hurt so much pushed me to find solutions and healthy ways to cope. Feeling alone inspired weekly dinners with family, saying yes to social events more regularly,  and inviting people to my home.  I learned to proactively combat isolation.

It took awhile for the overwhelming emotions to dissipate completely. By September,  joy was filling my hopes and dreams once again. That is when the best part of 2017 occurred. 

On a warm afternoon, I wheeled to the homes of several neighbors and invited them to a weekly neighborhood Bible study at my house.  The result so far is six women besides myself, studying the Word of God.  It’s been a blast introducing these new friends to Bible stories, and to the God those stories prove. 

This past year was one of great challenges. It ended with renewed sense of purpose, and satisfaction in doing what I enjoy.  Learning to accept and nurture my emotional needs has been a little like being set free. 

Here’s to 2018 and whatever it may hold. I’m stronger than I was 12 months ago, and of course, my Lord has not changed. He walked me through it all and I know he will never let me go.  

Today’s Helpful Word 

 

 

Last Night’s Dream is a Lesson For Today. Be Ready.

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

MELODI2rgb3

Do you ever wonder what your dreams mean? I had one last night. Maybe you will see in it what I see. 

Several old friends of mine, including one pastor,  were planning to get-together and hold a meeting.  This gathering would be both a chance to celebrate seeing one another again, and serve a distinctly Christian purpose.  It may have been worship, BIble study, prayer, or any and all the above.

Initiated by the pastor, the invitation was a call to fellowship. Everyone invited was a follower of Christ Jesus.  Numbered among us were musicians, teachers, artists, writers, and a nurse.  I was excited to go!

We were asked to wear formal attire.  For the women, that meant full-length gowns.  This also sounded fun. With every intention to attend,  I waited until only a few days before the event to look for suitable clothes.  

Once I realized the shortage of time, my attitude sank almost immediately into self-pity.  “It’s not my fault I don’t have a gown.  I’ve been busy. It’s easy for everyone else.”

Laziness followed. “The right kind of dress is at the store, I should go buy one. Nah, that’s too much trouble. Besides, home is so comfortable.  I want to stay  until it is necessary to leave.”

Then came blame.  “He (the pastor) shouldn’t be asking so much.  Shame on him for making it difficult. Maybe I won’t go just to spite him.”

Self-doubt was close behind.  “Nancy, this is your fault. You won’t find a nice dress now, nothing will be good enough. You are the one who ought to feel ashamed.”

I ran to my closet. Maybe something would do.  A brown, denim-like skirt caught  my eye. It was very old and faded. For a moment I considered piecing it into a homemade gown.  Nothing else matched it, and it was too ugly anyway.   

Time was running out. Rationalizing began.

 “What could be so important we have to dress-up? I’m smarter than to fall for that silly idea.  I’ll just show up in jeans.”  Fear I would be rejected at the door nixed that idea.

“It’s going to be a stupid get-together. I don’t need to be there. No one will care. I’ve got too much to do here anyway.”  With a shrug and defeatist mindset,  I chose not to go. 

Using a metaphor, Jesus  described the gathering of his followers in heaven as a banquet. Everyone is invited. The dress code is white robes. Some invitees said they were too busy. One showed up without a white robe and was sent away.

No amount of searching among our belongings will produce such a robe. Our best options are old, faded, and dirty.  Nothing of our past or present qualifies us for eternal life with God. 

Where is hope then? It is in the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus.  When we surrender our will, and take him in as Savior and Lord,  our inner selves are figuratively washed clean by his blood.  He is the only one who gives away these “white robes.” He already purchased them – they are ours for the asking.

A songwriter once wrote,Teach us to number our days,  that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Indeed, I hope we count our days rightly and understand their brevity.  

Today is the day to drop our excuses.  He is coming back soon. 

Today’s Helpful Word

This New Year Resolution Promises Joy

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

100_0932 - Copy

It’s not a sight one would see often. Surrounded on a speeding freeway by cars that appear to be dodging and dancing the Do Si Do, I concentrated on driving around a curve without starting a potential 100 car pile-up. My passengers, distracted in conversation, also missed the scene on the side of the road until we passed by too quickly to stop.

A broken-down car was squeezed into an almost non-existent shoulder at the end of the treacherous curve. How the driver managed to pull over, I’ll never know. Within a few inches of hundreds of speeding vehicles, were an elderly man and woman. Both appeared to be in their mid eighties. 

Wearing a buttoned suit and tie, the man stood tall, looking straight ahead, undistracted and dignified as if in a receiving line ready to shake the hands of heads of state. Next to him, his slightly stooped companion sported poise in a fancy dress. She waited casually as if confidently expecting everything to turn out alright.

Clearly, neither of these people were physically able to change a tire or crawl under the car for roadside repairs. They were not safe. 

I turned to my passengers, “I’m going to stop.” By the time those words were spoken, we had sailed another 100 feet.

“You can’t,” someone said from the backseat.

“Does anyone have a phone?”

“I do,” and one was passed to me already connected to 911.

The voice on the other end said, “Emergency. What is your situation?”

“Hello, I’m at mile marker 39 on route 70 South.”

“Yes?”

“About a quarter mile back there is an elderly couple standing beside a broken down car. They aren’t safe there, but traffic is so fast no one can stop. I wanted you to know.”

“Where on Route 70 did you say they are?”

“Approximately mile 38.”

“We have received numerous calls about them. We know they are there and help is on the way.”

mjybb2eAn incalculable number of moments are lost in this country listening to dire and fearsome news reports, and reading ratings-motivated headlines. Lest we become cynical beyond repair, let’s remember that although I saw no one reaching out to a couple in need, many people were doing just that. This didn’t make the news.

o7mevl4We have some control over how much stress and fear we experience. We can resolve to turn off the news and proactively focus on finding the many quiet random kindnesses around us and around the world.  Better yet, join in the fun and do one anonymous kind deed each day of the new year. You will be surprised by your joy!   

Happy New Year! 

mgylws4Today’s Helpful Wordn7tkj5k 

John 15:11

If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you.nowukzq.-Jesus

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*pictures from  kozzi.com and rgb stock.com

But I’ve Wasted So Many Years!

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2015  Nancy Virden

photo-24769120-old-man-standing-and-looking-at-the-camera78. Helen* was two years shy of eighty years-old when I met her desperately trying to break a life-long addiction.

55. Sue* thought she was too old to make something of her life. As a mature woman who had given her youth to unhealthy decisions, she was trying to start fresh when I met her.

66. Bill* had attempted to end his life because he saw nothing of value in living. We shared our stories with each other and he admitted feeling like he had sacrificed his family to his job over the decades.

Regrets. Wasted time. Are there any other possible perspectives?

As someone discovering new life at middle age, I prefer to see the past as just that- past. Flipping mental pages in self-named “failure” scrapbooks causes more hurt. If I want to spend a day in bed or hours crying, focusing on regrets will get me there. Is that what any of us want?

Instead, I see life beginning today. My focus is on “what’s next?” rather than “oh no, what did I do?” Most of us are our own worst critics, so it makes sense to look for positives, right? I mean, we are not paid to demean ourselves. Emotionally beating-up who we are does not create healthy relationships. There is no true love to be found in self-abuse. Why not strive for what can produce goodness and potential joy?

Setting goals for spiritual, emotional, physical, or financial health is one means of focusing forward. Using today to start making dreams come true, is another. What steps can be taken toward making amends, seeking reconciliation, or addressing restitution? What thoughts or temptations can be challenged now?

Latching on to humans, money, materialism, and compulsive behaviors for the strength to live does not serve us well. Those happier feelings they produce are temporary, and pain returns with a vengeance. Escapism by its nature is focusing on the past.

Being in-the-moment creates opportunities to make a difference:

I want to be generous. Therefore I will not waste money compulsively or impulsively.

I want to be a supportive friend, so I will be a good listener. 

God’s love will hold me up. Today I will live out my values despite how I feel.

Today I cried tears of gratitude that my “wasted” life has become so rich. If the time some of us have to be healthy-minded is less than others, so what? In this new year, regret will not add twenty-four hours.

Making today count will add a full day of meaningful life.

*****

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*not their real names

* picture from qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

 

 

 

A Toast to 2015

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse   (c)2014 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Let’s raise our glasses…

May we be content with God’s provision, therefore willing to give; be fulfilled by God’s plan, thereby able to serve; and be satisfied in God’s unfailing love, thus free to sing for joy. May next year be better than the last! Happy New Year!

 

 

New Year toasts have been a CompassionateLove Blog tradition for five years.

  2011    2012    2013    2014

Flip Side to 2014

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2014 Nancy Virden

We each have a 2014 story to tell.

Me? My year started with such anxiety I was nearly agoraphobic for a month. If memory serves me right there were three highly reactionary melt-downs with regard to a relationship. I left my church, struggled again with anxiety to the point of near paralysis in a search for work,  my marriage ended, a son estranged himself from the family for six months now, the mental and physical health of loved ones has gone downhill, and I just want it all to stop.

That’s a lot of pain for one year. However, there’s always  a flip side – the rest of the story, if you will.

My career is taking off -even if not financially yet- with multiple radio spots, speaking engagements, and a new book released this month. There’s been healing in one relationship. 

Following a major purge of material goods, my new church family filled my home with furniture, dishes, and the like. God is teaching me to trust for a “ram in the thicket” (see Genesis 22:13) and to creatively use what I have on hand instead of buying more.  The result is profound.  Everywhere I look in my home, everywhere, there is physical evidence of God’s love for me, proof people care, and that I matter.  

A deliberate, daily focus on God is shaking off all that does not produce life in me. Confidence, faith, changes in thinking patterns, and hope are filling once-empty spaces.

That’s a lot of joy for one year.

2015 will have pain in it. I’m expecting joy too. That is a 180 degree turn from how life has seemed in times past. This year, it is my goal to recognize the flip side before I flip out,  to surrender my will to the One who has my best interests at heart, and to rest in his peace. God’s love never fails.

*****

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 

A Mutual Cause for the New Year

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2012 Nancy Virden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe love of two people is unconstrained by social norms. One is a king’s son, heir to the throne, and the other has been chosen to replace him. 

These friends, whose deep, rich love causes them to weep at parting,  are soldiers. They are warriors of renown, tough-guys who stand at each other’s side and watch each other’s back.

Their connection is spiritual and noble, forged over years of subterfuge, great victory, and escape. They are brothers in arms, a tightly knit union. They are Jonathan and David, of about 1020 BC. One is the assumed next in line for kingship over Israel, and the other a musician in King Saul’s palace.

Ultimately, only David survives the onslaught against the two of them. King Saul kills himself. As the new King, David pledges to take care of Jonathan’s descendants. These short soundbites make the story simpler than it actually was; David’s and Jonathan’s lives were complex, their situation, dire. 

When my son was born in an emergency situation, a paramedic gave him a teddy bear. I sat it on display as a remembrance. Years later, Tim had not played with the teddy bear.  Every now and then I would pull it out and tell him why it was special, then put it away again. Now, it is carefully preserved, untouched by a child’s imagination, unsoiled by love. Tim does not care about that bear as he has no memories of it other than as a showpiece.

Truth is, we tend to not care about people with whom we have no connection. Unless, like David and Jonathan, our relationships include time spent together, a mutual cause, and trust, we will remain distant. Tim and his teddy bear essentially remained strangers while other stuffed animals were cherished by my son. 

This is why our communities fragment, why our nation polarizes. In our church groups, at work, in our homes, people are looking at each other as if staring at display pieces with no sentimental value.  Connection is missing. How can we love a person we do not know? Chances are, we will not.

The answer to this plight is simple: talk, ask questions, listen. Gain knowledge. What emerges out of the stranger you didn’t care to know will be a surprise. You will uncover commonalities you never suspected.

Your mutual cause?  Might I suggest connecting with lonely people? Discover joy, hope, stability, and love together.

Compassionate Love reaches out in a new year. God bless.

******

NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

A Toast to 2014

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse   (c)2013 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Let’s raise our glasses…

mhylgrkIn choosing to believe for hope, we rattle our steel cages; in searching for truth, we fling their doors wide; and in practicing the gift of trust, we step up to the thresholds. It is then that freedom becomes decision, and by opting to fly we discover love. May this next year be better than the last. Happy New Year! 

 

 

 

New Year toasts have been a CompassionateLove Blog tradition for four years.  2011    2012    2013

The Golden Key to a Decently Tolerable New Year

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  Nancy Virden (c)2013

Who did not struggle in 2013? If that is you, please let the rest of us know how that was accomplished. You are unique, and apparently special. 100_5213

Research shows that we cannot deeply know more than 180 people. These are the friends we trust, the close teams of which we are members, our families, and perhaps people who count on our care for their wellbeing. Beyond these we do not seem to have the capacity to move past acquaintance.

Among the less-than 180 people I know, there have been the following major, life-changing struggles this past year:

Hopelessness  *  dissolved business * discovering a daughter was raped * near death  * stroke * multiple familial deaths * divorce * job loss * serious injury * homelessness * parental emotional abuse * weakening health * losing a friend to murder * detox * robbery … and this is by far not a comprehensive list.

Among the same individuals referenced above, there were the following joys:

New babies * finding God * recovery * job promotion * free season tickets * furthering education * new career * regular home care visits from friends * freedom from addiction * travels to exotic places * 1st apartment * closer relationships within family * forgiveness * wedding * playing with children * … again, this is not a comprehensive list.

Life is full of struggles. Those of us who focus on that fact are generally called pessimists, or realists. However, there is another perspective that is equally real – life is full of joys. Looking at that are those of us who are optimistic and grateful. Does life hurt? Oh yeah, big-time. Pain can be overwhelming and unbearable in the moment. Recovery is not always swift.

Searching for good in the middle of great suffering is not easy, and perhaps not very realistic. What makes more sense to me is to recognize that “this too shall pass.” Morning always follows evening, a new year follows the last, and if we choose it, hope will follow despair.

The golden key to a decently tolerable new year is to “wait.”  Wait for the miracle, and for the new day. It is coming! Don’t give up now; light is just around the corner! These struggles are temporary though they may feel endless.  Hang on to hope, even if for awhile it is someone else’s hope.

When we choose to believe, “this too shall pass,” life can become surprising. Instead of our eyes shifting back and forth expecting more hurt, we find our quest is to hunt for the promise’s manifestation. Along the way we discover patches of radiance we would have otherwise missed.

Great things come to those who wait. 2014 will be a year full of joys.

****************

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.