Posts Tagged Life

A Time of Vanity

Reading Ecclesiastes this morning helps me express what is occurring in this middle-aged head of mine.  For some time now, life as I had always planned, dreamed, desired, and hoped for has been swept away.  Why is that?  Why does it all seem to be a futile effort?

Ok, not ALL of it, but a big majority of it anyway.

The American dream, white picket fence, Cleaver family, warm-fuzzy world that I once wanted seems so futile.

Vanity of vanities…..all is vanity.”

What profit do I have from all my labor?  What has been “the point” ? In a worldly perspective, we are born to die.  Others will come after us to repeat the same thing over again.  What is the meaning of this word “life”?

It’s like a vicious cycle…..  “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full;  To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again.” 1:7

People are born into this world.  They are told the “meaning of life”.  They grow up striving for success and then one day……it all changes.

This is that day for me.  This “season” is like a day….THE day that all my life’s work and efforts begin to change.

Right now I’m standing still.

It’s like the Lord has halted me.    “Julie!  Stop!”

Stop striving!  Stop doing! Shut down your hands, your feet, your mind, and your heart.  Don’t do anything!”

Listen to me!  I have a better plan!  Your plan is all VANITY!  It’s absurd!  It’s futile!  It’s nonsense!”

“You are grasping for the wind, and you will never ever catch it!”

So I wait.

I wait on the Lord to reprogram this mind of mine.

“…I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.  I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.” 1:17

For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” 1:18

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.  There was no profit under the sun.”  2:11

For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, Since all that now will be forgotten in the days to come.  And how does a wise man die?  As the fool!” 2:16

Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”  2:17

Sorrowful and distressing it is.  Wisdom is grievous.  This I have learned.  I can only imagine how much grief Solomon experienced.  How much grief does the Lord experience because of the human race?

So I wait.

I’m serious.  I hardly smile.

I’m standing at a cross roads with no plans, almost afraid to make any decisions and waiting for the Lord to change my path.

It’s hard to describe but this feeling of discontent and worthlessness leaves me joy-less, yet hopeful and excited.  All my dreams and goals early in life just don’t seem to matter anymore.  What I once thought was most important has been shattered.  There is no reciprocation of many of the efforts I have made, yet just gaining that knowledge is leading me to higher thoughts of what is to come.

It can be disheartening to know that what has been happening for 40 years is not what should have been happening.

Or is it?

Is this a road we all must take?  Does the Lord allow us to make our path and then all of the sudden grab us by the throat and show us that it is all vain?

Is this a lesson that we all must learn?  Is it disguised as “middle age crisis” or perhaps the “empty nest syndrome”?  What does the world call it when you stop to ponder what has been and what is to come?  Solomon called it all vain.

It’s kind of a downer, I know.  Just reading through what I’ve written here is depressing, sorry.  Just know that whatever stage of life you are in, there is a season in which you will doubt and wonder.  I’ve known several people who seem to have reached this type of time in their life.  They have been joy-less for a season.  Thankfully, when I start to question my sanity, I remember that others have gone before me and when the season ended, God made a great work from it.

So I continue to wait……regretfully, sorrowfully waiting….almost grieving at times…hoping the Lord will take the “me” from “me” and replace it with Himself.  There’s only joy in the Lord and I trust it will come.

My life and my death belong to Him.   It is not I who should be elevated or remembered.  The failure or success of my life on this earth means nothing if it doesn’t point to Him.

So who did I think I was?!  …Planning and proceeding as though I had some legacy to to leave for others?  I have to insert a “L.augh O.out L.oud” here!  Others will come after me.  Some may remember me.  Most will not.  The only legacy I wish to leave is that of a humble, obedient child of God.

Maybe my grief and sorrow comes from needing to know that all has not been vain. How am I to find happiness in raising children, cleaning house, and making dinner without knowing that it is leading to salvation for those I love?  What is “joy” in our labor when it doesn’t prove eternal?

I just want to climb on the roof and desperately call for somebody to please tell me I have pointed them toward a deeper relationship with God!  Even if just in some small way, knowing this would appease my soul.  How many witnessing opportunities have I missed in the first 40 years of my life?  How many of my mistakes have made a detrimental impact on others?

Maybe at this stage, my desire should be that I will be forgotten after all.  Maybe what I’m really trying to say is that I hope the Lord will be remembered even more because of what He has done through me.

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A Holy Day

holy –  given or belonging to God; set apart for God’s service; coming from God; sacred

Yesterday was a holy day.  Determined to get caught up with my reading, I purposefully set aside the day for that priority.  The boys and I were the only ones here.  I got started early, first counting just how many pages I was behind. 

51 pages was the goal.

We had breakfast, and I got the eldest started on his math lessons.  They are computerized and the one subject I have not had to prepare, teach, or grade this year.  The youngest son has already finished his math book for the year (not computerized) so he was happily playing in his room.

This was the perfect day to attempt such a feat.  The one thing I knew was that I did NOT want to spend the next several weeks behind schedule.  The other thing I knew was I didn’t really want to skip anything, so that’s why I decided to make the day a “Read-a-thon”.

It was soooooooooooooo quiet!  Several times I actually stopped reading because my mind didn’t know what to do without balancing 3 kids, 10 subjects, the phone, and other responsibilities! 

The television was off. 

The dogs were asleep.

There were no phone calls.

There were no pressing matters.

I needed to pay bills, but didn’t.

The dishes were dirty, but I looked the other way.

We skipped Science.

I let the boys play and they were content to do it behind a closed bedroom door.

It was perfect!  I was able to comment on things I had previously noted in the readings, write a post or two, and read 31 pages! 

Today, I’m still behind but, it’s only 15 pages now. 

How was your yesterday?  Are you behind?  If so, what is your “catch up” plan?

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A Distressing Spirit

1 Samuel 16:14 says “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him.”  v 23 also speaks of this distressing spirit and says, again, that it was “from the Lord”.  Several times in 1 Samuel we see that this spirit was distressing and also “from the Lord”.

It makes me wonder more about depression.  Obviously Saul had issues that led to his falling out of the Lord’s favor.  It’s interesting to me, however, to think about depression coming to someone specifically from the Lord.

How can we understand why the Lord would purposefully make someone depressed?

Depression is a horrible way of living.  I can only say this because I recognize that in recent years, there have been times in my own life where depression was obviously present.

Not wanting to get out of bed, the inability to make a decision, and just the mere thought of never finding happiness and joy again was enough to change my life in ways I never thought possible.  I never got to the point of giving up completely, however, I will say that I was in a very unhealthy place and it was affecting me greatly.

Day after day, I poured my heart to the Lord asking for His help.  I hated the sureness of waking up everyday to yet more life drama, and yet more depression.  Life was spiraling out of control and I had no way of stopping it.  I was absolutely helpless, and therefore, absolutely unproductive.

Depression costs.  Relationships suffered.  Day to day activities fell by the wayside.  I didn’t care anymore.  I didn’t feel anything but sadness and grief.  I even had to give up homeschooling for a while because I knew I couldn’t deal with normal day-to-day stresses and it was affecting my kids.

Several times I considered seeking medical help hoping that maybe a pill or two a day would lift this burden for me, if even for only a few hours.  It did seriously feel like that commercial where the cartoonish depressed character walks about with a huge cloud lingering over her head!  However I knew, that for me, a chemically masked joy would not solve the problem.

It wasn’t until I began to forcefully, physically and painfully give up myself to the Lord that I began to feel better.  I realized that nothing in this world is within my control anyway.  Even at the deepest, darkest depths of worry and anxiety, the Lord carries us all within His grasp.  This thing called “depression” is only there when we allow it to be…

…or perhaps when the Lord needs it to be.

Like Saul, I too, was fallen.  I had created my little world of picket fences and a Cleaver family.  Despite what heartaches I had felt growing up, I had not yet really understood the bigger picture.

Life is not what I make it.  It belongs to the Lord.  Everything belongs to Him (and I mean everything AND everybody!).

I cannot dictate someone’s response to the Lord.  I cannot control today, the next five minutes, or even the next week.  My husband and children do not belong to me.  Their lives and their will cannot be fully lived out in the order and ways I have dreamed of.

I don’t even fully know myself!  Just when I think I’m understanding the woman I am supposed to be, the Lord shows me there is always a need for change and I will never be perfected until I physically sit in His presence away from this flawed world.

The Lord used the depression to break me.  My life, my spirit, my plans, my understanding all crashed to a halt when He used the “distressing spirit” to bring me back to Him in ways I never thought possible.  I was completely humbled.  I couldn’t even speak.

In that instant, there was a flicker of joy again.  Not a big explosion, but just a flicker….a reminder that He still loves me and really, really cares.

Over time, the flicker is returning to a flame.  I know my will has been broken.  It was done for a good reason, as Romans 8:28 says, and though I am not fully complete in it, I am finding more reasons to smile these days.

Depression is a silent threat.  Unless they are walking in our shoes, people don’t necessarily relate with a depressed person.  We don’t talk about it……or sometimes we CAN’T talk about it because we just don’t know what to say.

Sometimes we SCREAM of our misery and frantically look for a way to live again, but our inability to rationalize the thoughts of what we’re feeling is does not make a connection with the “happy-go-luckys” in our life.

Before you really start getting concerned about me, I want to interject here that I am better, lol.  Yes, there were times that I wondered who would be the first to cinch up my straight jacket, but I am “happy” 😉 to say that it can stay on the hanger for a while longer!

I wanted to share my story now only because I never could have done it before.

Depression hurts, and I understand now.

These days, I smile a bit more.  Recently, a friend and I laughed until I cried.  With another friend, I have even cried until I laughed!

I’m learning to recognize the symptoms of approaching depression and quickly run back to the Lord for help before it returns.

Sometimes I have to just. not. think. — turning my back to concerning situations in order to remember that it’s not my war to wage.

If you are suffering from depression, please know that it can actually be something useful…..a process, perhaps, of cleansing and reconnection.  It may be a long time coming, but if you will call on the Lord and release the hold of your own life, He can and will heal you, as He is doing for me.

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