If you’re happy, and you know it . . . .

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap);

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap);

If you’re happy and you know it, then your smile will surely show it;

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap).

I have, as many children of my generation, sung many renditions of the above verse. Things about stomping one’s feet or shouting Amenall to demonstrate one’s inward joy. But what happens when that inward joy, any outward sign of happiness, the basic desire to live are subtracted from a life? I have experienced it, not personally (although sometimes I think I may get there!), but as an observer, a caregiver, a mother. And, just to make things really clear for you–IT’S NOT PRETTY.

Our journey through this struggle has encompassed eleven years of our lives. Of course, I know it really began prior to that, but I was in the state of blissful ignorance/denial that parents sometimes love to embrace. The doubts sometimes haunt me. If I had recognized it sooner, would things be different? Would my child’s body be unscarred, her mind clear, her moods stable? Would the fear of losing her be relegated only to things like motor vehicle accidents and terrible physical illnesses and terrorist attacks and vicious murderers? Would I no longer take a deep breath before going to wake her in the morning, my heart seized with the fear that this time she would not awaken to my touch?

I suffer with her, you know. A recent relapse resulted in the most vacant expression I could ever imagine would cross one’s visage. Her eyes were deep wells of emptiness, and I knew we were, once again, in trouble. I knew that because she couldn’t hide it, and, believe me, she is the ultimate master at putting on the good front. Carefully dressing, accessorizing, making up her face, and always smiling sweetly in the presence of others. She is a loving, sensitive, tormented soul dedicated to suffering in silence so no one will be worried. Little does she realize that I see through it all.

ECT is the course of treatment at present, with its frightening and debilitating memory loss. However, she not only now smiles sweetly and silently, but also sleeps and eats and graces us with an occasional laugh that lights her face with forgotten joy. And, I will gladly and gratefully take that in trade–to replace the fear that she will finally, in desperation, tired of the torment, convince herself that life is, indeed, not worth the struggle.

Dear Reader, I know we all have our ups and downs, heartbreaks, disappointments, and generally bad days. I pray none of you or your loved ones have the burden of true, life-threatening, intractable depression. I wrote this for me–a catharsis of sorts–but also for you. If you are one of those suffering, hang in there, get help, don’t give up. If you are one of the fortunate ones who are “happy and you know it”, don’t just clap your hands. Get down on your knees and thank God, for that is one of the greatest blessings you will ever know.

A cup of tea. . .

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Lord,

I long for a little time.

Time to sit with a cup of tea,

Just you and me.

Time to be still

And listen for your voice.

My prayers have become

Lists of things for you to fix.

And I’ve lost the gift

Of just enjoying

Your Presence.

Help me, Lord,

Find some time,

Some place,

Some way

To shut out the craziness

Of the day.

And be still,

With a cup of tea,

Just you and me

Together

In the silence

Of your peace.

Life Happens

“Bow the knee;
trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee;
lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand
the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King,
bow the knee.”

You know how it is when you get a song stuck in your head? A constant refrain in perpetual repeat mode playing on the I-Pod of your brain? It’s sometimes VERY annoying, like when it’s the theme from “Gilligan’s Island” or “The Brady Bunch”. But this week, for me, it’s been Chris Machen and Mike Harland’s creation, quoted above.

Early on I attributed it to the fact that we sang it in worship service last Sunday and to the reality that it is, quite simply, a beautiful song with a powerful message. As the week progressed, and it stayed and Stayed and STAYED, repeating over and over as I worked, cooked, showered, did laundry, and tried to read, I felt I needed to consider its presence a little more deeply.

For most of the past year, the answer for me has gone beyond what I can see. And, for much of my life, I have not understood the purpose of His plan. But, I know He’s got one–a special and good one for each of us–writers, nurses, wives, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, friends (and the male counterparts of each of those terms–don’t mean to leave you out, guys). And, Monday morning quarterbacking, I have been able to detect His hand at work in the events of my life. We want to see the future. We want to know everything’s going to turn out just fine. But the seeing and the knowing is not for us to do. It is, after all, His plan. Our role is to believe, lift our eyes toward heaven, bow the knee, and live the plan. I think those lyrics, so beautifully captured in the melody of the song, reminded me of that, and I needed that reminder.

This is not a discourse on how bad my life is, because it isn’t. As a very good friend often reminds, “Life happens’. A middle-aged, apparently strong and healthy family member is stricken unexpectedly by respiratory failure. Another family member struggles with a seemingly unending bout of depression, which I am helpless to “fix”. There are hurdles to overcome and valleys to traverse, as I wait for the verdict from a literary agent who is considering my first novel. But the reality that I am SO blessed with steady and gratifying work, loving family and friends, a comfortable home, and a faith that never lets me down far outweighs the fleeting struggles of this life.

I think I needed that song last week, and I most likely will in weeks to come. To be honest, my knees are pretty arthritic. The bowing’s not too hard, but the getting up is. However, I surely can bow the head, heart, and spirit, and “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;” (Psalm 37:7a, NIV).

Blessings to all of you this week!