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January is Suicide Prevention Month, and suicide has been heavy on my heart the last several weeks as I know so many people deal with depression during the month of January here in the northeast. In our neck of the woods, the world is cold, the days are short, and, as holidays end, people are feeling the lost sunlight and lost joy. I begin seeing the “heavy hearted” come through my office at the end of November when sunlight reduces and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) rises. It’s a powerless place to feel the heaviness of sadness and feel trapped by it. I can remember one winter years ago when the sadness of depression kept me glued to the sofa, powerless to make choices because my brain was so full of foggy thoughts. I, too, understand what depression desires to rip out of our heart: our joy. So this month has become the month I challenge people to fight for joy. To fight to find joy they fail to see as the fog of depression attempts to roll in and steal their sightline. I tell people if they feel the depression fog trying to roll in they need to change position so they can continue to see joy. This is the month to have indoor picnics, plan trips to the art museum, do crafts, try the new Thai restaurant, etc. You need to plan your driving route through and around the fog. It takes careful planning and careful driving to be aware of where you are driving through fog. As the fog of winter depression attempts to roll in, plan careful road trips with destinations of joy all through the next several months and invite others to join you. There is no greater medicine than the laughter of friends also trying to find their way through the fog with us and we need to reassure each other as we drive this path.

Dear God, In the next several months show us where to direct our eyes, show us who to travel with, and show us destinations of joy to move toward so that we don’t let the fog mess up our sightline.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10New International Version (NIV) 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Happy Griswold Moment

Happy Griswold Moment

Lately, I have been trying to label holiday frustrations as Griswold moments. In the movie Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold works very hard to create the perfect Christmas for his family, only to discover that no amount of effort could contain the problems that arise throughout the movie. Simply stated, no amount of energy can create perfection unless every last element of people, places, and things involved can be completely controlled, which obviously also is unattainable. This year, instead of doing the outside Christmas lights myself so it could look a certain way, I gave the pile of lights to my teenagers and said, “I don’t care what you do with the lights, just put them up however you want them to be.” If I had done them by myself, I would have stressed myself out and found myself frustrated with the results. By releasing that job to others, I chose to release the need for perfection or projection of an image as my means of happiness. I select areas that traditionally have caused me Griswold stress during the holidays, and I try to release my expectations regarding what I would like to have done instead of what I can do with my limited time. Will Christmas cookies be made? I don’t know, but everyone will live if they are not. Will Christmas cards or a Christmas photo be sent out? I don’t know, but everyone around me who loves me enough to value me will be fine if I do not do either of those things. Life is full, and life can be hard, but we have the choice as to whether we make decisions that benefit self or others. We just need to be balanced this holiday season to honor both self and others. There are many times throughout the Bible that Jesus chose to give care to others, but there are also many times when he decided to provide care to himself. Remind yourself of this principle as you move through the holidays and make choices. Love God and love yourself so that you can love others. You cannot love others well this holiday season if you put the needs of perfection and serving other high above your own needs for self-care. Perfection and task focus usually crowd out the ability to love self and others well.