Bone Broth for Blessings

For the past few weeks, I’ve taken dinner to my mother and stepfather on Wednesday afternoons. It’s not a big deal for me. They only live twenty minutes away. I love to cook and my mother doesn’t. She’s happy with smearing peanut butter on a banana and eating a bowl of ice cream.

But my stepfather Gene likes to eat–real food

To be honest, I used food as an excuse to talk to him. Nourishment for my soul.

As a retired minister and sociology professor, Gene knows people. And he’s lived long enough to know what’s important in life. He’s 85.

I trust him.

He’s never given me advice unless I’ve asked for it. This time, I had a lot of questions. 

I walked into their kitchen with a crock pot full of bone broth soup, warm cornbread, fresh fruit, and a plate of spice cake. And, of course, Hershey bars for Mother.

(Here’s a recipe for how to make bone broth from Wellness Mama.)

Mother hopped up on the counter and popped a grape into her mouth.

“So, Gene,” I said, trying to sound casual. “What’s life all about? I mean, what matters most? What’s my real purpose? Why am I here?”

He smiled, even though I’d asked a long line of heavy questions that he couldn’t be possibly answer in an afternoon visit.

“What you’re feeling is perfectly normal,” he said. “I wrote a little bit about it.” Opening a drawer, he pulled out a thick stack of papers. “It’s my doctrinal dissertation from June of 1967.”

My gaze landed on the word MEANING in the title. Which is what I’d been searching for. Meaning and purpose. What matters most.

“This is amazing,” I said.

Everything I wanted to know, I could find in Gene’s study.

“Do you mind if I borrow it? I’ll take good care of it. I promise.”

“Sure.”

Before he left to run errands, we talked some more, and I followed him outside.

What happened next was one of those sparkly moments–the kind you know you’ll never forget. 

Standing by his truck, I flipped through his research, hoping to make sense of all his facts and figures.

“You really want to know what’s important in life?” he said.

I moved inside his open door. “More than anything.”

He looked up toward heaven. “Love well.”

“Love well? That’s it? Two words. How can life be that simple?”

“That’s it.”

His hazel eyes met mine, and I remembered how he’d been there for me over the years. Always compassionate. Never judging.

~~How he prayed with me during my two bouts of clinical depression in 1994 and 2012.

~~How he read Scripture at our infant son Robbie’s graveside and at our daughter Katie’s first wedding.

Gene was right.

The answer settled my soul. 

Love well.

Love God and love others. What else matters? Click to tweet. 

“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27 NIV

What does LOVE WELL mean to you?

Do you have someone a little older and wiser to talk to?

Love,

Julie

No More Secrets–Defeating Depression

Last week, my post was light and airy and funny. Today’s different. It’s about clinical depression. If you’re struggling with it now, or if you know someone who is, I’m writing to you straight from my heart.

Because I care.

Because I’ve been there. 

Because there’s hope. And help. And healing. 

Clinical depression feels like the emotional flu.

You wonder if you’ve been dropped off in a strange, unfamiliar world–a place without color, or taste, or seasons. Without joy or anticipation. And you only experience one emotion. FEAR. 

The worst part–you think maybe God’s forgotten you.

Sort of like a certain tree in our yard. This morning, I noticed her dangling leaves, her thin, fragile arms.

I could relate. I used to be like this tree.

The first time depression hit, I was 34. I wrote about it here. After stumbling my way out, I thought, Whew. Glad that’s over. Maybe it’ll never happen again. 

But it did. In 2012. Almost twenty years later.

Both times, I prayed to get better quickly and quietly. On my own. Without help. So no one would find out. I was afraid I’d lost myself-the real me–and that I’d never find my way back home.

Remember the little tree in our yard?

With her on my mind, I drove through our neighborhood and noticed all sorts of trees. This one is small, but to me, her leaves are sparkling rubies. 

It’s how you feel when you begin to recover from depression. You’re small but hallelujah! You have leaves again. 🙂

You begin sleeping and eating and sometimes even laughing. You’re still afraid to glance over your shoulder at the minefield where you’ve been, but that’s okay. Baby steps. You’re learning to be gentle with yourself. To love yourself.

Then one day, the miracle tiptoes in–

In all its Glory!

You look in the mirror and there you are! Strong and tall. A tree full of leaves!

With God’s help, and medication, and prayer, and caring friends and family, I’ve been restored twice. 

I’m so grateful. How could I keep this secret to myself? 

My second depression story will appear in December Guideposts, “A Sliver of Light.” If you read it, here’s a P.S. I didn’t stop writing in 2012. I took a break, finished the novel, and signed with a literary agent. 🙂 I share a little more of what happened in this video below. If you can’t see it, click here.

If this post hits home, don’t keep it a secret. Get help. Today. If you know someone who’s struggling with depression, please forward my blog link. 

Thoughts? Questions? 

Love,

Julie

Death was Arrested–So was My Doubt

This past Friday night our church had a Night of Worship. Part of me didn’t feel like worshiping. I had a lot on my mind. I decided to just stay home.

I’d taken Mother to the rheumatologist on Monday. Something was desperately wrong–a physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness. It had been coming on for weeks.

She has three autoimmune illnesses. She couldn’t eat. Didn’t care to talk.

Our family had been praying.

The doctor mentioned clinical depression. I’ve been there. Twice. I knew the symptoms and the dangers. 

He ordered blood work and discussed a medication change. As I drove her home, gloom and doom filled the car. By Thursday, she was worse. She said if she didn’t get better, she was ready for a nursing home.

Friday afternoon I called my husband. “Let’s skip worship tonight. Traffic will be terrible, and you’ll have to leave straight from work and meet me there.”

But he wanted to go. 

Inside the sanctuary, rustic decorations and small white candles covered the communion tables. I sank into my seat and breathed.

Just breathed. 

Kneeling mats were everywhere–simple brown pieces of cardboard.

Oh, y’all–

That’s when the change began.

When I knelt.

I opened my fingers. Turned my palms upward. 

I love You. I need You. I’m sorry. I trust You. Whatever happens. 

The worship team sang a new song called “Death was Arrested.”

Oh, this song! This song!

It arrested my doubt. My concerns. I didn’t hold back. I couldn’t hold back!

I worshiped wide-open–with my whole my heart. 

Something supernatural happens when we praise God. 

Worship welcomes us into His Presence.

I thought I might float out of the building–all the way to heaven.

Mother called the next morning.

SHE WAS LAUGHING. Laughing!

“Julie, you won’t believe it, but last night the depression lifted. I can’t explain it, but it’s gone! I’m myself again.”

Lord, I don’t understand how or why, but thank You. 

Sunday morning, the praise team sang my song at our church campus.

I took a 50-second video of the end of the song. If you can’t see it, click here.

Northpoint Church Worship Team wrote “Death was Arrested.” They sing the entire song below. The video quality is much better than mine. 🙂

If you can’t see it, click here. 

Worship Him–even when you don’t feel like it. Beautiful things happen. 

Have you ever praised God when you didn’t feel like? Awesome, isn’t it.  

Love,

Julie

( First 4 pictures from 12Stone Church Facebook.)