The last time I visited my parents was in 2008. I had brought my journal, Bible, and two books to read. There was so much down time that both books got read and the journal was filled with my prayers, reflections, and thoughts — but I have few memories of the actual event.
This time, anticipating the same kind of down time I brought my Bible, three books, two magazines, and a brand new empty journal. Ten days past. The books and magazines were left unread, he new journal remained empty, and scripture prayer was rarely accomplished. But, this was the most memorable visit I can remember.
Since my parents sleep late I spent every morning looking out their second floor sliding glass door as I sipped a cup of coffee. Instead of praying scripture I stared at this:
For one who lives in the desert, soaking in this scene each morning was a prayer rich with wordless gratitude, awe, and peace.
The rest of my time was spent visiting, which included hours of laughter and listening to my parents’ stories from the past. There were many stories. After all, my dad is 80 and my mom 78. Our twenty and seventeen year old sons, to their credit, often sat like disciples at my parents’ feet listening to history and wisdom.
Depression melts, even if for brief moments, when you look outside yourself at the gifts of God. But even when not depressed or otherwise hurting, enjoying fully the time of blessings and health have tremendous spiritual benefit.
I often give a task assignment to people I treat in my counseling practice. It goes as follows: “Begin a list of moments. Moments you discover you have just been immersed in - pleasant moments. Yes, even with depression (or any other ailment) those moments exist, however brief. You are to number them: 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. After a week, notice how many you have had. Even if there are only one or two, that’s OK.” Most who do the assignment end up surprised how many gifted moments they really do have even in the midst of their pain.
God provides a constant stream of moments that give relief for the pains of life. All we have to do is notice, even if it feels like work to notice (hence the task being an assignment).
Try this little self-help exercise even though it can be hard at first. It won’t replace professional treatment of course but who knows. Maybe it will help a little.
Pictures of family posted with permission.