blog entries

To My Friend, January

Hello, January, my old friend! It’s been a while since we’ve sat down for a little heart to heart chat. It appears that you’ve dropped in on me in your usual manner. Oh, please don’t choose to be offended. I love when you show up at my doorstep. But, it’s only once a year that I see you, and you insist on bringing a whole bunch of friends along at each visitation. I have to be honest with you. I’m beginning to think that you are afraid to commit to this relationship. You show up for 31 days out of a possible 365, and then you disappear again. I used to think that you were nothing but cold, dark, and mysterious. However, having gone through this interesting cycle with you for these past twenty years, I’ve finally figured you out.

You may disagree with my assessment. Nevertheless, I sense that you are afraid to commit to this relationship. It is a peculiar one, I’ll admit. These friends of yours, some of whom I’ve been introduced to before, appear to be less than fond of you. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but they blame you for their problems. It all begins with this New Years resolution concept. Don’t you get it by now? Nobody likes that idea! It very well might be time to consider an alternative to replace it. Statistics do not lie, my dear friend. Only a small number of these friends you bring to me ever stick around for long. There are certainly a number of reasons for this common occurrence. I believe that the marvelous Michelangelo eloquently painted part of the problem which afflicts so many. He said, “The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Some experts think that, like you, Mr. January, the masses never plan on sticking around. They want a little taste of what could be, and when they have finished their sampling, they vanish until you beckon them to come out of hibernation. But, I don’t share this opinion. I am much more optimistic because of the knowledge that I’ve acquired.

Listen, January, I know who you really are! You go by many names. You are actually known as February as well, aren’t you? I thought so. One of your passports identifies your name as Mr. March, and another Mrs. April. In fact, isn’t it true that you use the aliases of May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December as well! Oh, so you finally admit this long hidden secret. You have been here all the time and so, too, have your friends. You didn’t want me to know because you were ashamed? I’m sorry you felt that way. I’ve never judged you based on your progress or lack thereof. I just enjoy having you around and helping in any way I am able. I’m aware that you keep trying the best way that you know how. I’ve actually known your story for quite some time. I know your particular circumstances and individual struggles. I’ve never given up on you. In fact, you may not realize this, but I am your biggest cheerleader. Some contend that there are only two certainties in regards to life: death and taxes. Nonsense! My support is certain. I’ll tell you what motivates me to continue on my own personal journey. “It is the possibility that keeps me going, not the guarantee.”–Nicholas Sparks  Anything is possible for those who believe! January, if that’s what you’d like me to call you, you are an inspiration to me. Thank you, my friend, for your powerful example.

photo credit: Brett Jordan Resolutions 2017 via photopin (license)



It is a myth that one uses more facial muscles when smiling as compared to frowning. On average, about the same number of muscles are engaged in either act. If you smile more often, these ten to twelve muscles can become stronger. Who doesn’t want a stronger face?

But, those who struggle with depression or any form of mental health issue often find it difficult to smile. This doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t like to be beaming more frequently. Their affliction does not define them. Nevertheless, at times the challenges associated with their particular illness can control them. It is often manifested in an outward appearance which is misconstrued by others. I’m not talking about someone who is just feeling the “blues” because she didn’t get a raise at work, or another who is “down in the dumps” because his favorite sport’s team just lost a pivotal game. Everyone experiences a bout of depression now and then as discouragement and disappointments are realities of life. No one is completely immune from these undesirable experiences due to the uncertainty inherent in mortality. It is easier to turn a frown upside down when your life is not a perpetual roller coaster. For these, that car which they ride along in, and perhaps at times desperately cling to, is completely unpredictable. One moment it is racing at the speed of light, and then suddenly, often without warning, it morphs into sloth mode. The peaks and valleys on this ride are far from amusing. No, thrill seekers would certainly not desire to hop aboard this coaster. Fun would not be in its description. Excitement, laughter, and grinning are not typically companions accompanying these riders.

So, what is to be done? The goal, if possible, is to attempt to stay a step or two ahead of the problem. Does that mean that one has to be able to tell the future in able to better deal with the present? Of course, no one can predict what awaits at the top of that next hill or at the bottom of that valley. Could a smile be waiting around the next corner? I cannot say. But, what I know is that over the course of time learning and applying various coping mechanisms can help to stave off the damaging effects of a major episode. However, it is never as simple as it sounds. “Simply follow steps A, B, and C and everything will be just fine.” Doesn’t that prescription for success just make you want to smile from ear to ear?

Certain steps or specific actions may need to be modified, completely scrapped and replaced with another, or temporarily adjusted for a season. Whatever the particulars, change in and of itself is downright scary. Altering routines will most certainly cause a jump in anxiety. Let’s jump to some good news, shall we? For quite a few years now, doctors and psychologists alike have been recommending an increased dosage of daily physical activity to combat the hardships of major depressive disorders. The upside is that regular exercise can, in fact, do wonders to improve one’s mental outlook. There is more than ample evidence to suggest that those who endure the pain of an illness sometimes unseen by others will benefit tremendously if they can just start moving. Now, isn’t that news worth smiling about?

“Smile though your heart is aching
Smile when your heart is breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile”

–John Turner/Jeffrey Parsons

photo credit: Peter Grifoni Ella via photopin (license)

Where Can I Turn for Peace?

Having been immersed in the fitness realm for over twenty years, I have come to a greater understanding of the many challenges which people face. I have a better appreciation for those who continue to try to progress in spite of obstacles which could be paralyzing. Speaking directly to that word, one can be mentally paralyzed as well as physically. I have witnessed those confined to a wheel chair achieve things that I would never have imagined possible. I’m sure that you’ve drawn inspiration, as I have, from someone you’ve seen profiled in a story. Perhaps, like me, you’ve come to know someone on a very personal level who defies their disability. Heck, they don’t think of themselves as disabled, and neither should we label them as such. We would do well to adopt the motto which one of my friends frequently spews: “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”–Anonymous Though his body is “broken”, he has accomplished incredible physical feats which put me to shame. However, continuing with my focus on another form of affliction, I refer to the one in five American adults who will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year; those who “quietly endure, silently suffer, and patiently wait”.–Martin Luther King

Can you imagine there coming a point in your life when you would ever stop believing that you can progress? What must it be like to come to the conclusion that there can simply be no more forward movement even in the prime of your life? What is the worst case scenario in which you could picture yourself? Well, I have met some individuals who believe that the very best they can do is to acknowledge their truth, which is that they are stuck. They make the sad declaration that their only means of survival is to quietly submit to a perceived reality in which their brokenness cannot be fixed. They see their battle as incompatible with a positive outcome, not allowing for a happy ending to the story of their life. Some people do suffer every day of their lives, while others can suffer a lifetime in a single day. No matter the severity of one’s mental health woes; no matter the name attached to the disorder; no matter how long this burden has been carried; I offer this encouragement. “If you saw the size of the blessing coming, you would understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting.”–Toby Mac

William James once said, “If this life is not a real fight in which something is eternally gained by success, it is nothing more than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will.” I am heart-broken when I see the increasing rate of suicide in our society. The numbers are staggering and grow daily. This epidemic is preventable. Madame de Stael added this profound thought. “Divine wisdom, intending to detain us some time on earth, has done well to cover with a veil the prospect of the life to come; for if our sight could clearly distinguished the opposite bank, who could remain on this tempestuous coast of time?” I would be remiss if I did not add these words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” My friends, wherever you may be stuck in your journey, and for whatever reason, there is always hope. “Their is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.”–Dieter F. Uchtdorf

In the struggles of mortality, we are never left alone to accomplish our work, to fight our battles, to face adversity or unanswered questions. Jesus taught that men aught to pray often and not to faint. “Your worst day with God will be better than your best day without Him.”–unknown Though your mind make be broken and your hopes and dreams shattered, there is reason to press forward in faith. I absolutely love how Trent Shelton addressed this: “We are all a little broken. But, the last time that I checked, broken crayons still color the same.” Each and every one of you has a special purpose for being here. My own experiences have taught me that we can rise above our weaknesses. In these bodies, we are but frail creatures. However, these mortal shells house our immortal spirits. What does that mean? How can that knowledge bring the hope to continue? If our afflictions prevent us from engaging in the physical exercise that we desire to feel better, then we can focus on strengthening our spiritual muscles. Even as our physical being becomes weaker, our spirit can continue to grow in strength. Our limitations may make proper nutrition, restful sleep, and stress reduction very difficult to achieve, but not impossible as some believe. Nevertheless, “when you are no longer able to do the things you used to do, simply focus on the things that matter most.”–Richard G. Scott Consequently, the things that matter most always lead us to explore our everlasting spirit.

Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace when other sources cease to make me whole? When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice, I draw myself apart, searching my soul? Where when my aching grows, where when I languish, where, in my need to know, where can I run? Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish? Who, can understand? He, only One. He answers privately, reaches my reaching in my Gethsemane, savior and friend. Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching. Constant he is and kind, love without end. –Emma Lou Thayne

Lift up your heads. Be of good cheer. Though you may feel like half the man or woman you used to be or still feel you should be, your affliction will never destroy your spirit. It is 100% healthy and waiting for further nourishment. The bravest people I know are those with a mental health disorder. Through the course of time, each has come to believe in this truth: “You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it.”–Chad Hymas The wisest of these seek comfort from the Great Comforter.

The Real “Humpty Dumpty”

humpty dumpty

Recently, I was asked to speak at church as part of a group presenting a Mental Health Awareness program. There is much that I have to say on this broad topic, but for now here are a few thoughts in my creative style.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s
men couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

I do suppose that it is entirely possible, though highly unlikely, that I might not be the very first person to explore the following theory regarding this popular English nursery rhyme, written in 1797.

I can say this because I’ve come to know more than just a little bit about Humpty Dumpty. It seems as if I’ve known him forever, and, indeed, others like him as well. So, as a famous radio announcer used to say on his program, “Here, is the rest of the story”, behind this brief rhyme.

According to Humpty Dumpty’s family history, which I have personally researched extensively, there is conclusive evidence that a pattern of mental health issues plagued the Dumpty family tree. Humpty was not spared from the afflictions common to his line of descendants.

The case I present to you today is that Humpty was already broken before that fateful day at the wall. I’d be willing to bet that no one present, here, knows what was going through Humpty’s mind as he sat upon the now infamous wall. If you asked Humpty to describe himself, he would surely respond, “Where do I begin?” Certainly, he would say, “I have been as a broken vessel for many years.” The Dumpty family was a wonderful, beautiful family, yet terribly misunderstood throughout the ages. In the kingdom, Humpty, himself, was well known. He was, by all accounts, a respected gentleman, even a gentle man, an accomplished scholar, and also an elite athlete. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men knew Humpty Dumpty, or so they thought. One of Humpty’s few life-long friends had once shared this statement about the harsh reality of living in the kingdom. “There are two types of people, Humpty. Those who are unaware and those who don’t care.” That sounded a little harsh, but true to much of Humpty Dumpty’s experience, life was challenging, unfair, and cruel, and so were people.

Because he struggled with depression, anxiety, and Bi-polar Disorder, Humpty never achieved the great expectations the world seemed to demand of him. Based upon his society’s high standards, he was deemed an abject failure. Though genuinely perceived as a nice guy by the king’s horses and the king’s men, they never treated Humpty the same again. He’d heard the talk, “That Dumpty is just like his old man and his grandpa! He’s unmotivated, lazy, and another in a long line of Dumpty family underachievers.” How could they not know of my struggles, Humpty wondered? He’d tried to explain himself to a few, but his brave attempts only served to make him feel more of an outsider in the kingdom.

Over time, Humpty Dumpty began to believe that he wasn’t good enough. He lamented the many lost opportunities, the dreams that would never be realized, and “the songs that he would not sing” in this life. His journey had been paved with one disappointment after another. With each setback, he became more tired, more drained, more depressed, and more confused.

A future that was once surely destined to shine so brightly, was now covered in a veil of darkness. With endless pain and misery as his companions, Humpty, for all intents and purposes, disappeared. He retreated from as much interaction as possible with others in the kingdom. Feeling further marginalized by his own people, devalued by those who once looked at him differently, Humpty now languished in a mental fantasy land forged with fear and filled with frustration. Had a fruitless life run its course?

Now, I suppose that you think you’ve got the rest of this story figured out. Think again.

Humpty Dumpty sought the sweet serenity of seclusion in the most beautiful parts of the kingdom. He loved the outdoors. He was in awe of God’s creations. Though societal pressures and responsibilities brought on panic attacks and prolonged bouts of depression, nature, itself seemed to breathe new life into him.

Humpty also enjoyed listening to music. Somehow, it made him feel better. I’m sure you are familiar with a few words from one of his favorite songs. “When I am down and all my soul’s so weary; when troubles come and my heart burdened be; then I am still and wait here in the silence, until you come and sit awhile with me.”

And so, he waited. Humpty pondered what it means to “wait upon the Lord”. He learned, in the scriptures, the word “wait” means to hope, to anticipate, and to trust. To hope and trust in the Lord requires faith, patience, humility, meekness, long-suffering, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. Humpty learned to adjust this last principle to his circumstances. He referred to it as “enduring to the end of each day”!

Humpty reasoned that each day he’d simply do the best he possibly could. How could he expect more of himself? He also learned that “waiting upon the Lord” means praying unceasingly. It means planting the seed of faith and nourishing it with great diligence. Waiting means to stand fast. It means “relying alone upon the merits of Christ” and with His grace assisting, saying “Thy will be done, O Lord, not mine.”

Humpty believed that “waiting upon the Lord” was the one sure way that he “would one day rest from all his afflictions.” He realized that he must heed the promptings to seek for the eternal. The remedies of the world, alone, were not sufficient. Medication, yes. Humpty relied on it. The visits to his counselor, those helped, he had to admit. But, his soul longed for something more.

Humpty had a mission. He desired to receive more revelation. He wanted to stand in holier places. He wanted to climb to the highest point in the kingdom. It was there, he was convinced, that more answers would come, more inspiration would flow. It was there, upon that wall, Humpty Dumpty trusted that he would find the peace and healing he was so desperately seeking.

So, Humpty exercised. Yes, literally, physically exercised. He wasn’t quite sure why, but it too made him feel better, somehow. But, more importantly, he was exercising faith in Jesus Christ. He was preparing to go to the wall.

And he did…many times. High atop the wall, Humpty would meditate, pray, and read the scriptures. He was drawn to this place like nowhere else. He felt closer to his Heavenly Father. There, far removed from the cares of the everyday hustle and bustle of life down below, he was blessed with that peace which passeth all understanding.

How many times in his life had Humpty cried out, “O, God, where art Thou?” In his darkest moments, he’d always found his greatest comfort in God’s sovereign care. “Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? How precious to me are your thoughts, O, God! How vast is the sum of them.”

Humpty had found the answer to his humble prayer. He knew that the Lord compensates the faithful for every loss or lost opportunity. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. The faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.

On that day, forever etched in history by a tumble and the frantic efforts of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, all was not as it seemed. For goodness sakes, Humpty Dumpty did not jump. Dear Humpty had learned the value of humor for one, as himself, afflicted with a mental health disorder. The simple truth is that he cracked himself up laughing as he recalled comical events of that very morning. He was finally healed. He was at peace, even if he was now in pieces.

May we be as hopeful and as faithful as Humpty, and learn to wait upon the Lord in our own trials is my prayer. In the most sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

photo credit: IMG_5036 via photopin (license)


I offer you the following food for thought regarding your dreams:
“Dreams are born in your heart and in your mind, and only there can they ever die!”–Art Berg
“Believe in your dreams. They were given to you for a reason.”–Katrina Mayer
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Dream new dreams or old dreams in new ways!”–Chad Hymas
“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”–Nelson Mandela
“Dream beautiful dreams and then work to make those dreams come true.”–Spencer W. Kimball
“If we constantly put our goals off, we will never see them fulfilled.”–Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“Don’t let who you used to be stop you from who you can become.”–Al Carraway
“Deep within each heart there lies a magic spark that lights the fire of our imagination; and since the dawn of man the strength of just ‘I can’ has brought together people of all nations. There’s nothing ordinary in the living of each day. There’s a special part everyone of us will play. Feel the flame forever burn, teaching lessons we must learn to bring us closer to the power of the dream. Your mind will take you far, the rest is just real hard. You’ll find your life is all your own creation, and every boy and girl as they come into this world they bring the gift of hope and inspiration. There is so much strength in all of us, every woman, child, and man. It’s the moment that you think you can’t, you’ll discover that you can. The power of the dream; faith in things unseen; courage to embrace your fears no matter where you are to reach for your own star.”–Linda Thompson, David Foster